The Ben Evans column: Passion fading

Mark Webber, Alexander Wurz, Istanbul, 2007 | GEPA / Bildagentur KraelingPart of my Motorsport-loving self died on Monday

It had been on life-support for a lot of 2007, but on Monday morning it finally popped its clogs and departed.

Unlike 10.4m other Brits I actually missed the Brazilian GP as I was at Brands Hatch making my annual pilgrimage to the Formula Ford Festival, so only caught the last hour or so of the race on the radio driving home.

For the first time in 2007 I was actually sorry I hadn’t been perched on my settee tuned into ITV and James Allen’s Lewis Hamilton eulogy – sorry, I mean balanced commentary mentioning more than one driver.

So why did part of my appetite for racing shrivel and die?

Well the Festival, as happened last year, was actually decided long after I’d got home, with the on-track winner Callum McLeod (although with only 6 racing laps this in itself was disappointing) given a 2-second penalty handing the win to Nick Tandy. Tandy himself was penalised from the win in 2006.

The Formula Ford Festival has long been a benchmark in close and generally clean racing, but in 2007 this was not the case. The sensational Kent final was curtailed 6 laps early following an unnecessary shunt between the front runners. The Duratecs were stopped on half distance with two drivers requiring medical assistance following separate incidents.

The whole affair was hugely anticlimactic, yet it just felt a lot more disappointing than usual, perhaps because both races were stopped when finely poised, or maybe because I was already politicked and incident-ed out from my 2007 campaign.

However by 7pm on Sunday I felt good, the F1 World title had been decided on the track in the favour of the driver who had won the most races. The fact that I would be spared a winter of having to recount my ‘I once shared a garage with Lewis Hamilton anecdote’ also came into it.

So imagine my dismay on Monday morning (although as I get up at 5.30am I am already fairly dismayed) to hear that some fuel or some such had been over-chilled, but it wasn’t black and white so no penalties had been given, but McLaren would appeal.

At that moment something inside me snapped. Formula One in 2007 has been rubbish, the racing has been appalling and thoroughly overshadowed by off-track wrangling perpetrated by individuals with egos the size of planets. Entertaining the fans, I would imagine, has not crossed Bernie Ecclestone or Max Mosely’s minds once this year.

However, Interlagos on Sunday, judging by Radio 5’s coverage, gave F1 the thrilling title decider it didn’t deserve. So for that result, and the outcome of the Championship, to be thrown into the air to be settled through another bout of courtroom argument was all too much.

Maybe I’m in the minority, but I like my racing to be close, hard, exciting and decided on the track and not in the courtrooms. I was at Snetterton two weeks ago for the Club F3 title decider, and going into the final race we had a two-way title battle which produced the finest F3 race I have ever seen, with 3 cars fighting for the win for 20 minutes.

That is what racing is about, not arguing over tiny aspects of technical specifications.

2007 has been a terrible year for Grand Prix racing, but as I went to bed on Sunday night I felt it had found some redemption, and in front of ITV’s largest ever audience. All that the upcoming legal debates will do is serve to disappoint long term fans and alienate those that the sport has attracted as the title fight has reached its (false) conclusion.

‘If it ain’t broke don’t fix it’ is the old maxim, but right now the core of F1 is badly broken and desperately needs fixing.

Photo: GEPA / Bildagentaur Kraeling

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12 comments on The Ben Evans column: Passion fading

  1. Journeyer said on 26th October 2007, 9:02

    But I guess that’s the thing: for how bad F1 is now, we want to leave it, yet we end up staying.

    Let’s look at ourselves here: almost every F1 fan has a complaint about the sport, and many have already said, nay, declared, that they’ve had enough of F1 (especially after Austria 2002 and Indy 2005, among others).

    And yet F1 is reaching new heights in terms of TV viewers, people mindshare, merchandise profit, and sponsorship money (despite the fact that tobacco is gone from F1 except Marlboro). In fact, the sport is finding millions of new fans, especially in Asia. And Europe hasn’t been tuning off. If anything, viewership is slightly up in the post-Schumi era.

    So what’s happening? I guess it’s that no matter how much we hate F1, we still love it. Why? Because for all its suckiness, it can still give us races like the ones at Montreal, Nurburgring, Fuji, Shanghai, and Interlagos – and I’m just talking about this season! They provided magical moments where we saw the drivers and teams give it everything they’ve got – all for the glory of P1. For all its pimples and warts, F1 still provides the greatest payoff in any motorsport worldwide bar none. And it’s obvious from the way F1 is discussed here and in other forums that it’s still THE sport we love.

  2. Robert McKay said on 26th October 2007, 9:09

    Totally agree, sadly. F1 2007 WAS rubbish. The dry races (Canada and Brazil were good but not great) were mediocre. The wet races more or less saved the season from oblivion, and the politicking just got too much to bear in the end. The incessant ITV hype machine for Lewis (whom I still wanted to win, regardless of that) grated terribly. The championship was only good on paper. How much actual on-track fighting occurred between the top 4, once the first corners were dispensed with? The championsip was close largely because it yo-yoed between Mclaren and Ferrari: one weekend the silver cars had the edge, one weeked the red cars had the edge. One weekend Ferrari were breaking down, the next weekend Mclaren were screwing up tyre choices or trying to stop war breaking out between their teammates. This was a season not so much about who won, but about who did least to lose.

    I was going to say that I was glad the season is over and we can look forward to a new year next year, but the FIA “ten year engine freeze” nonsense has left an even bitterer taste in my mouth.

  3. Nathan said on 26th October 2007, 14:30

    Here’s hoping the lack of TC next year spices up the racing a bit more. It seems to work for A1GP at any rate.

  4. Andrew Carson said on 26th October 2007, 14:54

    After the wretched 2007 season, I am finished with F1 after 25 years as a serious fan. I think that F1, scandal-ridden as it is, probably appeals more than ever to sensationalists and tabloid readers, who don’t care about the sport in the first place. So, I’m sure it will continue to go from strength-to-strength as a melodramatic Max Mosely circus act, but I won’t be watching. So, to hell with it. Goodbye F1. Life’s too short to be bothered with you.

  5. Tommy B said on 26th October 2007, 17:47

    Stop moaning, F1s always had some bad races. There was some great races this year and some great moments. Yes it was annoying all the court battles but who cares. I’m more into F1 then I’ve ever been now and i can’t wait for 2008

  6. the grumpy1 said on 26th October 2007, 17:59

    The off track embarrassments to the sport witnessed this year and the way the FIA has handled them has been disappointing, however surely it is obvious that only the rules can be responsible for such chaos. penalties should be dispensed and carried out during the same race and forgotten about after the flag has fallen. Also, the FIA’s efforts to slow the cars and prevent development (i.e. 10 year engine freezes, weight limits and wing heights)goes against the spirit of the sport. The moment the American series and road cars start out-performing F1 cars, F1 will collapse. Surely speed and new innovations should not be sacrificed for safety and budgets. The safety tests should be made more rigourous and difficult to pass and the circuits should continue to strive for safer barriers etc. However F1 cars should be allowed to develop with wings where they want them, any fuel temperatures, any weight etc. The rules should be simplified which will make for simpler racing. It should be formula libre, not a formula full of concessions.

  7. Journeyer said on 26th October 2007, 23:50

    I’m pretty sure F1 won’t allow itself to be beaten by NASCAR or IRL in terms of outright speed, especially in the corners.

    F1 should still have a definitive yet simple set of rules. I don’t think it can be a formula libre either, sadly. With today’s death-conscious society, an F1 fatality now would be 100 times more damaging to the sport than any rules crises.

  8. Wesley said on 27th October 2007, 0:39

    It seems to me we are headed for another dominance in the sport,just like the Schumi days.Hamilton has all the signs of taking it that direction.That would NOT be good for F1.

    I am looking forward to no T.C. though.

  9. Does anyone remember how boring F1 was during the Schumi years, particularly 2001-2005? People say the races are predictable now, but there were almost no surprises this whole decade until the last two years. There is so, so much new incredible things happening in F1, I can live through a few parade races.

  10. ben j said on 27th October 2007, 2:30

    for once, I can happily say that I’m glad to be an American struggling to find coverage of motorsport and suffering from the low profile of everything but NASCAR.

    our commentators did spend a lot of time on Hamilton, but a phenom is a phenom, and that warrants some extra attention. on the other hand, a photograph of Hamilton has never been in the papers, and he’s not the savior of our nation’s sporting reputation, as he seems to be in the UK, at least as far as the press are concerned.

    i’m sorry there are so many disappointed fans out there. here’s to next season…

  11. Scott Joslin said on 27th October 2007, 12:14

    Just deal with it Ben. This is the age we are in, such high profile sport with such amazing pressures on teams and individuals and pending on lots of money, this is the competitive world we now live. If you want more simple, less political, low key motor sport, start a new blog on club motor sport and concentrate your energies on that. If it is so good then we will all make a homage to that. Where the truth of the reality is there are some terrible racing at that level too.

    F1 is a show, a roller coaster of emotions. It is why we all tune in ever other weekend to see the drivers, the teams, the racing, the overtaking, the awful commentators, the ad breaks, the sponsors,the off track politics, the tracks. It all makes F1 what it is today. stop living in the past, it isn’t coming back!

  12. F1 has aalways had rule makers and breakers – some for safety – aka jackie stewart’s efforts in the 70’s and 80’s – lotus with their ground effect cars – the back breakers as the drivers called them and now we seem to have the weirdest suggestion of the lot that we should take F1 cars around the streets of London – the home of the most none car person in the world (name witheld) – guess yourself’s – and I know that this getting to be a pet subject – night racing F1 cars???

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