A “chaotic race”? Ignore the whingeing journalists

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Jarno Trulli, Lotus, Sepang, 2011

Drivers pitting more than once was too much for some

While the rest of us were enjoying a gripping Malaysian Grand Prix, over in the Sepang media centre brows were furrowing.

According to The Times’s Kevin Eason journalists were asking each other: “Do you have the faintest idea what is going on here?”

Afterwards Eason complained about “overwhelming techno-babble” and “a near-chaotic Grand Prix of more than 50 pit stops“.

The Daily Telegraph’s Tom Cary agreed it was “confusing for the viewers“.

But this incomprehension was only shared by newspaper journalists sent to cover the race. Martin Brundle noted: “Fleet Street boys told me [the] race [was] totally confusing. I told them [David Coulthard] and me [were] on top of it no problem.”

Had they cared to listen to their readers and fans instead of making assumptions, they would have discovered the reaction to the race was very positive.

At the time of writing the Malaysian Grand Prix is rated 7.8 out of ten by F1 Fanatic readers, which is higher than 16 of last year’s 19 races.

Here’s a sample of what some people actually thought of the race:

“What was chaotic about it? Interesting? Yes. Exciting. Yes? Chaotic? No!” – merlo84

“If they think that lots of passing and normal, racing action is ‘chaos’, they’re confused as to what F1 is.” – Dan_Thorn

“Near Chaotic? Belgium 1998, USA 2005, Malaysia 2009, and Korea 2010 were chaotic… this weekend past we saw a race.” – Ajokay85

A two-hour motor race isn’t like football or golf or other sports where the focus generally remains in one place. Between the battles on the track and developments in the pits there might be half-a-dozen different points of attention in a single lap.

It’s unrealistic to expect to be able to watch a race and instantly know everything that’s happened to all 24 cars. That’s why F1 Fanatic breaks the weekend down team-by-team every Monday after the race.

But even when the races were ‘simpler’, that didn’t stop the mainstream press struggling to keep up. Remember those nonsense stories about McLaren messing up Lewis Hamilton’s final pit stop in Valencia two years ago and allegedly ‘losing him the race’?

I know that casual fans and F1 Fanatics will differ on their views of the sport. And I don’t think F1’s rules are perfect at the moment.

But let’s recognise these complaints about “chaos” for what they are: knee-jerk manufactured outrage to make good headlines.

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163 comments on A “chaotic race”? Ignore the whingeing journalists

  1. Atticus (@atticus-2) said on 12th April 2011, 18:29

    I seriously don’t know why even exist these negative opinions.

    Of course we’ve grown apart from the races with a lot of pit stop, but don’t forget that 1-3 pit stops were common up until 2009 it’s just that from 1994 on it was more about refuelling your car; drivers have had to care much less about tyres. Now it’s all about tyres and surely the rules must be a little more complicated, but that’s the way it is if we ban refuelling because of the likes of Massa, Singapore, 2008.

    Then there’s KERS and DRS which are relatively new. But technical innovations we always on the plate beginning with the engine behind the driver up to now.

    So I don’t understand the whining. Of course it’s more complicated now, but I think it’s also even more exciting. And that is what sells.

    Ultimately people will get used to it and will like it.

  2. Craig said on 12th April 2011, 18:29

    I had to stay up from 2am-4am to watch the race here in Canada, and I was able to follow it in my sleep-deprived, slightly tipsy ;) state.

    So yeah, not really seeing the problem for these journalists…

  3. Paper Tiger said on 12th April 2011, 18:34

    It’s not exactly related to the Malaysian GP, but I made a word cloud (different from the previous one) of all the Drivers’ and Constructors’ champions. Constructors or drivers that won several times appear larger than ones that only won it once. I think you’ll agree it’s very elegant.

    http://www.wordle.net/show/wrdl/3451925/F1_Champions

    • Kodongo said on 12th April 2011, 22:04

      I think that’s a very beautiful image. Thanks for the share! It’s super intuitive. I had to struggle to find Lewis’ and Jenson’s names but Michael Schumacher is so easy to find. That’s when I cottoned on to the font size for number of championships. I like it. Well done!

    • gnvour (@) said on 13th April 2011, 11:30

      This is really cool. Thanks for that

  4. JCCJCC (@jccjcc) said on 12th April 2011, 18:41

    I, and probably most of the F1Fs, managed to understand perfectly the dynamics of the race, I understood which drivers where fast, and why, and which drivers where slow.
    It was easy to understand how much stops each driver was going to do.

    And the pace was a bit predictable too, cars where fast in the first 10-12 laps with new tyres, then the pace dropped in the last laps of each stint. With new set of tyres, they immediately broke his lap records, because they had new tyres and a lighter car (less fuel than in the beginning of the previous stint).

    The only thing out of the grid for me was the Hamilton pace at the last stint.

    Only people that didn’t knew anything about F1 could classify this race as chaotic…

  5. Ads21 (@ads21) said on 12th April 2011, 18:42

    Keeping up with what was going on with the top 6 runners on Sunday was very easy, especially with timing screens which surely any serious F1 journalist would use while watching the race. I can understand how people who were new to the sport may have found the race difficult to follow, I often find Indycar hard to follow. But these guys are being paid to travel the world reporting on this sport, they should at least be able to understand what’s going on.

  6. Gusto said on 12th April 2011, 18:44

    I think the TV feed didn`t help, it was some of the poorest I`ve seen for a long time, but I wouldn`t say the race was chaotic, and I lost the live timing on lap 14!

  7. Kodongo said on 12th April 2011, 18:56

    I love your site but I am going to have to side with the journos on this one (regurgitates a little). I was accustomed to viewing overtaking as a banquet; something that only happened once in a while, took an age to come to fruition, but when it occured it lived long in the memory. This is the beginning of “fast food F1″.

    There are many more overtakes but these overtakes are of much less importance. Seemingly, the value of an overtake is inversely proportional to the artificial aid which stimulates more of it. What is the point of having more coins in your hand if the currency is devalued greatly? For the life of me, I struggle to remember one driver defend his position with vehemence in the two races so far. And if the penalty for Hamilton sets the tone with regards to ‘excessive blocking’, am I to believe that defensive driving is now an anachronism confined to a past era of F1?

    It is ironic that the best battle of the first two weekends was between a McLaren with severely worn tyres and a DRS-less Ferrari. Two drivers locking horns with no gimmicks and it was a joy to see. If Alonso’s wing hadn’t ceased to function, he would have breezed by in a flash and that encounter wouldn’t have occured.

    In my opinion, there was a plethora of overtaking, making it difficult to follow what was going on. Lost in the dozens of standard (wing-assisted) overtakings over the two weekends were such gems as Alonso round the outside of 11 at Melbourne (à la Hamilton 2010) and Lewis’ double overtake round the outside of Schumacher and a Torro Rosso at Turn 15 in Malaysia. Last season, these moves would have been hailed (with reason) as the best drivers showcasing their supreme talent whereas this season they get thrown in with the other dozens of overtakes that took place.

    I hope I’m wrong, but this DRS may provoke a lot of “localised overtaking”, where one corner or straight becomes the ‘hotspot’ for passing. This could lead to less adventurous attempts at overtaking.

    I still wonder about the implementation of DRS. A tool which is designed to help overtaking on Sunday but which is allowed unlimited usage on Friday and Saturday only. Why not create a smaller slit which can be used by following drivers all lap long which would promote more spontaneous overtaking? A tool to minimise the dirty air effect of the car infront – there are several points where the car behind is subject to this effect, why choose just one of them to be negated?

    In the quest to replicate Canada, the tyres have been made marginal, but this is only one of the things that made Canada 2010 so special:

    marginal tyres – yes
    mixture of tyres used for Q3 – no, there is a distinct 1 second difference between tyres which makes qualifying on hard tyres too great a handicap
    Red Bulls=McLaren=Ferrari (at that track) – obviously impossible to replicate
    tyres lasting for unknown distances – so far, yes, but the teams will get on top of them within a few races.

    On Sunday, what I saw was organised chaos with Vettel doing well to avoid the maelstrom. The problem comes when we get to circuits like Monaco and Hungary where overtakes (I presume) can’t be generated, what will happen to the new F1 fans who become accustomed to seeing one overtake per minute? I presume they will vote with their remote.

    To conclude, I see DRS as F1’s attempt to put a plaster on a bullet wound. The problem is terminal and the cars need to modified to get rid of the dirty air generated by the aerodynamic pieces of a vehicle. The FIA has come up with an interim solution, stuffing as many cherries on the cake to disguise its original taste, but the problem lies in the recipe.

    With regards to the media perception, if parts of the F1 circus claim it was confusing (journos, Jenson Button) then what chance does the average viewer stand to comprehend it? And the rating by F1 Fanatics compared to last year is a bit specious because we are no longer using the same measuring stick. It will become more interesting to gauge the opinion after we see more of this year’s iteration of racing.

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 12th April 2011, 23:04

      the rating by F1 Fanatics compared to last year is a bit specious because we are no longer using the same measuring stick.

      I don’t understand this point – nothing has changed here: same poll, same question, same options. The only change is that people have to log in now.

      • Kodongo said on 12th April 2011, 23:17

        I meant that whereas 10 overtakes may have been average last year, 30 overtakes may end up being the average this year. So the change from a lower average to a higher average may be artifically inflating the early results. If all the races were to be in the mould of Malaysia, I doubt the score would remain so high.

        P.S. My double post was deleted but so was the sub-thread that came with it, could you tack it on here, please?

        • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 12th April 2011, 23:18

          It’s not possible I’m afraid.

          Inevitably people’s perceptions of how good a race is will be affected by the races they’ve seen before – that’s no more true for this year than it was last year or the year before.

    • maestrointhesky said on 12th April 2011, 23:10

      To add to that the state of the track covered in tyre tears (can’t call them marbles anymore) can’t be good and ever more apparent in HD. Even the racing line was covered in them. You saw Rosberg pull out of an overtake on Kobayashi which could have been because of track state, but it could also have been because he knew if he stayed behind as the chasing car, he was guaranteed a very easy overtake with the DRS aid for the whole of the second straight. I’m not surprised Bridgestone got out. What’s the point of being in a sport where development bears no resemblance to any performance car tyre on sale? F1 is supposed to be the pinnacle of sport. You wouldn’t find Usain Bolt in the blocks in a pair of slippers. That’s effectively what these cars are now dressed in and I think it has detracted from the fundamental racing appeal. Hakkinan passing Schumacher at Spa was one of the all-time classics moves using talent and bravery to outwit a formidable competitor. I’m not sure that we’ll see anything like that for a while under these regulations. There was certainly nothing that came even close in Malaysia despite the numerous passes.
      Mika Hakkinen’s highlights

  8. Probably one of the most interesting races ever, even if you couldn’t take everything in. God knows how dull it would have been with cars that had last seasons Bridgestone tyres on. The race would have been all over after the first few corners. Particularly as it didn’t rain at any time that the cars were on the track.

    Can’t stand these so-called ‘purists’, who wouldn’t know what the true meaning of the word “artificial” meant if it jumped up and bit them on their toupee’s.

  9. paolo (@paolo) said on 12th April 2011, 19:01

    This is hilarious!

    All the people that were crying out for more overtaking last year are now claiming that its too complicated to follow with so much overtaking!

    I found it easy enough to follow and very entertaining. I imagine the people that found it difficult were either watching it in the background or not giving it full concentration.

    Come on people, this is what we wanted to see!

  10. xtophe (@xtophe) said on 12th April 2011, 19:07

    The largest sports newspaper in Belgium couldn’t even distinguish between an icon for the STR or the RB. Pretty basic information just doesn’t filter down to some mainstream journos, who report F1 as an extra to other sports they comment on. I have the impression that atleast in Belgium, they hardly get further than

    1) summing up some important moments of the race
    2) completely miss the point of a part of these important moments
    3) write down how D’Ambriosio’s weekend was

    There is more analysis in the couple of lines D’Ambrosio provides than in some full-page articles. I feel that this year it’s only going to get worse. Last year they didn’t have to pay much attention to the actual racing because they lacked a Belgian driver. They can’t merely fill their F1 page with babes and expensive sportscars of some popstar that swung by anymore.

  11. Mac v2 said on 12th April 2011, 19:07

    Love the race, I’m happy, I enjoy my life. I simply LOVE Formula One

    Wish the rest a happy life… Don’t mind the noobs.

  12. xabregas said on 12th April 2011, 19:09

    What more can we ask for??? Plenty of interesting things were going on, overtaking, lots of strategy, some accidents also.
    I´m not saying that i totally agree with the new rules but as for Pirelli, they´re doing what was asked them to do.
    The only thing that´s not good is Vetel, too much domination but i believe the others will catch the red bull pace and then will be great.

  13. AndrewTanner (@andrewtanner) said on 12th April 2011, 19:09

    When I used to buy The Independent they did a great double spread F1 weekend analysis. They knew what they were talking about and didn’t really resort to opinion or bias.

    Like any sport, F1 requires people to be passionate in order to report on it but perhaps more so than many other sports.

    F1 is weird in a way. It’s the biggest annual, global sport on the planet yet still operates in it’s own little microcosm. For me this works well for the sport, it keeps its head down most of the time.

    Of course it’s always going to have its critics and i’ll defend it as much as the next person but i’m proud to have to do so.

  14. DaveW said on 12th April 2011, 19:11

    Keith, it’s true that fleet street should be less lazy, but I feel you could show a bit more sympathy for these whingers, because their concerns flag those of regular fans. First, even a simple race takes some work to stay on top of if you are not watching TV, with lots of live scoring data, and live commentary to fill in the picture. Now we have a lot more stops than before, and a lot of uncertainty about how strategies will play out. Second, there is a lot more “technobabble.” Beside the new jargon needed in the commentary, the screen Sunday was basically half-covered in various telemetry displays for DRS, KERS, and scoring and lap time information, as well as the car telemetry stuff that pops up at times. My wife is a casual fan–she knows who the drivers are and the basic strategic issues—and she was baffled by all these new readouts. Even I was thinking, this is getting a little absurd. The TV screen is beginning to look like an airliner cockpit. Maybe this is not an excuse for professional journalists, but it ups the level of prepration needed to cover a race. You can see why they throw up their hands. If your job is to break it down for the casual fan and then to get a grabby headline to your editor, you may be more inclined to take a shortcut in your coverage. Not excusable, but predictable, and moreso under the new rules.

    • adamf184 (@adamf184) said on 12th April 2011, 19:37

      Really, you think the onscreen is more complicated than previous years?

      This year (normal positions etc)
      Speed, Revs, Kers, DRS. You road car is more complicated than the on screen readout.

      Infact the old readout had more info
      Speed, Revs, Kers (09), Throttle, Brake.

    • Andrew said on 13th April 2011, 11:00

      I had been a casual fan for years and one of the most rewarding aspects of becoming a more ‘serious’ fan was the time/effort investment in reading up/listening and eventually understanding some of the finer aspects of F1.

      Analysing the intricacy of different strategies, technologies and driving styles are addictive. Of course it looks confusing when all you’re used to having to understand is a 4-5-1 formation vs a 4-4-2 in football, but we’ve got the added spice of 12 teams with different tactics.

      However, also being a rugby fan where the rules change every year and where no one really understands them probably put me in good stead!

  15. Fixy (@fixy) said on 12th April 2011, 19:47

    A “chaotic race”?

    No, without doubt. It was a nice race, with many action all time, like people want to see. I enjoyed it and I had no slight problem in following. Chaotic would be a race, as Ajokay85 said, like Malaysia 2009, where the future situation was unclear. Here there were 24 drivers fighting all the time, providing us with pure entertainment.

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