A “chaotic race”? Ignore the whingeing journalists


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. The Limit said on 12th April 2011, 19:59

    I liked the race. Your lucky in England now you don’t get your broadcasts ruined by adverts. Speed Tv missed most of the Hamilton vs Alonso scrap because they took yet another commercial break. That sometimes makes it confusing and hard to follow. All in all, I thought the race was good and certainly not ‘chaotic’.

    • Alistair said on 12th April 2011, 20:48

      With the silly number of pitstops, one ad. break and you’ve likely completely lost the plot! Half the grid could have pitted; each on various different tyres: soft, hard, rain, used, brand new, same, etc.

  2. Spot-on comment, in my opinion. There were some grounds to be talking about “boring” races in recent years, but confusing some racing action going on which maybe necessitates quickly shifting focus and attention from here to there a few times with chaotic circumstances is something I don’t find justified. Especially since the major factors that change some things for this year, kinetic energy recovery, the stall-able rear wing and the “not going to last” kind of tyres were planned introductions that were announced, analysed and discussed for quite some time now. It’s hardly unpredictable (i.e. chaotic) if those systems do appear to have the effects with which in mind they were designed.

    • Alistair said on 12th April 2011, 20:45

      These changes to spice-up so-called ‘boring’ races are totally unnecessary: there was plenty of overtaking in 07, 08, 09, and 10. Most of it skillful.

  3. MattHT (@mattht) said on 12th April 2011, 20:00

    Chaotic my arm. Lazy journalism again. My biggest problem with lazy journalism isn’t the journalists themselves, but the impact they have. I know a few people who watch every race, just like me and the rest of us here, but are happy to base their opinions on newspaper column opinion rather than dig a little deeper like the rest of us. It makes having conversation with other f1 fans in the street very difficult sometimes.

  4. Fer no.65 (@fer-no65) said on 12th April 2011, 20:20

    While you’re right, sometimes the TV footage makes it look even more complicated.

    In Latin America, at least, we have adverts every 15 laps or so. And when they return to the action, you struggle to understand what happened, because sometimes an Safety Car came out or something and you totally missed it.

    But appart from adverts (something UK viewers don’t suffer every race weekend… yes, im being jealous!) the footage itself gets incredibly confusing at times. They switch angles far too often, sometimes, or they switch from one camera following a battle, to a replay, to another battle, to a pit stop, and so on.

    Specially at qualifying, sometimes you get an HRT struggling on track, and then you see a bit of footage from Vettel setting a fast lap, and then they swtich to Hamilton’s girlfriend smiling at the camera (not to mention Anthony Hamilton in the past).

    Even when the races were boring, during pit stops you barely knew what was going on. Though I prefer to try harder and understand than fall asleep because I’m bored.

  5. Sevrige said on 12th April 2011, 20:34

    Unfortunately, the term “knee jerk reaction” is becoming too common in the Formula 1 world. I wish the mainstream journalists were at races to actually report the race and not make headlines. I agree with you Keith, it was a great race this past weekend.

    • Alistair said on 12th April 2011, 20:41

      A ‘great race’? Really!? The overtakes were achieved by pressing buttons to activate a boost and a special wing.

      Lewis needed neither of these abominations when he went round the outside of Kubica and Alonso into turn 1 at Melbourne or around both Ferraris at the next race or past Kimi at Monza. Those overtakes, against either equal, comparable, or better cars, were all about driver skill. F1 is now arificial and more staged than ever.

  6. mild7nick said on 12th April 2011, 20:49

    I still believe sundays race wasnt the classic some made it out to be.
    A problem for tv is the director always seems to cut to the pitlane whenever there is a pitstop regardless of its relevance to the actual race going on.
    They need to learn that some pitstops just arent important and concentrate on the race on the track.
    Another thing that worries me are the tyres, if these pirelli’s are going to wear out quickly then fine but lets see all the teams being supplied with more sets.
    Drivers shouldnt have to conserve tyres in practice and if they choose/need to make 3-4 stops lets make sure they always have new tyres.
    Drivers’ races being ruined by having to use used tyres just makes Formula 1 look silly and frankly, a bit amateurish!

  7. HounslowBusGarage said on 12th April 2011, 21:56

    I will admit to not having read all the previous comments, but I much appreciated Kodongo’s post on Page One.
    But. Bernie and the Powers That Be have set out to make F1 into a mass market spectacle (note; I did not write ‘sport’), and they have done this to maximise the money brought into the business and to increase their take from the business.
    In doing so, they have necessarily brought F1 into direct competition with other visual activities, like soccer, tennis, golf etc. These sports are relatively easy to follow – if a team is two goals up, it’s self evident, similarly one set up, or three shots up is relatively easy to understand. But if a driver is in the lead but one tyre stop down it’s a little more difficult to understand.
    And here’s the really unacceptable point; if an activity seeks to broaden its appeal beyond the cogniscenti, it will encounter people of lesser intelligence and lower attention span. This new audience will have limited ability to understand either the nuances of the activity or have the patience to learn; if it isn’t already embedded in their culture, it will have a hard job butting in. For example, compare many Indians encyclopaedic knowledge and appreciation of test cricket with the similar depth of knowledge that Americans have for American Football. Both these cultures are knowledgable and expert, just about different things and F1 is going to have a hard time claiming the attention of their masses.
    F1 is in a hard place. It’s trying to be a global sport even though it doesn’t have global representation (yet). In my opinion, adding complications in terms of mandatory tyre changes, KERS and WibblyWobblyWings is going to lessen its appeal to new audiences, simply because it takes longer to understand.
    Keep it simple, stupid,

  8. Icemangrins said on 12th April 2011, 21:57

    I watched the 2010 Canadian Grand Prix and honestly, it was very difficult to keep with the race. I had the Kangaroo TV on my hand (followed Schumi), sat in front of the pit buildings and there was so many things happening.

    When I came back home, I watched the recordings and I thought the race was actually great. I guess, the TV viewers can have so much of fun that the guys sitting in the grandstands.

  9. TheBrav3 said on 12th April 2011, 22:04

    If they thought it was to hard to follow maybe the wrong people have been employed and sent out all expenses paied to cover the races. I certainly had no problem the commentary team obviously had no problem.

    kevin eason is second to none the *WORST* f1 journalist it has ever been my displeasure to read an article by. He is so unworthy of his job I will not even use capital letters on his name because he is not important enough to warrant the use. Quite frankly I’m not surprised his poorly hamster like brain had trouble keeping up, I’ve been sitting here for years wondering when he would finally admit to that. :P

    I take back that comment….It’s not fair on hamsters they do the best they can with what evolution gave them.

  10. F1iLike said on 12th April 2011, 22:39

    Great article! People who are in the media ( or people in general in fact ) shouldn’t talk about things they know nothing about! Especially people of authority like people in media.

  11. Vanja said on 12th April 2011, 22:41

    people who couldn’t follow the race are not f1 fanatics. i’m from croatia and i always know more than commentators. it’s not their fault they can’t keep up, they are just not fanatics, if you love formula you’ll manage. so, don’t start talking crap if you don’t love formula!!!!

  12. PeteB said on 12th April 2011, 23:06

    Chaotic? No.. It’s certainly lacked a spark though. Last year, overtaking was a big deal. This year, it’s over and done with in a few laps on the straight.

    Perhaps a better idea would be to limit the amount of times you can use DRS in the race to say 5? You have to know that you’ve had good traction out of the bend to make a move on the car in front. If you use your last DRS to take the lead but the two cars behind you have 2 left, it would add more strategy and excitement. As it is at the moment, there were lots of overtaking manoeuvres that were finished before the cars arrived at the first corner.

  13. CapeFear (@capefear) said on 13th April 2011, 0:15

    It was confusing, even some of the drivers admitted this themselves. It’s funny that other categories of motorsport that should be confusing like ALMS or 24 hour le mans are easier to follow then this race the latter there is over 30 pit stops that take place in that race.

    Who knew the Torro Rosso’s did a 2 stop during the race? I didn’t until I read it on this site, didn’t know how many pit stops some of the drivers did either that is what chaotic is. The commentators even struggled to keep up with facts.

  14. I didn’t have any problems following it but I agree that there was a lot going on which might have been too much for the casual fan.

    FOM could def help that by updating the live timing app to A. Make it work reliably and B. Include which type of tyres each car is currently running on. There is a whole bunch of other data it would be good to have, but a simple change like that would help a lot.

    …and I completely agree with the comments on the coverage… rubbish!

  15. TommyC said on 13th April 2011, 0:56

    you’re exactly right keith. It’s not the sort of sport you can just watch once and know what has happened. Sure, you may know the final standings but to truly understand why, you need to look at the data or perhaps even watch the race again. I can see why first time newspaper journalists would have been overwhelmed by sunday’s race when they don’t have the interest to follow the sport properly. Maybe they need to have a pre-coverage breifing before they’re sent into the unknown….

    And similarly, F1 obviously isn’t like most other sports in that there is no break in proceedings so please Australia, get F1 onto commercial free TV! We missed the whole of the Alonso/Hamilton battle and were shown a 5 second replay of their contact and told ‘during the break, this happened’. yeh, thanks guys…

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