Jarno Trulli, Lotus, Sepang, 2011

A “chaotic race”? Ignore the whingeing journalists

CommentPosted on | Author Keith Collantine

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”

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  1. 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!!!!

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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!

  5. 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…

  6. It’s like when you’re watching a race and a family member who couldn’t care less walks in and asks ‘who’s winning?’. ‘Well, technically Buemi is, but he hasn’t pitted yet and is on softs which are going off, Barricello’s behind him having made a stop but really, Hamilton who is currently in third is realistically leading cause he’s right behind rubens having pitted twice and is now on the hards, but don’t discount Massa who’s currently in 6th cause he started on the hard and may well be one stopping’.

    It’s at that stage you turn around and realise they left hours ago…

    1. In this case, I would’ve answered : “Hamilton”. And only if the person sits, start explaining. One step at a time!

  7. Stupid Journos.

    I was at the track and all I had was the FIA Iphone App that gives me timing, which kept hanging up for some reason, so for the most part of the race, all I had was my trusted Victorinox watch…and I was on top of the race as well!

  8. I thought the race was pants. Tyres falling apart, debris all over the track along with the phoney overtaking created by DRS do not make an exciting race. Add on the ill-though out anti-weaving rule which aids drivers who prefer to tail-gate competitors rather than attempt a pass and things don’t look good for the rest of the season. I hope things change but drivers staying safely on the racing line for most of the lap and then blowing pass rivals on the home straight looks like the same recipe for China.

    1. It’s all about finding a balance isn’t it. Everyone complains that overtakings too difficult so lets chuck in KERS, DRS and crap tyres so we get split strategies. Oh wait, now there’s too much and it’s a gimmick! I don’t envy the overtaking working group’s job…

      I suppose you live and you learn. I just hope someone can reel in Seb!

    2. It should be renamed WWF1. Interesting and mildly amusing for the first 20 minutes, but insulting to the intelligent audience, who aren’t prepared to accept a staged performance. The balance needs redressing pronto!

  9. These are not journalists but corporate stenographer lapdogs who can not think for themselves. They are handed the press release or talking points and that is their story. Trying to figure out what is going on is beyond the mental capacity because they only know how to recite the corporate line. The American disease is spreading.

  10. Sounds to me like the Fleet Street “journalists” aren’t up to scratch

  11. Don’t know about any of you, but I liked DC in the comm box. Dear god, anything was better than Legard, but DC seems to be a bit more in tune with what the drivers are feeling, and conveys far more useful information to the average viewer than I’ve heard from BBC for a while. He also picks up on those moments of action where you see something of note and both Legard and Martin fail to notice, and/or fail to comment, perhaps because Martin was too busy strangling his fellow commentator.

  12. Jonesracing82
    13th April 2011, 7:55

    i had no problem at all with it! it’s 1000 times better than the parades of recent years…. all we need now is smaller wings so the cars dont rely on aero grip and doing away with stupid penalties like hamo/alnoso got, other wise they’ll scare drivers away from “racing” another car, the exact thing which they have been trying to promote for years….

  13. I’m with you Keith. Said that, it would have been perfect if we had somehow learnt who had pitted and taken which tyre. They could have done by just letting us to hear team radios. Too much information? Not for hardcore fans.

  14. As much as I enjoyed the race (I rated an 8, the highest I’ve awarded since Canada) I did feel there was a lack of info at times. Although Brundle and Coulthard did a fantastic job there were a few passes they missed and once or twice they failed to notice yellow flags. I think they would benifit from the kind of ‘spotters’ football commentators use to make them aware of incidents they’ve missed.

  15. hmmm… yeah fleet street boys were out of their depth… however although being an 18 year follower, my understanding of races has multiplied exponentially once Live Timing came to town… i watched the Malaysian GP without Live timing for the first time since 2007, and it was somewhat confusing but not as much as the journos wrote… live timing makes it clearer to know who is faster than who at all times even if they are in the middle of the standings… the info that you see on the TV is not enough to clarify the ongoing pit calls and lap times and thus makes it confusing and seem chaotic to the casual viewer…

  16. Robert McKay
    13th April 2011, 10:10

    FOM are used to covering races with less overtaking and a lot less pitstops. They’ll get used to having to deal with more as the season goes on.

    Chaotic? No.

    Was it harder to see how the race was going to pan out? Yes.

    Was this a good thing because it meant you weren’t sitting there watching the top 10 all set from lap 3 or 4, cruising round to the finish. YES!

    I’m all for the Pirelli high wear rate. More than 4 stops would be a bit odd but there were loads of different strategies out there – most on 3 stops, some on 4, even a few 2-stopping and didn’t someone 1 stop? I’d MUCH rather have that than Bridgestones park-the-bus philosophy where there was very little variation.

    There’s an oddly large amount of negativity radiating from a lot of source in the media – don’t understand why.

    I get from the fans that DRS is a tad artificial – I do get that aspect. Perhaps with these tyres it could actually be done away with at races where overtaking is normally relatively possible anyway. A bit more info about everyone’s tyre choices through the race wouldn;t be a bad idea.

    But, seriously, there wasn’t much wrong with Malaysia.

  17. christopheraser
    13th April 2011, 10:15

    This was the first ever grand prix I have attended. We sat at the last corner on the second tier which meant we always knew who was pitting. We had a fantastic time and with the help of a Kangaroo TV were always able to keep abreast of the on track action.

    I would love to see something which shows us what tyres people are on and when they last pitted as an on screen display, even if it just got added to rolling position bar. That way you can see who is charging on fresh rubber and who may be a bit of a sitting duck.

    I am still in Malaysia and will make watching the TV coverage a priority when I get back to Australia. But for me it seemed like a fantastic race with there almost always being a battle to watch. I think we need to understand that there will always be people who are unhappy. We need to see how the tyres go for another few rounds before we start calling for changes or rubbishing the racing.

  18. A very confusing race indeed, even worse than in the old days where there was refuelling.
    I don’t like this kind of racing, where you always wonder if that guy is going to stop, if this other guy is really or virtually ahead, etc… It’s almost impossible to follow.

    This is definitely not the F1 I fell in love back in 1991… In these days, it was 20% strategy (some drivers did not make any pitstop) and 80% racing. Today, it’s exactly the opposite. Some may like it, I really don’t.

  19. I didn’t enjoy the race the weekend, (although a chest infection didn’t help) I still feel we were robbed of some great battles by the difference in tyres and the DRS, it was too easy to pass. I like it when a driver spends 5 laps trying to out fox the driver in front to pass and then finally makes it, it seems that has gone.

    Although in Australia it was just the right balance.

    Chaos? no not really, but 4 stops is too many if a majority stop 4 times.

    To me it clear the new rules are going to work on some track but not others.

  20. Anyone think this is racing? I didnt think so. Suddenly every driver can now overtake without any real overtaking skill?. please….

    1. I fully agree with you. The DRS cures a symptome, not the disease.

      Everybody knows the solution about overtaking: get less aerodynamic and more mechanic grip.

      The Pirelli tyres ? A joke. I would like to see a race on track, not in the pits. Moreover, don’t you find ridiculous to have tyres that can hardly run 10 laps ?

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