I had intended on posting my recap of Sunday’s Spanish Grand Prix last night. But after writing it, something didn’t feel right. In fact Formula 1 doesn’t feel right lately and as a ravenous fan of the sport, I’ve been struggling.
Maybe it’s just one of those seasons – it happens. But maybe it’s part of a larger problem with the sport and this is just the beginning? I’ve been rattling my brain, trying to figure out when the racing stopped.
After a 3 week hiatus, I had hoped the teams would’ve been able to regroup back at their respective bases, that McLaren would’ve had the chance to dial in their sluggish MP4-28 and that Pirelli would’ve fixed their damn tires. None of that seems to have happened and what we were left with was another mediocre race at the Circuit de Catalunya.
Before I tumble any further down the slope, praises are in order for Fernando Alonso, who’s now 4th on the all time winning list, surpassing Nigel Mansell. His drive on Sunday really was that of a consummate professional. A bulletproof strategy by Ferrari and a clean race by Alonso secured the team’s second win of the season and damn do I respect them for it.
Even his teammate Felipe Massa continued to show flashes of his former brilliance and clinched a well deserved 3rd place finish. Right now my money is on Ferrari as the team to beat.
Despite parting ways with their technical director earlier in the week, Lotus didn’t skip a beat. Kimi Raikkonen has found a home on the podium in 2013. At this point it seems ridiculous that he would ever consider a move to Red Bull in 2014. Then again it’s still early and anything can happen.
Where Lotus, Ferrari and even Force India have excelled is with their understanding of Pirelli’s hellacious tires. They’ve been a bone of contention amongst teams and fans of the sport alike. In a contract year it would seem insane for Pirelli to produce such an inferior product and more insane still that they wouldn’t offer any sort of explanation. It’s no wonder Paul Hembery deactivated his Twitter account late last season, after being lambasted by fans.
However bad Pirelli’s tires are in 2013, what’s been arguably worse is the racing or lack thereof. Formula 1 has reached a turning point where drivers are no longer pushing from start to finish. Instead they’ve adopted a more conservative strategy – one that saw Lewis Hamilton telling his engineers “I can’t drive any slower”. This is motor racing but somewhere along the way, Formula 1 seems to have forgotten that.
Everyone’s playing the blame game. Drivers are blaming team orders, teams are blaming Pirelli and the FIA, but all the outcry seems lost in what has become a rather staged piece of entertainment. What’s most interesting is how the sport has managed to convince us all that what we’re watching is indeed great racing. The off track soap opera is entertaining as ever, most notably the team drama at Red Bull. But for all of the sport’s technical advances, we’re still seeing drivers struggle to push because of a lack of tires or fuel. Maybe the races are too long? Something tells me it would make no difference to shorten them.
In the days following the Spanish Grand Prix we’ve heard plenty of public bellyaching from Red Bull. Things have gotten so loud that Pirelli made the decision to produce a longer lasting compound for the Canadian Grand Prix in June. We’ve also heard Jenson Button admit that he’s embarrassed by his McLaren team and their MP4-28’s performance.
It’s been a difficult season for the Woking boys and one that may see the exit of Martin Whitmarsh as Team Principal – there have already been rumors of his possible resignation around the paddock. Then there’s Mercedes who look great in qualifying, but have struggled on race day. Both Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg quickly fell into obscurity by the end of Sunday’s race. One thing’s become abundantly clear – if the tires are to blame then we may see a massive shift throughout the field in Montreal.
Many would argue with me but Formula 1 is in a slump right now. Maybe the lack of exciting venues is to blame and we’ll see the energy reignited in Monaco next week. However at some point you just have to say screw the tires, the cars and the excuses and go out and race.
Photos courtesy of F1 Fanatic.