So I watched the first race of the new season this morning thanks to the wonders of digital video recording and at first I thought “not a bad race” but the more I thought about it afterwards the more I began to think that it’s no longer not so much about the drivers but more about the technical abilities of the teams. After all, Sebastian Vettel is a four time (in a row) world champion and yet he went out early in the race, as did Lewis Hamilton, another world champion. In both cases it was not the driver that cause the retirement but rather the machinery.
F1 has really become akin to watching Russia and the USA try to upstage each other during the height of the cold war. The only difference being that in F1, world domination by one side will not result in nuclear Armageddon (I hope!) so while at first it looks exciting because of all the uncertainty the new regulations have caused, ultimately it’s a bit like watching twenty two high powered washing machines battle it out. All in all, pretty boring.
There’s no doubt there are some awesome drivers out there and it’s great to see new faces in the pack and doing well as well but for the past few years it’s been a battle of tire (or tyre if you are English) strategy more than anything else and now, for the time being at least, tires seem to have taken a back seat to the mechanical issues the cars seem to be having. All this of course, leaves me wondering just what contribution the drivers really have any more. Of course we all want to see our favorite teams and drivers do well and I’m sure there are a few people in the world relieved that Red Bulls domination does not look so certain this year but overall I suspect that the series has become more of a technical race that is won in the design studio more than about anything that happens on the track. The track is really just the ultimate test bed for all the engineer’s hopes and dreams.
I’m sure that I’ll keep watching the races for a while at least and I hope that all the technical issues even themselves out across all the teams so that the true spirit of the race, the drivers, can shine and maybe even actually race on an even playing field but overall I am not hopeful. Sadly I suspect it will continue to be a war of technology more than anything else with one or two teams (with money) dominating everyone else. At that point the FIA will have to come up with yet another set of rule changes to even the playing field which really just perpetuates the issue of the series being more about technology than racing.