A pile up on turn one, two world-championship drivers retiring after five laps and two new faces on the podium. Hardly the procession that dictated last year’s headlines which threatened the soul of the Formula 1. So after a thrilling first race in Melbourne on Sunday which sprung a lot of surprises on its audience and pundits, why are many still unhappy?
It’s fair to say that Formula 1 is often bought into the limelight from antics of President Bernie Ecclestone, who’s currently going through a lengthy court trial, or from drivers’ luxurious lifestyles. After a busy winter that didn’t end soon enough, it was finally time to start up the new turbo powered V6-engines and welcome a greener, and much quieter era of motor racing.
The question “what would happen if no car made it to the chequered flag” floated around the paddock all weekend, but no answer was needed as most of the drivers made it back to the pits in one piece, albeit for Jenson Button without the top of his nose.
So when the lights went out (after a second warm up lap after the Marussia of Jules Bianchi stalled) the race gave everything that the last three years was lacking: Raw skill from drivers, the excitement of mixed strategies, and finally not knowing who was going to win! Teams didn’t know the pecking order of the grid, and even after the race nothing has been clarified apart from the overwhelming pace of the Mercedes. But even they had one car retire from a misfiring cylinder.
Even the controversy that overshadowed the results, the disqualification of 2nd place home favourite Daniel Ricciardo, would’ve been a positive thing for many as it means the standings will be even further mixed up. It seems strange how all of a sudden some fans have grown a moral standpoint that was missing from last year after the constant abuse (some understandable) for Sebastian Vettel for only being the fastest driver on track.
It should be clarified that Red Bull had “consistently exceeded the maximum fuel flow of 100kg per hour” with Race Director, Charlie Whiting, repeatedly telling them throughout the first five minutes, but ignored it. As fans of a sport that has no tolerance for cheaters it should be no surprise that no lenience was given to the current Constructor’s Champions. Especially when there has been a radical overhaul in regulations that every other team successfully adhered to.
It was a nice surprise to see that the inexperienced likes of Valtteri Bottas, Daniil Kyvat and Kevin Magnussen were the first drivers to get to grips with the excessive “speed over grip” conundrum faster than former champions Kimi Raikkonen and Fernando Alonso. It was also evident that there was a lack of bass and volume from the new engines that many have criticised, but it was a nice change to hear the wheels screeching when they hit the tarmac and to hear crowds reactions. Something that was never audible before.
It finally proves that there is new talent in F1, and that money doesn’t make all of the decisions. Kevin Magnussen proved that McLaren were right in hiring him after finishing second in his first race, a feat even Lewis Hamilton didn’t achieve on his debut.
It also meant that less coverage was devoted to the politics of teams, including the merry-go-round that surrounds team principal roles this year. You’ve heard the joke about how many team principles it takes to change a front nose. No? Neither have I…
It boils down to the fact that fans were changing channels and pundits were getting bored of the same result. So the people in charge have called for change in a sport that is so rapidly changing technologies and pushing the boundaries of speed. It has been alleged that the ‘ugly noses’ will only be around for a solitary season after the outcry from fans and teams alike, so it’s hard to argue that our opinion isn’t listened to.
F1 was on the cusp of losing the magnetism that keeps its 600 million audience members captivated by the skill of the drivers in the pinnacle of motor racing. So for however long this period of uncertainty and surprise stays in F1, just enjoy it. Because we all know the alternative.