So, the FIA really have made a clumsy decision with their expansion of the grid for the 2010 season. Encorporating new teams who have for the most part struggled to get out of the starting blocks, it has begun to become an embarassment for those involved in the initial decisions.
For the new teams able to produce at least a stable car for the season opener in Bahrain there is now the ever increasing possibility of an us and them scenario evolving. The established teams have welcomed them with open arms but are expected to destroy their lap times in at least the first few races of the season.
Of course we should not determine too much from pre-season testing, as different teams try different fuelling levels to discover the ins and outs of their cars. Their lap times as a result can be misleading. Yet for a team like Lotus, with single lap specialist Jarno Trulli at the helm, reports to be five seconds off the pace already are demoralising.
Compare this to the backenders last year – Force India, who managed to keep within two seconds of the front of the field week in week out. Their deficit looks pale in comparison, leaving Lotus requiring multiple mini miracles to reduce the gap to a similar distance.
The other rookie teams appear worse off too.
With Campos racing under new management and a new name already, Virgin Racing yet to establish themselves regularly on track, and with US F1 deferring their entry for a year the future looks decidely grim for the new boys. Only Stefan GP’s overly confident claims of a 2010 campaign appears to be providing any form of excitement for the rookies.
What then will be the resulting effects on the rest of the pack as the season progresses?
Will the spectatorship and competitve edge actually become enhanced as was originally planned and will we as spectators be enticed more into the sport?
The first few Grand Prix’s of the season as the new teams attempt to find a stronghold will produce some evident complications.
A five second deficit will result in only a handful of laps needed for the front runners to catch and lap those who lack pace. This in recent seasons has caused issues with blue and blag flag scenarios.
It also brings in safety concerns, as the front runners competing against one another for race victories, podium and points will face what they see as an unnecessary and undesired distraction to their ambitions.
Not since teams such as Forte and the ill fated Lola team in the 1990’s have such scenes been witnessed, so for many of the current field it will be a new experience that with a lack of knowledge could result in various contoversial scenes.
Jos Verstappen’s accident with Montoya in Brazil for example did not go down well with anyone, causing constant repocussions regarding backmarkers. Montoya in that instance was obviously outraged and Vestappen’s reputation was somehwat dismantled.
When the likes of Forte competed in Formula 1 they definately put paid to an end of that famous saying ; its the taking part that counts. No-one wants to be the joker in the pack in such an elusive sport. Their quick exit portrayed their staunch defiance against a continuation of their negative and pitiful performance.
It is the reason they and many others in similar positions have never returned to the sport.
On a positive note, the new teams for this current season will not be alone in their back end action. Unless there are visible and uncomprimising gaps between each other they should find themsevles competing at the back of the field on a regular basis.
Their aim to close the gap on the front runners and mid field pack will be their most important goal, but at least they may have company in their initial trials and tribulations.
By the end of the year they will hopefully have caught up to the likes of Toro Rosso and Force India, but they will do well to learn from the battles they may face against their rookie counterparts.
After all a rookie team who falters and loses the most may find themselves exiting the sport by the end of the year. This will therefore be their inspiration to perform, even if they are light years away from the likes of Mclaren and Ferrari.
For us as spectators then we will hope for a collection of intriguing race day competitions between the three or four new teams. Whilst we may cringe at their abundance of low capabilities we will relish any events of competitive action.
A lot has been discussed also with regards to the new points system. With the issues that have constantly plagued the new teams the points system has been brought into dispute as at times it has appeared out of touch with previous seasons.
If the grid of twenty-six was ever to decrease then the points awarded to the top ten positions would reflect unfairly on previous talents such as David Coulthard, who’s reliable scoring elevated himself to a respected tally. Fernando Alonso has been a verbal critic of the new points system even before the drama of the new teams unfolded. His ideas must surely be intensified now with the possibility that gettings points on the board may be far too easy in the early season races.
Therefore as it currently stands the points system sounds ridiculously overwhelming.
The rumoured big four, Mclaren, Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull will seemingly dominate the first few positions but other points opportunities will become easy pickings for the mid-field pack. It would have been a dream for a driver like Kazuki Nakajima last year who would have been rewarded for a series of less than average performances with multiple points finishes.
Compare this to someone like Luca Badoer who at less capable teams in his earlier career would have been so desperate for such an opportunity to emerge.
On the other hand though, we as spectators like nothing more than the story of an underdog. We love the idea of an unexpected competitor overcoming the odds and achieving the previously thought of as impossible results.
In any wet races, or events involving any multiple crashes and incidents we have previously been given scenes involving drivers triumphantly punching high above their expectations.
You cannot forget such instances as Buttons Hungarian triumph or Panis’s display of concentrated brilliance in the 1996 Grand Prix of Monaco. Such results showed that the form book on occasions can just be thrown out of the window. The recipients of sometimes lucky events emerge as heavily praised superstars.
Others in less fortunate positions then can and will take advantage if afforded the chances.
For the optimism in us, we will ponder the eventuality of a wet race in the 2010 season and its consequential effects it could have on the four rookie teams. It is unlikely that all four teams would fail to score points so we will anticipate with great conviction the first of the four to write themselves into the history books.
That is as long as it doesnt echo the U.S Grand Prix of 2005, where Jordan’s podium and Minardi’s points haul could never give us the goosebumps or gratitude that such results should have gifted to us.
Embarrasment is the buzz word for all new teams to avoid in the beginnings of the season calender. The action is now only ten days away so massive deficits look inevitable.
It will be up to the new teams therefore to portray a solid definition of attitude, determination and passion in order for them to allow us as followers to want them to succeed.
It is possibly hopeful that all four new teams can end the 2010 season on a high. Yet as long as we will be able to appreciate the efforts made by each team, we may be rewarded with scenes that back up the need for an expansion to the previous twenty-man grid.
We know that the likes of Jarno Trulli at Lotus and Timo Glock at Virgin are capable of spearheading a strengthened challenge.
For the rookie drivers in rookie teams such as Bruno Senna the pressure sadly is fiercly on. The recent examples of Nelson Piquet Jr and Kazuki Nakajima are there for them to seek to improve upon.
As you would have predicted the returning Lotus team look the most likely to succeed. Virgin Racing’s emergence into testing is however promising, as is Campos’s acquistion. Stefan GP may be pulling a poker face with their credentials but add to the apparent competence of the other three.
We must also remember that the room for improvement is vastly greater for new teams as the teams heading the field will have already found most of their optimum peaks as they head to Bahrain. As such a five second gap between the front and the back should decrease quite rapidly.
This will be a saving grace for the FIA who increased the productivity of points as a consquence to the extended grid.
If we have a field so visibly parted for the opening few Grand Prix then the watching audience will have to put up with possible conflicts on and off the track.
What is most essential though is that the FIA learn in hindsight from their lapse in judgement and offer places to teams in future that they confidently feel can compete from the outset.
If they are unwilling to do so in future seasons we may continuously head into season openers completely lacking any confidence in the sport, hindering our passion for the sport.