One down, eighteen to go. Yet, if Sunday 14th March is anything to go by, we're in for a forgettable season. The Bahrain Grand Prix of 2010 illustrated perfectly what constant rule-tweaking can do to our sport. Barring a few first lap nips and tucks, and the unfortunate demise of Sebastian Vettel's spark plug, there was very little evidence of a motor 'race' in Sakhir yesterday, and this is solely down to what Formula One has become.
The strange dichotomy of Formula One is the focal point of this problem. This form of motor racing is hailed, and rightly so, as the pinnacle in motor sport technology and talent, but sometimes one can end up being too talented, too clever. We now have cars that are so finely designed by some of the best aerodynamicists and engineers in the world, that they seem to have forgotten that a motor race isn't supposed to be a time trial. Numerous drivers (including three world champions) complained that their race was run in qualifying, the lack of passing opportunities and the design of the cars being at fault.
I, for one, put less blame on the new regulations. When one racing car cannot get close to the one in front simply because it is designed in such a way that it causes anything around it to be buffeted with a disproportionate amount of turbulent air, then we are no longer talking about racing cars, we are talking about aircraft.
Purists and traditionalists may deride the consensus that we need a show in F1, but this is the nature of the beast. Formula One is now a worldwide brand, a commercial operation that attracts the world's richest. For this reason, the sport has a duty to offer up something vaguely resembling a race. These aren't the thoughts of an engineer or anyone remotely technically-minded. This comes from primarily a fan of the sport, and someone who understands that it must be promoted. So what can be done?
It is a waste of time to sit here and write about the possible consequences of a re-designed diffuser, or how a soft-compund tyre can't be allowed to be so durable. No, from a simpleton's point of view, it is clear that downforce and grip have become the show's worst enemy.
There do not need to be any fancy gimmicks such as a mandatory second pitstop, just go to your local kart circuit and watch the cadets bomb around. Turn on your television and see what a wet race can do to an open-wheel event. Formula One needs to take a step back from entering the great technology race, and remember that the sport sprouted from the ideas of a few gentleman racers. Get rid of the over-reliance on machinery and cutting edge technology, and give the sport back to the drivers. Let them overtake each other incessantly, let them fling the cars around like 2-stroke karts without the worry of chewing up their tyres, and let them enjoy racing for themselves and for the people.
Understand the fundamental attraction of racing, and the rest will follow.