5 Great Things About Formula 1
Sometimes, it feels like the world of Formula One is made up only of negatives.
Finding something to complain about has become so easy in recent years—even people madly in love with the sport could create a list as long as their arm detailing exactly what they feel is wrong with it.
There are too many gimmicks, like the drag-reduction system (DRS) and the Pirelli tyres; the racing is no longer pure and real.
Mercedes are too far ahead of everyone else, leaving great teams and drivers to scrap over minor positions when they should be racing for wins.
The circuits are too sterile and bland, history is cast aside in favour of oil-rich emerging markets, the rules are too strict or too lax, and the cars are too reliant on aerodynamics—or are they not reliant enough?
Talented youngsters are cast aside because they can't meet the multi-million pound price tag attached to a midfield seat, while less-successful but wealthy kids find places with relative ease.
It's a problem that is only made worse by the broken, unfair distribution of revenue that leaves wealthy teams in relative comfort while smaller outfits are barely able to survive.
Amid all this, TV audiences are falling as the commercial rights holder seeks fast bucks over sustainable growth—the increasing trend toward pay-TV providers means many fans can no longer afford to watch the sport they have followed all their lives.
And the politics? It seems like every day there's a fresh dose of sniping coming from one direction or another as the manufacturers and Bernie Ecclestone play out their battle for control of the sport.
Whether you think all of those things are problems, or only some of them, it all kind of gets you down, doesn't it?
Williams deputy team principal Claire Williams isn't happy with every aspect of the sport—no one is—but this week she took a stand against the negativity. Williams was quoted by F1i's Phillip van Osten defending the current state of F1, and she added: "Rather than becoming so embroiled in the negative commentary, can we just go racing and do what we love and talk this sport up?"
Maybe she's right. For all the issues that certainly do exist, we still tune in at every given opportunity to watch F1—it can't be that bad.
So having got all the negativity out of the way early, here are five wonderful things about this beautiful, exciting sport that so many of us hold so dear.
There's Exceptional Talent All the Way Through the Field
It's often said there are too many pay-drivers making their way into F1 and that money often trumps ability. But if we take a moment to look through the current 22-man field, we see an incredibly deep, strong pool of talent to rival any in the sport's history.
Just behind them lie a gaggle of rising or established stars—the likes of Daniel Ricciardo, Valtteri Bottas, Nico Rosberg, Jenson Button, Romain Grosjean, Sergio Perez, Nico Hulkenberg, Kimi Raikkonen and Felipe Massa.
Some of these men are past their best, and others have not yet reached their peak, but all of them have at least three years of experience behind them and are more than capable of putting in exceptional drives on a regular basis. All could win a title given the right machinery.
And then we have drivers like Daniil Kvyat, Carlos Sainz Jr., Max Verstappen, Kevin Magnussen and Felipe Nasr. Maybe these very young newcomers will make it to the top, maybe they won't.
But at least some of them have long and fruitful careers ahead of them, and remember—they account for just two years' worth of promising kids.
Of the drivers yet to make a reasonable mark, Jolyon Palmer won the GP2 title in 2014, Esteban Gutierrez was king of GP3 in 2010 and Pascal Wehrlein is the reigning DTM champion.
There are only really two drivers on the 2016 grid who lack any sort of achievement in their junior career that might make them worthy of a place in F1—and even they could turn out to be solid racers.
Sure, it'd be nice to see Robin Frijns and Stoffel Vandoorne lining up in Melbourne. But even without them, the field is very, very strong.
2 New Teams Just Entered the Fray
The Volkswagen Group has long been linked with an entry to F1, but in February, its motorsport boss made it clear his company will not seek to join the championship until it shows a degree of stability.
Speaking to Autocar (h/t Autosport's Jim Holder), Wolfgang Durheimer said he believes the future of the sport is too unpredictable to justify making the necessary investment.
But not everyone feels this way, and the 2016 grid will feature two new teams.
The most exciting of these is Renault. The French carmaking giant has been involved in F1 on and off since 1977 as either a team or engine supplier, powering the title wins of drivers including Nigel Mansell, Alain Prost, Damon Hill, Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel.
Recent years have not been kind to Renault; it was slow to react when the new V6 turbo engines were introduced, and the last two seasons have been spent playing catch-up. The team are not going to do well in 2016 either, but no manufacturer invests in a works team unless it's serious about getting to the front of the pack.
F1 needed another big-budget challenger to mix it up with Mercedes, Ferrari and company. Give it a few years, and Renault will be doing just that.
The other newcomers, Haas, are exciting for a different reason—they are the first American team to enter F1 for decades. The sport has always struggled to gain a foothold in the world's largest consumer market, and the addition of a "home team" in the form of Haas may have at least a small impact and help to grow interest in the United States.
In their current guise, they are never going to become front-runners—whether they admit to it or not, Haas are essentially a Ferrari B-team.
But F1 isn't just about the top end of the grid. The midfield battle is arguably more interesting, and it needs healthy, strong teams to keep it that way. Haas look capable of slotting in nicely.
Every Single One of the Cars Is a Masterpiece
The cars are not as quick as they used to be, and certain features of the machines make it incredibly difficult for teams to follow their rivals closely. The complex front wings, for example, are highlighted as problematic and a barrier to close racing by many, including Sky Sports F1's Martin Brundle (h/t Sky Sports' Mike Wise).
They are quieter, several of them have rather unattractive noses, the tyres are too skinny, and even after seven years the narrow, high rear wings still look a little bit odd.
But while not all "progress" in F1 is pleasing to fans, the sport continues to excel when it comes to creating simply awesome pieces of racing artwork. Studying any of the cars, from the Manor to the Mercedes, reveals incredible attention to detail not seen in any other series in the world.
And within these intricate details we find fairly significant differences between the cars. From a distance, they all look pretty much the same, but close-up, it's another story. There are differences in every single area.
The power units, too, are simply stunning. You're (probably) not going to set a Mercedes PU106C Hybrid as your desktop background and sit salivating over the positioning of the wastegate, but still, from an engineering viewpoint, even the struggling Honda is a work of art.
Not everyone cares about this stuff; many fans just want to see the cars racing—to them, the thought of studying a turning vane or front-wing element is about as appealing as watching paint dry.
But for those of us who do care, the geniuses of F1 continue to produce masterpieces.
It's Safer Than Ever Before
Concerns about safety have always been a part of motorsport, but for a time, the progress made by F1 could best be described as "steady." For the first half of the sport's near-70-year history, death was an occupational hazard for the drivers, and fatalities were far too common.
Things began to improve throughout the 1970s and 1980s, and on the morning of April 30, 1994, it was almost 12 years since the last driver death during a race weekend. But a little over 24 hours later, the sport was mourning the deaths of Roland Ratzenberger and Ayrton Senna.
The shocking loss of these two young men acted as a massive wake-up call to the people in charge; safety was pushed to the top of their agenda, and it has remained there ever since.
F1 is now the safest top-level motorsport series on the planet. The cars and circuits are designed with incredible care to minimise the risk to drivers and trackside personnel, and fresh steps are being taken every year to keep the danger down.
Motorsport can never be 100 per cent safe, as the tragic death of Jules Bianchi proved, but drivers now walk away from incredible crashes that, in the past, would have caused serious injury or worse.
What F1 has achieved with regards safety is simply remarkable—and new innovations to give the drivers greater head protection, such as the halo system, show us that the quest is not yet over.
Even the Gimmicks Many of Us Hate Play Their Part to Make the Sport More Fun
DRS gets a lot of flak, and much of it is richly deserved. Far too often, the overtaking aid makes passing too easy, robbing us of the sort of exciting, wheel-to-wheel action we all want to see.
But sometimes it does what it was designed to do—it puts the attacking car within striking distance of the defender, leaving the rest of the move in the hands of the two men at the wheel.
When this happens, overtaking becomes real again and, whether we like it or not, we owe DRS at least a small debt of gratitude.
Lewis Hamilton's move on Nico Rosberg to snatch victory at the 2014 United States Grand Prix is a great example. The DRS boost let Hamilton close up—without it, the move would not have happened—but he still had to work to complete one of the most exciting, meaningful overtakes of the season.
The fantastic move by Max Verstappen on Sergio Perez at the 2015 Brazilian Grand Prix, shown in the image above, is another pass that would not have been possible without DRS. Verstappen's driving was incredible, but with his rear wing closed up on the preceding straight, he would have been too far back to even try.
Similarly, the Dutchman's move on Marcus Ericsson at China last year would not have been possible without DRS. Nor Daniel Ricciardo's late-braking lunge on Fernando Alonso that won him the 2014 Hungarian Grand Prix.
We can't give it all the credit, because we also get occasional good racing that has nothing to do with DRS, and—though it does some good—it wouldn't be needed at all in an ideal world.
But if a strong positive can be found in even one of the most hated things in F1, the sport itself can't be that bad.
Feel free to join in the positivity in the comments section. Of course, there are bad things—but what do you love about F1?