Pray For Rain: The Only Way To Save Formula One

Craig ChristopherAnalyst IApril 7, 2010

KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA - APRIL 04:  Sebastian Vettel of Germany and Red Bull Racing celebrates in parc ferme after winning the Malaysian Formula One Grand Prix at the Sepang Circuit on April 4, 2010 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.  (Photo by Ker Robertson/Getty Images)
Ker Robertson/Getty Images

If we are to believe the scientists, the thing that we’ll notice most about climate change is the unpredictability of the weather.

It would be ironic, therefore, if the thing that could save Formula One racing was this very same phenomenon that threatens to make life so hard for the rest of us; if we’re to believe the scientists, that is.

So far, after a fairly bland start, the 2010 F1 season has proven to be interesting and exciting, with three different winners from three different teams. On the surface, it seems that all is well and the FIA’s persistent tinkering is all paying dividends.

But it’s not that easy, it never is. What has saved the day for two of the three races has been unpredictable weather and the timely intervention of rain that helped make both the Melbourne and Sepang Grand Prix more interesting than they otherwise may have been.

The Bahrain GP was a dull and lifeless affair. The changes to the aero packages at the end of the 2008 series and the reintroduction of slick tyres gave us all hope that we would once again get to see actual racing. Those hopes proved to be short lived.

F1 had been reduced to a high octane chess match, where the race had been completely run in simulators long before the rubber hit the road and races were won in pit strategy as much as racing ability.

Taking away refuelling has done little to change things. Jensen Button won in Melbourne due to a courageous decision to change back on to slicks when the track was drying out. He was also helped out by Sebastien Vettel’s loose nuts—wheel nuts, that is.

Had the rain not come along at the start of the Melbourne race and shaken up Malaysian qualifying, it’s not hard to believe that we wouldn’t have had two more processional races.

In Melbourne, Felipe Massa held up former champions Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton as well as Mark Webber in one of the fastest cars in the race. Rookie Jaime Alguersuari was able to hold off one of the best ever in the form of Michael Schumacher for most of the race.

In Malaysia, McLaren and Ferrari were able to cut through most of the field after screwing up qualifying, but eventually settled into a holding pattern once the natural order had been re-established—until Alonso converted his engine into a shower of sparks and the world’s most expensive smoke generator.

Overtaking is still bordering on impossible. The influence of the aero packages is still too great for the trailing car but, worse still, the tracks aren’t helping.

The batch of new Hermann Tilke tracks are visually very appealing and probably brilliant to drive, with long flowing curves and changes in direction. The problem is that they’re not all that conducive to good racing, with only one or two overtaking spots on the track—one of which is usually at the end of a long straight.

Tilke is responsible for Bahrain, Sepang, Shanghai, Istanbul, and the new Korean International Circuit—over a quarter of this year’s tracks. He also had a hand in the Singapore street circuit and is largely responsible for sucking the life out of Hockenheim.

Between the aero packages and Herr Tilke’s influence, climate change may well be the only hope that F1 has left. We all need to hope for rain for the remainder of the year or, better still, buy an SUV and eat as many hamburgers as you can and do our best to make climate change happen sooner.

Maybe then we can see some decent racing.


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