FURORE OVER STANDING RE-STARTS
Authority, wit and intelligence from the voice of F1 Racing
While it was flattering to have the F1 Strategy Group adopt our ‘re-starts are getting predictable’ theme of last month, it was disappointing to see them drop the ball and adopt ‘standing restarts’ as the solution. Why not double-file rolling starts, as suggested?
I hear that Ron Dennis actually floated the idea with the Powers That Be but that it met with the response: “Nope. They already do that in IndyCar. Formula 1 can’t be seen to be copying IndyCar”.
On the basis that they actually don’t do that in IndyCar – they dropped double-file rolling re-starts a while ago – and that F1 adopted Pace (Safety) Cars in 1994 specifically because Nigel Mansell had defected to Pace Car America, therefore doubling IndyCar’s international TV ratings overnight, I thought at the time that the argument of the Strategy Group was not only somewhat disingenuous but also ill-informed. Now we hear Bernie Ecclestone wants to consign standing re-starts to the same bin as that other wasteful insanity of recent F1 times – grooved tyres. Dare we hope that the double-file idea will again get the airing it deserves?
We’ll see. In the meantime, it’s clear that the so-called Strategy Group seems to have about as much understanding of what F1 is all about – and about as much appreciation of what an F1 fan-in-the-making is going to want to see – as Mercedes management have of team orders. The glib concept of selecting the exciting bits and multiplying them by ve ‘in order to improve the show’ is about as obtuse as spending money on radar weather predictions when all you have to do is step outside and place your hand palm facing upwards. It started with DRS and now it’s heading for Hollywood – ie we’ll take a bit of this blockbuster, a scene from that art lm, we’ll sprinkle them with a bit of ‘re-make’ and we’ll end up with an unwatchable mess. It’s the easy solution. It’s what they do because they are the Powers That Be. Why do we need to be subjected to the dictates of a Strategy Group when we have races like the Hungarian GP? It’s obvious: all you have to do is start a Lewis Hamilton from the pitlane; throw in a bit of wet track that allows a Jean-Eric Vergne to embarrass a Nico Rosberg; give Fernando a dog of a Ferrari to haul around for 70 laps; add a few shunts courtesy of a Marcus, a Sergio and even a Seb; and stitch it all together with an aggressive but intelligent guy like Daniel Ricciardo. All that happened naturally in Hungary, so why do we additionally need some bunch of do-gooders trying to give us all that on demand?
Let’s look again at the standing re-starts idea. The Powers That Be were assuming, on the behalf of the fans, that we want nothing more than the ultimate excitement every lap, every race. We’re not even given credit, any more for wanting F1 simply to be F1. Of course standing starts are dramatically exciting. That’s part of the appeal of F1. It doesn’t follow, though, that two standing starts are going to be twice as exciting as one – particularly if they include slow-starters or stallers caused by mechanical glitches. To follow Strategy Group logic, we might as well have 57 standing starts, the winner being the last man (or woman) standing.
Let me reiterate the point I’ve made on several occasions in this column: there is and was nothing wrong with F1 that much better exposure, promotion and public understanding can’t put right. Teams need to open their doors to the fans in a way that allows the precious F1 technology to be touched and felt, 24/7, 365 days per year. What is the point of having the most efficient engines on the planet and the most sophisticated aerodynamics in the cosmos if Mr Average Joe Bloggs doesn’t have a feel for how it impacts one team more than another and is unable to access its inner workings? And drivers need to spend a lot more time promoting the sport in which they are so fortunate to perform. I’d like to think that Nico, Lewis, Fernando, Seb and Daniel spent the August break touring the US, warming up corporate America for the upcoming race in Austin… but I somehow doubt that this happened. We don’t have a Formula 1 promotions department and nor do the teams have the motivation for such creativity. I’m not paying for it – and nor has he. And so it goes on. Has anyone in Formula 1, for example, thought about the impact of NASCAR’s
“The Powers That Be were assuming, on the behalf of the fans, that we want nothing more than the ultimate excitement, every lap, every race”
Texas 500 being run on the same day as the US Grand Prix? You could say – as I guess everyone in the high-altitude Formula 1 pitlane is now resigned to saying – “Well, NASCAR people don’t get F1 anyway”; equally, someone with a brain might also think, ‘There’s potentially a huge motorsports audience out there; why don’t we do some F1 promotion in the build-up to the NASCAR race? The Texas Speedway is only 200 miles away, for Pete’s sake. Let’s do some demo runs. Let’s put Kyle Busch or Jeff Gordon in a Formula 1 car. Let’s try to win over some of the NASCAR audience.” They might think this… but they won’t do anything. Instead, they’ll run in Austin as if the US is very fortunate to have them, they’ll throw in a race-day support programme that’s about as interesting as an empty glass of beer and then complain – just as they did after Hockenheim – that “not enough” is being done to promote the race.
After which the Strategy Group will no doubt spring back into action…
To follow Strategy Group logic, we might as well have 57 standing starts, the winner being last man standing
Felipe Massa after his first-lap T1 shunt in Germany: if a standing start is the most dangerous part of a race, why increase the risk by having more of them?