Saints and sin­ners in a chang­ing F1 world

F1 Racing - - IGNITION - @F1Rac­ing_­mag face­book.com/ f1rac­ing­mag in­sta­gram.com/ f1_rac­ing_­mag Damien Smith Euro­pean ed­i­tor-in-chief Damien Smith

Wed­nes­day 12 July, Trafal­gar Square and White­hall, Lon­don. F1 brings a cor­ner of the Bri­tish cap­i­tal to a stand­still with a well-re­ceived street demo (see page 40). All the cur­rent driv­ers are there – ex­cept one. As own goals go, Lewis Hamil­ton lobs his keeper from the half­way line. He should have dropped his hol­i­day to be there and saved him­self some ag­gro.

Three days later, Satur­day 15 July, Sil­ver­stone. Be­fore qual­i­fy­ing I take the bus from The Wing to Luffield to watch among the throng and gauge the Lon­don hang­over. From Hamil­ton’s first pass it’s clear there isn’t one. Rap­ture wel­comes the Merc each time Lewis arcs into the long right-han­der, prac­tis­ing what he preached in our ex­clu­sive cover story last month. He seeks grip from the wider wet line, even when con­di­tions im­prove, ac­cel­er­at­ing harder and ear­lier than any­one else. This is his do­main – and they love him un­con­di­tion­ally here.

Later, he’ll claim his sen­sa­tional Sil­ver­stone re­sult – pole, fastest lap, dom­i­nant win (see p76) – val­i­dated his de­ci­sion to miss Lon­don. It’s hard to ar­gue when his form is this good, but would the demo re­ally have harmed his pre-Bri­tish GP prep? Still, from sin­ner to saint in less than a week. That’s what it is to be Lewis Hamil­ton.

A few days later came more ru­mi­na­tion on good ver­sus evil: and this time it’s se­ri­ous. The FIA’s news-bomb that the ‘halo’ cock­pit safety de­vice will of­fer driv­ers new lev­els of head pro­tec­tion from 2018, blows a thong-shaped hole through F1’s fir­ma­ment. This one was al­ways go­ing to be ugly, both fig­u­ra­tively and lit­er­ally (see F1 In­sider, p12).

“I’ve made my­self clear since the be­gin­ning: we don’t need any­thing,” said Ro­main Gros­jean at Sil­ver­stone, when Seb Vet­tel’s test of the al­ter­na­tive shield so­lu­tion ended in dizzi­ness af­ter one lap. “The test was not very con­clu­sive to­day. I’m against every halo or shield or what­ever. It’s not F1.”

Gros­jean has been con­sis­tently brave on this one. In the wake of Jules Bianchi, Justin Wil­son, Henry Sur­tees and more, it’s tough to speak out. But, for many, the halo breaches a meta­phys­i­cal line. As much as we all want rac­ing driv­ers to avoid in­jury, is F1 about to lose some­thing of its essence? Can mo­tor rac­ing re­ally be­come too safe?

In my head I’m scream­ing an em­phatic ‘yes’. This is the sport I’ve grown up with and, like so many oth­ers, I quake a lit­tle at change. But were I to an­swer those ques­tions out loud in front of the mother, fa­ther, hus­band, wife or child of a dead rac­ing driver… I’d surely be more equiv­o­cal. We all have to search deep for our true an­swer to this one.

Saints and sin­ners of F1

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