The twin forces that drive F1
Power and grip: the dual properties upon which Formula 1 is built – in more ways than one. The threads of their influence can be traced through every issue of F1 Racing, and certainly at every grand prix. In Melbourne, their visceral qualities were palpable both out on the circuit and, in a very different sense, in the paddock.
On Friday morning, as a new era of F1 dawned, it was immediately and abundantly clear that the critical balance between power and grip is just where it should be for this fresh generation of grand prix car. The fatter Pirellis and wider-track chassis culminated in machines that looked not only potent and in proportion for the first time in years, but, most importantly, properly quick. Watching from the rapid left-right Turn 11/12 flick, I couldn’t help but smile: ‘real’ F1 has returned.
The Pirellis only just gripped, mind, as Carlos Sainz flung his Toro Rosso into the apex, sparks flying as he grabbed it by the scruff. We interview Sainz on page 46, in the impressive setting of the Santiago Bernabéu Stadium – temple of his beloved Real Madrid. Carlos knows he has to make this year count if his F1 career is to take off, and his commitment was right there in that moment at T11.
Back in the paddock, Ross Brawn and marketing man Sean Bratches had a firm grip on another type of power. As you’ll read on page 16, Brawn, veteran of no fewer than 20 F1 drivers’ and constructors’ titles spread over three decades and four teams, has spoken eloquently about a more sustainable and potentially brighter F1 future in his new role as the sporting head of grand prix racing. Bratches? Douglas Adams’ Babel Fish would have been handy to interpret his marketing flannel – but we’re sure it’ll make sense to the TV and media executives to whom it is really addressed.
The following day, FIA president Jean Todt dropped in for a timely reminder of who wields the ultimate power. He and Brawn are old allies, of course, as master and employee at Ferrari in the Schumacher golden years. It’s different now though. How they rub along over the coming months will keep us hooked. Will they agree how to power-share for the good of F1? There has to be more hope now that Brawn has replaced that other chap. You know, the one with the round specs and white Beatles cut. What’s his name again?
You won’t find it gracing our ‘Power List’ (p26) of the top 25 movers and shakers in F1 today. Some might feel our decision to omit Bernie Ecclestone from our running order lacks respect after his years gripping F1 by the throat. That’s not the intention. Instead, our list reflects how quickly the grand prix world can change – and how power can slip in a blink, even for a toppermost of the poppermost such as Bernie. There’s a new number one now.