Motor (Australia)

Cameron Kirby

NEXT TIME YOU FIND YOURSELF IN AN ONLINE LOBBY OF HORRORS, REMEMBER SOME OF THE BEST CAN FALL VICTIM TO THE RED MIST

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IF YOU’VE EVER ATTEMPTED to take part in an online race you’ll be acutely aware of the absolute worst type of digital driving standards that plague every racing-themed video game. With a grid full of drivers hopped up on a hearty breakfast of Yeet-Bix and red cordial, it’s a journey of discovery in establishi­ng exactly how much each player’s ambitions outweigh their talents.

This isn’t to deride digital racing. In fact I’m a big advocate for its benefits, as are many world-class drivers. But surely the real, expensive and life-threatenin­g consequenc­es of getting it wrong during a physical event would mean no actual motorsport grid would suffer the same indignant shambles as an online lobby? Well, no.

In fact, in the past decade there was an FIA-sanctioned event with driving standards so consistent­ly poor that the whole thing was abandoned altogether – the Formula 3 European Championsh­ip’s 2015 round at Monza.

This wasn’t a grid of All The Gear, No Idea gentlemen drivers on a trip to the Temple of Speed either, but some of the hottest young open-wheel talents of the time. On the grid were five current or former F1 drivers, with a handful of future IndyCar and Formula E pilots thrown in for good measure. It was, and will likely remain for some time, the most disappoint­ing display of amateur talent by ostensibly profession­al athletes in motorsport history.

The shenanigan­s started immediatel­y at the start of the first race, and then proceeded to continue unabated through the entirety of the first two races.

In one of the earlier crashes Lance Stroll and Antonio Giovinazzi tangled going through Curva Grande, with the former slamming into the catch fence and getting airborne, before promptly being spiked into the ground by the hand of god.

While not present at the event, then FIA Single Seater Commission president Stefano Domenicali was so incensed at what was happening on the track that he called the stewards in a rage. By the end of the second race the grid had pushed each other off track, abused track limits, and been such colossal nongs that race officials were at their wits’ end.

Exasperate­d at what he was seeing, race director Niels Wittich called an emergency meeting and summoned all drivers and team managers for a stern talking to like naughty school children. During the assembly, Wittich explained that if driving standards didn’t improve, he would have no alternativ­e but to see the rest of the racing out under safety car conditions.

He didn’t even get to do that.

Race three began with a crash, prompting an immediate fullcourse caution. Wittich gave the grid one final chance to behave, with the green flag waved after the debris had been cleaned up. His faith in the youngsters was immediatel­y proven foolhardy when Stroll (yes, again) was involved in an incident at the first chicane with Mikkel Jensen.

At this point, there had been so much crashing that even if they spent the entire time remaining in the race under safety car, the 75 per cent race distance wouldn’t be reached. Instead, Wittich called for the red flag to be waved and all remaining racing be abandoned. To drive the point home for the field of youngsters, it was decided to only award half points for all three races – including the first two which were completed in full.

So next time you find yourself in an online lobby of horrors, remember that some of the best in the world can fall victim to the red mist from time to time.

May the events of Monza 2015 never be repeated again.

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