I sometimes feel gutted that I can’t write more often as managing two very time-demanding passions is not easy at all. One happens to be my profession, so takes precedence, but today I realized I could pull out an hour to write about one of my most loved weekends on the F1 calendar and a bit beyond.
Following a fantastic weekend in Silverstone, I was left with bittersweet emotions. The 2011 British GP will go down as a classic, most would agree. But the utter mess in the pits caused by an embarrassing error on the Force India pit wall left Scot Paul Di Resta and Force India fans thoroughly disappointed. Yes, these things happen in the heat of the moment, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that a whole chunk of points were effectively thrown away by a clearly avoidable error. Adrian Sutil went into his first stop a few laps too soon and the result was, again, the same. What could have been a healthy double-points finish, just turned into a weekend of disappointment. Perhaps, the only smile-worthy event was Di Resta’s fantastic P6 on the grid on his debut home GP.
There was the all-new start-finish line at Silverstone for the first time in 60 years and a brand new pit/paddock complex. The steep uphill pit exit was interesting too as it now leads to a very fast corner, and the overall time for a pit stop has been significantly cut due to this new complex. The Silverstone “wing” has brought the circuit up to 2011 standards, look-wise, and has certainly given it a very modern feel. There’s a lot more that’s going to be changed/added to the circuit and that is exciting, especially when you think that this is where F1 officially started 60 years ago. I still miss Bridge though, its more of a nostalgic thing than from a racing point of view, but, I do miss it.
Now, moving on, Ferrari were widely believed to have been favoured by the EBD clamp-down and that might be partly true (we’ll never know the specifics of it and that’s a good thing in a way) but it doesn’t take anything away from the stellar drive Alonso put in on Sunday! He thoroughly deserved that win and as Vettel put it in the post-race press conference – Ferrari won fair and square.
The hot-blown/cold-blown debate was so confusing that I had to open up the FIA technical regulations to see what was legally allowed. Anyway, there’s been so much already written on this through the weekend that discussing it further would be madness. All I wanted to say is, yes, we love the technical aspect of F1 (this is the most technically-complex sport in the world after all) but when it gets to a point where the FIA have to issue three directives within two days, it just shows that things are getting a bit clumsy and making the FIA look confused & ineffective. And we’ve seen that more than a few times this year; from the Bahrain episode to the Monaco restart to this EBD circus. It is well known that technical regulations should not be changed mid-season unless it concerns safety, but for some reason, the FIA found it amusing to stir this up and create a whole lot of unnecessary confusion. And what came out of all this is rather funny if you ask me – back to square one, where we were at Valencia! Makes the whole arrangement look like a primary school stage act put together by 10 year olds. Not very professional.
Now, wish it hadn’t happened, but it did. Mark Webber was asked to “maintain the gap”. Yes, lot’s been said about it, the team was right, team comes first, they could not risk it at the closing stages of the race, so on and so forth. Nonsense. The underlying fact is – the team wanted points and so did the drivers. If the team believes that any circumstance involving the two of their drivers battling on track with each other has an almost certain outcome of a crash, then there’s a serious problem. The team does not have faith in either or both of its driver’s (read Vettel’s) capabilities to handle such a thing. And it wouldn’t be surprising if that indeed was the case. I for one, do not believe that Vettel is a racer (yet). He is blindingly fast and effective but still not a racer. His overtaking capabilities are questionable and I would not disagree if someone said he can’t handle on track battles very well. He can lead form the front and win but we’re yet to see him charge through the field and win a race. He’s a world champion, but, I think even Button’s championship was a better fought one. The day he does a Hamilton or Alonso or even Kobayashi, will be the day I’d call him a racer. Till then, he’s got a lot to prove.
Now, some more mud-slinging, this time its something Indian. The “Indian driver at Force India” talk has been going on for so long that its almost stale and unhealthy, but can’t be escaped. Following Vijay Mallya’s comments (which I find to be true to a certain extent while parts of it were out of place and unnecessary), Karun Chandhok has hit back out at him. The facts he puts forward are not wrong. Indian motorsport audience is still very immature and most of it does not understand how F1 works. Its not cricket, its more like club football. Teams are teams and they hire drivers (players) to do the job for them. And there can only be two of those in race seats in an F1 team. What people need to understand is, at this level of competition, when you spend millions in development and the engineers and mechanics work unbelievably hard to build a competitive car, you want to have the best drivers available to deliver the final link in the chain. You just cannot compromise on that. What is the point in racing if you put a driver in a seat just because of his nationality or just because he brought in a wad of cash? Make no mistake, I’m all for an Indian driver in a Force India car and there certainly is a bit of national pride attached to this team, but, not at the expense of performance. How many of you seriously think Chandhok or Karthikeyan could do a better job than Paul, Adrian or Nico? I really like Chandhok as a person, he’s a pleasant bloke who speaks sense but that’s got nothing to do with his racing. Karthikeyan, well, I’d rather not talk about him. Its too late for him to be in F1 anyway and if any of you remember, I’d predicted this was exactly how it would end for him.
F1 is serious business and the level of competition is beyond what most people can fathom, so, there’s very little space for emotional or national prejudice here. It’s all about maximizing performance and productivity through available means. There will always be conflicts, opinions and stories but the underlying fact remains unchanged. Although, one point that Chandhok makes is very valid, Mallya hasn’t tested him and so there’s no way to tell if he’d be better or worse than any of the current drivers in the team. I wouldn’t want to add Karthikeyan to this though. This is the nature of this sport and has been so since time began. If you can’t handle it, its probably not for you. When and if we have a capable Indian driver, I believe Mallya would not hesitate to put him in a Force India car. There’s a lot more that goes on in this sport which isn’t very innocent but then, that isn’t something you can avoid if you want to be in F1 as a serious competitor. Who wants another HRT? That’s right.
And so it rolls on.
Next stop – Nurburgring.