Formula 1 is slipping back into a familiar and frustrating discussion. One dominant team, one particularly bad race, and the way some are talking would have you think that F1 is in a crisis.
The Azerbaijan Grand Prix was far from a classic and hopes are not high for Miami this weekend. For one thing, as was derided in Baku, the DRS zones have been shortened again.
These decisions may be made scientifically by the FIA but to paraphrase the particularly aggrieved George Russell, reducing the effectiveness of a sadly vital overtaking aid seems foolish when the 2023 cars look worse for racing than last year’s.
Last year’s Miami race was quite straightforward. The layout of the circuit doesn’t breed hope for a stunningly different narrative this time. Although the high temperatures and revised track layout might make for enough of a variable to mix things up.
The point is that the 2023 F1 season has not started out as much of a blockbuster and the pessimistic view of the on-track product reflects that. One more bad race in Miami this weekend and the calls to change the regulations (yet again) might grow a bit louder.
Complaints about the quality of the show are not without foundation. But they are a little misguided. There has never been a period in F1 history of consistently spectacular racing. Because racing is inherently quite boring – at least when compared to the modern desired standard.
It’s founded on the principle of putting the fastest car at the front, and then racing for a long period of time to test driver and machinery on their quality and durability. Sometimes the ingredients are right to create sub-plots within this and spark fierce, exciting racing. But it needs a lot of factors to combine, including the raceability of the cars and the suitability of circuits.
Right now it feels like F1 is missing out on both of those examples. The cars are incredibly heavy now and very big, the tyres spike in surface temperature too easily so it is hard to push, and teams have recovered so much downforce already that it’s getting harder to follow closely again.
Personally I’d rather watch a replay of Baku than a race filled with lots and lots of artificial overtakes that are nothing more than rapid DRS drive-bys. Clearly that is what the FIA’s shortening of DRS zones is meant to achieve. But there should be a middle ground. Blending sport and entertainment is a necessary challenge for any global contest, after all.
It’s worth remembering how good F1 had it just a couple of years ago and that would have certainly played into its boom in popularity. It would be a shame to see knee-jerk reactions to negative/boring races just in a panicked move to ensure the good times keep rolling.
Remember that F1 was the first major international sporting contest to return post-COVID, so there was an enormous amount of pent up demand for it. And in 2021, we had one of the greatest seasons in history, in which the two main championship rivals went wheel to wheel in more than half the races and had an incredibly acrimonious and toxic rivalry that extended beyond the drivers and infiltrated their teams.
The desire to constantly replicate that is understandable. Especially in an era of constant expectations for F1 and its cast of characters to perform, to entertain.
F1’s popularity was not artificially inflated by this but the sport/entertainment balance was less problematic because the sporting side was epic, and that naturally improved the entertainment side. Which returns me to an earlier point, that motorsport is inherently a little bit dull if everything goes to plan.
There's no need to panic because Baku wasn’t very good. F1 shouldn’t panic if Miami isn’t a classic either. It just needs to stop overselling and underdelivering.
F1 will do more damage chasing entertainment over the sporting side. It doesn't have an identity crisis yet. But F1 will risk lurching into one if it goes down the route of acting like everything has to be better at all costs.
Helgens tider att ha koll på
Livesnack publiceras här på sajten kl 17.00.
Första träningen inleds kl 20.00, andra kl 23.30.
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Livesnack publiceras här på sajten kl 18.00.
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