Fernando Alonso says he’s sad Formula One races are too predictable. Aren’t we all fed up of that? Now we are all on our seat edge to see Liberty Media’s proposals for F1, V.2021.
Alonso raises a point about races of a “Golden Era” where only four cars were on the lead lap by the finish in 1989 or 1990. Did that matter? We never knew which four cars they might be. That, surely, is still better than watching a train of cars 1.5 seconds apart at Melbourne, despite some machines being so much better engineered (and a gazillion dollars more expensive to make and produce), two seconds a lap faster than the car in front, yet still unable to pass because of “engineering excellence”. That technology that people think makes today’s F1 great.
So I ask, why watch a grand prix on Sunday after qualifying? There’s barely even the spectre of the cars being unreliable. In fact, the much derided “grid penalties” are the only thing that now makes races a spectacle. How will the “unfortunate” who were put to the back of the grid for changing a magical unit that none of us understand charge their way to the front? Only… they don’t, because passing is “too hard”.
Having watched Melbourne, and the ability to pass, imagine a reversed grid! Brendon Hartley holding off the best of the world’s engineers (oh and drivers). Passing should not be easy… Gone are the glory days when you could watch drivers at least take a shot up the inside, grappling with grip, eyes closed, or even bravely duke it out around the outside, in a who-dares-wins game of bravery.
What makes F1 great, what made you a fan as a kid, or makes you make you want to make your children devoted fans? Those are tough questions these days.
So, what was the Golden Era we all revere? In my lengthy career from the early 1980s I have seen some fantastic Formula Ford races by racers who went on to be world champions, against others who can now tell their grandchildren the story of they day they beat a world champ.
And yes, before you all respond and cry “Villeneuve, 1981, Jarama” where he held off a train of four cars for endless laps – guess what, that was a race, no pit-stop strategy, or easing off to save the engine, no computers and definitely no engineers. It was a bloody race! Even more, the five cars in that train to the finish were from different teams: Ferrari, Ligier, McLaren, Williams and Lotus. When was the last time that happened? So do not give me that BS.
In my honest opinion, Jarama 1981 was a great race, won by the best racer. Not the best engineer.
Alonso had more than his fair share of bad luck recently, but with his dip into Indycar and the Indianapolis 500 he also saw that maybe F1 people should get off their high horses and see what really makes racing fans tick.