Despite it following a pretty tough act in the form of Le Mans, throughout the Austrian Grand Prix weekend I was pretty excited for the racing on track. GP3 was somewhat more entertaining than its usual ‘follow the leader’ snoozefest, GP2 was mega as always, and F1 had a lot of positive elements to it and some moments of wheel-to-wheel action.
But even though we had a successful race weekend, throughout we heard a lot of senior members talking elements or the sport as a whole down. I thought it was rather tiresome. You can see Red Bull’s frustration with Renault, but after the success its brought them commercially; everybody refers to their team as the name of their product, and advocating for these new engine regulations collectively it’s not good enough from Dietrich Mateschitz or indeed the petulant Helmut Marko.
— Jon Noble (@NobleF1) June 20, 2015
Similarly I thought Bernie Ecclestone regarding the current regulations as a “crap product to sell” were unwarranted. I think very highly of Bernie and his ability to run a business that is probably right up there with the maintaining of good relations between the EU and Russia. But the main figurehead saying the sport is “crap” is directly bringing it into disrepute, and I expected more due diligence.
Perhaps a more rational look at how F1’s engine penalties are being communicated would’ve been more constructive. Not only is the concept of a 25-place grid penalty absurd, but the FIA penalty information sheet looked like it was constructed for engineering use rather than actually understanding the reason for the penalty.
In the latest of many books on Elon Musk, the Tesla CEO described how the excessive use of made up acronyms made it a significant impediment to communication, and that they were just unnecessary. Between ‘ICE,’ ‘MGU,’ ‘ERS,’ and ‘DRS’ perhaps F1 could take a leaf in its quest to become more fan friendly.
On to the race itself and we saw yet again how unforgiving these cars are in their torquey high engine modes. On a weekend when Raikkonen himself said “F1 isn’t dangerous enough,” he gets caught up in a sizeable shunt with Fernando Alonso. Thankfully both escaped unharmed, despite Alonso parking his McLaren on top of the Ferrari in an accident reminiscent of the one he had at Spa Francorchamps three years ago.
But after yet another double-DNF recorded for the McLaren duo, I was half expecting to hear Button or Alonso say “its a shitbox” in reference to their MP4-30 at some point during the weekend – especially after incurring more grid penalties than grid slots on Sunday. But with moral being low it probably wouldn’t have been encouraging of either to come out with such things, even if it makes for good TV.
The Honda bosses who were guests this weekend for the team were reported to have left the race halfway through, although this is probably due to the fact that McLaren didn’t do much to show them the excitement of the sport. Martin Brundle made the observation on his Practice commentary track walk that the cars looked particularly spectacular through some of the corners, and that the team should’ve made the effort to send some of their senior members out to see it themselves instead of being confined to a motorhome – and I completely agree.
Maintaining a good moral within your team is one thing, doing it with your engine suppliers is another. They see it as a business, so being able to provide inspiration in the form of a visual offset of what hard work can achieve was always going to be key to this relationship, and what better way is there than to do it trackside?
Nico Rosberg drove what I thought was a similar weekend to his German Grand Prix win last year. Many have doubted his ability to step up to Hamilton when it has mattered on the track, but I think much like his home race weekend last year we’ve got another confirmation that we should probably not underestimate his capacity to put together a commanding race weekend.
It was a good race for Williams having lucked into their one and only podium so far this season with Massa. Valterri Bottas also pulled out a pretty good last half to his first stint to secure fifth position, despite handling brake issues in his Williams. In fact many drivers were struggling with brakes including Max Verstappen and Felipe Nasr, which is why we saw a lot of tyres locking up heading into the uphill sections.
Nasr’s wheel-to-wheel battle with Romain Grosjean between turns four and five standout for me. Despite everyone labelling him as a ‘pay driver’ he’s certainly providing us with some great racing moments that those of us watching him in GP2 last year were spoiled with.
Finally Verstappen did well to finish eighth despite Toro Rosso putting a wet setup on his car. Its a shame we didn’t get some to spice things up since I think he would’ve revelled in the conditions like he did on Saturday morning.
But it was clearly on the limit for them in terms of tyre life though, after Verstappen exclaimed that he ran out of tyre life when Maldonado overtook him in rather spectacular fashion. Teammate Carlos Sainz was also one of the few drivers to adopt the two-stop strategy, which turned out to be more time consuming.
Next up is the British Grand Prix at Silverstone. Hopefully by the power of the British fans F1 will be out of its current self deprecated state. I’ll be attending the race on Sunday and I hope many of my readers in the UK are too, even if the ticket prices are extortionate for the second year running.