F1’s Crisis, The Racing, and Double Points

If you were able to experience the last weekend without hearing the terms “F1” and “cost crisis” bounced off each other, then chances are your US Grand Prix was probably a lot more enjoyable if a bit confusing. The absence of Marussia and Caterham were certainly on everybody’s mind throughout the weekend, as the sport reached the inevitability of what some believe was predicted at the start of the season.

Truth be told, I believe all this started at the end of the 2012 season. Whilst Caterham was able to secure the much needed 10th place in the constructors championship against the well-funded Marussia, once HRT dropped out it became a case of who was next. Nobody wants to be last, but the fact of the matter is somebody has to be last. However the penalty for being so, shouldn’t be enough to drive you out the sport.

What we’ve witnessed over the last fortnight is the collapse of the rear-end of the field. It will regenerate, but only if measures are put in place to ensure such a messy departure doesn’t happen again. I for one was shocked at the midfield’s talk of a potential boycott of Sunday’s race. Yes it made sense on an action point of view; you’d be hitting F1 where it hurts if we witnessed a similar situation to 2005 in the US again. But for the good of the sport, it wasn’t the right move. The American fans deserve better, especially since they paid good money to be there.

I also wasn’t too impressed with Bernie’s deflection of the whole thing speaking to Sky either. The noise debate along with double points and how the cars look, seem to be the cop outs for actual issues that persist in the sport.

Time will tell whether a better deal comes towards Lotus, Force India, and Sauber. I certainly agree that Formula 1’s shareholders need to reinvest in the sport more and fairly distribute the wealth across all the teams. But I also agree with what Toto Wolff said in the Friday Press Conference, in that a business shouldn’t spend more money than its allocated – otherwise like Marussia and Caterham you end up racking up the debts – and that teams entering Formula 1 need to recognise that this is the pinnacle of open-cockpit racing, and that much like the airline business its not something you can just enter without matching the competitiveness of the leaders in the market.

On to the racing.

I’m sure I am not the only one who noticed the lack of cars streaming into turn one during the start on Sunday. But as the race progressed, I found myself forgetful of cars which probably would’ve not been competitive anyway. Only Gutierrez, Kvyat, and Raikkonen were the least entertaining for me on Sunday, with everyone else giving us plenty of action throughout different points of the race.

I guess part of that was down to Pirelli getting the tyres right this time, but also teams such as Lotus started to show shades of their old form with Maldonado and Grosjean. Vergne was also still out there driving for his seat at Toro Rosso, showing form he probably should’ve had throughout his time at the Junior Team. His overtake on Grosjean however was a bit excessive, if not impolite to the Lotus driver who later voiced his displeasure on Twitter at his fellow compatriot.

But I think with his driving so far and the circumstances of previous seasons being against him, coupled with Verstappen more or less asking Toro Rosso if he could stay on board for next year, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if he’s retained after all.

Button_Vergne_COTA_2014_F1WeekendsAnother driver who I must commend is Daniel Riccardo. Without sounding like too much of a fanatic, I thought his overtaking maneuverers at the start were awesome, and his strategy was perhaps the smartest on the grid – nearly bagging himself second place in what I believed to be a race to try and keep himself in title contention. But with the pace of the Mercedes drivers at the end, it was always going to favour one side rather than the other.

After the race Jeremy Clarkson tweeted: “Controversial I know but I reckon Ricciardo is the best driver in F1” and whilst I don’t disagree, he certainly took the regular attention away from Alonso on Sunday with his moves.

Finally on this subject I want to give some credit to Jenson Button, who after getting effectively screwed by his team who just didn’t provide him with enough information on his position in relation to other cars, I still thought his battle with Alonso was mega and really showed the craft of a driver who has been in the sport for a decade-plus now.

Now onto the discussion of double points. I’ve been fairly quiet on this subject, mainly because I’ve taken the “lets wait and see” approach. In terms of the championship I was reading Nigel Roebuck’s column in Motorsport Magazine this week and he said the danger for Rosberg is for him to be known as “a World Champion but only because of double points.” Whilst I think for many this will be the case, for me its irrelevant whether he’s won on double points or not.

Yes Lewis has more wins this season, but if he’s not at the top of the table then it really doesn’t matter. How you control the game is just as important as how well you excel it, and in typical racing driver fashion Rosberg is playing this one down to the wire.

What I do take issue with double points is how it effectively renders Brazil useless. By going to next weekends race, providing everything stays relatively normal and cars don’t retire due to reliability reasons, we could see a situation where cars are running without any real impact on their competitive standings. And at a time when F1 must seek to reduce its costs, it serves as an anecdote for how well this sport is actually being governed.

Finally I want to give a shout out to Kevin Magnussen, who those of you with eagle eyes will have noticed that he was running with a tribute – alongside his Jules Bianchi one – to his mother on his helmet, who recently recovered from cancer. I think I join the F1 community in hoping she regains her strength back soon.

And with that, its onto the penultimate round of 2014: Sao Paulo.

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