Dear F1, Time To Make Our Races Longer
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It seems that weâ€™ve a split verdict on the 2017 Australian Grand Prix â€“ was it a bore, or was it not? I think I belong to those who believe that it clearly wasnâ€™t. Was it because Ferrari beat Mercedes on-pace for the first time in many years, or was it because it was the first race of the season? I am yet to take my pick.
Faster Cars, Shorter Races
The 2017 Australian Grand Prix was the shortest race held in Australia. In comparison to the 2016 race time, the 2017 edition ended nearly 24 mins earlier. So while Formula 1 has delivered much faster cars, theyâ€™ve certainly led to faster race finishes. But as a fan, I am a bit disappointed. I wouldnâ€™t mind the action continuing all the way till the fag end of the two-hour time limit.
Yes, I say this even while thereâ€™s a discussion of splitting the race weekend into two races. Till such time that happens, I wouldnâ€™t mind longer races. And then on similar ground, I wouldnâ€™t mind more teams, drivers and even more races!
The Start Was An Anti-Climax
The race start was most awaited for two reasons. First, it was to signal the start of the 2017 Formula 1 Season. Second, the manual start procedure that was to make life difficult for the drivers. However, the entire pack started in unison, almost!
There are unofficial reports that this race had all of 2 overtaking moves â€“ one that included Esteban Oconâ€™s mighty 3 cars abreast move on Hulkenberg and Alonso. If one was to take the opening lap into account, Stroll managed to out-brake-flat-spot and overtake 6 cars at the first corner itself.
Strangely enough, I didnâ€™t miss overtaking much though. Even though the first five finishers werenâ€™t involved in one. Somehow, the racing seemed more authentic now. I think credit is due to Pirelli for finally producing a good Formula 1 tyre. The best testimony to their tyre was Vettel being able to charge Hamilton in the opening stint of the race. I doubt heâ€™d have been able to do that with the Pirelli tyres of the previous season.
Would Mercedes Spend 100s Of Millions In Their Fight With Ferrari?
Ferrari has drawn first blood. Mercedes has promised to react. All of this while we were wondering if â€˜Mercedes vs. Red Bull = Engine vs. Aeroâ€™. Two of the worldâ€™s most popular car manufacturers are set to go head-to-head in a bid for the Formula 1 Constructorsâ€™ Championship, or so I am praying. Letâ€™s hope that this rivalry also means an increase in interest and viewership for the sport. Will this help correct the viewership decline weâ€™ve seen over the last 6 years?
Ferrari has reportedly spent â€˜100s of millionsâ€™ in their bid to catch Mercedes. I wonder if something these were spent to just understand when to â€˜sandbagâ€™, because they were sandbagging all the way till Q2 of qualifying! The other question I have is whether Mercedes will spend that much of money in their fight. Early days, but early indications hold us in good interest. (Ferrari Missing Historic Bonus From Formula E)
After a full-season of picking the wrong tyre strategy, Ferrari finally managed to make the correct call, rely on some luck and get Vettel track position ahead of Hamilton. It seems that with difficulty in overtaking, maintaining track position will be increasingly important this season and hence qualifying position too.
By the way, did Ferrari forget to inform Raikkonen that he had to stop sandbagging?
The Finns Disappoint
Thereâ€™s already chatter that this year could be a Vettel vs. Hamilton battle. However, a Raikkonen vs. Hamilton just sounds more epic! But, what about Valtteri Bottas? How long will he have to wait to score his debut win? Lauda compared Bottasâ€™ pace to Rosbergâ€™s and said that Mercedes wouldâ€™ve still finished 2-3. If Bottas wants to cement his place in Mercedes, he should aim to be the next Hamilton and not the next Rosberg. (Will Bottas Make Us Miss Rosberg?)
Daniel Ricciardo, Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing
This was to be a BIG weekend for Daniel Ricciardo. Home race, a â€˜Daniel Ricciardoâ€™ Grand Stand at the Albert Park Circuit and launch of his range of merchandise! A good weekend for brand Ricciardo, but not a lucky one for the driver Ricciardo. Curses for Renault! They need to deliver as a team as well as a power unit supplier!
Red Bull Racing finished nearly 30 seconds of Vettelâ€™s race pace â€“ a number that should worry the team. As for Max Verstappen, he played a pivotal role in Vettelâ€™s victory when he held Hamilton up after the first round of pit stops. However, his best role was his radio exchange with his team when he wished to attempt at claiming the fastest lap of the race.
If races were to indeed get longer, I am not sure how Mclaren-Honda would react. They barely made it through the full race distance in Australia. This is after managing only 11 laps in pre-season testing and 19 laps in the free practice session on Friday. Clearly, the one team sandbagging in pre-season testing was Mclaren-Honda!
Btw, Alonsoâ€™s running in P10 was mighty impressive, given the issues faced by the team. The irony of Alonsoâ€™s retirement was that it was a failure for Mclaren (suspension issue) and not Honda. And like one of our listeners Gunjan (Shah) put it, weâ€™re not sure if Alonso will leave Mclaren-Honda or Honda will leave Alonsoâ€™s Mclaren, especially given how the Spaniard has patiently backed them to resurrect still. (Mclaren Is The Fan Favourite For 2017)
Team-Mates Should Be Allowed ToÂ Swap Cars Mid-Race
Romain Grosjean’s smoking Haas was a disappointment. Even more so because the Frenchman had the pace to finish in the points while his team-mate was busy spinning others around. Should Formula 1 introduce a rule where a team is allowed to have their ‘better’ (or number 1) driver swap cars with the other (read: number 2) should the need arise? If this was permitted, I doubt Rosberg would’ve won in 2016! (The Best Driver Did Not Win)
A One Night Stand
Portugal has shown interest in hosting a non-championship race for Formula 1. The one that Ross Brawn floated as an idea to implement changes to the sport. It might be an interesting idea, but it somehow seems like a one-night-stand rather than a fully blown relationship that Portugal is seeking with Formula 1.
We’ve extended our partnership with Firstpost from text and audio to now video. Mithila and I will feature in post-qualifying and post-race analysis videos. I am pleased to embed the video for your viewing. And finally, you would’ve noticed a new tune-in link to our podcast. The cool-sounding link is the handiwork of WandereR, a music composer duo based out of Mumbai. Ameet and Razik are talented sound producers, Formula 1 fans and listeners of the Inside Line F1 Podcast. I’m thrilled to be fan-powered!
Co-hosted by Mithila Mehta and Kunal Shah, the Inside Line F1 Podcast is a weekly show on Formula 1 that attempts to simplify the sport and business of Formula 1. This show also aims to add some much needed humour to the otherwise serious sport of Formula 1. In 2016, the show has crossed 150,000 listens and is top-rated on iTunes and Audio Boom. The show is available on Kunalâ€™s F1 Blog and partner websites such as Motorsport, Firstpost, NDTVAuto, Sport360, Sportskeeda, Scroll, Talking About F1, Motor Octane and others.