It’s my belief that the glory years of Formula One are long gone. The days of derring-do have faded under the weight of rules, regulations and financial chicanery. Once, drivers accepted death as a price that they may have to pay and, indeed, many have paid that price. Even today, as we’ve just seen with the sad IndyCar loss of Justin Wilson, there’s no such thing as total safety.
That’s the tragedy of it all: we crave exciting, wheel-to-wheel racing yet quite rightly can no longer accept the death of motor racing heroes as a part of the spectacle like some sort of gladiatorial game.
Making drivers safer does not necessarily mean the racing need be less good though; what’s caused my problem is all the other stuff and the buck stops at the door of that demented arrogant pixie that runs the show. Even Bruce Forsyth, who has been around through many generations, knew when the game was up but The Evil One – whose reign could one day exceed that of Queen Victoria – continues to hold court in an increasingly erratic manner. In short, it’s all about the money.
Exciting circuits of the past like Hockenheim and Monza are left behind to be replaced by dull, computer generated cash-rich tracks hewn from sandy deserts by toiling foreign workers in increasingly far-off parts of the world. The balance of power on the grid is swayed to the advantage of two or three teams and the result is that we can foretell the result more or less accurately from the outset. Where’s the sport in that?
Cars have for a long time been test beds for new technologies and that’s fine but they are hampered now with spurious eco-concerns which have more to do with salving the conscience of big business advertising – woe betide any enterprise that crosses the swivel-eyed fanatics – than actual planet saving. The cars may well be a tiny bit more economical and they may emit less noxious gases but, as the number of Grand Prix increases, so the emissions of all the aircraft and sundry transport increases too. Swings and roundabouts.
Some drivers too must take their share of the blame. The gung-ho spirit of old has been replaced and some of the pilots these days are either professionally boring or whining ninnies who throw their toys out of the cockpit because their ability doesn’t extend to taking a second rate car to the front. There’s simply too much reliance on technology and they wonder why F1 has become so costly. Is it any wonder that drivers with personality like Mark Weber (Jenson?) seek pastures new?
So, as previously remarked upon, the buck stops with the Grand High Poobah. He has within his purview the opportunity to take Formula One back to the pinnacle of motor racing. It is regrettable therefore that what counts in Bernie’s world is $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$ and plenty of them. He is quoted as saying that he doesn’t care about attracting new young fans and he isn’t fussed that some less wealthy teams go to the wall; all he is interested in is the bottom line and, one must assume, his own personal wealth.
What’s needed is a complete rethink. Bring back Max Mosley, that’s what I reckon. Say what you like about the bloke but he enjoyed a bit of sport, if you know what I mean. Discourage the prima donna antics of some drivers and stick a V8 in the back of their cars. Keep the safety kit, the glamour and the spectacle but give the motors narrower tyres, remove launch control and make the blighters change gear with a proper stick. Slow the cars down a bit and perhaps it might bring back the wheel to wheel racing we used to love.