Protests, and possibly a disruption, planned for weekend of Canadian Grand Prix. Oh boy.
It’s really very simple – no team orders. For those of you who don’t follow Formula 1 racing, but care enough to have read this far, here is the simple version. This is individual competition. Yes, each team has two drivers, but they are intended to compete against one another. This is especially important for the audience, as we get to see what a driver is really made of when he goes wheel-to-wheel against his teammate in an identical vehicle. Yes, there is a “constructor’s championship” which means the team with the most points, but the true glory is the driver’s championship. That is where the beautiful dance of man and machine comes together to form the poetry that is F1.
The problem arises when a team with one driver ahead in the points has it’s other driver ahead in the race. “Team orders” refers to the race-leading driver giving way to the points-leading driver in order to give that particular team the best chance of winning the driver’s championship.
It’s been an interesting year Ferrari. After being historically dominant between 1999 and 2004 (winning every constructor championship and 5 out of 6 driver championship with Michael Schumacher), the prancing hoarse had not much pace in 2009. This year, the results have been mixed with the team ending up on the podium only three times up until the German Grand Prix this past weekend. But going into Hockenheim, there was every indication that drivers Massa and Alonso would have fast cars to compete with Red Bull and McLaren. Those reports proved true with the cars qualifying 2 and 3 behind Sebatian Vettel’s Red Bull on pole.
Felipe Massa is an incredibly gifted young driver from Brazil. He carries the weight of millions of Ayrton Senna fans from his homeland who live and breath the sport to honor the departed hero. He got ahead of his teammate, two-time world champion Fernando Alonso and made his way to a comfortable, as passing can be quite difficult in this sport unless someone makes a significant error. Massa is not prone to such errors. And yet, with 21 laps remaining in the 67 lap race, he received a notification that the 2d place Alonso’s car was faster (an outright lie as fuel and set-up were, for all intents and purposes identical) and that he should let the Spaniard pass. Massa dutifully got out of the way and Alonso drove on to the checkered flag. For this flagrant violation, Ferrari has been fined $100,000, but with no loss of points for either driver or team.
I agree with the rules to the extent that I want to see if Massa is strong enough to hold off a VERY determined Alonso. I see that it’s much better for Ferrari’s hopes of getting the greatest benefit in both the constructor’s and driver’s championships, but that does not take away from the shameful way that the team ignores the rules. That’s blatant arrogance, and this is not the first time. The fans deserve to see the drivers race.
An announcement is expected tomorrow, and it does not look like the news will be good. The care this year is poor shite this year, which is so sad, because the team had made monstrous strides under the old rule formulation. They were on pole and winning races. I have great affection for Robert Kubica and hope he will find great success in the future, even if not with BMW. There is no question that both Kubica and teammate Nick Heidfeld are capable drivers. It sucks for them that the team has declined so quickly and is now being kicked to the curb by the German car manufacturer. Let us hope that I have it all wrong and that the news tomorrow will not be so dire.
While I’m not clear on all the details, it now seems certain that there will be a 2010 Formula One season. There had been talk of a two-tiered championship (bad idea), budget caps (prbably a good idea) and a host of technical issues intended to make the sport more cost-effective and efficient. I don’t know how much of that will be present in the next round. I was just getting used to the current regs!
One thing I know is that FIA President Max Mosley will not seek another term, which should alleviate some antagonism between teams and sport management. There has been a long history of bitterness between the teams and the governing body.
What comes next, I don’t know. And it’s frusturating because the current season has proven to be pretty uncompetitive. I am now a Red Bull fan and was glad to see their strong victory at the British Grand Prix, but it is still Brawn way ahead of the pack, and Jenson Button will have to have some disaster befall him in order to lose the driver’s trophy. So, unfortunately, the rest of the season is just going through the motions. There is no incentive for any of the slow teams (McLaren, BMW, Ferrari) to improve this year’s cars because it seems we’re still waiting to see what next year’s rules will be.
F1 is about speed and technology. You can have a flawless driver in an inferior machine and that driver will not win one race all year. Similarly, you can have a driver who is rusty or somewhat imperfect, and when you give him the right car, he can soar away from everyone else. Usually, neither the car nor the driver are perfect, but, on any given week, you try and get both going as fast and staying as reliable as possible.
Occasionally, someone very smart figures out something that no one else knows or understands. That person’s team then gets an unfair advantage. Usually, this is in the area of aerodynamics. In 1978, this is what happened with Lotus and their ‘ground effects’ car. Ross Brawn may be about to pull off the same trick over thirty years later. The beauty is that his team didn’t exist until, like, 5 minutes ago. They had been dumped in the trash by Honda. Apparently the manufacturer had no idea what it had on its hands, or chose not to believe the very people it had installed at the upper levels of team management, including Brawn himself.
Thank goodness Brawn et al perservered. We are now on the brink of having the greatest feel-good story of all time in this sport. Forget the ‘haves’ vs. the ‘have-nots’. This is about someone who was smarter and more determined to have, not just a fast, but a winning car in 2009. Brawn is way out in front and everyone else is playing catch-up.
The March issue of F1 Racing magazine has its 2009 Season Preview. There is no mention of Brawn’s team. Last Sunday, his cars came in first and second in the Australian Grand Prix.