So there I am, reading the latest issue of F1 Racing. Nothing wrong with the F1 regulations, opine editor Matt Bishop and star writer Peter Windsor. In a previous issue, Steve Matchett had his head in the sand as well, stating that F1 needs to stay the most high tech form of racing, doesn’t need artificial rules, and so on and so forth. (Neatly forgetting that the current regulations are just as artificial as they have ever been.)
Now, I can bore for the world on F1 racing. I love it. Despite the fact that journalists avoid paying their own money to watch racing, I had to go to Indy this year (on my own nickel) so I could get my V-10 engine fix and so that son Cameron could see one M Schumacher in action. I got excited when I saw Marc Gene, M Schuey, and Olivier Panis in the Westin hotel and pointed them out to Cameron.
But… The racing is a snore, guys. Now, in days of yore the racing could also be a yawn-athon, but before meaningful downforce, you got to see people on the edge, drifting, doing things that mere mortals couldn’t do. You see film of Jackie Stewart and Emmo sliding through Woodcote in 1973, their cars dancing, tails out-on slicks, for goodness sake. They always said JYS was super smooth, but that doesn’t mean the cars he drove went through the corners on rails.
Read Autosport and the puerile ramblings of Mark Hughes, and you could believe that an F1 car still dances. You read about Button balancing his car through the last corner at Barcelona, and wonder, how can they tell? Sure, if you have a track pass at Monaco, you can get close enough to see the cars sliding. But they don’t slide much, because traction control and aero grip and sticky tires limit the slip angle.
The best race of the year, from my point of view, is NASCAR at Sears Point. (Sorry, Infineon Raceway.) The cars have no grip relative to their weight and horsepower and they look great. Even if you see Jeff or Robby Gordon on their own, you’re watching something sublime. A qualifying lap in an F1 car looks a bit like my lad playing Scalextric with the latest generation of overly grippy, magnetized slot cars.
Nigel Roebuck is no doubt regarded as a dinosaur by the likes of Matt Bishop, but I think he speaks for most real racing fans when he talks of the need to get rid of downforce and traction control. So does FIA head honcho Max Mosley. Only F1 insiders think the picture is perfect, and they are the people who apologize for Michael Schumacher driving Juan Pablo Montoya off the track at Imola. J P-M wasn’t whining afterwards, he was expressing the outrage I, for one, would communicate to any moron who drove like that when I was trying to occupy the same piece of racetrack. (Actually, I told someone who adopted Schuey-style tactics recently that if he wanted to die racing, that was fine, just don’t try to kill me again.)
I don’t care if F1 isn’t pure and doesn’t cost a fortune. It wasn’t pure when everyone had a Cosworth V-8 and some teams were running off-the-shelf March chassis, but the sport had more character and style and machismo and thrills. F1 insiders like Matchett and Bishop and Windsor should remember that they have privileges that mere fans never have and should, perhaps, spend some time in the bleachers rather than swanning around the exclusive F1 paddock all the time. Whenever I find myself getting blas about driving fancy cars for a living, I find it pays to go and drive the old bangers my father runs around in. Sobers one up, a bit…