Monday, June 22, 2009

A Few Conclusions From The British GP

Sunday 21st June 2009

Unfortunately, the racing was secondary in Silverstone...

F1 Talks Itself Down
In airing their dirty linen as the headline item on Friday's news bulletins, F1 proved that not all publicity is good publicity. The ongoing power battle that is crippling the sport is supposedly over money and the planned introduction of a budget cap. The irony, then, is that by self-destructing over proposed financial constraints F1 has made itself a less viable vehicle for financial input than ever before. What business or industry is going to risk investment in the sport at a time of economic recession when the sport's governance is so chaotic and its future so uncertain? Bickering over the terms of a budget cap is meaningless when the bickering puts a budget on the sport's income.

For the president of the sport's governing body to then refer to the teams as "loonies" doesn't just contradict the tenor of his own argument - that he is acting in the team's best financial interests - but damns his status. The authority of his position is precarious, if not redundant.

There's Too Much Of One Voice
Even if there will be no winners in the ongoing civil war, Mosley looks to be losing the fight. His claim to have made "concession after concession" is not bluster. The idea of a two-tier championship has been scrapped. The budget cap has been increased from £30m to £40m. The threat of legal action has reputedly been withdrawn and replaced with a promise of more talks. So he says that a deal "is very close"...And still the FOTA teams say they are pushing forward with their plans to breakaway.

Something has to give but what more is there to give than a someone in the form of the FIA President? The impression that this has become a matter of personality is reinforced with every passing concession offered without resolution and every passing day in which the rebel eight teams remain adamant that they are not for turning. Mosley is the original born survivor but his sacrifice might be the only salvation available.

In one of the weekend's salient moments, Bernie Ecclestone passed up an opportunity to endorse Mosley's presidency and his position weakened further when the FIA reneged on their pledge to publish their official entry list for 2010.

The teams he/they has on side are not worth the paper they are written on when compared to the weight of Ferrari and the remaining FOTA teams.

Ed Gorman of The Times probably wrote for many when he opined on Saturday: 'It is time for Max to see that he is the problem here. However well-intentioned he may be...he should realise that he either has to completely change his tune and his relationship with the sport and that of the FIA or stand aside and acknowledge that it is time to hand over to others.'

Silverstone Suffers Racing Anti-Climax
In the circumstances, this was not the race that F1 needed. In the wake of the Vettel-led procession, the 2009 British GP will be remembered not for the showpiece two hours of Sunday afternoon but the two days of bickering and politicking that preceded it. As is too often the case in F1, the sport was more entertaining off the track than on it.

Silverstone is considered a classic circuit, and its sweeping corners appeal to many of the drivers. But its design does contain one substantial flaw, that only rain can disguise, neatly summarised by Jenson Button's lament "it is impossible to overtake here".

The effects of dirty air may have accounted for Button's failure to catch up the final yards to Nico Rosberg having taken a second a lap off the German for the previous half-dozen, but neither is Silverstone a circuit that rewards a low-fuelled charge. It's a blocker's paradise. Something must be substantially wrong when a driver of Fernando Alonso's quality cannot find a way around Nick Heidfeld's BMW when the damage it has sustained makes it two seconds slower than a Force India. And still Alonso couldn't find a way past...

Button's Lead Is Still A Comfort
It was, though, the result that the sport needed, with Red Bull's trouncing of Brawn coming at the end of a week that saw one publicity-hungry bookmaker pay out on Jenson Button for the World Championship. Vettel's victory, especially being so comprehensive, will sew some doubts but, for all the talk of this being a potential turning point, his supporters should not be unduly concerned - at least not yet.

The characteristics of Silverstone flattered Red Bull just as the cool weather hampered the Brawns and Button in particular (he's less aggressive on his tyres than Barrichello and so suffered accordingly in qualifying). Red Bull have undoubtedly moved forward but Button is probably correct in asserting that "the gap isn't as big as it looks - it was just that the conditions didn't suit us here".

Only if the Brawns have no answer to the Red Bulls in the forecast heat of Germany and Hungary - conditions in which the Brawns have excelled so far - will there be genuine cause for concern. And even then, Button's position will remain formidable unless another team proves faster than the Brawns along with Red Bull. Even with all their problems in Silverstone, the Brawns were still a respectable second best.

Alonso And Hamilton Are In The Wrong Place
Something is wrong, too, with F1 when two of its best drivers are reduced to scrapping over 16th and when a scrap for 16th is the pinnacle of the on-track entertainment on offer.

Hamilton's driving at Silverstone was erratic at best and messy at worst. But that is almost incidental. After the debacle of Australia and Malaysia, and with his McLaren car probably without equal for aerodynamic shortfall, what mattered more is his display of positive character. His team are going backwards, but Hamilton at least is moving forward with his reputation and PR. Reaching rock bottom is not without possibility.

Rosberg Makes His Claim
A valuable weekend for Williams with the Grove outfit collecting a decent haul of points. Once again, it was Nico Rosberg who carried the team's fight but he remains an ambiguous figure in the F1 field. Is he a top-rate driver? Or is he being flattered in comparison to the waywardness of Kazuki Nakajima?

Assuming that F1 remains F1 in 2010, Rosberg should be an in-demand figure over the winter. The politicking has distracted from the annual game of speculation but it wont be long before the rumour mill whirls back into action and Rosberg should be a central figure. There are positions up for grabs surely at both Renault and McLaren and proably also Brawn. Compared to Piquet, Kovalainen and Barrichello, Rosberg, for all his ambiguity, would surely constitute a step up.

Pete Gill

Source : Planet F1

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