Saturday, 13 June 2009

13 – the unlucky number?

After weeks of speculation, we finally found out who is joining the 2010 grid (hopefully) alongside all 10 existing teams. We have USF1, which to me was a forgone conclusion anyway, Campos Meta 1 which I thought had an outside chance but wasn’t a favourite to get there, and Manor Grand Prix, who I had no clue who they were at all at first until I linked the words Manor and F3 eventually found that it was the same Manor Motorsport that gave Lewis Hamilton his first break in the Euro F3 series before he switched to ART and went on to bigger things. In fact, I don’t think any of us even knew they’d lodged an entry. In an interview with John Booth, team director, Autosport’s first question to him literally was “You kept this quiet…”

But despite this, there is unfortunately still the ongoing feud between the FIA and FOTA, one which I’m pretty sure all F1 fans such as myself probably got tired of just after it began. Here we are thinking “Oh look, Ferrari are throwing their toys out the pram again, just because it’s not going their way”. It’s true. Every time something has worked against Maranello, they kick up a stink and make some preposterous statement which will change their stance in F1 unless their demands are met. Frankly it’s getting ridiculous, but then again that’s politics for you. Sadly, F1 does not know the meaning of the word democracy, and you can see why.

It’s plain simple – the current F1 grid comprising of 10 teams has seemingly been split into 3 groups. There are those who want to stay in F1 provided their requests are met, those who are appealing against such a decision by the FIA to put them on the entry list because of a supposed contract that ties them in for the next couple of seasons, and those who just want to race in F1 no matter what happens. Williams and Force India, the latter of the 3 groups it seems, probably are better off in the short term, aka next season, in staying out of FOTA. By avoiding getting caught up in the issue of the day, it means they can focus on what F1 is truly about: the racing. Having said that, there is a downside to it – any decisions on the rules would go ahead without any input from either of them, meaning they would have no say at all as to what is and what isn’t allowed in F1. It would simply be a case of “Take what you’re given, don’t like it? Tough.”

Since Bernie and Max announced there would be 13 teams on the grid for 2010, I can’t help but feeling maybe the laws of superstition has crept into the sport. Like it’s the metaphorical black cat that’s crossed the path of the sport and bringing nothing but bad luck, bad fortune and a bad image. Back in the days when we had 26 car grids before, there was never this much politics. There were politics to some extent, but not to the level that we faced the threat of all the teams walking away from F1 to start their own series with their own rules. Sure, we had that in 1982 but that was a different era. Nevertheless, the FISA/FOCA war can be related to in the current arguments of the day. What strikes me is the fact that the teams had an occasion in the past where they had the opportunity to shape the rules to how they wanted to, as granted by Max. But did they take it? Did they heck. Now look what the result is some years later.

I guess now F1 isn’t truly that without some kind of political controversy or scandal to throw the whole thing out of balance. I fear that we shall never go back to the days when all it was about was the greatest drivers in the world in the best cars in the world and it simply being a matter of getting up, driving the car, having a glass of champers afterwards and then going home. Right here, right now, in 2009, that isn’t happening. If I’m honest, I don’t think it ever will ever again. Shame that, could have seen pre-qualifying come back.