Sunday’s Hungarian Formula One Grand Prix gripped audiences the world over from lights out up to the chequered flag being waved as Lewis Hamilton crossed the line to take his 8th win of the 2019 season. There were bold overtakes, teammates not giving an inch as shown by Toro Rosso (take not Haas) and some great battles in the midfield (despite not being captured by the TV cameras). However, it could also be said that Sunday’s Grand Prix also demonstrated everything that is wrong with Formula 1 in the modern turbo era.
In recent years, the running joke for non-F1-aficionados has been as to why bother watching Formula One as it will be one by a Mercedes. NASCAR drivers have tweeted their confusion at how a sport is so popular when the conclusion is pretty clear by the first corner. Jeremy Clarkson has been earning millions of views ranting about it and political correctness has seen grid girls replaced with grid kids. Formula 1 is not the sport it once was and slowly but surely, the viewing public has been realizing.
It can be argued that many F1 fans follow the sport due to the nostalgia from the years gone before – whether they realise it or not. In the lead up to Hungary, broadcasters were enjoying showing racing legends from the past with Nelson Piquet’s sublime drifting overtake on Ayrton Senna at the same track back in 1986…over 30 years ago. Twitter commented that nowadays a steward would probably impose a penalty for such a move.
Living in the past is why F1 needs to start writing new chapters of history.
Max Verstappen was the fan’s driver of the day by a comfortable margin but when Lewis Hamilton started his chase with 20 laps to go...you could predict the outcome as we all know Mercedes have a quicker car on the straight so a DRS overtake was inevitable. Hamilton was so dominant that it was another 44 seconds before Sebastian Vettel came home to take the final step of the podium. Christian Horner said ‘Hamilton had nothing to lose’ by changing on to a fresh pair of tyres to hunt down Verstappen and eradicate the 20 plus seconds gap generated by the late pit stop. All the pundits have said the race was won by the pit wall…but isn’t this a team sport after all…so what is the harm in that?
As for the other competitors, positions 5th to 14th were all a lap down and then 15th onwards were 2 laps down until reaching Robert Kubica who found himself 3 laps down by the time the flag was waved. Reliability was strong in Hungary with only Romain Grosjean failing to complete due to a DNF but this also showed how wide the gulf is between all the teams.
So many column inches have been written of Ferrari and the issues they have. To hear their latest excuses you can click the link below:
Other critics of Formula One would look to MotoGP and claim that is what F1 should aspire to be. However, Sunday’s Monster Energy Grand Prix in the Czech Republic was hardly a thriller due to somewhat of a procession led by Marc Marquez achieving his 50th victory of the premier class and with it a 63-point lead in the title (which he has won the last three years and looks set to win again…sounds rather familiar.
Sport has dominant eras. Manchester United were the English kings of football in the 90s, Chicago Bulls ruled the NBA around the same time, Tiger Woods obliterated the competitive field of golf for years and once upon a time only a fool would have challenged Michael Phelps to a few lengths across the pool. However, eras end and the aforementioned teams are no longer the dominant force they once were. So, if history tells us anything it is to enjoy the success while you can. Just ask Ferrari who themselves are a shadow of the team once helmed by Ross Brawn and the charge led by Michael Schumacher.
No sport is perfect, otherwise the others would not exist as we would all be watching and fixated on this one ‘thing’. Sometimes, one team just has more talent, more skill, more money and…more computers than the other.
For now, we can take solace in the fact that the car is still piloted by a human and humans make errors – as shown by the delayed pit-stops over the weekend. But for F1 to still be the pinnacle of the sport in 30 years’ time, change needs to happen. Otherwise, you can almost guarantee that they will still be broadcasting Piquet’s overtake on Senna…but I wonder how many people will still be around watching it?