This week we have seen the release of the 2021 FIA regulations for the pinnacle of motorsport. However, at a time when the greatest drivers in the world are looking forward to a consistent future of (in theory) wheel to wheel racing, the paddock is divided over a more current issue – the surface of the Circuit of the Americas in Austin. Social Media, as it tends to do in this modern world, was unforgiving and relished criticizing the drivers who said the track was too bumpy. One driver though would be praised for defying the trend of complaining and that man was Daniel Ricciardo.
First though, to a key protagonist criticizing the asphalt - Lewis Hamilton. The current F1 champion and favourite for the 2019 title was not impressed and shared his thoughts in the paddock with the media.
"After the first session I was not feeling good. It was the bumpiest track by far that I've been on. I had such a headache…And for people to understand when we talk about bumpy tracks - bumps are not such a bad thing in some places, because it adds that character to a circuit - so I'm not a fan of completely smooth circuits. But this one is like massive, massive bumps.”
Despite the second half of these comments, Twitter would see many a keyboard warrior exclaiming:
“I can't believe the best racing drivers in the world complaining they can't drive with some little bumps on the road.”
“Come on guys, adjust your driving style.”
However, one man would declare how much delight a circuit like this brings him, step forward Daniel Ricciardo. motorsport.com had the response:
“I actually prefer this than something that's perfect…then it feels like video games. Some corners are uncomfortable but it actually adds a bit of character and feeling to the circuit, and it keeps you awake. It's certainly challenging but it's a challenge. It’s not like any other circuit. Now when we come to Austin, we know we're prepared for and you know that it's not going to be smooth sailing around here…So I like that this one has a few inefficiencies with it. It's fine, and I think there's not really anywhere which is really bad and we can't drive.”
Such a response is refreshing and honesty is always what Ricciardo provides. Therefore, seeing how the 2021 regulations are on everyone’s lips, what did the Honey-badger have to say on the issue? F1.com provided us with answers:
“I don’t care [if the cars are slower]. One of the most fun years I had in F1 was 2014, and the cars then were eight seconds slower than now. There were some shots on the TV of the go-karters at the kart track here [in Austin], and there was some battling and I was just getting excited watching them, going 30 mph. Anything that is going to be close is exciting. I’d rather have good racing than single file lap records. Then we might as well do time trials for the rest of our careers.”
Daniel Ricciardo is never one to mince his words and as such we should not be surprised to hear such a response. As successful as the F1 eSports series is, this is not a computer game and it should be a challenge to drive a Formula One car. Obviously, no one wants it to risk bringing harm to drivers but F1 should be a physical and mental test.
Just last month we recalled the image of a physically exhausted Ayrton Senna struggling on the podium to raise the Brazilian national flag above his head…now imagine Lewis Hamilton doing the same with the Union Flag on Sunday.
The image that could be produced.
‘Having stretched every sinew on the weekend that could bring the reigning champ a 6th world title, Lewis Hamilton holds the Union Flag aloft on the podium.’
Unfortunately, the chances are that should the number one (or rather number 44) at Mercedes Benz claim the title on Sunday, he would probably be bouncing out of the car having done it. Some critics would say this shows it is not quite the physical endurance of yesteryear whereas others would simply say that drivers are fitter than ever.
Maybe, just maybe the challenge will be far tougher in 2021 but for now…at least we have a bumpy track.