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GP Week : Issue 219
14 GPWEEK.com // 14 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: can the ‘r’ be put bacK into formula 1 racing? OPINION The sight of Daniel Ricciardo’s Renault engine exploding as his Red Bull exited the final corner in Bahrain brought back images of Formula 1’s past. Those were the days when technical pioneering was a bit more of a trial and error thing; when if it didn’t break then it was probably okay; when running out of fuel, or brakes, was the result of a bit of a pre-race miscalculation. The outcome could be a big ‘off’ or a driver heroically pushing his car across the line for the points. These days, with the sophistication of monitoring technology available, it just doesn’t happen. But there on Sunday were the two Mercedes, with a couple of laps to go, both apparently afflicted by the same malaise – BBW failure. Sounds like something my kids would text, but BBW equals Brake By Wire, the technology-assisted brake system now part of Formula 1. Fortunately, there is a failsafe back-up and neither suffered anything like complete failure, but it was enough to take away any concept of Nico Rosberg defending second place. A couple of hours earlier, having had its car fail during qualifying, McLaren had suffered the indignity of finding it couldn’t actually get it running for the race. Jenson Button – DNS. The commentary, and driver-pit conversations throughout the Bahrain GP were full of discussions on fuel saving, brake saving, tyre deg ... Excuse me, but was anyone actually racing? Formula 1 in its current guise isn’t delivering (the racing is in GP2), and the now regular reporting of Bernie Ecclestone’s latest brainstorm (1000hp V8s last week, V6s this week) shows that those at the coalface are starting to realise it. Above all, the Formula 1 World Championship, for me at least, should be primarily about the drivers, the human factor. Yet here we have the world’s apparent best, some earning over half a million bucks a week, not racing, but pretty much operating like a flight deck captain on an international jet. In those early days, Formula 1 was clearly the place for technical innovation, but the result still very much depended upon the driver input. Now, with such high levels of development and sophistication, it is waning. And if you can’t afford the technology, or you get it wrong, the cost is high. Currently, there are two ex-world champions droning around at the back (or not-starting), being shamed by a 17 year-old newcomer and pay drivers ... For me, the arena for such high- tech vehicle development in the 21st century is not Formula 1, but the WEC. The fascination there is with the cars, with the technology being evolved by Porsche, Audi, Toyota and Co – and tested over long, challenging races. That’s where the emphasis on cars should be – that, and the silent, and slightly strange world of Formula E ... Formula 1 should be about driver- to-driver contest. That’s what excites me and, I suspect, most fans. Radical innovation, one team dominating, may have been okay in previous decades, but that was before the minute-by- minute television coverage and scrutiny there is today. In that modern ‘under the microscope’ ratings environment, you can’t keep serving up the same predictable top six, often in the same order, just in a different country each time. A whole lot of idealogically-driven chickens are coming home to roost. I hope the people who matter really are starting to see the problem – and have the you-know-whats to make the big call, to re-focus Formula 1 as a serious driver contest, to put the ‘R’ back in F1 racing. That means simpler engines; higher-powered engines; lower cost engines. And while we’re at it, single or double-plane wings at most – the ridiculous, flimsy, multi-storey creations at the front of current cars do nothing, nothing for the show. Significant change doesn’t come fast in modern motorsport, especially at that level. Talk is of change for 2017 – and any decision able to be implemented at that time has to be made soon. These are crucial times for those with the power in F1. OPINION ChRis lamBDEn