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GP Week : Issue 194
20 GPWEEK.com // 20 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: The F1 paddock is a strange place when the championship has finished. No matter how many races there are left on the calendar once the title has been decided, the raison d’etre has been and gone. An early end to the championship is reflected in the press room, where empty seats out-number occupied chairs – as far as a lot of newspapers and magazines are concerned, there is not much point forking out thousands to send correspondents to cover what’s left of the season. Race reports can always be written from home, after all, and the lack of a title fight means that space in the sports pages is given over to the heavy-hitting sports in that particular country. For the teams, of course, there is always a reason to keep on fighting. Drivers might see second place as just being the first of the losers, but where teams are concerned points bring prizes. Or prize fund, anyway – the drivers’ title might be the element of the competition that garners all the headlines, but it’s the constructors’ battle that brings in the cash. The 2013 constructors’ fight promises plenty of intrigue in the coming weeks. First place is all sewn up by the team that doesn’t seem to know how to do anything except win, but further down the pack there are battles galore, from the three-way fight for second place, to the Sauber-Force India competition to be the most successful Indian-born team principal in the paddock. At last week’s Indian Grand Prix it was amusing to spot the tension (almost entirely one-way) between Force India’s Vijay Mallya and Sauber’s Monisha Kaltenborn, with the latter getting on with the business of running her team while the former made repeated comments about the threat he was feeling from Hinwil. The difference in winnings between sixth and seventh in the standings is hardly a king’s ransom, but nor is it financially insignificant. But Force India should have been fighting for fifth, had the team not been one of those utterly shafted by the mid-season change to the tyre construction. To spend the first half of the season beating McLaren into a cocked hat, and the second half fighting for scraps with Sauber must have been a bitter pill for all those at the Silverstone factory to swallow. After all, Force India had designed their 2013 car around the data given to them by Pirelli, while their rivals had not. By rights, the season-long rubber advantage should have remained with those whose design parameters were in line with the data supplied. But this is motor-racing, and fairness doesn’t come into it. Fair or not, the spirit of competition is alive and kicking even at the back of the grid. Following a spate of retirements from Caterham it is now borderline impossible for the Leafield outfit to overhaul Marussia for 10th in the standings, but the racing spirit that persists throughout the paddock means that the men and women in green and gold will keep on fighting to the very end, just as the Banbury racers will fight tooth and nail to keep their hard-won spot. But while much of the grid is engaged in battles, there are three teams out there with nothing left to fight for. McLaren have seen a significant improvement over the past few races, but the British team are left floating in the middle of the pack with a secure P5 – neither Force India nor Sauber are close enough to be a threat with the limited points remaining, and those three teams fighting for second are all out of reach. Williams and Toro Rosso are in similar positions – with their solitary point scored in the first 16 races of the championship, the Grove racers are in a solid ninth. And unless the team magically resolve all of the car’s inherent balance issues in the next two races, it is unlikely that Williams will be in a position to trouble Toro Rosso for eighth. In the circumstances, you could be forgiven for presuming that the McLaren, Williams, and Toro Rosso garages are filled with thumb-twiddling mechanics, fiddling with their mobile phones and looking up silly videos on YouTube. But to make such a presumption would not only be incorrect – it would be offensive. Formula One is an arms race, and an arms race is an element of war. As a sport, Formula One is comprised of fighters, from those in the cockpit to those in the factories. No matter how slim the prospect of advancement, no matter how small the points haul at stake, the hunger to achieve, to succeed, and to improve is one that pervades the paddock at large. It is the attitude that characterises Formula One. THE FAT LADY HAS LEFT THE BUILDING OPINION OPINION Kate WaLKeR Editor