F1: Is this truly a reinvigoration, or a trick?
F1 World Champion Sebastian Vettel drives in for a pitstop during practice for the Australian Formula One Grand Prix at the Albert Park circuit on March 16, 2012 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images)
If someone had told me that this year’s Formula One World Championship would see seven winners from as many races, then calling them crazy probably wouldn’t have been enough.
It’s been a breath of fresh air following one of the most one-sided championships since Schumacher’s Ferrari days, where Sebastian Vettel romped home to the title with several rounds to spare.
Regulations on exhaust placement to cut down on aerodynamic advantages has arguably had the biggest influence on leveling out this year’s competition.
It’s helped Williams find their first victory in eight years, in partnership with engine supplier Renault once more just like their glory days in 90′s.
It’s brought Lotus F1 into the fight for the minor placings in the constructors championship and almost brought Sauber their first victory as an independent team.
The lack of off-throttle blown diffusers has cut back Red Bull’s distinct edge over the rest of the field, and as viewers we must be better off for it. Or are we?
While innovations in bodywork and aerodynamics come to the fore every season, tyre quality has taken a step in the opposite direction.
Pirelli took over the helm of tyre supplier from Bridgestone at the beginning of the 2011 season, and all the pre-season talk last year was about the rapid degradation of the new rubber. Rightfully so.
Last year’s blistering debacle at Spa was a testament to how unprepared the supplier was to cope with Formula One standards of wear and tear.
Now into their second season, Pirelli have improved the longevity of their prime tyre considerably. There has been much less talk about the rubber this year than 2011, but the issue is still there for people to see.
They feel like a shadow of the giant Bridgestone that preceded them, in terms of consistency and quality.
Now, for sure, this hasn’t impeded on the quality of the racing this year. In fact, it has given it a unique flavour.
Just look at Mark Webber’s prime tyre move on the outside of Fernando Alonso at Silverstone to win the race, as the Spaniard’s soft compound gave up on him. The gap between compound durability has never been larger.
It does raise the question though of whether we should be celebrating more exciting racing as a result of poorer standards of parts – in this case the tyres.
It seems to conflict with the ethos of Formula One, that is it being the pinnacle of engineering and mechanical innovation.
F1 Chief Executive Bernie Ecclestone has employed little tricks like the Drag Reduction System to mask the issues Pirelli have had.
It’s been creating tacky, fake overtaking scenarios and not allowing the racing to be the direct result of the drivers’ abilities.
At the halfway point in this season I can say this is easily the most thrilling season I’ve witnessed since 2008, where the championship came down to the final corner at Brazil to give Lewis Hamilton his title. But I may end up looking back on 2012′s season wondering why I enjoyed it.
Should a sport forget its roots in new ideas and forward thinking for the sake of a bit of entertainment?
I’ve never felt so split down the middle looking at this fine sport.