Costs must be contained for all to ensure full race grids
After an emotion-charged Hungarian Formula 1 Grand Prix the travelling members of the paddock go into the enforced “summer break” and have retired to the beaches, the yachts, the villas, to the favourite holiday spots or — if they are actually a “worker” — trying to squeeze in a two-week break from the factory to reacquaint themselves with their families.
The entertaining and action-filled race made great television with a fitting end that seemed to seal the farewell that Formula 1 bade to one of its own in Ferrari protégé Jules Bianchi, who succumbed to injuries received at last year’s Japanese Grand Prix.
Going into the race, the drivers’ emotions were raw and perhaps that contributed to a race that was as gripping as any I can think of. It was like reading a good book, with a twist in the plot at every turn.
If one includes Silverstone, that makes two good races in a row.
Not wishing to put a dampener on the race (but I guess I am going to), the inherent problems of Formula 1 2015 are still there. Teams face financial ruin, the likes of Lotus just, and only just, recently avoiding a winding up petition in London’s High Court; Sauber and Manor Marussia struggling badly; Force India and Williams not far behind.
Despite the seeming resurgence of Ferrari and Red Bull, in part due to the characteristics of the Hungaroring and a “bad day at the office” for Mercedes, the competitiveness of teams in relation to Mercedes will be back to situation normal at Spa in about a month’s time.
What made the Hungarian race such compelling viewing was the simple on-track drama, the close racing, the close encounters (occasionally too close), the favourites out of position and making mistakes trying to catch up, or — in the words of Niki Lauda — “normal racing”.
Apart from radio messages talking of harvesting and MGUK failure, did the wondrous new world of technology play one single part in the riveting action?
It did not. But in contrast that brave new world is playing a major part in helping to force the smaller teams into financial ruin.
Formula 1 is trumpeted as being the medium for inventing new systems that find their way to road cars but I can think of few innovations invented for Formula 1 that found their way to normal road cars. Perhaps the paddle gearshift system is the only one. All others have been merely adaptations of existing technology.
So, the eternal question remains: is Formula 1 entertainment or sport? In this day and age it has to be mainly the first to survive, with a touch of the second to justify its own credibility.
Following that logic, the sport must voluntarily slow down its arms race of costly technology and make the various power units, drivetrains and the like affordable to all the teams so we can have full grids and hopefully more entertaining races where the result is a little less predictable.
Different and innovative technology is perhaps best left to international sports car racing where regulations allow for a wide range of configurations. Historically sports car racing has been the crucible for road-car advancement and the recent resurgence in major manufacturers’ interest already flowing through to showrooms.
To keep the flow of money coming from the sponsors, the fans must be entertained. Although the Formula 1 purists may not have liked the crash-and-bash nature of the Hungarian Grand Prix, it was pure armchair audience enjoyment. With the season just halfway through and with the character of the remaining tracks, I fear the Hungarian Grand Prix will be one of a kind.