Two motorsport series individual and distinct, and complementary
The Formula 1 2016 season has arrived with the Australian Grand Prix taking place this weekend at Albert Park, Melbourne. And about time, I think.
I have no idea who is fast, who is slow or what success or disaster has befallen drivers or teams as the race looms. But I sincerely hope the season is a good one.
The Northern Hemisphere single-seat, open-wheel scene kicked up a gear last weekend with the start of the IndyCar season and the event at St Petersburg, Florida.
I say “open-wheeler” and technically that is what the cars are but a look at the ever more ugly rear end of those cars makes that description almost a tenuous one.
The two series, F1 and IndyCar, are pretty much diametrically opposite one another and much of what I loathe in one, I admire in the other.
The ridiculous-looking, over the top, aerodynamic sculptures called Formula 1 front wings are, by and large, now absent on an IndyCar. I wonder if that is something to do with the fact that there is a lot of close battle overtaking in that series, with multiple winners, be it on ovals or road courses?
All the IndyCar chassis are made by Italian manufacturer Dallara so are, in essence, exactly the same. However the “aerodynamic body kits” are designed and manufactured by one or other of the two engine manufacturers in the series — Honda or Chevrolet — so the outward look of the cars is slightly different.
Once again, this helps make for close racing and a certain unpredictability of race winners.
Those aero kits have been ridiculous in the past and have resulted in cars becoming airborne when they are pointing in the wrong direction at speed, as when they are spinning at the Indy 500 for instance, but moves have been made to overcome that problem.
However, I do like the Formula 1 model where each entrant has to manufacture its own chassis and bodywork as this makes the technical side more challenging and has in the past, seen some very innovative developments.
Formula 1 prides itself on being at the very leading edge of automotive technology but it does of course have a downside when one constructor gets a leap on the others and tends to dominate the races.
I like it that IndyCar races on both short and long ovals as well as temporary street courses and purpose-built road courses. Once again this brings the strengths and weaknesses of different drivers to the fore.
And I do like the way Formula 1 still goes to the traditional race tracks like Spa and Monza but not the way those types of track are in serious danger of falling by the wayside in favour of places like Baku in Azerbaijan, on the calendar for later this year.
I do like the fact that each Formula 1 team must enter two cars for the season and the livery of those cars must be identical and must remain essentially consistent throughout the season, a rule that also applies to each driver helmet design these days as well.
I don’t like it that spectators or the TV audience cannot distinguish the driver’s car number to tell who is who.
I don’t particularly care for the way that IndyCar teams change livery, often from race to race, making it difficult for the viewer to immediately associate car and driver when the pack is racing close together. Since last season the IndyCar series has put a digital display on the main rollover structure to tell those watching the position of the car in the race and the pit stop time — an imaginative innovation and something that Formula 1 could consider emulating.
Both series have their share of rookie drivers that would perhaps be better off driving dodgem cars but I would suggest that the standard of driving is better in Formula 1 than is seen in Indycar.
Both series also have clearly talented rookies on the way up.
With the recent deaths of Justin Wilson in IndyCar and Jules Bianchi in Formula 1, safety is a major issue for both series and various ideas are being trialled continuously by officials in both spheres.
IndyCar boasts the “Holmatro Safety Team”, the core of which travels to all the events and include top physicians as well as corner workers. This team is invariably on the scene of any incident within seconds and surely with the amount of money swilling around the pot of Formula 1, a similar team could be introduced there.
The feather in the Formula 1 cap has to be the Monaco Grand Prix, a race like no other, while Indycar boasts the Indy 500 and I will be there this year for the 100th running of the event.
So, the two series are individual, distinct from each other yet complimentary, and there is a lot to like whichever one you choose.