Bob McMurray: Euro season done ... not dusted
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It seems like it kicked off only a few weeks ago, but with the Italian Grand Prix a part of history, the 2018 European F1 season is done.
In traditional Formula 1 terms, if the race is a “flyaway”, it is not in Europe — so apologies to the Russian Grand Prix at Sochi, on the Black Sea, but you are a flyaway.
Many in the paddock will be pleased to see the back of what has been a very fraught nine races and 21 weeks of European-based racing.
A lot of learning has gone on over the summer and, thanks to Nico Hulkenberg at Spa, the still ugly “halo” has apparently gone some way to proving its worth.
Thanks to Marcus Ericsson at Monza we also know that a Formula 1 car is very strong and the safety measures make for a very protected driver.
There seemed to be slow creep towards some consensus on new racing and overtaking-friendly rules and regulations for 2020, as well as an even slower creep towards some form of budget cap.
We have a genuine championship battle, even if it is just between two teams, and we are learning as the season progresses that Ferrari has the apparent upper hand in the power unit performance stakes.
That’s much to the Mercedes team’s (for that read Lewis Hamilton) chagrin after years of total domination.
Along with those vexed looks from the Silver Arrows camp they also seem to be a little rattled that they are not the clear favourites for each and every race.
Ferrari, mainly in the form of Sebastian Vettel, seem to be even more rattled, scoring a continuous stream of own goals, the latest of which was at Monza.
Recently we learned that the teams can actually come together when there is a crisis, this time in the form of Force India’s impending demise.
Agreement was quickly reached between almost all the parties involved to ensure that Force India was able to continue racing, although there are still some rumblings of discontent and details that need to be sorted out in the deal.
We also learned that if you have almost unlimited wealth, faith in your son and a burning desire to see him succeed then, as a father, you will go to extreme lengths to give him every chance.
Lawrence Stroll is clearly determined to pave the way in an unprecedented act of familial benefaction.
We learned in unexpected and surprising fashion that Daniel Ricciardo is very definitely his own man. There can be few who would not hope that his move to Renault will be an inspired one and not one he will come to regret.
In the same vein of driver focus Brendon Hartley has had a particularly NZ spotlight on his Toro Rosso performances so far.
There has been a swirl of rumour in the Formula 1 paddock over his future.
That may be known in the next few weeks, or maybe not for many weeks yet.
We also learned that there are young drivers knocking on the door of a F1 place.
Actually, more like kicking the doors down.
The 2016 Toyota Racing Series champion, Lando Norris, has already been confirmed as a McLaren team driver for 2019, partnering Carlos Sainz, and the grids of both Formula 2 and GP3 are awash with young, talented hopefuls, many of whom have also come through the Toyota series in New Zealand.
So, what have we learned and what lesson should we take away from the European F1 season?
Simply that there will be many more surprises, more nuances to understand and more twists and turns than the Monaco race track over the next few months.
Oh yes, and one more thing: it’s been sad to see, for me at least, the McLaren Formula 1 team has somehow managed to do the almost impossible and make reverse progress over the season.
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