Bob McMurray: F1 needs to look to its laurels
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“When one or more of the body’s senses experiences over-stimulation from the environment”.
That is the dictionary definition of “sensory overload” and is what I was experiencing last Sunday evening.
The weekend was a whirl of TV sport activity and I was grateful for the rain on Saturday as it meant I did not feel quite so guilty pinned in front of the box watching bats and balls and wheels being wielded by some of the best competitors in the world.
The on-again, off-again cricket dovetailed nicely with the rain at Albert Park and the wonderful spectacle of racing that the Supercars exhibited.
The Saturday race, completed in the dark (Supercars’ own day/night version of a test) with lights ablaze and won by a first-time winner, the fifth different winner so far this season, was enthralling to the end, as was every Supercar race of the weekend.
I managed to watch enough of all the sport, but the focus was on the Supercars and one of the most highly anticipated seasons in Formula 1 for years.
Was that anticipation justified?
Most definitely yes.
What would the cars look like?
What would they sound like with an “enhanced” exhaust noise?
How would the McLaren-Renault partnership fare and how would Brendon Hartley with his new Toro Rosso — Honda get on?
Could Red Bull have the two top teams in its sights now?
After the qualifying, we still had the Mercedes team on top in terms of outright speed, although the car of Valtteri Bottas was in “kit form” for the last qualifying session after a sizeable accident in qualifying session 2.
We still had Ferrari second and Red Bull third, albeit a little closer to the top table.
Then a surprise with the Haas drivers leading the “best of the rest” which, for the first time in years, included the McLaren team.
Perhaps things were changing, so that anticipation level went up again for the race.
Not a bad race but not a classic.
With a fortuitous win for Ferrari, it was not a predictable outcome either — in fact an outcome that served to make an otherwise tedious procession into a headline-grabbing event with not a lot of passing at this the second worst circuit after Monaco for overtaking, a good amount of failures both human and mechanical and disappointment in the extreme for some.
What happens at Albert Park has been shown over the years to not be an accurate indication for the rest of the season — and that is something I am sure Brendon Hartley, Pierre Gasly and their Toro Rosso-Honda team are hoping.
The performance of the Honda engine, which looked so promising during pre-season testing in Barcelona, was dismal.
A look at the fastest lap times of the race, among those who completed 50 or more laps, sees the Toro Rosso of Hartley faster only than the woeful Williams of Lance Stroll and the Sauber of Charles Leclerc.
Rumours have it that Honda turned down the power of Hartley’s engine to help it get to the end of the race.
Even then he was lapped twice and finished last of the runners.
A hugely disappointing weekend that does not bode well, for him or the team, for the rest of the season.
It was good to see the unbridled enthusiasm of the Ferrari team celebrating its somewhat unexpected win and the world’s best deadpan comedian in the form of Kimi Raikkonen swing back into action.
Formula 1 is back on our screens, back with a new year, a new season, a long season with 21 races and finishing in late November, but the owners must be wary of racing with the Supercars on the “undercard”.
As an entertainment, as a racing series, those “tin tops” beat the billion-dollar show of Formula 1 hands down.
The series won the day with exciting competition and Formula 1 needs to pick up its game before it is too late.
Close racing with the ability to overtake is what the followers of the “pinnacle” of the sport have been calling for— and there it was, happening in front of their eyes.
Having said that, my appetite for the 2018 Formula 1 season is only just whetted, with the competition looking close all the way down the grid.