Bob McMurray: It’s supposed to be about racing
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I can think of no other driver to have had a worse on-going start to his Formula 1 career than Brendon Hartley.
Three Formula 1 events and 55 grid place penalties (25 at the USGP, 20 at the Mexican GP, 10 at the Brazilian GP) seeing him start at the rear of the grid at each of the races, despite his qualifying performance.
He has had an engine-related problem five times in either the races or qualifying sessions, and even had to start his career with penalties related to the engine problems of the driver he technically replaced.
He also came into the sport with a team-mate who everyone knew would eventually be supplanted by Hartley.
A rough start for a Le Mans winner and two times World Champion driver.
The grid penalty system in Formula 1 is under review. Hopefully it will be replaced with a more equitable structure, as it has done nothing to enhance the sport in the eyes of competitors and viewers alike.
With the 2018 power units, including all the five major components that make up the current expensive and complicated engineering masterpieces, having to last for longer, those penalties, if not modified, will be more ridiculous than ever.
A quick look at the penalties applied to the two McLaren Honda drivers shows how farcical the system is. Its total so far for 2017, due to the continued problems with the Honda engine, now stands at 355 grid places, still with one race to go.
The combined total (since the collaboration with Honda began in 2015) now stands at a staggering835 grid places. Yes 835 for just two drivers in one team.
With the cars on the grid staggered by 4m that makes 3.34km or each McLaren starting some 1.6km behind the grid.
I admit that is a stupid, exaggerated, and irrelevant statistic but it goes to show that there is a major flaw in the system.
In 2017 each driver was limited to four power units before penalties were applied for using extra specified parts.
For 2018, some parts of the power unit, the MGU-K (Motor Generator Unit-Kinetic) the ES (Energy Store) and the CE (Control Electronics) will be liable to penalty if more than just two are used in the season.
If more than three ICE (Internal Combustion Engine) are used or similarly more than three TC (turbocharger) or three MGU-H (Motor Generator Unit-Heat), then penalties will be awarded. This all means that some parts of the power units will need to last for 11 events and others for seven.
I go back to the argument that Formula 1 is not endurance racing. It should not be a proving ground for longevity of road car parts or a test bed for advanced engine systems, despite the history of the sport being littered with such inventive marvels.
Those early advances such as disc brakes did not cost the gross national product of a small nation to develop.
Formula 1 is, or should be, all about racing.
I admit that new technologies must continue to be a part of the DNA of the sport, as they always have been.
Innovation has been the lifeblood of Formula 1, but those technologies must be available to all who race and not just the few who can spend many millions, billions even, of dollars on research and development.
That is why the owners of the sport are trying to introduce new power unit regulations for 2021 and beyond that will make the supply of those units cheaper and possibly attract a more diverse range of makers into the sport and with that, more fans.
Yet the major engine manufacturers are standing resolute in their criticism and refusal to accept these suggested new rules. Mercedes and Renault, say it will cost them more money to develop these new power units.
Short-sighted self-interest and an arrogant overblown opinion of their own self worth comes to mind here with Ferrari even going so far as to threaten, for the umpteenth time, to leave Formula 1.
If this most privileged of teams, receiving far more from the sport than any other over the years, feels that way, then I would be among the many to wave it goodbye.
Every team has the right to leave the sport but none has the right to remain if it does not like, or support, the sport that has given it so much.
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