Bob McMurray: Motor racing was the winner
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This is the time of the year when the media following Formula 1 become preoccupied with the “who goes where” stories.
Will Daniel Ricciardo jump out of the Red Bull paddock and land on the back of the “cavallino rampante” of Ferrari? Perhaps even the stylised “swoosh” of McLaren? Or “Regie Renault”? (Actually, I think he will stay just where he is, but with a much fatter wallet.)
Kimi Raikkonen to McLaren? Charles Leclerc to Ferrari? Fernando Alonso to ... well, anywhere but McLaren Formula 1. Lando Norris to McLaren?
Kubica, Hamilton, Sainz, the driver musical chairs season is becoming a whirl of feverish conjecture.
As well, the results of the overhaul of the technical and sporting regulations are about to be made public.
Will it be a small tuck here and there or the full plastic surgery?
Even before this overhaul has been announced, Red Bull team principal Christian Horner announces that he fears things are being “watered down”.
Like all team bosses, Horner will want the best deal for his own team.
If there is any doubt that the new regulations should be formatted to include a drastic reduction of aerodynamics that inhibit overtaking, look no further than the pure motor racing that was on display at the Austrian Grand Prix weekend.
Young Formula 2 and GP3 drivers were fighting, battling tooth and nail, and engaging in outrageous manoeuvres for lap after lap.
Relatively simple cars with simple aerodynamics allowed close, exciting racing.
Of course, those formulae are “one-make” series and that would never, should never, happen in Formula 1. But the sport does need to find a way to reverse the insatiable hunt for ever more aerodynamic downforce at the expense of racing entertainment.
However much the sport’s teams and followers complain about them, any one-make series, or a series heavily reliant on standarised parts, generally makes for close racing. So, perhaps, it is time to introduce a list of standard and regulated parts to the “pinnacle” of the sport, especially in the aero departments.
Conversely, the hills of Styria saw one of the most frantic, dramatic races for a long time. It was impossible to safely predict the final outcome, even on the last lap. It was exactly what the sport needed.
Like many races that turn out to be real thrillers, the Red Bull Ring drama was brought about by unusual circumstances.
A completely unexpected rise in track temperature from the practice sessions caused almost all the cars to have major tyre issues with “blistering” resulting in unplanned pit stops and fast driver/car combinations chasing others trying to save their slowly overheating Pirellis.
Drivers out of their normal position at the start, normally ultra reliable cars failing on track, virtual safety cars, tactical errors ... the race had the lot.
After expecting a predictable Mercedes procession in Austria, the race was entertaining. We still have an intensive championship battle going on — the pendulum of advantage swinging between two teams and others occasionally mixing it all up.
The third race of this marathon of back-to-back grands prix is at Silverstone this weekend. After Austria, it has a lot to live up to.