Bob McMurray: Reasons to be cheerful, part 1
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Optimism about the current Formula 1 and its future is not something that has been overflowing in my column.
My particular glass has been half empty, rather than half full, when I have been thinking, writing and talking about this amazing sport.
I take no great pleasure in my critical comments about the sport for I believe there is much wrong with it, much to be improved and much to be dismantled and reassembled before it can again reach the heights it attained in my own particular “good old days”.
So I do take great pleasure in my feeling, after watching the Bahrain Grand Prix, of (almost) unbridled optimism for the future of not only the sport, the business of the sport but the simple “racing” of the sport, immediate and long term.
We are now two races into the 2018 season with another, from Shanghai, this weekend and in a time zone that makes for relaxed viewing here in New Zealand.
Neither race so far has been won by a Mercedes driver, and though it might sound a little bit cruel to say, that’s something most of the paddock feels happy about.
It is a relief to see another team win a Grand Prix, two in fact, in a straight fight. And if that team happens to be Ferrari, well nothing is perfect in this world.
The competitive Red Bull team looks capable of threatening Ferrari and Mercedes, despite a disastrous race performance.
The midfield runners have all closed the performance gap and are now led by the Haas team. And, at long last, it seems like McLaren has some on track speed to match the grandiose statements of late.
That team and team principal Zak Brown must be casting glances over their shoulders at the performance of rookie driver Pierre Gasly with the improved Honda power unit.
Brendon Hartley did not have a good weekend, but without penalties and car damage he might well have also finished in the points.
The first two races have meant some good news for the midfield runners and consequently some good racing.
The over-rider here is that in Melbourne the result was skewed by the failures of a couple of the top runners and in Bahrain the failure of the Red Bull team as well as the pit-lane accident that caused a broken leg for one Ferrari mechanic and the withdrawal of the car of Kimi Raikkonen.
So, the “on track” part of the optimism will carry on to the next race but what also gives cause to look to the future of the sport with some sanguinity is that Liberty Media, owner of the sport, has finally put forward some basic proposals as its vision for the sport’s future direction.
All concerned seem sworn to secrecy, but the amazing part is that none of the teams seems to be stamping their little feet about the proposals being “unfair” or “impossible” but are actually talking in encouraging terms.
The discussions are wide ranging and include proposals about:
●The power units (simpler, louder, cheaper and more powerful while being standard enough to attract and encourage new entrants)
●A budget cap of sorts
●The way the revenue is distributed among the teams.
● Liberty Media also wants to redesign the cars in order to “make cars more ‘raceable’ to increase overtaking opportunities”.
One sentence rises above them all: “Engineering technology must remain a cornerstone but driver’s skill must be the predominant factor in the performance of the car.”
Hallelujah. My optimism cup now overfloweth