Sunday, 30 June 2013

#F1 - the Pirellephant in the room

Having only just finished watching the British Grand Prix (indeed, the programme - with the post-race interviews and the experts' analysis - is still on on my TV as I type this), I am struggling to understand how anyone (with the exemption of race-winner Nico Rosberg, of course!) can describe that as having been 'a great race'.  It was a fascinating race, and it was highly dramatic - but, in my opinion, for all the wrong reasons.

The performance of the Pirelli tyres was, again, a big talking-point at this race.  Frankly, the issue with tyres is getting hugely embarrassing now, for all involved with the sport - but when you see tyres (the same tyre each time - rear left - on different cars) spontaneously delaminate or blow-out for seemingly no reason, no fewer than four times, you start to think something has to be done about this issue.

The problem for me, as a race fan, is that even if you take out the actual tyre failures, the tyres have turned Formula 1 too much into a 'pot-luck sport'; that much was clear towards the end of today's race, as anyone who'd managed to get into the pits and change tyres when the final Safety Car period was announced got shuffled up the order ahead of those who hadn't had that opportunity - with fewer than ten laps to go, Kimi Räikkönen went from second down to fifth position, while Fernando Alonso came up from eighth place to finish third, and the only reason for that was the tyres.  What this means is that putting on fresh tyres in the 'free pit-stop' gained by being in the right place at the right time when the Safety Car comes out renders all the hard work throughout the rest of the race (both quick driving and astute tactical decisions by the team) pointless - essentially, it doesn't matter how good you are, or how well you race, the tyres will decide where you finish.

There is so much nonsense talking about Formula 1, about whether it's 'boring', or whether they need to make it more 'exciting' - in my view, none of that is really the point.  The tyre failures are clearly a very serious issue (and, indeed, a very dangerous issue) and that cannot be allowed to continue to happen, but from a more long-term perspective the impact these tyres are having on the quality of the racing is something about which we should also be very concerned.

The idea of creating a tyre specifically designed to wear out and degrade much quicker than you would want, in order to 'force' more excitement in the sport, is a concept with which I've never been very comfortable.  To be perfectly honest, I'd actually rather see a more 'boring' (sometimes derisively called 'processional') race in which it is clear that the winner is the driver who deserved to win, because he is the best, and/or is driving the best car, rather than a race full of thrills and spills which is ultimately won by someone who maybe shouldn't really be there on merit alone, but simply got the luck of the draw in terms of tyres.  (And just to be clear, I am absolutely not suggesting that Nico Rosberg was an undeserved winner today - he drove very well all weekend.)

Sadly, although there's been a lot of noise made about tyres this season (and I don't see that fuss dying down any time soon!) there have been relatively few people espousing this view that if a race is only exciting because they've had to make a tyre which is deliberately unreliable that drama excitement is somewhat false - not only that, but it's rather unfair on teams and drivers when the tyres are so flaky that it negates the need to perform well in qualifying, or to show good racecraft on-track during the race.

And what's the solution?  Well, undoubtedly there will be as many different opinions about the solution as there are about the problem; in my view, two things need to change - firstly, the tyre manufacturer, and second the testing regulations.  A new tyre manufacturer simply because it's time to pull the plug on the Pirelli Experiment - fairly self-explanatory, really.  But the testing regulations need to change too, because whoever comes in as the new tyre supplier must have the opportunity to test their products in representative conditions, to ensure that they will perform to a high enough level, and in the manner expected.

As ever, I know the FIA will be monitoring this Blog, eager to see my suggestions for the sport of Formula 1 (they love my Sandwich Reviews as well), so I shall stop writing now and publish, to put Jean Todt out of his misery.

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Summer skin on Facebook

Now that we are in the month of June, it is acceptable - indeed, practically mandatory - to post gratuitous skin pictures on Facebook, providing that the skin you're posting is burnt as heck.

Not only does this surreptitiously show off the 'beach physique' of which you are so proud, it also gives all your friends on Facebook the impression that your day has been an action-packed roller-coaster of 'having fun' outdoors - effectively using your red raw sunburn as a placard showing everyone you know how much more exciting your life is than theirs (which is, after all, the point of Facebook).