Wednesday 3 July 2013

Further thoughts on the British Grand Prix

Hard to make it in the rain
As we know by now, F1's ability to make itself look foolish at regular intervals is rather well-established. And in the Silverstone weekend its manifestation didn't even start and end with tyre failures, the opening Friday practice session also resulted in a degree of cringing. The wet weather - combined with unintended consequences of various F1 cost-cutting measures - ensured that, while the sport's paying customers in attendance were rained on, they didn't even have anything to entertain them as there was only an empty track to look at for the most part. It took a full 76 minutes of the 90 minute session for the first laptime to be set.

I got angry at it all at the time (see my article on the matter on, but on reflection perhaps solving it, at least without creating even worse unintended consequences, is easier said than done. The F1 rule book is much more house of cards than steel structure - it can be brought tumbling down rather easily.

Nico Rosberg - explaining why wet
practice running is difficult
Credit: Alex Comerford / CC
Later that day the FIA announced a number of regulation changes for F1 from next year, including that an extra set of tyres will be available to each driver for the first 30 minutes of FP1, in order to encourage more track running then. Nico Rosberg, while expressing sympathy for the fans, doubted however that an extra set of tyres would have made a difference to Silverstone's sparse action: 'I felt it was a bit disappointing for the fans today, they pay a lot of money and come here and then we don’t run. So it would be worth looking into that, yes. But what to do? I don't know, because we already have that extra set of tyres as it is.'

Rosberg further sought to explain why it was in the competitors' interests to not run: 'It's just the fact that we don’t really want to risk things going out in the wet because it's going to be dry all weekend. And even things like engine degradation, we have only a very very limited amount of engines for the whole season, and any extra laps that we do we lose power because they degrade inside, so you don’t want to do any useless laps on the engine either. That’s just some examples why we then choose not to run.'

So there you have it: short of opening up the rules on spare cars and available engines, which would have massive cost implications at a time when the sport hardly needs them, it's difficult to frame an effective solution. And of course, once the rules are set the teams will operate within them in whatever way that increases their chances of scoring points and of winning. Which is exactly how it should be. Perhaps therefore in sessions such as that early on Friday in Silverstone we'll just have to hold our nose.

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