Wednesday, March 30, 2011

F1 changes don't slow runaway race winner

Sacramento, California – The new Formula One racing season began just as it ended last year – German Sebastian Vettel ran away and hid from everybody.

Last weekend’s romp was in the Australian Grand Prix. As in most F1 races, the winner at the first corner on the first lap ran away with the race. Nothing new there.

Something else reminded me of last year: my high level of confusion.

The new F1 rules and equipment kept me guessing throughout the Australian race. I had plenty of time to ponder since the race winner was never in doubt.

So, Pirelli comes in with new tires, and right away I’m told that they might not hold up too well, regardless of compound. In fact, the tires’ ability to last is so in question that it’s touted as a competition-boosting factor.

The tires could crumble, so we could have four or five pit stops to mix things up … not counting the times the tires might fail on course. Wow, fragile tires leading to more exciting competition. Not sure I’ve heard that one before.

Then, the kinetic energy-storing, power-boosting KERS system made its return. But it didn’t seem to make too much difference for anybody. Vettel’s Red Bull crew said after the race that it didn’t need KERS to run away with the race.

And then, most mystifying of all, the F1 cars showed off their movable rear wings. The adjustable rear wing could be altered with the push of a button from inside the cockpit. The button push lowers a wing flap that foster more airflow and allegedly increases straight-line speed.

Well, I understand that in theory. But as it was described during the race, that move could only be executed by a trailing car entering a passing zone, and the trailer had to be within one second of the car in front of him for it to work.

Really? Sort of takes the whole defending your position thing out of the equation, doesn’t it? And heaven help the lead car that blocks a trailing car, as F1 tends to come down on those people hard … sometimes … depending on the offending driver.

Don’t get me wrong, I respect the global racing series and the remarkable technology that goes into it. But the continuing blizzard of Byzantine rule changes spoils the bottom-line racing aspect for me. I’m all for anything that inspires close, competitive racing at the front, but I certainly didn’t see that in Australia.

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