Sidepodcast // All for F1 and F1 for all

Adam's 2010 F1 season in review // From Webber's flight in Valencia to whether we should see F1 at Le Mans

Published by Adam Burn

Top Marks

To the FIA

As much as many F1 fans thrive on the daily political intrigue of the sport they love, it's the kind of thing that turns casual followers off. There was a feeling of wariness as the Mosley era of "My way or the highway" ended and the Todt reign of "Caring and sharing" began. In spite of all the promises of change, would it just be more of the same? Would the doubters of Jean Todt's integrity be proven correct? Would the FIA retain its unfortunate nickname of being "Ferrari International Assistance"?

I would say that this year was one of the most controversy free in terms of the officiating of the sport.

Having the ex-drivers in with the stewards was good common sense. Not just the idea of doing it, but also the selection of drivers used throughout the season was excellent. I think at various stages we had Hill, Mansell, Jones, Warwick, Kristensen and Pirro as part of the team of stewards. Most of these guys had top level racing experience outside F1, many at Le Mans and in other touring car series around the world. We saw much more sensible rulings and more consistency in decisions. When it comes to the officiating of any sport, all the combatants ask is that those in charge of the contest are fair and consistent in their rulings - and on the whole, that's what they got this year.

Quite rightly, Todt felt that he should temporarily step aside when the Ferrari team orders issue came before the FIA. Had Max Mosley's old team, March, been still around and had they committed an offence in his time as FIA President, you can't help but think he would've defiantly pressed on with little regard to "how it looked."

To Lotus, Virgin and Hispania

Branson and Fernandes in Singapore
Branson and Fernandes in SingaporeCredit: Lotus Racing

It's not often Mr Ecclestone is proven wrong, but he was on at least one occasion this year. I remember somewhere in the deep, dark recesses of my mind (somewhere during the season), Bernie confidently predicting that not all the new teams would make it to Abu Dhabi - I think he was particularly confident about Hispania...

Yes, Hispania doesn't particularly bring a lot to a Grand Prix, aside from being a mobile chicane...but considering how late in the picture the team was rescued it's a miracle they even made it to Bahrain, let alone finished the season! I think their main mission was surviving, with making the car faster a much lower priority. One example that I heard was that their Singapore aero package was exactly the same as the one at the race before - Monza!

Can't wait to see the pictures of Richard Branson in his Air Asia stewardess's outfit. Two entrepreneurs with plenty of money and fame having a bet - now that's the kind of thing we love about F1!

There's only one problem with these three teams - what do we call them next year? They won't be "the new teams" any more will they? Do we call them the "Class of '10" perhaps?

To Michael Schumacher

You could almost describe 2010 as the Michael Schumacher "Yes I Really Am Back" Tour. There were flashes of the old Schumacher, such as some good late season results and... that Hungary incident with Barrichello, but this was a different Schumacher for the most part.

When you're a 7 time world champion returning after 3 years out, only to find yourself regularly in the back half of the field, it surely has to be an unusual experience. But to Michael's credit, his attitude said to me "If I get the results, great, but if not I'm still so glad to be back". There was almost a fresh-faced enthusiasm there, a big contrast to the sometimes defensive, prickly nature he often adopted in his first F1 career. The joy of just driving was there again.

Even if you didn't perform that well Michael, it was still good to have you back. And the German TV figures for Bahrain suggested many of his countrymen felt the same (they were only surpassed by the season finale, when a German was fighting for the title)

To competition

...maybe they were unforced errors due to the unprecedented level of competition at the top

Having five, and then four key players still in the title hunt late in the season sent calculators across the F1 world into a spin. A title decider where three men could still realistically win, and a fourth had the dreaded "mathematical possibility". A championship where the top five drivers all led the standings at some point (Vettel only after Abu Dhabi).

Incidents like Alonso's practice crash at Monaco and unnecessary drive through at Silverstone, Vettel's various tangles, Webber's sky high ride at Valencia and spin in Korea plus Hamilton's misjudgments at Monza and Singapore - all they did was conspire to keep things tight! I don't think they'd ever admit it... but maybe they were unforced errors due to the unprecedented level of competition at the top.

It was a cracker of a season on track - what more can you say.

Room For Improvement

Team orders

Massa leads Alonso
Massa leads Alonso

Bring it out into the open I say. I don't think there's anything wrong with a team saying something like, "Felipe, let Fernando past", instead of pointing of that Fernando is faster than you and saying "Sorry mate". Go back to how it was before the McLaren incident in Australia in the late 90's where Hakkinen and Coulthard decided the race win would go to the first through Turn 1.

I think that after the backlash of fans to the German incident, teams may be cautious to use such orders particularly as early in the season as Ferrari did. Having said that, I had no issue at the time with Ferrari doing it - it was perfectly clear at that stage that Massa had no hope of winning the title. When you look at the final standings it looks even more justified, he only finished two points ahead of Nico Rosberg in a much inferior Mercedes.

I know Jean Todt is also frustrated by the coded nature of some orders, along the lines of "Save fuel" or "Maintain position". "Save fuel" is an unfortunate by-product of the ban on refuelling, because teams genuinely put as little fuel as possible in the cars and do run them quite lean for much of the race. What do you do about that? I have no idea to be honest.

Overtaking

Yes we want more overtaking, but as was stated in some old articles I was reading from 2008, you don't want to make it easy like in Nascar. There still has to be a challenge involved in it, an element of risk eg. Kobayashi's many passes at the hairpin at Suzuka. Let's not forget these are the best drivers in the world, so why should we make it easy for them?

Track design has long being targeted as a factor, and while that is true, it doesn't explain Abu Dhabi. Which as Herman Tilke points out, has the ideal combination for passing - slow corner to long straight to slow corner. What does explain Abu Dhabi is that in the case of Petrov vs Alonso, Petrov was actually faster down the straights thanks to the Renault's superb F-Duct. Will the adjustable rear wing and KERS for 2011 play a part in helping overtaking? I'm not quite sure.

A little bit more would be good, but let's not make it so easy that it's like taking candy from a baby.

The general race-going and viewing experience

I travelled to the Singapore Grand Prix this year and generally I was happy with what I saw.

However, F1 still has this problem of being somewhat aloof to its supporters. Elitist is almost how I'd describe it. I mean, why can't we buy a pit pass? Why can't they have more opportunities for Joe Public to get up close to the teams.

I hate to bring up the N word again, but Nascar has long been touted as a model that F1 should look more closely at. Other readers are probably better qualified than me to speak on Nascar since I've never been to the States, but F1 does need to get more in touch with its fan base in general.

News that F1 is looking quite likely to go High Definition in 2011 should be welcomed, especially for those fans who have an HD channel as their F1 broadcaster but are currently getting only Standard Definition. Will it now encourage me to go out and buy an HD TV - you bet! F1 was one of the main reasons I hadn't already done so.

The race calendar

I know many of the touring pack were a bit grizzly having Brazil and then a week later, Abu Dhabi. Probably not all that sensible in hindsight! I see they have swapped them for next year, but I don't think that's any better. Abu Dhabi seems to me to be the perfect place to have the finale, although as an Aussie I wish we could have it back again!

In terms of races we could do without so we can accommodate the US and Russia (amongst others), I'd suggest we drop Valencia - remind me why we need a European Grand Prix? Chop Hungary as well considering the Russians will replace them. Can China too, maybe try to build the groundswell of support in the country before having it again. Turkey is only being saved by its track at this stage.

So if we take all four of them out, we'd be left with places for the US, Russia, France and Mexico.

France should be back on the calendar. I know this would never happen, but why don't they have the race at Le Mans? And no I don't mean on the Bugatti circuit, I mean the full 24 Hour monster. Having said that, the Bugatti circuit would still be better than no French GP at all.

...there's no reason why F1 couldn't re-visit the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez

And Mexico? Considering the status of Carlos Slim as the world's richest man, it seems pretty logical to me. Add that to a rich history of F1 in Mexico plus huge interest by Mexicans in motorsport and I think you're onto a sure-fire winner. As with France, the question would be where to hold it.

Presuming it was upgraded, there's no reason why F1 couldn't re-visit the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez in Mexico City. That race could be held in combination with Montreal and Austin as a North & Central America swing over four weeks.

You'd still have 20 races, as you will in 2011, but I think the commercial and sporting benefit to F1 would be much greater.

Wet weather starts

Did anyone else notice that the track in Korea only started drying when the cars were on it? So they were only behind the safety car, but 25 cars (if you include the safety car itself) driving through all the water has to get rid of some of it surely!

If that situation came around again, I wouldn't have called the red flag when they did. I'd have told them to keep going behind the safety car to keep clearing some of the water from the track. In the end they got the decision right, but the timing of it was poor.

Can someone remind me what danger an F1 driver is under when they're tooling around behind the safety car? If it's going to help get actual racing underway sooner, tell them to stay out there and put up with it! Only call them in if it is actually dangerous.

What Were They Thinking?

Gerhard Berger and Nico Rosberg

He took out Rosberg, but it was the wrong one. I think in his mind he would have preferred Alonso or Hamilton.

- Gerhard Berger

Deliberately provocative, under instruction or just a brain failure? Who would know with Gerhard Berger where his comments about Mark Webber came from?

Webber's spin and subsequent crash into Nico Rosberg in Korea was nothing more than a mistake. Yeah, even F1 drivers make them occasionally! I wouldn't like to trawl back through Gerhard's career for his sake, because I'm sure I could find an incident where he made a mistake.

I'd like to give Berger the benefit of the doubt and say brain failure, but I'm not so sure... deliberately provocative is where my mind leads me to.

Nico poured fuel onto the fire by saying "I don't understand why Webber didn't hit the brakes. It was crazy to roll back across the track like that." The BBC's Jonathan Legard said Webber was a passenger, to which I heard no disagreement from Martin Brundle. Webber's ability to stop the car on the wet track would be limited.

But even though I'm not an F1 driver, I have heard there is a basic technique for avoiding such incidents, one that Nico should be well aware of. Aim for the spinning car, because it won't be there when you are. I've watched the incident back several times and you can see that Alonso was the driver behind Webber and he managed to avoid hitting him. So why couldn't Nico?

Nico's problem was that he forgot that basic advice and headed for where Webber's car was going, and not where it had been. So he was at fault for his own crash, a fact conveniently ignored by himself and Gerhard Berger. Nico was able to escape criticism because of the focus on the championship implications of Mark's accident, and then Berger's comments.

Criticism of steward impartiality based on nationality

Gutter rubbish was what was being thrown at Emanuele Pirro leading up to Abu Dhabi, suggesting that he'd favour Ferrari in any crucial stewards' decision just because he's Italian, oh and happens to drive a Ferrari road car.

If this is the case, why was there no criticism of Alan Jones joining the panel in Korea - when Mark Webber was leading the championship? And the same when Damon Hill and Nigel Mansell were officiating over the British trifecta of Button, Hamilton and McLaren when they were running high in the championship? Not a peep was heard... and so it should be. To suggest that these highly experienced racers can't be objective based on nationality is completely wrong, and the track record this year proves it.

As he himself pointed out, Pirro drove in the DTM championship with Red Bull sponsorship. He also drove a McLaren F1 GTR at Le Mans in 1998.

Let's remind the hysterical tabloids that the ex-driver is part of a panel of four, and not one as they would believe. Another classic British tabloid beat-up.