The Return of F1 cannot take place soon enough for SA champion and F1 purist Claudio Piazza Musso. The multiple circuit-racing champion is now a racing driver coach and mentor via his company Race Driver SA. His excitement levels are high and he expects challenges when racing action starts in a few weeks. You can read Claudio’s other columns on our site by clicking here.
The start of the 2020 F1 season is getting many of us excited for racing to take place on track again. No more talk and speculation… well almost. I say almost because I can’t help but wonder what the pecking order will be and who will be the main contenders when racing starts in Austria on July 5.
If we’re being honest, I don’t think we will see the big changes some people are expecting or hoping for. The top three teams will still be the top three teams, your mid-pack is what it is and Williams is still in a serious financial predicament, if not worse. However, having said that, I wonder if the new formats will put a spanner in the works. Two races at the same circuit, reverse grids, etc. Can these variations give an outsider a chance to shine?
Reverse grids cause chaos
The dynamics of starting one, or two fast cars from the back of the grid due to penalties, or due to unforeseen circumstances, is far different from a reverse a grid. And having all the fast contenders racing each other directly from the back and at the same time trying to work their way up the grid could lead to chaos. Such a situation could be detrimental to the top three teams as we have often seen overtaking is no easy feat.
Check out a great set of F1 car images outlining Alternative F1 Histories at this link.
I still believe the giants of the sport, both teams and drivers, will always rise to the top. I also think aggressive drivers like Max will come unstuck more often than others in a reverse-grid situation, and talents such as Carlos Sainz will possibly have the opportunity to blossom. Ultimately, motivation and rejuvenation after such a long layoff could cause the top three to stumble and a mid-pack runner, such as McLaren, could hit the ground running and find something to challenge the top teams. It’s all very interesting and exciting.
One could elaborate on strategies and how different drivers deal with new issues and dynamics of a packed calendar. Furthermore, will racing at the same track on consecutive weekends give mid-pack teams a chance to close the gap? Or will the top three pull away even further as they have larger data analysis teams and clever responses to data captured over the first race weekend. There is also a massive question mark around driver safety. If a driver contracts the coronavirus teams will sub in test and reserve drivers. Such a move has the potential to blow the championship wide open if one of the leading drivers falls ill.
There’s also plenty going on in the drivers’ market. I am specifically referring to Vettel and his recent predicament. Firstly, you have to know that I have my favourite and also my not-so-favourite drivers, but I respect the level of talent they all possess and in that regard, I am a fan of them all. So when I say I don’t like Vettel, I say this with the utmost respect and also acknowledge that the reasons I don’t like him are because of my noble passion as a purist of the sport and the drivers.
His outbursts, mistakes, retaliation, etc, come from his passion for his driving. He is so passionate about racing and his will to win, that it pushes him beyond the point of full control. We have seen this behaviour in many greats: Senna, Schumacher, Prost, Hamilton, Villenueve, Alonso, etc.
Perhaps Vettel took it to a new level recently and has had periods where things got out of hand on occasion (remember when he sideswiped Hamilton?). It is all about timing and circumstance that could decide your future in this sport. Vettel is a true adversary and a top competitor with a determined mentality, he will certainly be missed if he is to leave the sport, but if he stays, he will always be in the mix, a talking point and benchmark, even if he is not in a top team.
All the novelty of the 2020 season got me thinking about something else: “What about the purist F1 fan and follower?” I can imagine the turmoil and the torture going on in the purist’s brain, heart and soul. But who is a purist? A historian of the sport who lost interest many years ago due to evolution? Or is it a dreamer who lives in a state of denial while watching what the modern era of F1 has evolved into?
Or is it someone who just loves to complain about everything that is and wishes they could travel back to when they were still amazed at technology? Or is it someone who hates technology, marketing, media and how the world works today and hasn’t accepted that the world of F1 has moved on and will never be the same? Or is it me, someone who loves and appreciates the history of the sport, its evolution and also what it is today and what it will be tomorrow, even if it does include reverse starting grids and consecutive races at the same track.
Ok, so you now know how much I love Formula One. I love it all: past, present and future. I am really looking forward to the new dynamics at play in this unique season, which includes smaller team head-counts trackside due to restrictions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic and the relevant safety rules. I am looking forward to the return of F1 and I am sure you are, too.