A Complete Change Of Pace
I was not going to post anything after the conclusion of the Korean GP. What’s the point? It was pretty clear the way the championship was going after Singapore and after Korea it is all but confirmed. I suppose I could deliver one of my rants against Vettel and Red Bull or better yet against Ferrari, not just for ruining my summer, but my November which is when my birthday occurs and we might as well throw in Christmas as well.
I suppose I could write a whole post about Red Bull’s possible illegal but legal traction control which is the latest rumor as to why Vettel is demolishing the competition, because of course the RB9 could not have made that kind of leap in performance by itself and Vettel can not be that good. Chuckle chuckle. But there is no real proof yet and it seems to me as though others are grasping at straws now.
For what it is worth, I am of the opinion that Red Bull do have a mapping program that is allowing some sort of TC, just as I was of the opinion that their front wing flexed beyond the legal limit while on track, despite the fact the FIA could not prove it. One only needed to look at the footage of the front wing meeting the ground plane to see that, no fancy FIA test required.
But I’m not going there in this post. Let’s just agree that all teams find ways around the rules; sometimes they are egregious such as BAR’s gas tank in a gas tank some years back, and sometimes they are more subtle and elegant, similar to clever engine mapping so you don’t have to worry too much when you step on the gas pedal. There isn’t a team out there that wouldn’t employ the same technology if they had access to it and thought they could get away with it. But whatever the reason for the complete domination by Vettel and Red Bull of the second half of the 2013 F1 season I will leave for another post, a future rant.
But then it hit me. Nothing so ground breaking or enlightening as E=mc2, but for me, for any fan favoring any driver, or team, for F1 itself, what occurred to me after Korea is nothing less that a small revelation.
Forget the hype about who is the best driver currently, Alonso, Vettel, Hamilton, Raikkonen, who cares (well, I still do, but whatever). Forget the rock star designers, disregard whether it is an Adrian Newey penned car, a Ross Brawn double diffuser, a McLaren F-Duct, a lotus passive DRS, none of that is important, (well it is, but pretend it is not for a moment). Let’s not concern ourselves with multiple championships or new records, and for that matter just let go all the issues with the tires that favored a few teams in the beginning of the year and now seem to favor others toward the end, (this one might be a little hard for me, but let’s try nonetheless). Just forget all of it for a brief moment, and give a thought to this:
Red Bull and Sebastian Vettel have in every single way, in the most comprehensive way possible to the sporting regulations completely out-designed, out-performed, and out-raced everyone for the better part of the last four years, and as much as we all complain (and I have been leading the pack on that at times) about this utter dominance, and how boring the racing becomes when that happens, a la the Ferrari and Schumacher days, what we should really be doing is celebrating.
What we should be doing right now is recognizing that to accomplish this feat is nothing short of remarkable. If I am not mistaken Jaguar was a back marker when Red Bull bought them in 2005 and came into the sport as a constructor. It has only been nine years since then. Nine. Some teams spend many more years than that in F1 and never even complete a top ten finish, let alone get to stand on the podium and savor a race win, forget it, better odds of getting struck by carbon fiber lightning.
Trust me, every Thursday before free practice on Friday, I wish for nothing more than for Alonso and Ferrari, or Hamilton and Mercedes, Raikkonen and Lotus, Webber in the same car (although one has to wonder) anyone really, to be just plain faster than Vettel and Red Bull come Sunday. A couple of races early in the season that was the case. However, in general throughout the last four years no car has really been faster on balance either in qualifying or on race day at most of the F1 tracks. Yeah, sure, two out of those four years it went down to the last race and it could have gone either way and instead of multiple championships we would be saying two, but there is no denying that the RB9 Chassis has been in a class of its own these last four years. And whether or not you like Red Bull or Sebastian Vettel, you have to love the RB9.
No car has been so close to the cutting edge of technology. No car has performed so brilliantly and so consistently these last four years. The solutions that show up on race weekend, just amazing. At last count I think there were eight cascading elements on the RB9’s front wing. WOW.
Say what you will about Red Bull’s creative interpretation of the rules and what the spirit of the rules mean, and yes they have had their wrist slapped a few times when it looked like it was getting too obvious, but is that not what we love about F1? Don’t we love the way the teams push the limit, while trying to find the limit?
Believe me when I say Christian Horner, Helmet Marko and Vettel’s finger get on my last nerve and I wish every night that their car would develop some kind of permanent “driving crooked down the track condition.” I wish Adrian Newey would get some kind of crazy whooping cough and a doctor’s order to stay home and play solitaire for, like a year.
But is not Adrian Newey reminding us why most other racing formulas pale in comparison to F1? Why every kid that wants to race cars always says F1 is what they are striving for, that driving an F1 car is the ultimate dream?
It is precisely Newey’s brilliance and the complete domination by Red Bull that is why F1 is just so much better than anything else on four wheels. It is for sure the reason why drivers like Alonso, Hamilton and soon to be Vettel get paid 30+ million dollars just to drive a car around a track on Sunday for an hour and a half 20 weeks out of the calendar year.
I was not the mad F1 blogger when Frank William’s team was clobbering the competition, nor was I that starry eyed about F1 during McLaren’s all conquering MP-4 years. I was around for the Ferrari and Michael Schumacher era and let me tell you, its end could have come any sooner for yours truly.
What I did not recognize then, what I failed to see, what escaped me was what a truly difficult feat it is to win at this level. Michael, Ross, Todt and Rory Byrne accomplished something only a few ever do in F1. It is only now that I have a much deeper understanding, that I can look back and really appreciate the success Ferrari and Michael enjoyed even if I did not enjoy it along with them.
The same can be said currently about Red Bull. This might sound a little weird but Newey and company are in a strange way reaffirming my deep affinity for this sport and are confirming for me that F1, as has been said, is truly the pinnacle of motor sport.
An F1 car has never before been so dependent on such a complex array of parts; electronics to wings to software to the angle that the exhaust exits out at. The endeavor of racing has become so complicated from the steering wheel to the air flow, to managing tire temps, that it is a wonder any team even gets it half right. This only makes Red Bull’s accomplishments that much more impressive.
I have posted many times about why close racing is the best to watch irrespective of whom wins and when the championship goes down to the last few races if not the last race everyone wins. But when a team such as Red Bull and a driver such as Sebastian Vettel put it all together week after week for four years, the building of an awesome machine and the driving of this machine to such great effect, we are all winning in another way. It might not seem so at the time, it is sometimes a little hard to get past the finger, the fast laps, the new and ever growing records, but if you can, if you take a closer look at the bigger picture of what it means to race F1 now, today in this era, what you will see is mastery at work. I see this now.
It is common to use the phrase “It’s not rocket science” when referring to something that seems pretty straightforward, and not so difficult to excel at given the right information and circumstance. But modern day F1 racing IS rocket science, and most clever people couldn’t figure it out even if they were given limitless time and money.
I recently took in the movie Gravity with my wife. It is visually arresting just like F1. Successful space travel is a complex undertaking, as is running an F1 team. Winning in F1 is like a space walk with a jet pack or a satellite firing its booster rockets. A little light on the fuel release and you missed your entry point. A little heavy on the fuel and you also missed your entry point. A little to the left, a little to the right and you missed your entry point. It all has to be perfect and when I say perfect I am not referring to just once, I mean perfect every single time.
Winning in F1 to the degree to which Red Bull Racing and Sebastian Vettel have been winning seems to me similar to landing on the moon, docking up with the ISS, re-entering the earth’s atmosphere. Everything and I mean everything needs to be perfect and when it is something magical happens, something that is extraordinary, something that is worth noticing even to all of us non-Red Bull non-Vettel race fans, yours truly included, most especially yours truly. Because like space walking it does not happen everyday and when it does, it is just so Badass. I love F1 and by default that means I love what Red Bull and Vettel are on the verge of doing. Winning so consistently that no one can say they aren’t worthy.
-jp- (now can someone tell me again why I am not ranting about RB/SV and the illegal TC)