Well that was quite fun, wasn’t it? After the doom-mongers finished their hand-wringing, predicting no cars finishing, a terrible lack of noise and a championship based on luck… well… we had a pretty good race and a few very interesting elements to consider running up to this weekend in Malaysia.
Here’s five points to discuss the season opener, getting us ready for race number two on the F1 slate…
1 – Noise
Bernie doesn’t like it, but there were a lot of complaints around the circuit about the lack of noise, as we predicted in our previous column. Formula One is meant to be the pinnacle of motorsport (sorry NASCAR fans, it’s just the truth) and as such, going to the circuit is meant to be both a sensory assault and a visceral experience. I remember first going as a kid and the smells and sights hit you hard… and then… then, there was the sound. It was like being slapped around the face of a mountain when those cars first fired up. There was a buildup to it as the support races got going, but the moment the first F1 car took to the road, there was a sea of knowing glances across the crowd, with everyone thinking… “That’s proper…”
But now it’s gone, and yes, I agree with King Bernie, that’s wrong. We need the sound back for the spectators at the circuit.
That said, I actually quite like the new sound, particularly when watching on television. Why? Well, first off, I’m a sucker for a turbo whistle. It reminds me of the ’80s, and everyone likes being reminded of when they were younger. It’s an emotive noise. Secondly, you can actually hear new noises – tyre squeals under braking, crowd reactions. Plus, you don’t have to strain to make out only every third word of the pit/driver radio transmissions.
On balance, though, and with watching live in mind, more noise is definitely needed.
2 – Mercedes
It seems wrong to state that the one negative of the weekend was a team doing really well… but… I’m here for the fun and entertainment, as are the majority of fans, and there’s a sneaking suspicion that the Mercs of Hamilton and Rosberg might just run away with this season. The saving grace here is that it’s likely the two will be very close on the road, and that the team will let them race properly. Let’s see how it pans out.
It would be a shame if one team winds up dominating the F1 circuit… again…
3 – The New Guard Cometh
Yes, yes, it’s only one race, and no doubt the old guard will have their say again starting in Malaysia. But wasn’t it nice to see the new boys staking their claim, in these new-spec cars and showing some of their more experienced teammates the way? The headline case of this happening, of course was the ever-smiling Daniel Ricciardo’s performance in comparison to four-time World Champion Sebastien Vettel. Before we start wheeling out the “World Chump” headlines, let’s remember Vettel had software problems all weekend. Still, Ricciardo’s performance (disqualification or not) was exceptional.
Perhaps more so was young Kevin Magnussen with McLaren. Not only did he beat his hugely experienced teammate, Jenson Button, to the flag, but he also came second in his F1 debut. In tricky cars, in tricky conditions, which is all power to this one’s elbow. He might just be a bit special…
Honorable mention must also go to the ever-entertaining Valteri Bottas for a sterling drive up, crash, pit stop, then drive up once again. It was overtaking galore, a sight lovely to see…
4 – Torque
Torque, torque, lovely torque. Thank you so much for coming back into our lives. Now, I know the readership here are wise to the ways and means of motor cars and the various terminologies. But the best way I’ve had torque explained is as such – acceleration is how quickly I get from this point to the wall. Torque is how hard I push through the wall. So it was an utter, utter joy to see cars squirming about, coming out of corners as the drivers struggled to lay down these great oodles of power. Gone were the high-revving, high-range speed machines while back came the bucking, squirming beasts. Once again, we have drivers having to really drive these cars. Hey, you know what, perhaps it is the ’80s again? Pass me the Boy George make-up and the hairspray, I’m heading out to get sick on cider.
5 – Unreliability
Well, it wasn’t as bad as we were led to believe it might be, but it was certainly there, and thank the racing Gods for that. Metronomic reliability is monotonous. Introducing an element of chance into the series, a feeling that it might be about to go all up in a big puff of smoke, well, that’s great for the fans. Not so much for the drivers, of course, but they’re remunerated quite enough to suffer that.
So now, we move on to the stifling heat in Malaysia this weekend. Predictions from me? A re-establishment of the old guard. Slightly fewer mistakes from the drivers as they get more used to the cars. Tyre Problems.
Either way, we’re off to a solid start.
Until next time,
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About the author
Andy joined Frontstretch in 2012 as our lead correspondent for Formula One. Adding a little international flavor, the Englishman pens a weekend column called Slipstream Saturdays looking at the latest news within racing’s biggest world series. A promoter by trade, the longtime fan still catches NASCAR on occasion, but his heart will always be connected to open-wheel.