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So Far, So Bad...

FEATURE BY GLEN CROMPTON
12/04/2010

Following the snorey 2010 Bahrain GP, Bernie called for calm and cautioned against knee jerk reactions. I know because I quoted him in my second last article. He added, in no uncertain terms, that the teams should have no say in the rules and sporting regulations. Now I read that prior to the start of 2010 Malaysian GP, Bernie's earlier calls for calm evolved into calls to action, incongruously directed at the teams! To be fair I have relatives of Bernie's age and their medical carers tell me that at this time of life, short-term memory lapses and radical changes of opinion are not uncommon.

In the interest of objectivity here are the quotes of Bern I read from Malaysia. "Don't be fooled, we have been lucky with the rain. However, we have got to do something. For the first time the teams have realised that they have to do something about it. We don't need reverse grids, we just need more overtaking." Apparently when pressed for detail about exactly what needs to be done, Bern suggested "make the front wing smaller and get rid of the double diffuser." In a final hint of irony, he is supposed to have added the quip about deciding grid order; "Why not just get a beautiful girl in and draw out the drivers for the top 10?"

In Bahrain the podium - reliability not withstanding - was decided at the exit of turn one. Then came Melbourne and thanks to a little rain-sprinkle things seemed better. The predicted rain did not materialise for the Malaysian GP, though it did for qualifying which nicely mucked up the grid. Sadly, we were back to the turn-one-podium-decider.

Three races do not a season make but it's increasingly looking as if there won't be much interesting racing this year unless leaking clouds intervene and now it seems I can count upon Bernie as an ally - or is he counting on me?

Me, I don't think a formula requiring climatic unpredictability to generate good racing is a particularly good formula. Keyword is Formula. Because that's all F1 is; a formula, a set of rules. Sounds a lot flasher for the inclusion of the word "formula" in the name but it's just a set of rules. Think of any era in F1 and you have a corresponding set of rules - the formula - by which it was run.

That raises an interesting point about the history of F1 rulemaking - one I find most disturbing and which may explain why I find myself eternally critical of each season's rules and results. Two glaring points grab my attention. F1 rules have tended to be reactive rather than proactive and F1 rules have tended to be subtractive rather than innovative. Both accusations, should I be correct, lean towards a rather negative way of conducting things.

For those who are befuddled by my language, permit me to elucidate. The reactive boss is the one who waits until your disgruntlement causes you to hand in your resignation and then offers you praise and a pay rise. The proactive boss makes sure you never want to write that resignation. The subtractive legislator begins from the flawed position that they fully understand the paradigm and then sets about banning things that do not fit the flawed vision while the innovative legislator lays a path that accepts lesser skills than their subjects. In both cases, leadership based on vision is required and I have not seen that in F1 for a goodly long time.

It seems to me that the pinnacle of motorsport has an alarming history of reactive, subjective rulemaking. I've been regarding the sport for the better part of 30 years and here's a bit of a sad précis. Turbocharged engines - banned, Ground Effect aerodynamics - banned, Six-Wheeled Cars - banned, Ground-Effect-Sucker-Fans, banned really quickly, Active Ride Height - banned, Traction Control - banned, Anti-Lock-Brakes - banned, V12 Engines - banned, V10 Engines - banned, Automatic Gearboxes - banned, Slick Tyres - banned then un-banned, Refuelling - banned, un-banned then re-banned. Banned, banned, banned and banned.

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