"You're going to need a bigger boat!"
When Roy Schneider, as the character Police Chief Martin Brody in Jaws, uttered those words to be heard by millions around the planet way back in 1975, it was a seismic moment not just for cinema. Speaking as someone who has, as a direct result of that movie, checked swimming pools for sharks, the impact of "small boat, big shark" has haunted me evermore. It also helped define the limits of competition, and the tools required for success. Hunter or hunted? Ruler or ruled?
So to the deep, dark ocean of the FIA F1 universe. You're going to need a bigger... bank balance; wind tunnel; set of cajones; mind; under-floor diffuser-focused vanes... The FIA is looking into the murky blue shark infested waters and trying to work out quite what set-up it needs to tame the shark, as opposed to jumping it.
Usain Bolt. Greatest sprinter of his generation, possibly of all time. Within a sporting context he is an unquestioned hero of mine. So imagine the international athletics association decides to take the same "Bend'em, break'em, ammend'em" approach to rules that the FIA cheerfully takes seven days a week, fifty-two weeks of the year.
Problem: "Bolt is too fast. He wins all the time."
FIA solution: "We have reviewed the repetitive manner of results, and we are aiming to level the playing field."
Result: "For every 0.01 second of winning margin over the next competitor the winner will have 500g of lead shot added to their running vests."
...so Mr. Bolt duly trains with said lead shot, as do the poor peeps in second, and third, and as he is simply the fittest and most adaptable out there... he still wins.
Problem: "Bolt has adapted best. We need more rules to stop him."
FIA solution: "The field must run in Stilettos!"
Rule clarification: "The FIA has deemed that a stiletto has a minimum height of seven centimetres, and a total ground contact area under 0.05 CM2. The ankle must be strapped, and the toes must be restrained in an 'open toe' arrangement, with no more than two across-foot restraining straps."
Result: "Bolt, the fastest human in running spikes, trains to be the fastest runner in stilettos."
Secondary result: "The less skilled runners suffer a significantly increased rate of injury due to trying to keep up with Mr. Bolt while running in stilettos."
So we have the latest farce which is the FIA attempt to blunt the genius which is Adrian Newey at the design table, V. Max at the wheel, and Christian conducting the orchestra pit.
It's like insisting the Beatles use nothing more than paper and comb, plus ukulele. OK, maybe a pair of spoons if they promise to behave. We are currently witnessing genius in full flight. The FIA should be joining with Toto in respecting that we are now witnessing the next moment of supreme achievement after all the years of Mercedes not putting a foot wrong.
As a sidebar confusion we have the growing concern from drivers about the significant loss of visibility in extreme wet situations. The FIA is now looking into how to solve this issue. I'll be diving into this particular mucky puddle in another article. Suffice to say, the FIA appears to have found the incorrect tree for their hound to bark up...
So how do we avoid our "Stilettos for Bolt" moment? The Halo has proven to be a life-saving design change that none of us really talk about any more. Like seatbelts and air bags in road cars, we simply accept it is right and proper to have the most advanced safety features possible.
DRS, on the other hand, has us complaining like Lady Gaga forced to wear Cancer Council approved sun glasses. Generally our DRS complaints are a mix of; too easy to overtake; artificial racing; press-to-pass; too many detection zones, or too few...
Indeed Le Mans winner Richard Bradley recently suggested "reverse DRS", whereby you have it all the time until you are within a second of the car in front... when it is switched off. Quite how Mr. Bradley thinks this would be a benefit is hard to imagine. A time warp back to the soporific days of the Trulli Train would probably be the outcome, or possibly my personal favourite description of the problem... Luca Badoer in the mobile chicane, as Martin Brundle called it.
So we dock Red Bull 10% of their allotted 2022 wind tunnel time, and they are still so far ahead the others do, on occasion, look like F2 cars... So now the other teams are complaining 10% was not enough or that RB did "too much clever stuff" prior to the ban kicking in. No matter! They simply built a better car, and this is the result. They are currently the class of the field, and under any set of sensible rule tweaks will remain so, such is their intellectual advantage. Yes it is an entire design department, and many engineers making those designs real, and providing amazing feedback. It is without question an amazing team effort. But it is the lead violin of Adrian Newey coupled with the conducting maestro Christian that together provide the vision, drive, direction and purpose for the team, while V. Max delivers on race day.
The electric guitar without Hendrix? Hendrix without the electric guitar? A horror thankfully never visited on planet Earth. If the FIA had their way Leo Fender, George Fullerton, and Freddie Trevares would have been sent straight back to cello building school, while Jimmy would have been sent for country and western banjo classes...
So do we allow the FIA to place Mr. Newey in stilettos and see if that throws him off his step? Insist he can only turn up to work drunk? Only allow him to work three hours a week? Insist he must provide all design information to the team in Sanskrit?
Similarly for V. Max. First lap blindfolded? Whole race with one hand glued to the side of his helmet? Toto provided with a remote to provide major electric shocks to any of V. Max's body parts he cares to select during the race? Alonso provided with an in-car remote to randomly apply V. Max's brakes? And just for good measure, Lewis provided an in-car remote to randomly yank V. Max's steering wheel at any time?
The way the RB package has performed this year I believe the FIA could lock the car "as is" in a secure vault in Switzerland only to remove it for the 2025 season, and still V. Max would win!
It is impolite to say to the other teams, "It appears you're too dumb to beat RB." So to avoid this embarrassing conversation the FIA provide all these technical directives, rule changes, finance regulations and penalties to punish excellence.
Red Bull should be celebrated as excellence in motion just as we celebrated Usain Bolt, Roger Federer and Eddy Merckx. (I note you omit a certain Lance Armstrong - Ed) Moments of genius frozen in time. Or from our beloved sport, Fangio. Michael or Lewis.
The closer in time to our own time a hero is, the more difficult it is for some to celebrate the achievement, rather than curse the monotony. People are once more moaning about the lack of Ferrari success. Yet when Michael was busy sweeping the floor, especially when it was wet, people moaned about the endless repetition.
Why can the FIA not settle on a non-prescriptive set of rules? First stipulate minimum safety requirements, in the form of mandatory safety tests that must be passed. Then, as Pitpass has previously suggested, define a 3D shape within which the car must fit, a minimum and a maximum weight range, and a minimum and maximum amount of fuel, assuming there is not a return to refuelling.
The pure simplistic beauty of such a rule set should delight teams. Yet in our cotton wool obsessed world, with an obsession over prescribed actions, step-out-of-line-and-get-hammered-on-social-media, and screaming echo chambers, the FIA prefers to be an all-powerful Defender of the Faith that keeps all souls in line. Ordering stilettos, straight-jackets, blindfolds, and handcuffs for any who achieve unique leaps of genius.
Consider dear reader. First a beautifully clean technical rules book. Then let the technology wizards and the heroic drivers have at it with a sensible set of race management rules, and may the mightiest team win!
With the grace of God upon us there is no need to order those outsize stilettos for Bolt. Just let some fresh air and intelligent thinking, into the foggy rooms of FIA HQ and you never know, magic might happen.
Learn more about Max and check out his previous features, here