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YOU KNOW YOU'RE GETTING OLD WHEN...

UglyPrettyUglyPrettyEven with the aeroscreen the Indycar is way prettier 

  You know you’re getting old when you begin sentences with “I remember when…..”. Like, for example, I remember when F1 cars looked exciting and pretty. Or, I remember when you could actually see a driver in a F1 car. For the first of these examples though, that memory is fading, bit by bit, with every passing year. As I perused the images of this year’s challengers the only positive that flitted about my synapses was that the McLaren was a nice shade of orange. Apart from that they are all pretty, well, bloody ugly. And it’s not just the hideous halo that now completely obscures any vision of the driver at work. It’s all of those horrible appendages that have sprouted like some rampant sexually transmitted fungus. And this got me thinking. It could well be almost a quarter of a century since I saw a F1 car that made me think, “Damn that looks good”. And yeah, that makes me feel old………

 

 It really all started with the arrival of the barge boards on the McLaren in 1993. Sure there were some rear wings in the mid eighties that more resembled barn doors than aero devices but they didn’t last long and even when they were about the cars still looked pointy, sleek, fast and sexy. Perhaps the last one I thought was really pretty was the 1991 Jordan. The last one I can think of that I thought looked innovative was the Tyrrell 019 with the raised nose and anhedral front wings. Since then they have all had their lines mangled up with barge boards, turning vanes, X-wings, T-wings, front wings that resemble cheese graters and a multitude of other ghastly additions that appear to be dangly, flappy genital protuberances. Lets face it, these things are just horrible to look at. And to really rub it in, all this crap just makes the racing worse. I mean, you can’t even pass with the DRS any more.

 

  When I fell in love with F1 it was at first sight with the Ferrari 312T. The swoopy, curvy lines, the chrome wings, huge fat rear slicks and the tall white airbox just gave that eleven year old a woody. Then the beautiful sleek simplicity of the Lotus 79 took away your breath in ’78. The “wingless wonders” of 1979 (that didn’t last long as they didn’t work), the stunning Williams, Renaults, Ligiers and Brabhams of the early ‘80s which were joined by the oddities that tried a different variant to the ground effect theme. Think the Arrows A2 or the Fittipaldi F6. Both woefully unsuccessful but great to look at, because they were so different. On top of which you could still actually see the drivers at work. What is there now for a young boy (or girl) to get excited about? You can’t see the driver and the car is as about as enticing as an industrial meat grinder.

 

  When Liberty gave Bernie the boot I had high hopes that F1 might just finally head back in the right direction. Since then six changes have been made to the sport, and not one of them has made it better. OK not all of them were Libertys call but I’m pretty sure if they had put their foot down there might have been a different decision. Firstly, the biggie of the day. The bloody halo. Yeah it was an FIA safety decision regarding head protection but let’s get things into a little perspective. The last time a F1 driver died of a head injury that the halo might have prevented was when Tom Pryce got hit with a fire extinguisher as he obliterated an errant marshal at Kyalami in 1977. Yeah – 1977. That was 40, I repeat, 40 years ago. It wouldn’t have helped poor Jules Bianchi just as it wouldn’t have helped Maria de Vilotta. The halo won’t help if you drive under a twenty ton tractor or truck. It wouldn’t have helped Massa either as the spring that injured him at least hit his helmet. The halo could just as easily divert that down into the unprotected chest or neck area with much worse consequences. People mention both Henry Surtees and Justin Wilson. Yes it may have saved Henry Surtees but he was in a junior category and most junior categories will not be getting any upgraded head protection for quite a while. It might have saved Justin Wilson but Indycar have already decided that they will not be using the halo but have had series sponsor PPG (who manufacture F16 cockpit canopies amongst other things) to produce a clear and unobtrusive high windscreen they will be used for their head protection. And put it on a car that looks 1000 times nicer than the current F1 fuglies. F1 looked at a windscreen. Herr Vettel did 1 lap (yep – 1) and claimed it made him feel ill. They didn’t try any other driver (although Red Bull gave their own version a run without too many issues) or any further lappery. No going back to the supplier for possible modification, no further trials, just 1 lap by 1 driver and the halo was foist upon us.

 

  Second decision. Lets make the cars five seconds a lap faster. Sounds OK. By increasing the wing generated downforce and thereby cornering speed. Sounds bloody disastrous. The sport had been trying for years to increase the ability of the cars to run closely through corners to increase the amount of overtaking and “improve the show”. Hence the DRS. In one fell swoop all this was destroyed and last year saw the return to very processional running with no overtaking at many races. By the way, bookending the year with the two worst tracks for overtaking is possibly not the best way forward. Albert Park and Abu Dhabi have less passing moves between them than the Hungaroring, eek.

 

  Third decision. Lets reduce the number of engines available through the year to 3 per car. Oh great, more grid penalties on the way then. More confusion, less understanding by the fans and therefore probably less fans watching. What the hell is going to happen the day that everyone has to start at the back of the grid or from the pit lane due to penalties?

 

  Fourth decision. Lets hop on the politically correct train wreck and ban the “grid girls”. Not that they are girls. They are women who are in the modelling profession and have just been done out of a job. It wasn’t as if they were being paraded about in skimpy bikinis being groped and drooled over. In almost all countries these days they wore dresses and were treated with professional respect, they were after all, doing a job. Now we have grid kids, what next, podium toddlers and banning champagne?

 

  Fifth decision. Move the European race times to a later start time by 1 hour and 10 minutes. Possibly good for those watching on TV in Europe. If they can afford the pay TV fee because they won’t be seeing it on free to air. Not only does this go against the safety provisions brought in after the Bianchi accident that there must be a 4 hour time window of bright daylight after the supposed race finish time in case there is a delay of any sort. But what about all those TV viewers in the rest of the world? The audience in the Asia/Pacific area for example, is not insubstantial. But now the European races will not begin until almost midnight and be ending well after 2AM on a Monday morning when those viewers will have to get to work. Do they really think that too many fans will bother watching these races live any more? A further fall in viewers brings a further fall in revenues to the TV channels who may reconsider the cost of providing coverage.

 

  And the really important one, announced with great fanfare in Abu Dhabi. Lets change the logo. Who fucking cares. We don’t fork out money to go to the race or plonk ourselves down in front of the Pay-TV to watch a logo. And the only result of a logo change is a reduction of brand recognition.  

 

  So that’s my old age rant for the week. I seem to be comfortably settling in to a new role as a grumpy old man. I may even become a curmudgeon.

 

Sam Snape

 

1/3/2018.