October 30, 2016
Bring gravel traps back to F1.
Let's keep it simple. Formula 1, and as a consequence, racing in general moved to turn gravel traps into parking lots because too many racers ended up beached after screwing up.
Keeping more cars in play is good for the show and good for business, the feeling went, but unintended consequences of consequence free racing were on full display at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez in Mexico City on Sunday.
There will be controversy about what happened at the beginning and the end of an otherwise rather dull Mexican GP, hopefully it will lead to a wider discussion of the direction of a sport.
It's a complicated issue to discuss because you always run up against the safety argument, obviously nobody wants to see anyone injured but at the same time there is the paradox where racing has been made so safe that young drivers simply do not even consider the possibility of getting hurt and drive dirty from a younger age.
Juan Pablo Montoya commented recently on how young karters are routinely making incredibly dangerous moves, blocking very aggressively. You don't want to discourage drivers from attacking, said the Colombian, but at the same time not setting a higher standard will result in a "bunch of lunatics" when these kids get to F3 and above.
After Japan, Verstappen, asked about his aggressive style said: "this is the new style of driving" and older drivers should get used to it.
One way to curb some of this behavior might be the return of some nice fluffy gravel traps. Let's examine the key incidents of today's race beginning with the start.
Hamilton missed the braking point and went through the grass, gaining perhaps 10 car length on his pursuers.
Granted his advantage was nullified by the safety car on lap one, but there is no scenario where you could argue he would not have gained track position on the rest of the field by cutting through the grass.
To the key incident at the end of the race, with Vettel catching Verstappen while in turn being pursued by Ricciardo.
Verstappen, under pressure makes a mistake, locks up and goes through the large runoff cutting two corners, gaining a few car lengths on Vettel who did not make an error.
The grown up thing to do is: admit you blew it and give up the position, that's the Gentleman's Agreement for having those comfortable runoffs. but I guess that's not "the new way of racing".
Despite a single message to the Dutchman, Red Bull looks to have viewed the situation as a chance to back the Ferrari into a faster Ricciardo.
British Fair Play....
There were two other incidents surrounding the off track excursions that should be discussed.
Many called for Rosberg to be penalized for going off track at the very first corner and gaining an advantage. Is it a similar situation to Verstappen going off? Not by a long shot.
Certainly he might have been caught up in our hypothetical gravel trap but it's important to note he went off not because of an error on his part but because a dive bombing, understeering Verstappen shoved him off.
Verstappen is only ahead after bumping the Mercedes off. You can debate Max's move as a racing incident or just "the new way of driving" but a penalty to Rosberg in this case would have been unfair.
The final incident between Vettel and Ricciardo should also be dismissed. Setting aside Vettel would never had been caught by the second Red Bull had Verstappen and Red Bull had behaved like men and not children, the Ferrari driver leaves enough space for one car under braking . That is indisputable, end of story.
The "Verstappen rule" you say? The clarification issued by Whiting after Japan said stewards would examine and incident if a driver makes a move under braking that causes another to take evasive action.
This was simply not the case here.
Finally ass this yammering about Vettel cursing Whiting on the radio.
"I have a message for Charlie: Fuck off!"
To be honest, I thought it was awesome. Everyone's constantly complains about F1 being sterile and we get upset at a driver showing emotion? Everyone praises Hamilton for brooding on top of his airplane in his underwear but gets in a tizzy at the German telling the white haired dude to of stuff it?
Are these the same people who claim to love James Hunt?
Just bring back gravel traps.