Send in the Clowns

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There was a song from a musical called “A Little Night Music” and written by Stephen Sondheim which went “Send in the Clowns” and was sung by Barbra Streisand, Judy Collins, Frank Sinatra and others. The last verse went:

“Isn’t it rich, isn’t it queer

Losing my timing this late in my career

And where are the clowns

Quick send in the clowns

Don’t bother, they’re here.”

So what has all that got to do with Formula 1? Unfortunately, everything. Flavio Briatore, at one time the boss of Renault F1 said, “The world has changed. We are in the entertainment business as well. We are not in the mechanical engineering business.” Flavio, I agree that the world has changed – it is constantly evolving, that is for sure – but F1 being entertainment? That I would argue. F1 is not entertainment (and currently it is not entertaining either). Motor racing is supposedly a sport.

If the top level of motor SPORT is not a sport, then we have let down thousands of young drivers who are trying to hone their skills to become the best driver in the world. Do we let them fight tooth and nail to be a winner in every category, until they get to the top category – F1, and then tell them that they have now become entertainers? “Quick send in the clowns, Don’t bother, they’re here” (and called the FIA)!

After watching the first two rounds of the F1 circus (there is a good reason why F1 is known as a traveling circus – it’s the place where clowns entertain, is it not?), I was appalled at just how my sport has become degraded. A ridiculous “new” qualifying format was introduced, which was roundly criticized by the teams, drivers and the spectators. So did the FIA drop it? No, they ran it again at the next Grand Prix, and it was just as dreadful as it was the first time.

At the likelihood of a boycott by the teams, the FIA finally did what they should have done after the first time – revert to the qualifying format used for the last few years.

So what conclusion can you get from all this? The FIA is a joke, which is what clowns do, isn’t it?

The FIA has also admitted that the Grands Prix are boring because there are no opportunities for passing. So they attempt to fix this by artificially manipulating passing zones with the Drag Reduction System (DRS) allowing the following car with DRS to pass the car in front which does not have DRS.

Modern F1 cars need a damn long straight with a tight corner at the end to allow slipstreaming and then demon outbraking. You do not need to be Einstein to work out that a track with a series of corners will not be conducive to passing.

The Singapore Tourist Board stated proudly that “the 5.067 km long street circuit, consisting of 14 left hand turns and 10 right hand turns offers a number of overtaking opportunities, challenging corners and grueling sections that will test the true capabilities of the F1 drivers.” History has shown there are no overtaking opportunities.

The passing problem also brings in the ‘aero’ where the following car cannot stay in the wake of the car in front (slip streaming). Not an impossible fix – do as has been suggested for years – get rid of the ridiculous front wings and rear wings and rely on mechanical grip, that the drivers can use to their advantage.

In the meantime, send in the clowns!