Monday, August 24, 2009

Valencia: Year Two and F1 2010

This is the second year that Formula 1 has raced at Valenica.

Last year I described the race course as a cement-walled gerbil run. The TV lines were so bad that most of the time we only got a single car in the shot, leading to the illusion that the cars were running on their own the whole time. The fact that we were more interested in pit-lane violations and fancy lights verses of a lollipop instead of actual racing speaks volumes about both the state of Formula One in general and Valencia in particular.

This year they moved the walls back, which helps a lot from the TV show perspective. Without the cars being walled in so tightly we can see more of them and you can watch cars following each other more closely than last year. However from a racing perspective it was still pretty dry.

Next year there will be no more refueling. Instead of pit-lane and fuel-load strategy, the cars will have to challenge for position, and make passes, on the track.

The problem I have with this is that as currently written, I don't believe that these regulations will lead to any improvement in the racing. If anything, the show next year stands to be even more boring than this year.


Because I don't think the technical rules will actually make passing any easier.

I had such high hopes for 2009. I was positively salivating after the Australian Grand Prix, which featured Vettel tangling with Kubica in the closing stages of the race. The event had featured closer racing for position up and down the field, too. The fact that it ended in tears for Vettel didn't do much to discourage me, and left me hoping that this would be a sign of things to come.

Yet it hasn't panned out that way. This year, as in previous years, the majority of on-track, non-contact position changes have happened on the first lap. Beyond that it is usually pit lane strategy that changes the running order.

Try running Valencia from this year without the refueling. What would have been different? Well, the McLaren cars wouldn't have had to stop; Kovalainen could have parked his car on the racing line and let Hamilton draw out an untouchable lead. Neither Barichello nor Raikkonen would have been able to move up. We would have snoozed through the procession race, and woken up to a one-two McLaren finish.

And that's the problem I have with the regulations for 2010. Yes, we'll no longer have to worry about fuel loads, as the order will be more or less set from the first lap. But since the cars can't run closely enough together to make passing a real possibility, I think in the end it will be more boring next year.

Even more so at gerbil runs like Monaco and Valencia.