Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Rubber Side Down, Mark

So as much as Mark Webber's brief flirtation as a test pilot was hugely scary, there are actually some things we can take away from it.

Firstly and most importantly, Webber hopped out of the car right away. Even though the car came down on the roll bar assembly, Webber appeared to be shaken but otherwise unhurt by the accident. This alone is a huge endorsement for the work that the FIA and the teams have been doing to make the cars as safe as possible. Formula One racing will always be a dangerous sport, but the people in charge are trying to avoid it being unnecessarily dangerous. We can only hope that this won't shake his confidence the next time he steps into a car.

But secondly. While the safety car was droning around, Martin Brundle treated us to a lot of blather about how the problem was the huge closing speeds and the increased closing speeds are what makes incidents like that so dangers. He carried on by saying something to the effect that next year's movable wing idea is only going to aggravate the situation and that the people in charge will have to think very hard about this.

The problem with this logic is that it is totally divorced from what Formula One has become today. Today you can have a car that is demonstrably one or two entire seconds per lap faster than the car it is stuck behind. If you combine this with the current fasion of gerbil-maze courses that don't give the cars behind any reasonable chance to close up with the car in front, you are going to be in a situation where the only way a pass is going to get made is if the car behind is much faster than the car in front.

Fiddling with tenths here and there, which is what the movable-wing proposal is doing, isn't going to get it done.

We have seen on occasion brilliant racing this year. The most spectacular so far has to be Montreal, where the tires were so bad that the drivers were skating around on them. Now I'm sure that Bridgestone isn't keen on being the source of so much griping, but it does show that Frank Dernie was on to something last winter.

But the bottom line is that F1 has to look in the mirror and decide what it really wants. Tricky, aero-addicted high-traction cars on meandering road circuits isn't making for a formula that encourages passing. And if F1 really wants passing, something fundamental is going to have to change.