Ingram's Flat Spot On Red, White And Black by Jonathan Ingram The start of the new Formula One season, to be witnessed at Chez Ingram among friends, fellow aficionados and a journalist or two, promises to be a mixed bag. The coming season ...
Ingram's Flat Spot On
Red, White And Black
by Jonathan Ingram
The start of the new Formula One season, to be witnessed at Chez Ingram among friends, fellow aficionados and a journalist or two, promises to be a mixed bag. The coming season appears to have more major teams and excellent drivers well matched than any in recent memory. There are five interesting rookies on the grid and three new teams. Schumacher and Lotus are back, plus there's a new Senna in town.
But the decorations at our house will be red, white and black in honor of the demise of the proposed return to F1 by the team based in Charlotte. Some are tempted to lambast US F1 for failing (a group led by Formula One Management's Bernie Ecclestone). Others feel compelled to praise the team for at least trying even if it raised and then dashed hopes among F1 fans in the U.S. In any event, there's no crying in F1.
The telling details of just what went wrong in Charlotte are still to come. Money and execution are considered the chief suspects, although there's also the problem of the original concept to sort through. The possible fines to team principals Ken Anderson and Peter Windsor aside, one has to wonder if more substantive penalties may ensue when it comes to the relationship between the U.S. and F1.
Perhaps the desire to get more attention paid to F1 south of the Canadian border led to the inclusion of US F1 among the 13 entries in the first place. Will the reverse effect now take place -- less interest in returning a round of the world championship to the U.S., zero interest in a U.S. team being launched, and less than zero interest by American manufacturers?
At least Hewlitt Packard announced its intention to be an associate sponsor of Renault and its new ownership. On the other hand, it was yet another point of pain in a week when Ecclestone once again slammed US F1 for preventing Stefan GP from getting to the grid. The Silicon Valley giant HP was just the sort of company the American team had hoped to land as a sponsor, especially with new media innovator Chad Hurley as the primary investor.
Alas, enough hand wringing. Montreal is a fair and inviting town for a visit in June. Besides, when you leave the country to go racing, it's easier to be the skanky tourist. (This assumes you're not a similarly disposed journalist.)
By mid-summer-on-the-St. Lawrence, which teams have adapted best to the ban on refueling will be more apparent. Going into the sweltering balm of Bahrain, one has to bet the strongest teams will have adjusted to the problems of going from a fuel load of fuel when the red lights go out to an empty tank in parc ferme with no re-loading in between. In no particular order, McLaren, Red Bull, Mercedes and Ferrari are the strong candidates to dominate with a possible sideways glance at the podium perhaps cast from Force India-Mercedes, Williams-Cosworth and Sauber-Ferrari.
Methusela was a mere child -- and a playmate of Ecclestone -- the last time this many entrants had that much of a leg up on a podium finish. The Dead Sea was merely ill when competition was last so close. It's been ever since last season's pre-season prognostications that so many had a shot at the title.
Careful readers will note that all predictions here are good only until the first free practice begins to reveal all. For it remains to be seen if McLaren's double secret inlet nozzle on the engine cover will create considerably faster speeds on the straightaways before everybody else scrambles to incorporate one. It bears noting that Toyota and Williams also had the trick double diffusers at the outset of last season when Brawn GP blew the wings off everybody in the opening rounds, but the former two teams were unable to capitalize on the season's biggest technical breakthrough and Toyota is now in fact a former team.
On this latter point -- will the 2010 season be the first in recent memory where the same teams starting the season are all participating in the 2011 season (plus one replacement for US F1)?
This question is begged for the benefit of Ferrari, which has cursed the new teams on the grid for being new teams. One assumes the Italian firm will be more than glad to supply the grid with all the cars necessary should the Greek government default and the European Union get sent crashing to its knees with less-than-coordinated esprit, followed by a wholesale departure from F1 by manufacturers. In a second not-too-far-fetched example, if the German labor unions begin to raise hell over issues with a lack of support for labor unions in Greece and Mercedes must re-consider its budgets, then how would the ensuing vacancies be filled?
Interestingly, now that F1 is amped up with so many new developments, it would have been the perfect year to take market share from NASCAR in the U.S. The national series that has produced as much money for the France family as F1 has for Ecclestone has been on a slippery slope of late, the most recent episode being the sanctioning body painting itself into a corner over the issue of aggressive driving and safety.
No such show biz allowed in F1 -- except on the sidelines when it comes to rules enforcement, international legal tribunes, scandals, cheap shots at new teams, etc.
Have at it, boys. It should be a very interesting season.
Jonathan Ingram can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.