John Floyd
Motorsport columnist
4 minute read
11 Oct 2017
8:04 am

Nightmares galore for Ferrari

John Floyd

Horrible weekend for Alonso in unreliable McLaren.

An old adage claims “it never rains but it pours”.

You can certainly apply that to Ferrari’s recent troubles. Having led the Drivers’ Championship for 12 of the 14 rounds so far this season, Sebastien Vettel now finds himself absolutely on the back foot, his title hopes all but over.

It is still theoretically possible for the German to snatch victory but that would require disastrous results by current leader Lewis Hamilton and on his current form and that of Mercedes Benz it is very unlikely.

Hamilton dominated last weekend’s Japanese Grand Prix, with Vettel battling to stay with his title rival.

Within seconds of the start it became apparent that the Ferrari was no longer a contender as the two Red Bulls swept past.

Apparently this was due to a faulty spark plug which had developed on the way to the start.

Some quick work by the team on the grid appeared to resolve the issue but on lap five the car was retired. Hamilton led from start to finish despite the determined pursuit of Red Bull’s Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo who finished in that order.

The stewards believed that Verstappen’s pursuit of Hamilton was impeded when Fernando Alonso allowed the Englishman through but then blocked the Red Bull.

The officials sanctioned the Spaniard and added two points to his super licence.

It was not Alonso’s weekend as yet again he experienced problems with the McLaren’s Honda power unit which ended with him starting last after a 35 place grid penalty was applied.

One can understand his frustration as last weekend’s penalties brought his total for 2017 to eight internal combustion engines, ten turbochargers, ten MGU-H, eight MGU-K, seven energy stores and six control electronic control units.

That is 140 grid penalties this season, with four races remaining.

He was not alone. Valtteri Bottas, Kimi Raikkonen, Carlos Sainz and Jolyon Palmer all formed part of a great grid shuffle, to once again confuse all those sitting in the stands.

Even Mercedes Benz team boss Toto Wolff voiced his opinion. Wolff said: “I am not a fan of driver penalties – they look ridiculous.

“A McLaren going back 35 places feels odd. “We need a system that penalizes the driver less but still keeps an emphasis on not making the cost escalate. “We don’t want to bring a new power unit to every race, because this is not a sporting penalty.”

I am not sure that I agree with him regarding penalizing the driver less. I have said many times I do not believe the man behind the wheel should suffer for a lack of component reliability. Wolff continued.

“I have been here since 2009 and we have been talking about the same things all the time.”

Sadly that is the problem with F1 – everything takes so long to agree and implement, surely another issue in creating and retaining a younger fan base, the apparent objective of the new owners.

They say it is essential to utilise every new method of reaching a younger audience with the objective of ensuring the growth and sustainability of the sport and of course providing greater entertainment.

That has led to much more involvement with social media. The younger sector of this potential market has the ability to communicate at a much faster pace than we “oldies” ever experienced.

So how does the tortoise like decision making of the F1 world fit into this master plan? Your guess is as good as minebut issues within the sport that jeopardize the growth of the pending new market must surely be dealt with rapidly or that sector’s attention span will move on to pastures new.

So it is off to the USA in two weeks for the United States Grand Prix where we will watch as Carlos Sainz takes to the track for the first time in a Renault, following Palmer’s early departure from the French team.

Russian driver Daniil Kvyat will regain his seat at Toro Rosso alongside new team-mate Pierre Gasly.

There will be another new face at the Circuit of the Americas in Elroy, Texas, but this personality will not be on track but building a crescendo of excitement for the spectators, if recent reports are correct.

In an effort to, in the words of Sean Bratches commercial MD of Liberty Media, “build the entertainment factor in Formula One”, the services of Michael Buffer have been acquired.

If you are as baffled as I was, 72- year-old Buffer is the voice of boxing for the major bouts around the globe. He is enthusiastic about his new assignment, saying.

“Now is my time to introduce the world’s finest racing drivers with the energy and adrenaline they deserve before they fire up their engines and get ready to race.”

I trust he will not use his call of “Let’s get ready to rumble” – not a condition any team’s engine or tyre supplier would relish.

The FIA has granted permission for the pre-race event to begin 15 minutes earlier than normal, while Saturday’s qualifying will start later than usual.

Why? To bring it closer to the Justin Timberlake concert at the track.

All this is proudly brought to you by the innovators of those proposed microphones on exhaust pipes. Say no more.