Columns 15.3.2014 10:05 am

F1 glory days are long gone

Jon Swift

Jon Swift

You either like Formula One, or loathe it as just another device to waste fossil fuel and television airtime.

But even if you fall into the latter category, the fuss that has greeted the changes to the ethos of what almost unbelievably continues to be classified as a sport, have been unheralded.

Gone are the noisy 2.4 litre V8 monsters of yesteryear, replaced by a turbocharged V6 which has been scaled down to 1.6 litres and incorporates a technologically advanced gadget called an Energy Recovery System – known by the obvious acronym ERS – which is supposed to boost power output by recycling the machine’s in-board energy during the race.

All a bit hi-tech for the robot racers in their Toyotas bedaubed with go-faster stripes and discount mag wheels, who wear flea market shirts festooned with the sponsors of their favourite team.

But the order is to change this year. Really. Who cares, except perhaps Germany’s Sebastian Vettel, who has driven a car named after an energy drink to four consecutive world championships and is now – say the petrol heads – in danger of being an also-ran this season. That would be a welcome change after last season’s procession of races, where most of the field had little else to do but stare at Vettel’s rapidly disappearing tailpipes. Even the most ardent Formula One fans would surely have had to admit that it doesn’t get more boring than that.

The raw business of one-seater motor racing had it’s birth in the inaugural world championship in 1950 – won, incidentally, by Italian Guiseppe Farina and not, as many would imagine, the immaculate Argentinean Juan Manuel Fangio.

Back then you fired it up, let out the clutch and really raced. It was a highly dangerous era – as a staggering list of driver fatalities would attest to – but there was passion and real competition involved. These were men wearing polo shirts, leather helmets and Biggles goggles, sitting high off the ground on biscuit tyres, really fighting it out.

But add half a century, the marketing men and computers doing the design and thinking, and Formula One has become like every other bloated business, geared only to accumulating more gold.

The whole circus gets under way again at Albert Park in Australia tomorrow and, somehow, you get the feeling that the tiger has been de-clawed.

 

 

 

 

 

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