Last year, the Formula 1 season had a shaky start and certainly did not end well. The start of the season was dominated by concern that the new engine formula, despite being exactly what the major car manufacturers wanted, was wrong for the sport. Too quiet, too complicated and too costly for smaller teams. Mercedes quickly emerged as having the best engine, and problems with the relationship between Red Bull and their engine supplier Renault were obvious.
Following Bianchi’s tragic crash in Japan, things continued to get worse for the small and large teams alike – Ferrari nearly imploded under the weight of political intrigue and backstabbing, Sauber, Lotus and Force India struggled for cash, and Caterham and Marussia were plunged into failure.
Now here we are in the 2015 season, and it’s more of the same. Red Bull is making serious noises about leaving the sport. This would NOT result in Red Bull Racing and Toro Rosso disappearing from the grid, but would result in new ownership and more upheaval for those teams. The uncertainty must make it hard for those teams to attract and retain talented engineers. Meanwhile Renault is beginning to blame its failure to catch up with Mercedes on ‘meddling’ by Red Bull staffers who it feels are putting undue pressure on the Renault guys and disrupting their workflow.
One good news story (Marussia coming back to the series, renamed Manor racing) turned into a bad news story when it turned out their software didn’t work and they were unable to turn a wheel in Melbourne. Bernie Ecclestone is clearly not a fan and I foresee hard times for the team if they fail to compete in Malaysia.
A bad news story (Sauber and Giedo Van Der Garde court cases) turned into a good news story when the team put its improved Ferrari engine to good use and got a great haul of points with its new drivers. The good news continued as Sauber and Giedo settled yesterday. Giedo released a heartfelt statement about the affair on his Facebook page which is well worth reading. I wish him well in the years ahead. Then, a few hours later Sauber managed to turn the story back into a bad news trip for them, by issuing an incredibly dumb and mean spirited statement. It too is worth a read, assuming the team hasn’t taken it down yet.
Another good news story for fans of the red cars comes with Ferrari’s new main man Maurizio Arrivabene. He is a lot of fun, and seems to be a safe and inspirational pair of hands to lead the team back to success. Their 2015 car and engine are both working well and delivered a solid podium finish for Vettel on his first race with the Italian team.
Back to the bad news camp, and over at McLaren, so far their renewed partnership with Honda has been a disaster. First Alonso has a bizarre and so far unexplained accident, which put him out for Australia, then the engine proved incapable of holding on for a race distance, and also appears seriously underpowered on the energy recovery side of things. This led to disastrous last place qualifying spots, almost as far behind the lead car as Virgin Racing (now Manor) were on their debut. Add to that the almost complete lack of sponsors, and they played the part of the backmarker very well, which is ironic for one of the most corporate and best funded race teams on the planet. I wouldn’t like to be Eric Boullier’s personal physician, as I think his stress levels at the end of Quali 3 were off the scale! Alonso won’t want to hurry back to that car…
Meanwhile Bernie continues to dismantle the sport from within. He seems to want to kill manor before they’ve even turned a wheel (even though Australia saw just 15 cars start the race) and has also managed to make the sport so financially ruinous for race promoters (you know, the guys who bust a gut to invest in state of the art race tracks and put on a great show for the fans) that the German Grand Prix has fallen off the calendar.
Thank goodness that Mercedes continues to be sublime. Delivering a great car, a great engine, and some nice characters to entertain us. Good job guys.
I will keep watching for sure, after all it’s still the world’s number 1 open wheel racing circus. If you want great racing without the back room dramas, check out Formula E – which just had a great Miami race (complete with Baltimore style track building excitement). Formula E races next in Long Beach – but that is a post for another day!
Oh, and can’t wait for St Pete, even though Honda is certain to qualify last there too (I’m not going to name names but you know…) at least they’ll have people further up the grid as well.