It’s the start of the F1 season and Port Phillip mayor Bernadene Voss has been out encouraging Melbourne locals to complain about the noise and traffic the race brings to the fair suburb of Albert Park and environs.
“Noisier F1 engines this year will undoubtedly frustrate local residents further,” Voss told the Herald Sun. No need to worry, Bernie: the other Bernie, who actually runs the car race and has spies including former lord mayors who read this column, says the race is too boring to watch.
“I wouldn’t spend my money to take my family to watch a race. What’s the point when you pretty much know — and the bookmakers know and they’re not stupid — that Lewis Hamilton will put the car on pole and more likely than not win and the other Mercedes will be on the podium?” Bernie Ecclestone says. He also says Vladimir Putin should run Europe because he switches his own lights off.
But Ecclestone is right. As Jonathan Gitlin wrote in the Ars Technica blog last week: “Pirelli was intentionally contracted to supply tires that frankly aren’t any good, again under the false assumption that unpredictable tires would spice up the show. So the cars are slower than a decade ago, and now they’re quiet to boot.” The fans know it, too. Fewer people watch the racing and those who do are of the more mature variety. The cost of being in the sport is more out of control than usual and the cost of going to a race is just slightly less.
The bookies have Mercedes odds-on for the drivers’ and constructors’ championships this year. In testing at Barcelona Mercedes dominated with Seb Vettel’s Ferrari showing it could be serious on some circuits. Ferrari is at 5/1 with Red Bull out in the 20s and the tail-enders at 2500/1.
So far F1 hasn’t had too many good ideas on the boredom factor. This year qualifying will be different but that won’t change the race itself. Next year the cars will be heavier. I think Mercedes will actually be even stronger this season. Remember Ferrari dominated the sport for eight of the 10 years from 1999. The Red Bull went on a four-year run from 2010 and it looks like Mercedes will do the same.
Final word on the changes to the sport goes to Lou Hamilton, who knows a bit about it: “I don’t feel like it is going to change much, I hope it does, and surprises us, but generally the format is the same.”
Good to welcome to Melbourne another driver from our back yard. Indonesia’s Rio Haryanto will be sitting in the Manor Racing team car. Rio is the first F1 competitor from Indonesia and only the third from Asia. Alex Yoong drove for Minardi 15 years ago and you’ll all remember Thailand’s Prince Birabongse Bhanutej Bhanubandh, or Bira to his mates, who spent the early 1950s in F1. Bira had some success in a Maserati winning the 1955 New Zealand Grand Prix.
Like Bira, Rio had to pay to race. Manor wanted $20 million for a seat in the car and young Rio came up with it.
This is a shortened version of the article that appeared in The Australian. Click here to read the rest.