GRAND PRIX : Abu Dhabi : The Mercs Rumble On

Posted on December 18, 2015.

Rosberg (left) again made good use of his pole poistion
The winner looks happy, the other two look as though they've been on something...
Is this one of the dullest tracks ever?
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Report by Winston D’Arcy

It’s not often these days I find the time to write a Grand Prix report, so a special thanks to the editor for allowing me one of my irregular appearances.

And he would have to give me a dull race at a dull circuit to write about…

No matter what, I cannot think of the slightest reason why this circuit exists – other than the obvious one that someone lobbed huge amounts of money at getting a Grand Prix. The yachts tied up look lovely, the fixed-grin girls on them slightly less lovely, but the rest of it is a Holiday Inn with a large car park. I cannot believe I was watching the same race series as the one that swoops around Spa or Suzuka. Even the emasculated Silverstone is heaven compared to this bit of neon real estate.

As far as anticipation was concerned about the only thing that came to mind was which Merc would win (yawn). There was no other excitement to look forward to. Did it really matter whether the increasingly irritating Hamilton would win or his team mate, who can be equally irritating when things don’t go his way? Which they have certainly done over the last couple of races in which he put a couple over the Brit, giving the latter something to ponder about during the winter break while he raps with his mates.

Ferrari had every reason to look forward to another good result provided they could keep the Williams’ at bay, and the rest would follow the usual pattern already established over the season.

As I said, not much excitement, really; and this is supposed to be the World pinnacle of motor racing. Give me a winter clubbie at Brands any day.

Before the meeting got going the financial woes of the industry popped over the parapet again when Lotus couldn’t pay for the freight of their equipment and Bernie had to bail them out so their equipment would be released. He’s still arguing with Renault over how much they should be given by way of guaranteed ‘historical’ income and in the meantime they are making him sweat. I pity the Lotus staff, many of whom have already gone, whose salaries are often late and who don’t have a secure job with which to pay their mortgages. And to cap the fantasy world of F1, Lotus CEO Mathew Carter has since said that ” [Renault] are picking up a business that is in pretty good shape financially.” Oh really? So why were they repeatedly in a creditors court?

Anyway, back to the track.

The two Mercs shared all the practice and qualifying sessions between them, in some order or the other, with the Ferraris behind and, surprisingly, Force India financial contributor Sergio Perez who has not shone much this season. He put it fourth on the grid, with Raikkonen only just ahead of him. And where was Vettel? Well, unfortunately in one of those Italian moments, the team got the tyre choice completely wrong in Q1 and he never got any further… Not a great start.

Speaking of which, Rosberg made good use of his pole, shot away from the start and that was the race done. Hamilton had a go at an alternative strategy but such is the precision of computer-controlled GPs that there was nothing that could be re-calculated. Rosberg simply drove quicker and that was the end of the story at the front.

Raikkonen for once kept it all together and easily pulled away from Perez but fell away from the Mercs. Vettel, however, had an exciting time. From 15th on the grid he ran a much longer first stint than anyone else which actually got him up into 2nd place on lap 13, then after his late pit stop he had to catch and pass some fairly quick runners like Ricciardo and Perez, and also got ahead of Kimi because of the out-of-kilter pit stops. Twice he had to let his team mate through again but still finished fourth with Kimi in third.

What happened behind was lost in the dullness of it all…

So, there we have the race. Mercs 1 and 2, Raikkonen in third which meant that he kept his fourth in the championship ahead of Bottas, and Vettel fourth.

Where the whole shooting match as an industry goes from here is anyone’s guess. The few rich teams at the front obviously want to keep their vast richness, the rest are just struggling, and the disparity is getting noticeably bigger. Although he has made no friends with his strategy, when someone like Dieter Mateschitz cannot buy an effective engine because his rivals control the engine market then there really is something seriously wrong with the whole set-up, and it seems rich territory for the EU investigation called for by Force India and Sauber. The FIA, as the supposed controlling body, seems to have abdicated all responsibility for anything.

What would I do? Chuck the entire F1 apparatus out complete with its unfathomable technology and bloated ownership structure, and put 30 of the World’s best drivers (I know who they are, and so do they, and it does not include many current F1 drivers) and put them all in GP2 (nee F3000) cars which sound brilliant, slide around, and have hungry drivers in them. At a stroke, costs would be decimated, new teams could easily join in, and we would have fantastic wheel-to-wheel racing.

There, I’ve finally said it.

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