GRAND PRIX : Brazil : Has Formula 1 Lost Its Way?

Posted on November 17, 2015.

The McLaren bloke with the 'tache keeps Lewis and Nico apart
Above it all, Seb enjoys another podium
F1 got itself into a right tangle with whom to remember
Surely one of the best images from the '15 season

Report by Jack Target

At this moment in time the easiest job in Formula 1 must be those who are currently writing the  reviews of the 2015 season.

Not only has this season been almost a cut and paste from last year, they have had more time to finish the bulk of the work before their deadline on books and documentaries. Right in time for Christmas!

The last few races of this year have become a bit of an exhibition. A world tour after-party if you will. Since Lewis Hamilton secured his third title in Austin  most fans would have switched off for the rest of the season. I asked a friend of mine halfway through the race on Sunday what he thought about the action (or lack thereof). He replied ‘I haven’t watched it since US GP. The season is over’.

It is a problem Formula 1 has at the moment because by the end of the season, if the championship has been won early, there is now less to race for. Most seats for next year have been filled, most drivers will still be paid a stupendous amount of money and the teams are already looking to next season.

I would love to be able to write a piece like many of the others I have done this season, deconstructing the race and what it means to each driver and team. I would love to argue that although the season may be over in most people’s eyes it really isn’t and there are places and points to be won. But I would be lying and doing you a disservice as a reader.

As a reader of this article you most likely would have either watched the race or at the very least seen highlights and read the main report online on other websites like the BBC, Sky Sports or any news outlet. You are clued up on F1 and have come for something different, ideally with a more detailed view on Ferrari. However it is very difficult to write such an article on what seemed like an exhibition race.

As fun as it was to see the McLaren drivers have fun in the sun and on the podium after going out early in qualifying again, it summed up what kind of weekend it was going to be. As for the rest of qualifying, well most people could have written their prediction down before hand and would have been right. It was just a matter of how Kimi Raikkonen would do against the Williams and which Mercedes would start in P1.

Usually by the end of a race I will have a page full of notes. However this week as the laps racked up I contemplated what on earth I was going to write about. Can anyone remember what happened that was memorable in this race? Lewis got close to Nico Rosberg a couple of times. Oh and there was an interesting battle for…12th place. Again Max Verstappen did his best to spark some life into the race and got people excited. However this is the normal behavior for a racing driver as young as he is. He will drive with the mentality that every race is a fight due to his age and inexperience. It is exciting for now, but you can imagine this could be beaten out of him as he continues his rise through the sport.

I think we would expect this kind of race on the last weekend, but something did not feel right watching it happen with a race to spare and also at one of the most historic tracks on the circuit. It almost felt disrespectful. It was like England playing an International match at Wembley Stadium against a tiny nation. Such a big occasion at a grand venue that has been reduced to practically pointless. You can’t blame Hamilton or Mercedes for winning the way they did; they are clearly leaps and bounds above everyone else. It is the fact that once the title has been won, and sometimes earlier, all thoughts go to next year. Drivers aren’t really racing for seats next season, the majority of them have been filled already, even by the new team entering next season. So with job security pretty much guaranteed and minimal differences in the standings to be settled, the last few races have been and will be reduced to testing sessions. A glorified qualifying session and an attempt to perfect the art of car management. It was no surprise to see the top five drivers this season finish in the top five in this race.

Once again we are asking the same questions. Has Formula 1 lost its way? It is hard to see an improvement in wheel to wheel action with more races on the calendar and another team on the grid next season. This excuses having the odd poor result as there are plenty of other opportunities to make amends elsewhere. Could someone just please tell Bernie that less is more.

I would be quite understanding and happy if we saw further down the track some interesting battles between teams who put everything on the line and want to improve to one day challenge the big boys or drivers who want to gain seats in better cars. But it is all rather pedestrian.

Focus has now shifted to 2016 and it looks like we may get a bit of a challenge as Vettel and the Ferrari’s continue to close the gap on the Mercedes (there you go Ferrari faithful, thanks for sticking with me). But would any of us be surprised to see the following happen? (WARNING: potential spoiler) Either Hamilton, Rosberg or Vettel will win the title next year. They will do it through good and consistent qualifying, turning P1 into a win with a good drive, or gaining 1st place in the first corner or through pit strategies. Whoever does that the most amount of times will win the title. The standings will look exciting but the races and in race battles will not be.

The actual problems with F1 as it falls further behind in the TV viewings and column inches is a debate for another time. This is after all meant to be a report on the weekend’s grand prix. However there are only so many ways you can write ‘The Mercedes pair dominated, Ferrari were close behind, some plucky youngsters did well further back and oh poor McLaren’.

I really hope this is the worst of it but the fact a race like that was churned out at the famous and prestigious Interlagos just summed up what is wrong with F1 at the moment. If something doesn’t change with the culture within the sport, it will fall behind firstly other sports then other motorsports like the Moto GP or even Formula E, which seems to be the future of F1.

Abu Dhabi awaits in two weeks to put an end to a season brilliantly won by Hamilton. Hopefully the race will give fans something to debate and be excited about when we go again in 2016.

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