Hockenheim

It’s a shame that a track – for some of a certain age – perhaps best known for the violent death of one of our greatest racers as he ran on the limit (Jim Clark – 1968) should now be associated with an event that demonstrates quite the opposite of true racing.

Team orders at this weekend’s German Grand Prix dictated that one driver – clearly in line for a win – should move over to let his team mate pass and be credited with the win he should have had.

Business and sport are uneasy bedfellows in Formula One. The true fan isn’t sufficiently naive to realise the sport can survive without business money. But business does seem to think it can behave in whatever way it likes.

As my colleague, F1 analyst Joe Saward put it so eloquently in his latest review of the race:

” For the average fan what is important is not just that they watch a straight fight between two competitors, but that the sport itself is portrayed in a good light. Fans are passionate about the sport, about its traditions and they want to be able to say that they are proud of it when challenged by some ping-pong freak or a follower of synchronised swimming.

“…what drives sports fans to spend their money on luxuries such as team memorabilia and very fast cars is not the result, but rather the way results are achieved. They will spend more if they feel an engagement with the team. If it makes them feel good.”

It’s the same feeling I got when Schumacher raced. Again – Joe makes the point which, although talking about Alonso, could easily be applied to Michael:

“There are two ways of winning: one can win in a functional sense and one can win in style…Winning was the goal and the route taken to get there was not important to him.”

It’s why I will never regard Michael as one of our greatest drivers, even though his ‘achievements’ on paper look impressive.

We all admire the skills of those at the top of their game. But we also like to be inspired. And the one thing that F1 isn’t doing at the moment – even though we’ve had the occasional joust and spin – is inspiring the next generation.

Business – take note. Inspired people spend money.

Oh, and by the way, when an engineer informs his driver that the other guy’s quicker, then that driver increases his pace, doesn’t he? He certainly doesn’t slow down and let the other driver by.

And if Mr Massa had led a Ferrari 1-2, the team would still have come away from the GP with 43 points.

Ditch Hermann and save F1

The deliciously witty crew at grandprixdiary.com have, as usual, put their fingers right on it. The latest generation of F1 venue may be OK for supermodels and sundry celebs, but Hermann Tilke‘s circuit design has killed racing.

And why does this guy get all the business anyway?

The list of contracts he’s won is impressive but it begs the question whether it is good for the sport for one architect to maintain such a grip on circuit design.

Bring back the old style of circuit, we say. You don’t need all this plastic frippery when all that’s required for proper F1 racing is a nice bit of tarmac, handy thermos and, in the words of Clive Bowen – Founding Director of Apex Circuit Design – a track that builds in confidence and grip for drivers just where they need it the most to make a pass.

In response to F1 writer Joe Saward’s analysis of the subject, Bowen suggests how we can get around the problem.

His three ways make a great deal of sense.

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