The 2008 Formula 1 season is well underway and with seven races already in the bag, there are several trends already beginning to show. We take a look at what’s been up, who’s been down and why Adrian Sutil is terribly unlucky.
Traction Control (TC) is an electronic mechanism that stops the car tyres from excessively wheelspinning under heavy acceleration. The FIA (F1’s governing authority) decided to ban TC with effect from 2008 in an attempt to make the racing more driver dependent than on electronic driver assists. The lack of traction control has meant that drivers have had to change their driving styles to suit this lack of car control. In the season so far, we’ve seen several drivers fall prey to the hands of careless acceleration out of corners. In the race at Monaco, there was some water on the track and that made the racing even more difficult. Drivers like Nelson Piquet Jr and even seasoned Monaco pros like Jarno Trulli were caught out by a combination of the slippery surface and the lack of electronic grip that TC provided. But the ban on Traction Control has not been all bad. For viewers, it’s been spectacular. We’ve seen some awesome overtaking maneuvers and some spectacular crashes on the way to the mid-season mark. The Turkish Grand Prix was a great example of how drivers used effective acceleration to overtake other cars.
The first six races of the season were evenly distributed between Lewis Hamilton, Kimi Raikkonen and Felipe Massa. Obviously this put Ferrari in a comfy position at the top of the constructor’s championship. But then, Canada happened. The Canadian Grand Prix saw poor luck befall all the three driver’s mentioned and we were entertained with BMW’s first every win as a full works outfit. The 1-2 that BMW achieved at Canada was significant for more than one reason. First of all, it proved that any error by Ferrari or McLaren is going to be BMW’s benefit. This has been BMW’s game plan for a long time now. BMW is clearly the third fastest team on the grid. So every time that one of the top four makes a mistake, a BMW is there to pick up a lucky podium spot. The season has been pretty unpredictable till now. Every race has seen some drama and given the way the results have been going, the season is pretty open. Though both Ferrari and McLaren are the clear favourites, it’s anyone’s folly to dismiss the chances of BMW and even Fernando Alonso.
The Force India team has had a torrid season so far. Currently, they are the only team in the championship to have a zero against their name in the points standings. With the Super Aguri not taking part in any more races, they also have the ignominy of being the slowest team on the grid. Does this mean that all Vijay Mallya’s money and hype has been wasted? In Formula 1, there’s always two ways of looking at these things. There’s the short term view which is something the current avatar of Force India has been well accustomed to dealing with. From Jordan to Spyker to Midland to Force India, all in the span of three short years. New managements has meant that there has been no proper focus given to developing the car. Which brings us to the long term view something that Vijay Mallya seems keen to focus on. Mallya’s goal is a podium place in the hotly debated Indian Grand Prix in 2010. Now this is a steep ask even though we’re talking two whole years of development. But Mallya seems to have the right idea with this team. Sure, the Bangalore Royal Challengers sucked, but when it comes to F1, he’s generally has his head in the right place. Only time will tell, though, if that will translate to points in 2008.
THE BOTTOM HALF
There are several drivers who’ve not really had a great time this season. Most of the fault lies with themselves, but poor luck hasn’t helped their cause either. The foremost amongst these offenders is Nelson Piquet Jr, also the driver most likely to be replaced before the end of the season. If Lewis Hamilton pushed Fernando Alonso the most any teammate could, then Nelson Piquet is basically a stationary car on the grid. The only mid-field driver with no points to his name, the Brazilian is becoming a thorn in Renault’s neck and a pain in Flavio Briatore’s butt. The number of driver errors that Piquet Jr has had increases with every race. If he is not replaced at Renault, where Fernando Alonso is pushing his car to the limit race after race, then this writer will be very surprised. Among the other offenders are the two Force India drivers. Both Giancarlo Fisichella and Adrian Sutil haven’t shown any sheen, except for Sutil’s fortuitous fourth place (also, not so fortuitous) in Monaco. Adrian Sutil promised much when he first burst onto the F1 scene, but his current form with Force India has been dismal. Fisico too hasn’t displayed any spark and for all his experience, really needs to start getting some results.
The FIA boss was embroiled in a major sex scandal over the summer and the result has been unanimous calls for his head. All the teams and even some circuit owners have been avoiding any contact with Mosley, leading to jokes around the paddock about the employment of ‘Mosley Spotters’! However, despite all the controversy and the obvious contempt that many important parties display vocally against him, the extraordinary general body meeting of the FIA held in early June to decide the fate of Mosley was a complete shock. Mosley won the vote of confidence by a comfortable margin cementing his place as the head of the FIA. What this means is that Mosley remains the face of the FIA until a new president is elected when the time comes. But given the outcry against him, if Mosley doesn’t resign his position before the end of the year, it will be very surprising.
WORDS: ARJUN S. RAVI