Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Bobsleighs humped by lawnmowers

Before his untimely death canonised him, Senna's realism was commonly called ruthlessness by everyone in the sport. To a certain extent it was: when he figured out that he would become champion if Prost could be removed from the track, he accomplished this by driving into Prost, thereby removing himself as well, but with the championship in the bag. He engineered the impact straight after doing the sums in his head, thus setting a bad precedent. Such behaviour brought formula one close to being a demolition derby, but it was a natural consequence of a team's readiness to back up its top man, even if his conscience-free behaviour was at the expense of its second man. More recently, tighter rules have made the deliberate shunt harder to pull off, but as with the professional foul in football, the spirit of the thing is hard to quench. (Clive James, The Guardian, 14th May 2002).

Sunday's Japanese Grand Prix was, by common consent, about as exciting as watching Astroturf grow. In fact, the curious placing of such synthetic turf beyond the kerbing at a number of Suzuka's corners transformed several small mistakes into several very large shunts, much like Lewis Hamilton's last-lap accident at Monza. Perhaps, then, Mr Ecclestone's next plan will be to introduce Astroturf at the apexes of the corners.

Such carnage is hardly a substitute for genuine racing, but as Clive James pointed out some years ago, "rarely does [Formula One] provide a thrilling spectacle. Apart from the occasional shunt, it mainly shows you a procession. But to the fan, the questions are endless, convoluted and enthralling."

It was James, of course, who unforgettably described Murray Walker as sounding, even in his calmest moments, like a man with his trousers on fire. Observing the World Championship finale at Estoril in 1984, James also noted that "the cars all look like a bobsleigh being humped by a lawnmower." It was an observation which sadly failed to appear in Autocourse 1984's Technical Analysis.

1984 did, however, possess the virtue of a Grand Prix calendar determined by the location of the great circuits, rather than one inspired by Marco Polo's travel itinerary. It was also a year free from deliberate shunts (?), but as James remarks, "the spirit of the thing is hard to quench."

There is currently a vacancy at the University of West England, Bristol, for a Senior Lecturer in Motorsport and Mechanical Engineering. Given the growing list of refugees from Formula One, the competition for this post may be stiff indeed.


Sean said...

Mansell senna spa paddock fist fight 1987, now that really was racing.

Anyways, i think that era was great because the drivers all had a very different driving styles, it made for great racing, (prost, senna, mansell, lauda, rosberg, piquet)

then came shoemaker and turned F1 into playstation racing, and all the other drivers instead of trying to be different tried to copy him.

we now are heading back to a better racing with Hamilton As Senna, Vetell is Piquet, and Alonso is Lauda, Button is Prost.
The racing styles are one again very different?

All we need is to get the South African GP back at Kyalami. And a US GP a Laguna Seca would be good.

Gordon McCabe said...

They built a bloody housing estate on most of the old Kyalami! Remember, F1 went back to the new, insipid Kyalami in 1992/1993.

US Grand Prix West at Laguna would be a good idea, with the US Grand Prix East back at Watkins Glen.

And the Australian Grand Prix should be at Bathurst, but without that silly chicane down Conrod straight.

Sean said...

No SA is off, I forgot, I want the salami with the massive down hill straight. ( Tom Pryce was killed by his helmet btw not the circuit)

SO you are suggesting going back to Watkins glen for the esat GP? now that really is old school.

I was reading about Bathurst today, they have apparently introduced a booze limit this year to try and deal with the "hooliganism". But I agree the Ozzie GP definitively needs the odd kangaroo running across the track.