Monday, 13 June 2011

It's Health and Safety Gone Mad!

I'm hoping most of my readership would have seen the thriller of a race which we were treated to yesterday. If not, go to the BBC iPlayer right now and watch it. I promise you won't be disappointed.

I think I spent more time watching F1 than any other point in my past. The BBC's coverage started at 5, and at 10:30 I was still sat in my Red Bull shirt and hat watching it. No, the F1 Forum didn't go on for an exceptionally long time, but the rain meant that we had a whole two hours mid-race where nothing was happening. Congratulations to David Coulthard and Martin Brundle for keeping us entertained for that long while the cars were sat stationary underneath their covers. If you're new to F1 you might be wondering why a bit of rain halted play for so long. Well, it's all a question of safety. It's common sense that you don't want drivers going around a circuit at high speed when the track has absolutely no grip, and when the walls could mean a driver is injured should they push too hard during these states. It's also no good to make the drivers just go slower - F1 cars are designed to operate at high speeds, so while other forms of racing could just take things a bit easier in the wet this isn't the best option for F1. So, yesterday's racing was interrupted for perhaps the longest period I can remember.

Now, there's a lot of debate whether this was the right thing to do or not. We haven't had a single wet race this season - something which has kind of disappointed me as I love watching wet races (however, the Nurburgring has to stay dry for my sake when I'll be staying in a tent). We all knew that Montreal carried the risk of rain, and so on Sunday when it was rainy I'm sure a lot of fans thought that we were in for a brilliant start. However, the race started behind the safety car. This was an interesting move - we've seen races previously where conditions have been worse and the cars were allowed to start as usual. The general consensus was that race control pre-empted incidents, and so were keen to prevent anything from happening. This is a smart move on one hand - injuries and risks are kept to a minimum. However, this isn't racing. If conditions were so bad that the race took place behind a safety car I would have preferred them not to start it at all and wait for the circuit to improve. Eventually though the safety car went in and we got around ten laps of actual racing.

During this time it has to be said that Lewis Hamilton had an absolute shocker. He overtook Mark Webber and sent him spinning, he went to overtake his team mate Jenson Button and the two ended up colliding. This eventually led to him stopping on track as his suspension suffered damage. Because of Lewis's stop on track, we got yet another safety car, and eventually the race was red flagged due to the weather. You have to wonder about Lewis Hamilton this year. He's being much more aggressive and punchy with his overtaking, as if expecting people just to make way for him. I respect that he's a racing driver at heart, however at the moment he seems to struggle to stay out of trouble. Whether it's due to frustration or not I don't know, but I think that he has to get his act together a little bit more, get his head down and return to the old Lewis of a few years ago - the supreme racer, not the bumper car King.

The two hours of waiting for the race to restart after the red flags was agony for the fans. We were all expecting that the race would be called off, as in Malaysia a few years ago. However, race control assured everyone that the race would not be cancelled until it got dark. Unfortunately for UK viewers, this could have been any time up until the very late night and so people began to speculate whether coverage would continue. Luckily, the rain eased up and the race was restarted under the safety car.

Once the safety car went in (after what was quite an extended period I felt - you have to wonder whether Bernd Maylander was getting his money's worth or whether it was a real issue of safety or not) we were treated to some awesome racing. The final five laps were perhaps the best I've seen all year. Michael Schumacher managed a commendable fourth place, and was even in with a shot at the podium. This was to my immense delight, as I now feel the media can stop with the endless torrent of criticism that has been facing Michael all year. While Michael Schumacher was easily going to be my driver of the day, Jenson Button changed all that. After one of many safety car periods Jenson was running stone dead last, and nobody thought that Vettel could be caught at the front (indeed, Sebastian seems to be king of the restarts this year). However, Jenson came through the field and eventually caught Sebastian on the very last part of the final lap in what was some beautiful driving. It was definitely his best career win, and as much as I admire Sebastian and congratulate him for leading all but half a lap of the race I have to say that Jenson deserved that win.

undriveable then bring the safety car out or stop the race. If a circuit is too wet to drive on then simply don't start the race at all. I loved the race yesterday, but I feel cheated of a proper start. Whether this happens again remains to be seen at the next wet race. So long as the Nurburgring is dry, I await the next one with bated breath.