As the pit lane reporter for F1, Will Buxton is granted basically unlimited access to a world of which most people dream. He can, as he did with Mark Webber prior to yesterday's race, interrupt a meeting between a team principal and a star driver. He didn't get punched in the face. He didn't get kicked out by an overgrown HGH-riddled, man-beast security guard wearing wrap around sunglasses and a bike chain for a necklace. He was simply welcomed. Sure it's his job and the team owners/principals most likely know that he is just as integral to their team as the man who changes the left rear tire but people seem genuinely excited to speak with him. It's therefore telling when a man with that much access and accrued information calls yesterday's race a game changer for F1.
Buxton was talking about Ferrari's dominant (and ultimately victorious strategy) of not giving a flying fuck about tire degradation. According to Buxton, the team built Fernando Alonso's car to accommodate for tire wear and that's ultimately why the car was the best on the field. The announcing crew chuckled as if what Ferrari did was so obvious that it was ridiculous that other teams did not do the same. Some dismissively snippy comment about drivers whining about tire degradation followed.
This is absolutely terrible for F1.
The drivers and technology have gotten so good that the sport is now less about the athletic and skillful act of driving than it is about overcoming technical bottlenecks imposed by the FIA to slow down those drivers with their technology. Of course the FIA has always tried to slow drivers down but never before have the restrictions imposed upon teams been so overwhelming. Now, as evidenced by the alarming number of rubber bits left on the tracks after every race, teams are outfitted with a substandard part in a speed control effort. The number of tire blowouts and delaminations is accordingly astounding.
Alonso's strategy will demonstrate to the FIA that technology caught up with the tire problem. Next year's tires will be worse. More delaminations. More blowouts. More potential danger on the track from an uncontrollable car.
Pirelli can make a tire that lasts the whole race, they've said almost exactly those words. No one wants that; tire changes and pit stops are an important part of the sport. However the current line up, and the general attitude of the FIA towards speed that this tire plan demonstrates, is ludicrous.
The FIA must embrace speed. Technology now enables stock production cars to travel at speeds unapproachable by the modern F1 vehicle. Formula One was the pinnacle of the modern car. They were the fastest, most technologically able, most advanced wheeled vehicles available. This is no longer the case.
Look back in Formula One history and you'll find a long list of drivers injured or killed in high speed crashes. The obvious solution to this problem, and the one that the FIA has taken, is to curb speed to within safe operating limits while still maintaining excitement.
This is inherently incorrect.
The FIA must look to driver safety and apply the same level of thinking that pioneered the DRS, KERS and ground effects to ensure that drivers are safe at any speed. Tracks need to be tight and twisty to make an exciting race but why must they rely on archaic systems to protect their drivers? The Formula One season is lousy with courses that depend on gravel traps and walls made of old road tires to protect drivers and fans. The discrepancy in advancement between the cars and the tracks they race on is absolutely laughable.
This must change. There must be a better way. Formula One needs to represent the best automotive engineering and design that humanity can dream up. The teams and brilliant minds behind existing cars aren't at fault for this methodology. It's the paradigm of the relatively Luddite governing body which must alter. Formula One has felt calculated and cold of late due largely to the FIA's restrictions. Drivers should be encouraged to take obscene risks in machines that reflect true progress while knowing that, should something go wrong, they'll walk away.
Oh and before you say, "THE PHYSICS!!!! THERE'S SO MUCH MASS!!! IT'S IMPOSSIBLE TO STOP IT SAFELY!!!" remember that a man walked on the moon almost 45 years ago for the first time, polio basically doesn't exist anymore, you probably have a smartphone and you definitely use that smartphone to access the GODDAMN INTERNET. So I call bullshit on your premise. Think outside the box. *mic drop*
Thanks to the Daily Mail, the Infiniti Media Centre, 100Sports.it and Formula1.com for the images.