In his continuing campaign to prove he its the world’s dumbest octogenarian, Bernie Ecclestone has browbeaten the Formula One teams into reinstating a rule that was tried and promptly discarded just a season ago — standing starts after safety car periods. Is the idea intended to promote driver safety? No, absolutely not. A standing start is the most dangerous part of any race. The cars go slithering about, scrabbling for traction off the line and then funnel through the first turn at high speed within inches of each other. It is 5 seconds of sheer terror for the drivers. More cars get wrecked after a standing start than at any other time in a race.
Why do it, then? Simple. Bernie’s ongoing and ludicrous quest to “spice up the show.” Can’t we send this old fool out to pasture? Let him live out his days at the Home For Old Dictators along with his pal Max Mosely? Bernie, get a clue. If the racing was any good to start with, there would be no need to spice up the show.
As it is, Formula One has more in common with Roller Derby than with motor racing. Today’s Formula One is a pre-packaged, pre-chewed sports entertainment product designed for one thing and one thing only — extorting as many dollars as possible out of the pockets of fans, promoters, and sponsors for the glorification of a senile old potentate who thinks Winston Churchill is still the prime minister and England still has an empire.
Want proof? This weekend will mark the seventh consecutive season in which every Formula One fan knows weeks in advance which team will win. The only suspense is which driver will take the chackered flag first. Drivers circulate around cookie cutter tracks in cruise mode to save fuel, save tires, save engines and gearboxes because of the cockamamie rules package in place. They have to beg their teams for permission to turn up the power of their engines so they can actually race. But no, the current rules require the engines to last longer than a Chevrolet strove bolt six.
Drivers complain bitterly they cannot pass because aerodynamic turbulence from the car ahead makes it impossible to turn into corners with enough grip to make a pass stick. So what does Formula One do? It changes the rules to give the cars more downforce next year, which will make passing even harder. Even a two year old could figure out that what the sport really needs to spice up the show is more passing and that means less aero, not more.
Even a chihuahua could see the idiocy of Bernie’s new plan. During a standing start in the middle or a race, half the cars will start on pavement covered in rolled up rubber known in racing as “marbles.” If the race is wet, half the grid will start on wet pavement while the other half starts on dry — or at least drier — pavement. The whole plan is so ridiculous it defies belief.
Formula One fans were delirious with joy a short while ago when they thought Bernie was being tossed overboard by Liberty Media, the new owners of the commercial rights to the series. They delighted in the prospect that control of the sport would be in the hands of an actual adult like Ross Brawn rather than the age-addled synapses of Mr.E. But it was not to be. Bernie is set to stay at the helm for another three long years, doing his best to make a mockery of what was once the pinnacle of motorsport but is now little more than a burlesque show.
Want to spice things up, Bernie? A chimpanzee could tell you how to do it. The video below shows you what people want to see. If only we could tape your eyes open like in the movie A Clockwork Orange and force you to watch it for 24 hours. Maybe then you would understand that Formula One is about racing, not gimmicks.
Sadly, that idea is beyond Ecclestone’s ability to comprehend. If only the teams or Liberty Media had the courage to show him the exit door. Maybe then the sport would have a chance to return to its former glory. But as long as Bernie has his withered fingers on the tiller there is little chance of that happening.