Friday, 14 March 2014

Formula One's step into the unknown

F1 Malaysian GP
It seems like only yesterday that Sebastian Vettel was crossing the line at the Brazilian Grand Prix to take his ninth straight victory and put the final seal on a season which, let’s face it, was pretty fucking dull. Well it’s back!

And like The Beatles song of the same name, ‘yesterday’ was when Vettel’s problems were so far away. Indeed, for the time being at least, it looks as though they’re here to stay.

Why? Well, the reasons are boring and technical and, more importantly, I don’t understand half of them myself. Therefore, it would be a bit embarrassing for a Formula One ‘expert’ to not know shit about the biggest changes seen in the sport in a generation. But it should make for an exciting year, and that’s just on the track.

Off the track, Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone remains dogged by bribery charges and other business naughties. Yes, naughties. Basically, he undervalued the price of Formula One in a sale to a broadcaster in order to maintain control of the sport. Or something, I don’t really care. What I do know is that Ecclestone DOES know how to run the sport, but does NOT know how to work a revolving door. (Look it up, you won't be sorry.)

Fittingly, a revolving door would probably best describe the driver changes that have gone on during the off-season, with drivers flocking from one team to the next with less commitment than Kim Kardashian at a speed-dating event. Kimi Raikkonen returns to Ferrari, Felipe Massa has joined Williams, and a young Dane called Kevin Magnussen has joined Jenson Button at McLaren.

As for Red Bull, they have seen Mark Webber replaced by friendly Australian Daniel Ricciardo. The theory clearly being that Vettel works best with Aussie drivers who are good, but not great.

As it happens, Ricciardo has some differences to Webber, including a kind of permanent, happy-go-lucky smile. Not in a creepy way, more in a ‘I can’t believe I lucked into the best car in the world, only for it to turn crap’ kind of way …a bit like winning the lottery with a ticket made of melting chocolate. Either way, it's in stark contrast to Webber's 'everyone around me is a total wanker, but I'll humour them for a while' persona.

Red Bull have struggled to get to grips with the major regulation changes which have been put in place over the winter and, in spite of being four-time World champions, they look set to begin the season at the back of the grid. This has apparently made Vettel a little grumpy. This is understandable, but at the same, it’s highly amusing and refreshing.

At the front are likely to be Mercedes, including earring-wearing, worldy-dating, cliché-spouting Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg, who has great hair. The German team excelled during testing in terms of both speed and reliability. Expect them to be on the front row in Australia, or at least close to it. Of course, I say that, but expect nothing, I have no idea what is going to happen. It could be like Whacky Races, with Fernando Alonso taking the place of Dick Dastardly.

Heading back to off-track matters, seven-time World champion Michael Schumacher remains, at time of writing, in a medically-induced coma but is apparently showing signs of recovery. Whatever you thought of him as a driver, we should all be united in our hope that he recovers as soon as possible.

Schumacher was at the forefront of Formula One’s most boring era, when he would only have to look at his Ferrari and it would win him races. Hopefully, he wakes up in time to witness the start of what could be the most unpredictable Formula One season ever.

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