The Engineering Paradox in Formula 1
Formula 1 has always aimed to be the pinnacle of automotive technology, but that could possibly hurting the sport.
There is no denying that what the 12-time consecutive World Champions (6 Constructor, 6 Driver's) Mercedes-Benz AMG Petronas Formula 1 team have achieved is nothing short of extraordinary. Throughout the hybrid era of Formula 1 (2014 - ), the Brackley-based écurie has had such a dominant car, they've not had any real competition in the field--not even from the likes of their closest rivals Aston Martin Red Bull Racing or the Scuderia Ferrari racing teams. In 2020 however, the performance gap seems to have widened even further, with Ferrari's Charles LeClerc stating that their car is "extremely hard to drive" and Red Bull's Max Verstappen win in the 70th Anniversary Grand Prix being the only non-Mercedes win yet, this season. Until now.
I started watching the Italian GP at 8:00 AM this morning (living in the United States), eyes half-shut, not expecting much. Indeed, I was about to shut off the race after the first 15 laps or so because there was just no action whatsoever. By lap 20 however, Magnussen's break-down followed by the safety car made me open my eyes a bit more. I was just expecting a series of pit-stops, but at least the ordering would have changed and the field would have been closer together again. However, at that very moment, Martin Brundle mentioned a team error and possible penalty for Lewis Hamilton. Now, it pains me to write this because I have such an enormous amount of respect for Hamilton, but I was suddenly very excited. The dominance of Mercedes and especially Hamilton was so massive that it sometimes seemed the only way we got a more diversified result (hence, more exciting race), was for Hamilton to be penalized or DNF. Then, LeClerc crashed, causing a Red Flag. Now I was fully awake, very excited for the sequel, but most importantly, tremendously relieved to see the Monegasque was unharmed.
What happened next, I won't even summarize, mostly because I can't find the words to express the thrill I felt of being an F1 fan again. The unpredictability, the "unusual" young race leaders, the under-dog teams leading the pack--it had it all. This race reminded me what it felt like to watch racing at its very finest; it reminded me of Sebastian Vettel's win with Toro Rosso back in 2008; it reminded me of what Formula 1 was all about. It's incredible to see the the amount of work and engineering that goes into making the best racing machines possible, which Mercedes have most certainly achieved, but at the end of the day, when a team is so far ahead of the others, it becomes a bit repetitive, even boring. In short, Formula 1 is at its best when it becomes a Driver's championship, rather than a Constructor's--this, I fear, is what has been taken away from the sport due to Mercedes' engineering brilliance during the Hybrid Era. I, for one, am glad I did not turn off the race. I haven't enjoyed a race this much since the Mercedes duel in the desert between Hamilton and Rosberg back in Bahrain of 2014, even though it arised from a series of unlikely events.
Perhaps Ted Kravitz and the gentlemen at Sky Sports are correct: maybe we should implement reverse qualifying in Formula 1? What do you think?
A massive congratulations to Pierre Gasly, the entire Scuderia Alpha Tauri Formula One Team. You deserve this win and so much more!