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Sports Articles: Formula 1: Qatar Talking Points

Formula 1: Qatar Talking Points
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Formula 1: Things To Think About After Qatar

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1. Fair Racing?

The mess made in the Brazilian GP by the stewards bizarre decision to not punish Verstappen for what was clearly well outside the bounds of what was set out as 'fair racing' has left the drivers unsure of what is allowed and what is not. It is one thing for them not to punish Verstappen at the time, but to then refuse to accept that the in-car footage changed anything just comes across as the FIA favouring Verstappen. It has felt all season that they were looking to break Mercedes' stranglehold on the title with some of the decisions given, but the Brazilian GP and the harsh penalties given for Hamilton's broken wing and then the soft penalty of a fine given to Verstappen for breaching parc ferme rules made it look clear and obvious. Even VAR would have wanted to look at those penalties again!

If this was saloon car racing, with its much lower speeds and drivers inside a car, rather than open wheel, open cockpit racing at high speed, you would have no problem with them racing like that. The risk to life and limb are much lower in those formula, but in F1 it is too quick and too dangerous to let a driver just drive another off the road deliberately to save his place at a speed that would be well above the speed limit on a British motorway.

Even if you take the risk element out of it in terms of life, for a driver looking to make an overtake the risk of being forced off the track and crashing out of the race has been increased massively by this decision. It reduces the chance of them actually even looking to make overtakes in any place that they are not going to clear their opponent easily. In a sport where the main issue they have been trying to address is bringing more overtaking action into the races, that seems like a major own goal.


2. Red Bull Whines

Am I the only one who is bored of hearing Red Bull constantly whine about everything? When they were the best team, they whined that everyone was accusing them of cheating. Now they just whine that others are cheating. Even though the flexi-wing which caused their fluttering wing (which adversely affected them initially in Qatar) was their invention anyway. It just seems they are complaining that they are not the only ones allowed to bend the rules, and wings. All they have to do is put in an official complaint if they think someone is cheating, then let the FIA deal with it. This constant whinging to the media is tiresome and turns people against them. Personally I love to see them fail because of it.


3. Qatar

Should they even have a race in Qatar considering its ongoing human rights abuses towards migrant workers? A similar question mark hangs over Saudi Arabia and, to a lesser degree, the UAE, it must be said. There seems to be three schools of thought on it. Firstly there are those that just could not care less as it does not affect them personally. Secondly there are the ones who believe these nations should be made into pariahs until their cultures align with the rest of the world morally. Though it should be pointed out that no nation is clean in terms of human rights abuses, so where do we draw the line? Finally there are those that believe these kind of events should be used to improve conditions in these countries.

Personally I was torn, but, having spent a fair amount of time in the UAE now, I can see the value in having these events in those countries. You can see the difference between the Emirates here, the different laws regarding workers' rights in Abu Dhabi and, particularly, Dubai, compared to the less open Emirates. As the likes of Fujairah and Ras Al Khaimah do not have the world looking on at them, they are still a long way behind. Whereas Dubai and Abu Dhabi have made huge strides in terms of legalities anyway, the issues now are more about companies ignoring the new laws, which used to happen in the UK in my experience. I have worked for numerous places that completely flouted laws over working hours and health and safety regulations. Big worldwide events, like F1 and the forthcoming World Cup do put these places under a microscope and force them to change, I believe.


4. The Circuit

With it being the first time the teams visited, it did mean things were mixed up in terms of qualifying and race. Being fast in qualifying did not necessarily mean the car was quick in the race and vice versa. Hamilton aside. The lack of support races also meant that teams were wary of the track being dusty off line and that was expected to make it nigh on impossible to overtake or have wheel-to-wheel racing. It turned out that the fears were completely unfounded and cars could actually race offline round corners in most places. It must be said the spectacle of the cars sweeping through the fast corners was incredible from the on board footage as well.


5. Tyres

For all the monitoring teams do of every metric, you have to say you would think someone would have considered the basic fact of all car tyres - if you run them down to the canvas they are likely to puncture or even burst. The higher the speed you run at, the more likely it is to happen, so why do they not seem to grasp that? It is not like they went into the weekend expecting it to be a one stop race, quite the opposite, Pirelli had been clear that it would need two stops even with the hardest compounds on the cars. Unfortunately the deflations did not even create a more interesting race situation, quite the opposite in fact, which is a shame.


6. Alonso

He is not everyone's cup of tea (but then neither is Verstappen or Hamilton), he certainly would not have been my first choice of ex-champion to get the podium spot, but it was still nice to see Alonso get on the podium. The hope is that it is a sign that Alpine are actually improving compared to the top teams and can put themselves in the mix on a consistent basis. It had looked earlier in the season that McLaren were the most likely to put pressure on the top two, but they seem to have faded away as the season goes on. That might just mean they have put their focus on next year's car instead. Will it be a one off for Alonso and Alpines or have they stepped up? It must be said, it was achieved on merit, Alonso fought for and won the place, which augurs well, especially with teammate Ocon finishing 5th.


7. Perez/Bottas

The pair of them made for some entertainment in the early stages as they charged up the field. Just a shame that the potential for them to go head-to-head at the end were destroyed by Bottas' tyre failure. It also raises the old questions about Bottas's mentality that he struggled to make progress until given a hurry up by Wolff. Though, to be fair to the Finn, I think the difference was more down to Perez catching cars in ones and so able to slip past with the aid of DRS down the straight. Bottas, on the other hand, was stuck behind cars that were close behind another car and had DRS themselves, making it much more difficult. The stringing out of the field as the race progressed might have been more of a factor than the hurry up from the garage.


8. Race Officials

The race officials did manage to make a bit of a mess of things, probably down to it being their first F1 race. In qualifying the waved flags were not backed up by the light boards and onboard displays in the cars. But the worst mistake was their dithering over the decision to bring out the VSC, which totally destroyed the final laps and turned it into a massive anti-climax at the end. Let's just hope they are on the same course as Horner has promised to go on over the close season!


9. The Title Race

Hamilton's dominant win has certainly closed the title race up, but it left Verstappen in the box seat still. With Saudi Arabia favouring the Mercedes car's characteristics, there is every chance that this result has made sure the race will go right down to the wire now and be all on Abu Dhabi. Fingers crossed that it will happen as this is a season that deserves a last race battle for the title.


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Written by Tris Burke November 24 2021 00:50:13