Formula 1 fans are a fussy lot. If a winning combination of driver and car is cracked they get bored quickly. If there is no such combination and every ultimate result is unpredictable they worry about the standards of their sport. They’re constantly questioning the purpose of Grand Prix racing. Regardless of their preferred outcome.
Comparisons are made against other team sports and championships. Comparisons are even made against sports that don’t feature engines or mechanisms. They don’t like it if things get too expensive nor do they like it when everything’s easily affordable.
In their heads they’re always trying to strike the right balance. They seem never ever satisfied. Yet, given a chance to choose their hero, team or favorite car the answer appears even before the question is completed.
When a novice or eager young fan is introduced to the sport the words ‘science’, ‘gravity’, ‘prowess’, ‘engineering’, ‘pinnacle’ are loosely thrown about. ‘Speed’ of course, is a given.
The whole point of a Grand Prix revolves around speed you could say. It’s about maximum speeds reached at different stages or sectors of a circuit during cornering, braking and acceleration. Normally not attainable nor imaginable in an ordinary road-going machine.
Speed under all possible circumstances is what differentiates F1 from other forms of racing. F1 cars speed in wet conditions, dry conditions, through tight and twisty sections, through banked corners and, through hills and slopes. They can come to an absolute standstill and take off again to a maximum speed in no time whatsoever.
All these astonishing feats of an F1 car though, rely heavily on a few contributing factors. Engines being the most obvious audible component, Aerodynamics an almost invisible essential and finally those round black spinning objects that most fans can easily relate to, Tyres.
When all three of these work together efficiently the result is a lightning fast F1 car. It’s then left in the hands of the heroic driver to bring it all home. But its not as simple as it sounds. Bringing a car home is quite different to bringing a car home first!
It is understood that everything in racing is pushed to perform at incredibly high speeds. This push to the highest limit makes components fragile. So an accomplished F1 driver’s task is to drive as fast as he can but yet within the limit of his car's capability. The Argentinian great Juan Manuel Fangio, a five-time World Champion, spoke often of winning a race as slowly as possible.
By that he didn’t mean slower than a junior formulae car, or with lesser technology. Neither did he mean to turn the whole spectacle into a farce. What he certainly meant was an uncanny use of a superior race craft.
A craft that allows the winner to master his car’s performance through various stages of a Grand Prix distance. Nursing the tyres, cooling brakes and coasting his engine dealing a humiliating defeat to his rivals.
Exactly what Fernando Alonso did to his colleagues in the Chinese Grand Prix, a week ago.
Pirelli this season, have brought to the grid a new challenge. One that tends to reward the drivers with the best race craft. Another variable that separates the greats from the gods.