Having the Bottle

 


Before I begin my F1 related ramble, let me set the scene.

As an avid Leicester City fan, today's play off semi-final second leg game away at Watford took priority. A 1-0 first leg advantage and a chance to play at Wembley? I'd have been mad not to have favoured football. Or, as it turned out, was I mad to? Despair. Elation. Despair. Elation. Utter, utter despair. Reflection. Disappointment. Pride.

I sat down, having spent the last 10 minutes 'reflecting' on the living room carpet after an unimaginable two moments of football, to watch what I had hoped would be an excellent Spanish Grand Prix. Was it? Honestly, I'm not sure. Maybe talking it through here will make up my mind.

I was in a reflective, thought-provoking mood. When I looked back at the 66 laps raced around the Circuit de Catalunya, did I find myself enjoying it? In parts, yes. It was... intriguing. The first stint - a mix of great starts, canny overtakes and some silver cars holding up some red and blue cars - made for an encapsulating 9-10 laps.

The widely anticipated and largely expected race pace, or lack thereof, of the Mercedes' came to fruit. The cream rose to the top, or more accurately, the front. Cars and drivers that work well on the Pirelli rubber found success, whilst those who haven't yet got to grips with the tyres fell backwards. That may sound beyond bleedin' obvious, but it's a point worth making (and one I shall attempt to expand on in a little while). Force India looked strong again, as did the Toro Rosso's. McLaren rescued another double point's finish. But all in all the day belonged to one man and one team; Fernando Alonso and Ferrari.

Two teams and two men in particular have adapted best to this season's hot talking point. Tyres. Are they making the racing more entertaining? Are they ruining the races? Do they fall somewhere in the middle? To that, I have no definitive answer. It's an opinion. One of which we will all have.

Let's put it in very simplistic terms. Did you enjoy today's Spanish Grand Prix more than one, say from 4-5 years ago? I've always found Barcelona a bore-fest. It's never really lit my candle, sparked my spark, warmed my heart. You get the idea. Was today more entertaining than previous years? Yes, it almost certainly was. Was it more entertaining for the right reasons? I've asked that question; and even I don't know what it means. All I know is that it probably has something to do with those darn tyres.

Preserving and nurturing the tyres seems to be all the rage at the minute. It's a point that Martin Brundle has made throughout the weekend; hasn't Formula 1 always been about and had something to look after? Whether it be engines, fuel, gearboxes, tyres. Whatever it is, it's a skill to nurture a part of a car, and then to go on and still be able to race full on and win. Not many can. Not many will. Fernando can. Fernando did.

There is and always has been more to Formula 1 than just being able to race flat out. It's a 300 kilometre game of chess. Strategy is key; and something that today, Ferrari absolutely mastered. They outsmarted their rivals; and by not having to switch strategies part way through the race, they enabled themselves and their drivers to attack and race with much more conviction. They won the race through boldness and bravery. In a period of F1 where conservation and protection, today showed the world that races can actually be won by driving fast and racing. Who'd have thought that!

Have the tyres gone too far? Possibly. But isn't this what was asked of Pirelli, to make the racing more exciting? Would we really like to see the return of 1 stop races where the finishing order on a Sunday looks awfully similar to the grid line up decided on a Saturday? From a personal standpoint, no. Never.

Mercedes have the fastest car on a Saturday. Ferrari and Lotus on a Sunday. At least that's what it was this weekend. Who's to say it won't be different next time out in Monaco? (Ok, it might be similar, but you get my point). Things are mixed up. Formula 1's pecking order has been changed. But who rises to the top? The best, as they always do.

Sebastian Vettel, Kimi Raikkonen and Fernando Alonso have shared the victories this season. Are they the best three drivers on the grid? Again, it's opinion. Put it this way, you'd be hard pushed to find a group of three equally matched all-round drivers anywhere in the world. They and their teams have adapted best to what modern day Formula 1 has to throw at it. Don't like it? You know where the door is. Or the controller.

Some purists may not be happy that DRS and Pirelli tyres are needed to spice the action up; and at certain tracks I'd have to agree, it's been a little too much. Was it in Spain? No, I don't think so. Here's my point. Teams were so focussed on trying to make a three-stop strategy work that they missed an opportunity to go racing and score some big points. Ferrari showed that being aggressive could, and in fact, did pay off. Easier at the front, yes. But why did no one else try something as bold? Take a risk, take a chance. It might not always end well, but the rewards for having a go are there for all to see.

I sit here this evening, slightly slumped on the sofa feeling a little lost. Today sport reminded me that things can be won and lost through small margins. A risk here, a chance there. Leicester had a chance to reach Wembley, but lost. Ferrari had a chance to win a Grand Prix, and won. The comparison may mean absolutely nothing to some of you, but I hope you can understand where I'm coming from.

If you have the tools at your disposal, the game plan and the bottle to go for something, then damn well make sure you go for it. You don't always win, but when you do it makes it so much more worth it. Well done Ferrari and well done Fernando. Let's hope this is a lesson to others out there. Take a chance, and win. Hopefully.

Paul Godley - 12/05/2013

Image source: Fernando Alonso in Spain - via The Independent

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