They couldn’t contain themselves in the build up to the new Formula One season. The new 1.6 litre V6 turbo engines, lowered front noses, fuel restrictions and double points finale had the aficionados giddy with excitement and promising an unpredictable roller-coaster ride of a championship.
It’ll be “the most exciting year” gasped Lewis Hamilton. The BBC’s Andrew Benson spoke of a “wind of change” blowing through the pit lanes and advised us to “get ready for the most dramatic start in years”. On the eve of the first race in Australia, the F1 website warned us all to “expect the unexpected”.
And so I did. I set my alarm last Saturday night, arose at the scrake of dawn on Sunday morning, and braced myself for 57 laps of the type helter-skelter thrills and spills that Pat Sharpe and the twins guaranteed on a weekly basis back in the early 90s.
What unfolded was no episode of Fun House however. A blonde, twenty-something German was in the lead by the first corner and there he stayed for the remainder of the race, crossing the finishing line almost 27 seconds ahead of the rest. Much like what has happened in the majority of the races over the past four years then.
Aside from the old ‘contributing to road car development’ argument the F1 world uses to justify its lavish existence, the raft of changes introduced prior to the Melbourne curtain-raiser were ostensibly intended to make the sport more exciting and competitive. In reality the goal was even simpler than that: stop Red Bull and Sebastian Vettle winning.
Mission accomplished then as the German quadruple world champion was back in the garage flicking through this month’s Das Auto after just three laps. The only glitch in the master plan is that his Teutonic countryman, Nico Rosberg, looks very keen on continuing the trend of efficiently Deutsch performances, über alles, being the deciding factor every second or third Sunday for the next few months.
Indeed Benson immediately penned a post-race article entitled “Mercedes may be unstoppable in new era”. That doesn’t sound too good, particularly when you consider that in two out of the last four years of so-called boring Red Bull domination, the championship was not actually decided until the final laps of the season. We could yet be yearning for a return of that disturbing one finger salute from Seb come the autumn.
Anyway, it appears that if you enjoy watching German men cruise around race tracks at a fair old rate of knots and then waste a perfectly good jeroboam of champagne, F1 remains the sport for you. However, if you were in fact drawn to F1 by the high pitched banshee-like wail of the old V8 engines, and I know at least one crazy old octogenarian who was, then I’m afraid you’re going to be disappointed. Or “horrified” as a corrupt, untruthful and unreliable F1 boss put it. Good old Bernie.