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Formula One has problems – and it’s not the Ricciardo penalties

I love Formula One – ever since I can remember I’ve been a fan, I’ve watched race after race and with the advent of live broadcasts of every single session I’ve basically become obsessed.

I have my work time, I have my family time and really my only personal hobby is enjoying Formula One. Boy has that enjoyment been tested this year.

Sure Mercedes have been dominant for a few years – but there’s been some battles, some chances and now and then some cracking races.

However, 2019 has been – in my view – one of the most boring seasons on record. Even the commentators are now admitting during a race that it’s getting a bit processional.

Last night in France things really played out as an example of the concerns that should be held for the sport of Formula One.

New owners Liberty Media are pushing the boundaries of the sport with new at-track engagement with fans, a huge increase in the social media exposure of the sport, but their mark has yet to be made on the sport itself.

Circuit Paul Ricard is a bloody amazing looking place – from the high shots showing an airstrip running alongside to those Blue, Red and White painted lines that surround the track.

Daniel Ricciardo (AUS) Renault F1 Team RS19. French Grand Prix, Friday 21st June 2019. Paul Ricard, France.

It has long straights where the DRS system can give some hope to those on the chase, and it has some epic turns and twists that should lend themselves to passing opportunities.

Last night’s race was boring – because Lewis Hamilton dominated. He is, almost unquestionably, the greatest of the modern era – sadly, we’re always going to question that because of the dominance of the car he drives.

Lewis led every, single, lap – including leading after his pit stop. He also lapped the vast majority of the runners – I mean come on – that’s just crazy talk.

On the weekend I watched some of the F3 racing and even the F2. The cars were a touch more loose, they were able to run closer together, there was some passing in the true spirit of racing.

In the F1 Grand Prix it was left until the last lap for Daniel Ricciardo to lunch around the outside of Lando Norris to pull off a pass.

Missed by the Live broadcast the timing screens were going crazy with the cars moving around in 7th, 8th, 9th and 10th like there was a computer error.

Turns out, Daniel ran off the track at the chicane. He then lunged around Kimi Räikkönen using more than the track limits. He received two penalties post race which bumped him from 7th to 11th.

The clear reasons for this penalty are shown here by F1 themselves. The move around Kimi Räikkönen was epic, but clear cut. On Norris though I look at it and think that he did way more to get back onto line than many others would have (perhaps driving straight through). But, let’s forget that debate.

Daniel Ricciardo (AUS) Renault F1 Team RS19. French Grand Prix, Friday 21st June 2019. Paul Ricard, France.

For Formula One, the problem is they penalised someone for the most exciting part of the whole damn race. If there was action throughout the whole 53 laps, we’d all be sitting back saying it was a good race and it’s a shame Daniel got penalised.

Instead, the thinking of most F1 fans (just check the replies to their tweets) is that they penalised the one interesting move of the whole race!

For 2019, new regulations saw a simplification of the front wings – the idea was to make the racing closer and lessen the effect of a leading car on those behind who struggle aerodynamically in the “dirty air”.

But take a look at the cars from the front wheels to the side faring. The floor is littered with tiny little winglets – all there to create and remove vortices of air to enhance the overall aerodynamic performance of the car.

Look, I get that this is the pinnacle of motorsport, but arguing we had to move to a Turbo-Hybrid era was easy when we talk about technologies working their way down the automotive industry throughout the sport and into cars.

Aerodynamics though? It’s gone crazy.

And the worst part – we’ve got to wait until 2021 for any hope of radical change. We’ve got these basic cars and power plants until then.

The best thing the Formula One governing body – and Ross Brawn in particular can do – is flatten out those floors – we need the cars closer together and racing – even if it’s a mid-field battle.

With regard to “racing” and the penalties imposed – the sport needs a full time drivers steward who can re-write the book on why people get penalties, the Vettel decision along with Ricciardo today are examples of the rule of law in the sport being out of touch with the reality of the fans expectations.

Let Mercedes dominate – their time will come, but until then at least give fans something to watch behind them for the couple of hours we’re putting into it – especially at 11pm on a Sunday night down here in Australia thanks very much!

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Formula One has problems – and it’s not the Ricciardo penalties
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