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Parc Ferme: F1 Reflections

Parc Ferme: F1 Reflections

Parc Ferme: F1 Reflections

After a Grand Prix weekend absence of almost 12 years, the spectre of a sudden and violent death returned to haunt the drivers of Formula 1.

In 1994 F1 novice, Roland Ratzenberger left the track, hitting the barrier at some 315 km/h during Saturday practice. The impact killed him and cast a shadow over the Paddock. No one could believe what had happened, or even begin to imagine that it would be repeated the following day by a multiple World Champion!

The death of Ayrton Senna is well documented. However, thirty years on since his tragic death at the Imola circuit; I can’t help wondering what he would make of Formula 1 today.

Sporting Regulations?

I think we can safely say Ayrton would find today’s regulatory interpretations on racing an anathema. He would almost certainly have taken offence over the “adequate space” required to be given to another driver when exiting a corner. Kevin Magnussen summed it up after “owning” his actions in Miami to keep the field behind. It wasn’t racing, it was gaming the rules.

The Circuits?

Much was made of returning to a traditional track last weekend, in particular the reintroduction of gravel. It’s a bit of a no-brainer development, but I’m sure both stewards and drivers alike welcomed the return of nature as judge and jury for most track limit infringements.

However, the modified Imola track is a pale reflection of its previous incarnation. While it was Senna’s nemesis in part, I do not believe he would have approved of its neutering. The additional chicanes and turns have now made artificial requirements a prerequisite for overtaking and, therefore, racing.

The Side Hustles?

Tech Draft: Have Williams lost touch with their heritage?

I often think of Senna as one of the last of the real F1 drivers. Racers whose primary, secondary and tertiary concern was competition with the other like-minded drivers. While the recent crop also wants the same, they now have multiple outside interests running in tandem.

Presentation and a cute smile can now keep some in F1, even if their performance is lamentable. Sure, money was important in the past, primarily because death or serious injury could curtail your career. You had to earn enough to provide for your family in your absence or cover your early exit from the big league. These days, the drivers are already developing their retirement businesses when they enter F1.

The Grand Prixs?

I think it’s fair to say that Senna cared only for racing. The politics, show, and accompanying promotional duties always seemed to be a trade-off that he accepted to pursue his passion. While the politics are as vibrant as ever, the F1 sponsorship, PR fluffing and Social Media duties have changed dramatically since his passing. I wonder what his take would be on this superseding the racing.

The best?

Ayrton was once asked what the most enjoyable races of his career had been. He pondered the question momentarily and, becoming misty-eyed, stated his battles with Terry Fullerton in his karting days. To put this in context, he was already a multiple F1 World Champion when the question was posed. He then continued to justify his answer, “It was pure racing”…