Formula 1 French Grand Prix 2019

No Racing Allowed

The French F1 Grand Prix was a new low for Formula 1, it had as much interest as watching paint dry, in fact watching paint dry might have been more enthralling. Mercedes won the race without breaking a sweat, with Valtteri Bottas following Lewis Hamilton home. After some initial hope that Bottas might take the fight to Hamilton, that challenge has faded away, just like F1 viewership over the past few years.

For the second race in a row, the story was not the racing, if we can call it racing these days? The story is, what myself and many others consider, overregulation of the sport. There were two, well, technically three events, for which race stewards handed out 5 second time penalties, which would have previously been considered hard racing. But no more in the overregulation era of the “pinnacle” of motorsport.

The first incident was on lap one, between turns 1 and 2, when Sergio Perez, left the track, seemingly of his own accord, then followed the ‘penalty box’ route around the inside as instructed to do by the race director, and came back on track two places ahead of where he left the track. The penalty was leaving the track and gaining an advantage, which technically is correct, but, what was Perez supposed to do?

It seems like Perez was caught between two rules, rejoining the track after the marker and gaining an advantage after going off track. I think the punishment was incredibly harsh, a better solution would have been to instruct Perez/Racing Point to give back the two places gained within, say 3 laps. Or was Perez supposed to stop his car and wait for the entire field to go through before rejoining the track?

The second and third incidents were on the final lap. both involving Daniel Ricciardo. The Australian driver had been chasing the ailing McLaren of Lando Norris, who was suffering from failing hydraulics. When finally, Ricciardo dived into turn 8, understeered into turn 9, cutting the corner, forcing Norris off track as he rejoined. Obviously, the FIA had to penalize Ricciardo, as otherwise there would have been cries of foul play, in Mercedes favor after the events of the Canadian Grand Prix two weeks earlier.

For the record, I think that Vettel’s penalty decision in Canada was also a bad one, instantly killing what could have been the most exciting race of the season. It’s almost like the FIA and F1 wants to kill the sport.

The third incident happened seconds later when Ricciardo went to the right of the white line that delineates the track limits to overtake Kimi Raikkonen, who had slipped through when Ricciardo understeered off and Norris was pushed wide. Again, I believe that this is hard racing, not rule breaking. The constant investigating every minor incident and penalizing drivers is really starting to grate on fans.

Formula 1 Viewing figures have been steadily dropping over recent years with the dominance of first, Red Bull/Vettel and second, Mercedes/Hamilton and Nico Rosberg, the sport has become a snoozefest. The perceived overregulation, engine, fuel and tire limitations, meaning drivers are unable to race balls to the wall, are all killing Formula 1 in my opinion, big changes are needed very soon to save the sport.

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