Controversy. What good Formula 1 weekend would be complete without it. These days of acerbic social media dopamine-fueled mobocracy demands some sort of outrage or conflict to dunk on. I am happy to report to the world at large, you have two talking points in which to club each other over the heads with until Sunday morning.
Issue #1: The Red Bull Racing Towgate
According to team boss Christian Horner, the team have a long-standing agreement that they will alternate race weekend on which drivers goes out first when making their runs for pole position. This weekend it was Daniel Ricciardo’s turn to go first.
For Daniel, he says he had concerns and didn’t relay those early enough. He felt the issues he was having would have been obvious to the team. He then backed off and was waiting for Max to pass him, which he didn’t, and the team told Max to pass but the Dutchman refused. Clearly Max felt the tow was a benefit to him and wasn’t about to cede positions.
Daniel wanted to reverse the situation to also give him a tow but later said he understood why Max wouldn’t do that. At first, I wondered if this was a bit of the old “Multi 21” incident coming back to bite the team but in the end, it wasn’t like that at all. Dan slowed dramatically hoping Max would pass. Max chose not to. The team told Mass to just pass Dan but Max refused. The team have a long-standing procedure for which driver goes first. I’ll let you draw your own outrage.
Issue #2: Vettel grid penalty
Sebastian Vettel impeded Carlos Sainz’s qualifying run in Q2 on Saturday and for this he received a 3-place grid penalty. Vettel admitted that he didn’t see Carlos in his mirrors prompting Paul and I to text back and forth about using a camera instead of mirrors that have seemingly become very ineffective.
Regardless, the team should have been on the radio to let Vettel know Carlos was approaching but they didn’t according to Seb. That’s Ferrari’s error.
I read earlier in the day that Charlie Whiting suggested that the FIA are now looking at penalizing the outcome of an infraction instead of just the infraction itself. This is a very horrible idea. You break a rule, you get a penalty, If it turns out you recover from the penalty, well that’s the way it goes and you can have a discussion about the severity of penalties on offer for a race infraction.
What if you give a penalty on first lap but then realize the incident ruined another persons race because two laps from the end, some damage caused the the innocent car comes apart and the car DNF’s. Now additional penalty is heaped on the offending driver because you’re penalizing outcomes. Or, perhaps you note the infraction and then wait until the end of the race and hand out loads of outcome-based penalties to a driver. Maybe by the end of the race you are completely outraged and suspend a driver. Maybe the outcome is minor and since you didn’t asses the penalty at the time of occurrence, the team can’t manage their race to overcome the infraction through different strategy.
Also, the mother of all cock-ups is that fans would turn their TV/devices off and go to bed not knowing the final result of every grand prix until Monday late morning. That’s unacceptable and this was deemed as such not long ago which prompted immediate penalties. Has Charlie already forgotten?
Issue #3: Grid Girls
Despite F1’s ban of grid girls as one of its major initiatives in 2018, Red Bull Ring owner Dietrich Mateschitz said:
“An incredible puppet show. Formula 1 has more important things to do than debate grid girls.”
True to his word, the Austrian dirndl-wearing grid girls were back for Austria doing grid and many other duties over the grand prix weekend. The entire Styria region were buzzing about the grand prix and they even crowned a Miss Grand Prix 2018 in a contest replete with, you guessed it, a bathing suit competition.