Op-Ed: An exciting, but wet Chinese GP doesn’t mean F1’s healed

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What else could the Grand Prix of China have offered?

We had more overtaking than perhaps all of 2009 combined.

Perhaps even better, we had some real, serious racing: Adrian Sutil and Lewis Hamilton, Hamilton and Rubens Barrichello and, of course, anyone who could get a chance to mix it up with the Old Man, Michael Schumacher.

We now have off-track intrigue fueled by on-track incidents: Fernando Alonso and team mate Felipe Massa skittering together into the pits; Hamilton closing on Jenson Button, then falling back, then trying to close again when it was too late. Nico Rosberg continuing his dominance over Schumacher.

There was Renault finally scoring a double-points finish, including the first for Vitaly Petrov (and the first points ever by a Russian F1 driver). There are new questions to ponder about the strength of the Williams team and whether Force India will have to be content with being sixth best.

From the front of the grid to the very back, China was an incredibly exciting race.

The problem? The rain. The on-again, off-again showers did what a wet race always does: Spice things up but not offer a true glimpse at the state of the racing, the state — if you can stand the phrase still — of “the show.”

All we did learn is that Bernie Ecclestone ought to hose down every track he can.

But the problems we all saw, all screamed about, after Bahrain remain unanswered.

Can these cars really race wheel-to-wheel when the cars aren’t on drastically different tires?

Will the aero allow cars on equal, dry footing to overtake?

If there aren’t unexpected safety cars and pit stops for tires that shuffle up the grid, will there be any overtaking?

Ask yourself: Would you have been telling people today about this awesome F1 race if it had been dry and Sebastian Vettel had screamed into the lead, with Mark Webber close behind?

Now don’t get me wrong. I agree that even a race as “boring” as Bahrain is still interesting to devoted F1 fans, who watch the drivers’ lines and think about the strategic possibilities.

But even we crave those moments that have you sitting on the edge of your seat or, maybe, jumping up, overcome with excitement.

These races that are wild and memorable because of the weather strike me as being a little like a basketball game that’s spiced up by creating “flat” spots in the floor where the ball will bounce away unexpectedly or a soccer/football match with covered “traps” that open randomly on the field.

Sure, it might make the sport more exciting. But it isn’t, really, that sport anymore. It’s something else.

I also know the weather is always a factor in F1, and always has been. But when it feels like we’re relying on the weather to make the races exciting, there’s still something fundamentally flawed.

And that’s still where we’re at, today.


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