Webber: Hard to get even a ‘sniff’ of a pass this year

Heading into his home grand prix, Mark Webber has firmly joined the ranks of the pessimistic who think Formula 1 is in for a long, trying season.

Speaking to Autosport, Webber — as is he wont — doesn’t hold back on “show” aspects of the sport. Or should I write, “lack of show aspects?”

“I think we can have as many pitstops as we want, but people want action on the track – and so do the drivers.

[snip]

“That is the thing we have been trying to solve for lots of years, but if you watch a touring car race – they are not passing each other every lap.

“I think the balance of the last few years was right – you don’t want an IRL race where they are passing each other 10 times a lap, you want a move that if it sticks it is very good and it is a quality move with a lot of respect between two drivers.”

[snip]

“The thing that disappointed me the most in Bahrain was I expected it [overtaking] to be tough, but there wasn’t even a chance, not a sniff, of getting something. That was the biggest shock – it was like bloody hell!

Now, I suppose we all [I’m looking at you Grace, and I’m sorry — really — about the hockey post] could just make a little fun of Mark and suggest maybe it was he who couldn’t smell a pass at Bahrain because of his lousy driving.

We could… but we won’t. And I think he speaks for most of us when he describes the type of passing we want to see in F1: quality. We want a pass to be meaningful and not one of hundreds per race.

But we also don’t want just a few every grand prix.

Webber goes on to site one specific on-track confrontation at Bahrain.

“When Jenson [Button] got to Michael [Schumacher] I thought he might have a chance, because he has got a good top speed advantage, and Jenson knows how to overtake – but it wasn’t easy.

“That was just the surprise to me – not having even a sniff. In the past you got a few sniffs here and there and you could maybe have a crack, but it was a different ballgame in Bahrain.”

What strikes me is how often Webber says he was surprised by the lack of passing. It leaves me thinking the drivers, too, were expecting more this year. It also may suggest just how wrongly F1 got its rules this year if the drivers are among those bewildered by the on-track performance.

Unfortunately, Webber isn’t pegging much hope to a better race this weekend or in Malaysia.

“I think it will be similar to Bahrain,” he said. “Unfortunately this is the way that races are. I think people will stop at a similar time, and that is the fastest way to do the races.

“In Malaysia it is even longer for us to do a pitstop, with the pitlane being longer, so all those types of things mean you don’t want to be spending much time in the pitlane because you can’t have a light car and explode by doing a short strategy to try and get ahead of somebody.”

Webber does go on to say that he doesn’t think the whole season will suffer, but I think it is time to start praying for rain.

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