Brought to you by TheJudge13 contributor Carlo Carluccio
– 2002: Alain Prost speaks the truth…
Alain Prost surprised a number of people with an outburst when he labelled the modern drivers little better than trained monkeys.
“The drivers simply follow the instructions of the engineers and let the computers do all the work. To me it’s not a real racing competition any more. And what’s worse, these drivers are so much a part of the whole system that they have to keep quiet so as not to harm the image of the team or the sponsors. I don’t want to sound old-fashioned, but in the past 10 years drivers have become increasingly like robots.”
Bearing in mind he said these words eleven years ago what would he possibly say these days about the modern driver?
Well…Prost thinks Vettel is ‘exceptional’…
Which I guess being a brand ambassador for Renault brings it’s own benefits; usually to the tune of several million.
So what is the truth? Is Prost – a true giant of one of the toughest era’s in Formula One – right in his original assertion of trained monkeys?
As technology has increased, so have the systems which the teams and drivers employ. These monitor every parameter and then engineers send commands to the drivers to make the required adjustments. There was also a time that the skills required to pass a lapped car made the difference between drivers and could affect the outcome of races too, yet today if they pass three blue flags they will be penalised. Much of the skill of being a Grand Prix driver has disappeared to “improve” the show.
Look at these pictures of Michele Alboreto in 1985 at Monaco and the same venue in 2007. The circuit used to punish mistakes but now?
As the skill has been dumbed down and the cars electronic capabilities increased we witness mediocre drivers accessing the performance of these machines. We lament the cut-throat nature of certain teams, the way they discard a young talent simply because he hasn’t performed immediately but this has become a symptom of modern motor-sport.
Generations ago, a driver would have to serve an apprenticeship with smaller teams before moving towards the top teams. The exceptional would stand out immediately but even so they would require a couple of seasons before they were fully conversant with Formula One.
In the twenty first century, that no longer applies and to my mind it cheapens the ability of these remarkable athletes. Maybe in it’s own way that is why Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel don’t get the true respect their abilities deserve.
I have disliked Prost from before Senna ever sat in an F1 car, I found the team orders the Renault team wanted to apply at the 1982 French GP abhorrent and rejoiced that Rene Arnoux ignored them.
But I agree with his reasoning about robot drivers.
We have embraced the PlayStation generation and the tools available to these youngsters yet when they disobey team orders – such as Hungary 2007 or Malaysia 2013 – we scream abuse and cannot fathom why this ‘nice’ kid was so naughty.
In chasing the fabled dollar and the casual viewer, Formula One has lost it’s soul by introducing gimmicks such as DRS and degradable tyres.
This clip of Brundle comparing a Benetton B191 against a 2000 Ferrari underlines the progress the engineers have made on every part of the car. When a Formula One can be driven – practically – through telepathy, there is something fundamentally wrong..