Today, Bernie Ecclestone squashed the thesis posited by the FIA’s ‘man with many hats’ which proposed to introduce standing restarts following a period during an F1 race under the safety car. “There will be no standing starts after safety cars [in 2015], what we saw in Budapest was good enough.”
Ecclestone’s assertion to AMuS is surprising because the practice has already being enshrined in the F1 regulations, having been approved by the World Council.
TJ13 has consistently opposed this idea, simply because it hadn’t been properly thought through. Safety was always an enormous concern, though it had been dismissed in a frivolous and manner which trivialised the issue..
Whiting said this month, the “Standing restart is something that I was involved in personally. I was talking to someone at McLaren and we came up with this idea how to make this show a bit better.
When you watch a race, what is the most exciting part of the race? The start. So, why not have a second one? [slow smiles] It makes sense.”
Whiting revealed he had the green light from the teams. “This idea was embraced by all the teams at team manager level. It was then discussed by the Formula One Strategy Group, which unanimously felt it was a very good way to go to improve the spectacle of Formula One. It then went to the Formula One Commission and finally to the World Council. They also felt it was a good thing for Formula One. The teams were 100 per cent behind it”.
The drivers were not so positive, however Whiting expressed the view that it was up to the team’s to canvess their opinions or bring them into line.
“I have heard some drivers express concerns but I think we can allay those fears. Their first concern was in regard to fairness. They felt that a race leader was more likely to lose his lead from a standing start than he is from a rolling start. Equally, however, if you are in second place you might actually like the idea of being able to take the lead, which you probably wouldn’t do with a rolling start.
There was also some concern about taking a standing start on worn tyres. However, until you get to the point where there is a standing start, the safety car procedure will be exactly the same as before. As happens now any driver on worn tyres is likely to pit. If you’ve just made a pit stop then you probably wouldn’t do it, but anyone else will, as they will want to take the advantage of what is effectively a free stop. I think the chances of any driver resuming the race from a standing start on very badly worn tyres is very low. Those are the only concerns I’ve heard so far”.
The first thought which sprang to mind when I heard about this proposal was, “what about the marbles on the dirty side of the start finish straight”. Of course this would less troublesome at certain venues and more so at others.
TJ13 has repeated this concern a number of times over the past weeks.
The drivers in race in race positions with even numbers would be enormously disadvantaged, and they would quickly learn to anticipate a safety car, and shuffle their even numbered race position accordingly – by either reckless passes, or a sudden dubious loss of pace.
Charlie though argued, “Some people were even silly enough to say it’s dangerous. Well, if it’s dangerous, you wouldn’t even have the start of the race, would you?”
Such a gross lack of foresight and crass reasoning is indeed frightening, when we consider this is the man the FIA entrusts to manage race safety in F1… week in and week out.
Cars performing standing starts on the marbles, with tyres of sub optimum temperature and pressures, would resemble a shambolic version of a ‘Disney on Ice’ production choreographed by Boris Johnson.
At the first race of the season, we saw from the standing start Magnussen, give his new V6 turbo monster of torque, a tad too much boot as the lights went out. The result being a rather lingering brown stain in the young Dane’s overalls, as his car veered wildly towards the wall.
Then, we had the reaction of the Caterham of Ericsson in Hungary, which in slippery conditions under the torque of even the Renault engine, careered viciously into the barrier following a small amount of inappropriate driver input in low grip conditions.
TJ13 had contacted the FIA, expressing these concerns. Though we received no response and our concerns were most likely filed unopened under ‘B’ for bin.
However, if Ecclestone is to be believed, common sense has indeed prevailed, though this would be a huge political blow for Charlie Whiting, who may be looking to Jean Todt for a contract extension in the near future.
The idea Whiting championed went from manager level in the teams, to the F1 Strategy Group, then on to the F1 Commission and finally reached the dizzying heights of the World Council.
TJ13 has expressed the opinion previously; that it appears Charlie Whiting has come to the end of the road in his Formula 1 career.
The years working inside an institution can often see individuals become detached from reality, unable to see the wood from the trees.
TJ13 has championed a reform of the safety car protocols, and when this was put to Whiting earlier this year, he failed to grasp why improvements were necessary stating, “the current operating methodology is about the best around I can see”. Adding frivolously to serious propositions, “But Bernd will lose his job” and “the safety car spices up the show”.
Yet as long as Ecclestone is in the sport, Charlie is his man inside the FIA. And it may be Jean Todt is so detached from Formula 1 that he trades more years for Charlie for something he requires in return from Ecclestone.
With Ecclestone’s trial and the monumental implications which may emanate from a guilty verdict, F1 from a political and organisational perspective has a feel of a great darkness hanging over it at present.
In a matter of weeks or months, the winds of change could easily sweep through the sport, and obliterate all evidence of Ecclestone and his cronies.
Like the tolling of a distant but sombre bell, whose message becomes clearer the closer it gets.