Sunday, January 13, 2008

F1 and WRC 2007 in Review

If you were missed both the 2007 WRC and Formula 1 season, then you probably missed the two most exciting season’s within the last decade. All be it, there have been exciting moments before.

What has happened in Formula 1 this year was a testament to what really is at the foundation of Formula 1. All questions that any one person could have in what is involved in an F1 season had those inquiries fulfilled this season. While many feel that they have more questions than answers, I can truly say that the sport uncovered itself finally into what truly lies underneath.

The fans had what they superficially always needed, which is a driver’s championship completed as closely as possible. Not only that, but the man who ended up becoming the least likely driver to win, did win. Of course, I’m speaking of Kimi Raikonnen. He, with his 110 points, defeated Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton who each had 109 points.

On top of the close competition this season, the fans also were treated to something that they always salivate for, which is a rookie sensation. Luckily for those in Formula 1, most accounts have Lewis Hamilton as a well mannered young man with exceptional talent and grace. Hamilton’s disposition off the track is a true pleasure to witness and be a part of.

In fact, to my mind the closest thing to a slanderous remark I can recall Hamilton making is during the press conference after qualifying, in which he was held up by teammate Fernando Alonso for refueling, therefore costing Hamilton the ability to complete one more timed lap. When Peter Windsor asked how much time Hamilton needed in order to start another timed lap, Hamilton replied, “Probably the amount of time I had to wait behind in the pit lane.” And no one could discount the rookie for his feelings in that situation.

However, this season, fans and pundits have become critical on much of the business of Formula 1. Despite your opinion, and which constructor you cheer for, this season and the legal cases behind it have shown much more about how the FIA governs Formula 1.

Firstly, the application of punishments continues and will most likely forever be Draconian. When I and the rest of the world found out about the punishment against McLaren (loss of manufacturer points and a fine of $100 million), and its grandiose nature, I was appalled, but not in the least bit surprised. For those of us who hoped that the publicity of the decision would bear much stronger scrutiny onto the FIA in terms its future decisions in such matters, we were disappointed in the case and ruling for Renault F1 who was embroiled in a scandal much like McLaren was.

Renault’s case was at best, similar to Renault’s, and at its worst, a true espionage scandal. However, practically no penalty was assigned.

Also coming to light this season was the internal strife that many teams face with their drivers. Such problems are not new, but once again, I am surprised that the fans have been taken aback so much this season. As well, the espionage case against Coughlan and McLaren is not exactly something new either. Many engineers when they leave take knowledge with them. This is why when Mike Gascoyne left Toyota in 2006 he placed himself on gardening leave for the rest of the season. Therefore, when Gascoyne joined Spyker (now Force India) in 2007, Toyota could not excuse him of using information that was the property of Toyota.

Op-eds from GrandPrix.com have shown that there is now a consensus forming that when an engineer leaves a team, he may not take anything with him except for what he or she has in their mind.

In the World Rally Championship this year, it was a close driver’s championship. Albeit, both drivers streaked and showed the impact of what happens when a driver does not finish a rally. (It can be argued that Hamilton’s DNF this season cost him the driver’s title in F1.) The story was that as Grönholm’s luck changed near the latter part of the season, Loeb and Citroen struck back and one yet another World Rally Championship. In the constructor’s battle though, Ford easily clinched the title over Citroen.

Also in the news was the sensational driving of Grönholm’s teammate, Miko Hirovonen, and yet another Finnish driver piloting a Ford Focus, Jari Matti Latvala. Latvala performed so well, that he will be taking Grönholm’s seat in the 2008 season; as Grönholm is retiring.

For Subaru, it was yet another year of underperformance, bad luck, and intermingling reliability issues. They will have a completely different vehicle to work with in the 2008 season as the Impreza has been completely redesigned from Subaru.
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