An awful lot has been said and written about the 2007 Formula One season, and not much of it has been very positive. While it’s been a fantastic few months in many respects, there’s also been far too much that we’d rather forget about.
So, rather than dwelling on feuding team-mates, the trashing of reputations among drivers and team principals alike, the alleged behind-the-scenes fisticuffs, the legalities of flexible floors or cooled fuel, and exactly what it was that Nigel Stepney said to Mike Coughlan, let’s accentuate the positives.
Here’s some things that we think would be good for the sport in 2008. And, sure enough, it will need them after the year it’s just had:
- Consistency. All we ask is for the ability to believe that the rules are being applied with a modicum of fairness. This season the suspension of disbelief required has been just too great – with Ferrari’s illegal floor and the BMW and Williams fuel irregularities escaping unpunished while McLaren get a £50 million fine for behaviour that’s arguably rife in F1. Do we have an agenda? Yes, of course we do – look at the masthead, we’re a blog about British motorsport. It doesn’t say “Italiani sul palo,” “Deutsche auf Polen” or “Suomalaiset puolalaisella” up top. Even so, we’re not asking for special treatment for Lewis Hamilton, David Coulthard, Jenson Button or anyone else. Just a bit of consistency in the application of the rules, please.
- A new FIA president. We think that this season has demonstrated quite painfully how Max Mosley is doing the sport more harm than good. His public pronouncements have become more and more vitriolic until you could barely believe he was saying such things on the record. The resulting impression is that he’s allowing personal animosity to cloud his judgement and putting his own agenda before the good of the sport. And all this at a time when F1 is benefiting from a huge post-Schumacher resurgence of interest. Spanish fans are turning up in their droves to see Alonso, Brits flocking to F1 to follow Hamilton. A three-way title race that went down to the wire meant a spotlight was turned on the sport – and what did it shine on? Mosley saying things like this: “I would have taken all the points away from Hamilton and Alonso… I’m slightly disappointed because when history comes to be written and all the emotions are gone they will say, ‘Hang on a minute, we just don’t know what happened and would Raikkonen or Massa have won had it not been for this information?’” What’s more important – the future of the sport, or Mosley’s place in history? Time for him to step down – and to actually go, this time.
- For Lewis Hamilton to avoid second-season wobble. We worry about next season. How many second albums are a great disappointment? How many second novels do you wish you’d never read? After his brilliant debut season Lewis is older, wiser and undoubtedly just that little bit more cynical about motor racing. We really hope he’s going to be able to put the experience to good use – after all, if he’s done this well after playing racing games with younger brother Nic, what will he be capable of now he’s got a proper knowledge of all the circuits? Let’s just hope that he’s able to keep a wise head on those young shoulders, and that next season goes as we hope it will.
- The return of Jim Rosenthal. Please, Jim. Please return to ITV’s commentary team. We’re begging you. Admittedly, Steve Rider is an extremely talented man. It takes a lot of talent to make top-tier motorsport sound about as exciting as reading off the back of a cereal packet. You must be getting bored with asking the same questions of Amir Khan and Joe Calzaghe after they’ve knocked the living daylights out of some other poor sod. Never mind football. You know, deep down in your heart, that motor racing needs you back very badly indeed…
- For Jenson Button to come back onto the radar. Jense’s trip from golden boy of British motorsport to an also-ran who rarely even scores points has been a particularly rapid and brutal one. We think the comparisons with Tim Henman are uncalled for – because he’s an excellent driver, as he’d be able to demonstrate once more if he had a half-decent car to work with again. Will he get that at Honda? We have to say that, under the present management, we are doubtful. Let’s hope he gets a better offer in the current round of musical seats. Of course, McLaren would be too much to hope for, but it’s what we’d like to see.
- For DC to leave unlucky 13 behind. Who would have thought, during those grim 2004 races for McLaren, that the Flying Scotsman would still be driving an F1 car in 2008? We’re delighted – and we hope that the potential the Red Bull car was starting to show towards the end of this season (don’t mention the reliability) mean that he’ll be able to win his 14th race. This is a big ask, we know – but he’s on record as saying he’d hate to retire on 13 wins. Here’s hoping…
- A decent drive for Rubens Barrichello. Rubinho has always been a favourite of ours, largely because his public persona is so cheerful and easygoing. We used to hate the way he had to play second fiddle to Michael Schumacher at Ferrari and we really hoped that, like David Coulthard, he would come into his own when freed from the shackles of a big team and experience a really happy last couple of years of his career in Formula One. Well, that’s not the way 2007 played out for him at Honda. We have our fingers crossed for him in 2008.
- For Super Aguri to hang on in there. Everybody loves an underdog. And maybe there’s just slightly too large a hole in our lives since the departure of the much-mourned Minardi from the back row of the grid. But who would have thought that the outfit set up to be the B-team of a Japanese mega-corporation, and to occupy valuable pit-lane real-estate to the exclusion of other Japanese mega-corporations would turn out like this? We couldn’t help cheering every time that Davidson and Sato left Button and Barrichello staring up their exhaust pipes, despite our high regard for those two drivers. And surely F1 is a more entertaining place for the presence of the aforementioned Sato? Now he has a car that can’t get him into quite so much trouble…
- A team to have the courage to try out a woman driver. Danica Patrick. Katherine Legge. Sarah Fisher. Natasha Firman. Susie Stoddart. Laleh Seddigh. They’re out there, in open-wheel and tin-top series, as well as starting to get testing invites for some national teams in A1GP. In fact, female drivers seem to get a lot more acceptance in America and elsewhere in the world than they ever will in conservative, European-dominated Formula One. It might be a cliché that women have to excel while men just have to be good enough – but when you see some of the things going on towards the back of the F1 grid it starts to look mighty appropriate.
- And finally… how about a reversal of the alarming trend that sees good-looking Latin men (step forward G Fisichella and arguably J Trulli too) in danger of being replaced by geeky boys in glasses. (Do we mean young Bourdel? Or are we talking about his doppelganger Vettais? We’re just not sure.)