Finding myself sitting next to Martin Brundle at an awards ceremony on Sunday, I asked him for his thoughts on F1 in 2014.
“From what I’m hearing, I think it could be complete chaos in the early part of the season,” he replied. It appears that teams are less than convinced that their new hybrid systems are going to be reliable, at least at first.
“I think we could have a situation where I’m sitting there in the commentary box, watching car after car retire saying ‘will someone please win this race’.”
It made the words of James Hunt at Monaco in 1982 come rushing back to me: “We’re in this ridiculous situation where we’re all sitting at the start/finish line waiting for a winner to come past and we don’t seem to be getting one…”
You will recall that in the last three laps Alain Prost, Riccardo Patrese, Didier Pironi and Andrea de Cesaris all looked certain winners until they respectively crashed, spun or ran out of fuel. Of them all, Patrese’s was the only one whose condition was not terminal and he duly went on to record his maiden F1 victory.
Top six at Monaco in 1982
1 Riccardo Patrese Brabham-Ford 1:54:11.259
2 Didier Pironi Ferrari Out of fuel
3 Andrea de Cesaris Alfa Romeo Out of fuel
4 Nigel Mansell Lotus-Ford +1 Lap
5 Elio de Angelis Lotus-Ford +1 Lap
6 Derek Daly Williams-Ford Accident
The new hybrid systems
I wondered what Brundle thought of the new hybrid systems and his response was pragmatic as ever: “We’ve got to have them. Without them I expect Renault would have quit and Honda would not have joined.” He is of course correct.
Even so, and as Christmas approaches, I find myself in an increasingly Scrooge-like frame of mind over F1. Martin asked me if I thought the true legends of F1 writing – as epitomised by our own Nigel Roebuck – were part of a golden generation and I replied that they were, but that I also imagined the job was never harder than it is today.
The fact is that if you reported on F1 in the 1970s you were treated to a feast of radically different and often quite spectacularly gorgeous cars, driven by drivers of not just outstanding ability, but character too, on tracks that made your pulse race just by looking at a circuit diagram.
Amid the cry of the Cosworth V8s there’d also be the howl, shriek and scream of a Ferrari, Alfa or BRM V12. The best thing that can be said about next year’s V6 is that, thanks to Ferrari, at least they’re not the four-cylinder lumps that were originally proposed.
What will spice up the show?
It seems sad to hope for unreliability as an incidental way of spicing up the show, but that’s where we seem to be. The cars now look and sound worse than ever and like many others, I suspect that because Red Bull is in a class of one at present, it will be able to carry a sufficient advantage over the winter to make the actual racing as predictable next year as this.
At the time Murray Walker described Monaco ’82 as “the most eventful, exciting and momentous Grand Prix I have ever seen”. If unreliability is what it takes to hear Martin Brundle say the same in 2014, I am all for it.