You know the rules…
It was scarcely credible, truth be told. All winter, we’d heard promises of a bright new beginning for Formula One. The latest generation 3.0-litre cars would be more racer-friendly, we were assured. The performance differentials between the established front-runners and the rest would be reduced. There would be more excitement, more variety and, we hoped, naïvely as it transpired, less controversy.
The events in Brazil have been well documented, and are scrutinised elsewhere in the issue. Suffice to say that Benetton and Williams were still ahead of the rest, the only significant overtaking took place in the pits and the crowd went home thinking one driver had won the race only to awake the next morning and discover the result had been changed…
So what’s new?
The ramifications of the FIA’s remarkable decision to reinstate Schumacher and Coulthard in the results but penalise their teams will be interesting. Ferrari, which finally showed real signs of competitiveness in Argentina, has reacted most strongly. To some extent, Ferrari has a point. Sure, neither Benetton nor Williams gained any advantage from the Elf they used in Brazil, but Ferrari’s point, that rules are rules, black and white, is valid. Ferrari’s implication, however, that teams are now going to infringe the rules in the expectation that their drivers will be able to retain points upon payment of a fine is ludicrous.
Our hope is that Ferrari’s vitriol will subside, that the first argument of the year will gradually fade away and everyone can get on with the business of competing on the track, rather than in the law courts.
There was some good racing in the opening stages of the Argentine Grand Prix. There is genuine cause to hope that Formula One can emerge from the tawdry goings-on of the past couple of years. The teams and their suppliers know the rules. The onus is upon them to respect them, in order that such hope may be fulfilled. And at a time when the sport’s public profile is in sore need of a polish, that, surely, is not too much to ask?