The past few years of Formula One have been, shall we say, a rollercoaster. Like many others, I was disenchanted with the direction it appeared F1 was heading towards. The cars were becoming uglier and uglier by the year. Ferrari and McLaren held a duopoly over the sport while skyrocketing costs forced other teams into submission. A wave of Tilke monstrosities began to crawl their way onto the schedule. Bernie Ecclestone looked to be plowing full speed toward senility.
Perhaps the worst part was the never-ending dramas and scandals that seemed to follow the sport wherever it went. While F1 has always been known to have its share of spectacles, these moments began to drastically affect the actual racing. Inter-team rivalries and conflicts among personnel begot spying scandals and disqualifications. Disagreements between the teams and the head honchos begot a race boycott and seeing Max Mosley being whipped by a hooker. In short, it was looking less like the ?pinnacle of motorsport? and more like a soap opera.
Just when I thought F1 couldn?t get any dumber, 2009 happened. And they totally redeemed themselves!
James Allen called 2009 ?a revolutionary year? for F1. I suppose the word ?revolutionary? is the only adjective strong enough to describe what has taken place over the last 12 months.
The major changes in the cars are obvious: different wings on the front and back, diffusers, KERS, etc. It appears as though the sport will continue in this direction for the foreseeable future, especially considering the ban on refueling which will force the teams to further modify their chassis to incorporate this rule. It appeared to me that the racing itself improved a bit from the previous seasons, which I would assume was partly the result of these new changes. I thought that the 2009 Australian Grand Prix was the best dry-weather F1 race in a long time, with other events also showing improvement in the competitiveness column.
In regards to the teams, it appears as though the positive outweigh the negatives. Like many others, I was stunned when Honda abruptly announced its immediate withdraw from Formula One. With rumors abounding throughout the year that other shoes were about to drop, it looked at first glance like the number of teams in F1 would shrink dramatically. Yet, it seems like F1 is finally beginning to acknowledge that spending is getting out of control, and is legitimately trying to rectify the situation.
Thus, even as two other manufacturers left after the 2009 campaign, the tentative team lineup sees an increase in the amount of participants in F1. They provide F1 with a bit of an ?independent? streak that really hasn?t been around for a good number of years. All this should produce a leaner, mean F1 for years to come.
Perhaps what I love the most about this new era of F1 is the sense that there are so many drivers who have a realistic shot at winning races, scoring podiums, and competing for championships. The unbelievable story of Brawn GP goes to show that it?s a whole new ballgame. For 2010, there will be four World Drivers Champions, in addition to other drivers who have the potential to become world champions.
2009 was perhaps the greatest season in terms of parity. The aforementioned instant metamorphosis of the former Honda team allowed for Jenson Button to finally show his shit and for Rubens Barrichello to prove to the world that he still has it.
Mark Webber went for the unluckiest man in F1 to a multiple-time winner, while his teammate becomes one of the few drivers to actually outdo his own hype. The quirky team has now become one of the powerhouses in F1.
Lewis Hamilton proved that he wasn?t just a decent driver in a great car in 2008. He continues to solidify himself as an outstanding wet weather driver, while having great performances in inferior cars. Another WDC, Fernando Alonso, gets the ?dream job? and will wear red for the foreseeable future.
Just when I thought that the roster of drivers couldn?t get any better, we get yet another bombshell dropped. The man, the myth, the legend, would return. We often wondered about how Hamilton, Vettel, Kubica, etc. would do against The German Fellow. Well, it looks like dreams do come true. As an unabashed fan of his, I can barely contain my excitement over what 2010 will hold for Michael Schumacher. As I stated in my previous blog, I think that the Schumacher/Brawn/Mercedes combo will reap great benefits, and Schumi certainly has a legitimate chance at number eight. Then again, there are about ten drivers that could make an argument for the 2010 title.
Yes, there are still problems. The Piquet drama showed that dirty tactics will almost certainly remain in racing. The Tilke abominations still frequent the calendar. And, despite the election of Jean Todt as head of the FIA, it appears as though Mad Max still has tremendous influence in the sport, judging by his involvement in the Briatore drama.
Still, I can?t wait for this season to start. A couple of months ago, one of the blogs here asked people what they would change about F1. This year, I can honestly say, not much at all.
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