Last season ended with the birth of new champion where in Sebastian Vettel won his first drivers' title by winning the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in a dramatic finish. Yes, all the Formula 1 lovers saw that race because on paper one could see lot of permutations and combinations possible to decide the next champion.
However, roll back to mid season last year or the first three races of this season. Watching Formula 1 does not bring the same level of excitement it used to in the times of battles between Mika Hakkinen and Michael Schumacher or the unrestrained BMW Williams drove by Juan Pablo Montoya. What is missing today in Formula 1 is the competitive spirit between Hakkinen and Schumacher and the overtaking maneuvers of Montoya to keep the viewers glued on the TV screens during the whole race.
What has happened is that Formula 1 has got into the vicious circle of technology. It is very much acceptable by everyone that it is the car that has more say in deciding the eventual winner rather than driver. Michael Schumacher, though little older today is still the same he was in last decade when he was winning world championships. What has changed is he is no longer driving Ferrari but Mercedes GP that is not able to match today’s Red Bull and McLaren Mercedes.
A lot has been tried to cut down the huge gap between the cars to encourage lot more competition and overtaking to thereby trying to make races more exciting and thus attract more viewers for this sport. The interesting point to notice here is that the gap created by technology has been tried to be narrowed down by again using technology. KERS is the recent example of the same. It was brought in to increase overtaking but the results are not there to be seen. Red Bull played another masterstroke in response to this technology by not using it at all in the races. Therefore, the result has been that Formula 1 is failing repeatedly to come out of vicious circle of technology.
Formula 1’s boss, Bernie Ecclestone too understands this situation of continuously losing out on viewership and from time to time has introduced new ideas to counter that. Night Race in Singapore was one such recent addition to make the event more attractive and spectacular inspite of retaliation by the drivers citing safety issues. In addition, efforts have been made to tap new viewers and increase popularity in China and India by having Formula 1 races hosted in these countries.
Nevertheless, the situation is still very bad. The level of it can be imagined by the fact that Bernie went on to propose introduction of a sprinkler system for artificial rains to spice up the races. Well seems like Bernie is running out of ideas to bring in excitement to the world of Formula 1.
Wrote this for a sports site dated May 4th 2011.