On great Formula One battles.

So yesterday was the Malaysian Grand Prix*.

It was quite exciting, or at least an awful lot seemed to happen.

This is quite unusual in Formula One, which can descend into knowing almost precisely who will win within the first ten laps.

Of course, the person who was leading in the first ten laps was, in fact, the person who won in this race too**. But there was a bit of a scrum behind him and that was the important thing.

Now people might think that the point of Formula One is that it is a battle for excellence amongst drivers, or race strategists, or, at least, between engineers. However, you are fast coming to the conclusion that actually, the real battle is between the design teams and the governing body of the sport.

This is because every year, the FIA fiddles with the racing rules to try to slow the cars down, cripple them aerodynamically, make sure they have to stop occasionally, limit the clever design solutions which the teams can come up with to counter these measures and insist on certain other devices being introduced all with the aim of allowing one driver to actually pass another, should his skill be sufficient.

This has proved quite hard. It is in the nature of the engineering race to try to make the car too fast, too aerodynamically efficient, able to run for longer, to invent ways round the perimeters that the FIA hasn’t conceived of yet and to find ways to defend against any useful bit of kit the other teams might have come up with, and the technical gurus are very very good at this.

The FIA seems to have a nose ahead this season, though.

There are two gadgets designed to give the cars a boost at the right time in the right place. Something called DRS, which can change the aerodynamics of the car at a strategic moment, and the KERS, which gives more power. Although part of the success of these is that there seems to be a splendid fail rate in the race at the moment, which in itself creates more opportunities.

But the thing that really put the cat among the pigeons on Sunday was the way the tyre manufacturer, who is the same for all the cars, has been asked to provide tyres which are designed to fall to pieces as quickly as possible. This means more stops so that new sets can be fitted, which opens up windows for different drivers with different strategies gaining or losing an advantage anyway. And because quite when and how the tyres will start to degrade isn’t well understood yet, getting the timing right on these stops hasn’t been perfected and at least for now is providing all sorts of opportunities for errors, confusion and downright incompetence.

It was a lot of fun.

You felt a bit for the commentators though.

Particularly since it is only their second outing as a commentating team.

Yes, Vettel is only twelve years old. Or, aren't you getting old?

*Formula One, for the motorsport challenged amongst us.

** Sebastian Vettel. Of course. He drives for Red Bull. May well be unstoppable this season. He also won the Championship last year.


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