Formula 1 can be a very fickle sport at times for it’s inhabitants. For a sport that speaks volumes in racing, it’s just as much about the politics and money transpiring between the various spokespeople, principals, liars and folks behind the scenes that both build up and break down what we love about the sport; what happens out on the track. The drivers themselves are not the lovable gentlemen and characteristic playboys of the 60’s that we so often study and read about, and often remember and love to reminisce about. Concerning modern day drivers, I have been wondering a question recently to my mind about the personalities we watch driver around circuits many times a year to much enjoyment from myself and millions of others; at what price does a team become a team before an opportunity to these sportsmen? In what case do they see a team that may provide a future over an team that may provide economic providence? Does money rule over reliability to some?
It’s an unfair accusation personally to simply say that formula 1 drivers are simply there for the money; it’s simply not true. In the same way that footballers may be provided with the most ludicrous wages at times per week, and no matter how ghastly they may perform on the pitch at times, their role within their employment is the same as any of our employment roles within normal life; to turn up, get on with our job, and get rewarded for out input. Every driver has his own personality and opinions, of course, much like I have my own opinions that may vary from you the reader. The following content of this entry however is just my personal view of how I see the drivers in their position in the teams, and wondering just how loyal they are to their employers. You may think I’m right, you may think I’m wrong, that’s perfectly ok, but it’s something that has been on my mind and something that might be quite interesting to discuss. So… just how loyal are they?
The original plan was going to be to go through every driver and study their loyalty and previous history. However, after reviewing the blog, the ideas and after a bit of lovely feedback, I did decide that would be simply too much to write about. I love Formula 1 just as much as the next fan, but it seemed a tad ridiculous to study every area so thoroughly. There are new drivers to the grid, and there are drivers I don’t know so well in comparison to others, for example, look if I were to analyse Barrichello alongside Buemi – the difference in experience and history would be a huge difference! For me it seems best to simply look at the drivers who’s loyalty could come into question in the current climate of formula 1, and how the future could shape out to them. This is only the first part of this, and I hope to do another in the nearby future (this week) to conclude my thoughts and feelings and break up things a little. This, I feel, would make for a far less demanding read and also not so much content to include. I hope you agree!
A good place to start would be the world champion. Let’s face it, we have a champion who seems to be Formula 1’s marmite driver in the UK; you either love him or hate him. Lewis has a great deal to be loyal for personally concerning McLaren. The team, and Ron Dennis in particular, had a lot of faith in putting a new, inexperienced driver to the sport into the very top rank of cars in his first season. It paid off; Lewis has proved time and time again he has the skill to be at McLaren and as we all know by his second season he was World Champion, which is quite a fait. This season, it seems Lewis’ loyalty to the team that brought him into f1 and watched over his rise from karting into the big bad world of Formula 1 has bee brought into question plenty of times so far. His attitude towards the team has been very dismissive at times, and whilst frustration is bound to boil over the current world champion when he is struggling to get any pace out of a car still progressing towards the front again, it is imperative that he sticks with what he has for me personally. Of course, the ‘era of Ron’ is over and McLaren seem to be putting plenty of emphasis upon this new, honest setup they appear to be throwing at both us as fans and the FIA. Lewis is a very, very good driver, but he has a lot to learn if he wants to be remembered anything like his idol Senna; he has had plenty of challenges to overcome this season, and step by step, he can build his way to be in the top tier once more. He certainly has the skill, now he needs the head to go with it to remind him just what he has at McLaren. All that being said, McLaren haven’t been an honest team this season and have caused problems for Lewis themselves, as well as unnecessary headlines to accompany a frustrating entry into the 2009 season so you yourselves can ask where you feel blame is to place where loyalty is concerned with Lewis.
Let’s compare the top driver at McLaren (Sorry Heikki, or for Sidepodcast readers, sorry Amy!) to the top driver, for me, over at rivals Ferrari. I have a lot of time for Felipe. When I see him in the car, and around the paddock on TV, there appears to be a great deal of hunger in his style of racing and the attitude he has towards his role at Ferrari, not to mention how impressive he was in 2008 concerning his title challenge. He also seems genuinely delighted to be at a team such as Ferrari, which I’m sure anyone would in all fairness considering the pay packet you would be picking up and the team themselves with that iconic heritage orbiting the team, but there is a genuine loyalty to succeed in that car for me in Massa. When Schumacher retired from the team after 2006, he stayed on with Ferrari for various little roles but also as a mentor for the drivers, and it seems more specifically with Felipe. This has worked wonders personally; Felipe has matured, his driving ability has increased tenfold since those days at Sauber (Ah, good comedy) and he is a big landmark on the map of Formula 1. In the future, I can easily see Felipe staying but only at the teams choice; many a time have us fans been held to accusations within the rumour bank that a certain Mr. Alonso and Vettel may be driving in the blood red of Ferrari’s colours in the nearby future – only time will tell.
As a sport always pushing for the future, as with most recent seasons we have quite the amount of drivers with youth on their side and generally inexperienced with the sport yet apparently ready for the demands of Formula 1. I’m looking at the likes of Sebastien Bourdais, Sebastien Buemi and Nelson Piquet, who have only a single season or two’s history within the sport or, in Buemi’s case, a few races. How can we analyse the loyalty of a driver that is new to this world? Everybody has to start somewhere, even if you have criticism left right and centre, it’s your role as a driver to prove why the teams should sign you on. Formula 1 is now a very expensive world where money is constantly a centre point of discussion for several different reasons, so I question, are some of these newer drivers coming into the sport for the heritage of teams and the sport itself, for the passion of racing on the pinnacle of motorsport, or simply to ensure themselves a financial future in a job willing to embrace them? Piquet, in particular, seems to hold a very negative attitude to the way he addresses his job. He recently did an interview with F1 Racing magazine in which his responses to the way Flavio works as a boss, and how Alonso is as a teammate, showed how frustrated he was with his position in the team. You can sympathise I suppose in this aspect; he’s very much the number 2 under, as he calls it, “Flavio’s favourite son” and Flav himself gets little praise from myself. At the same time, Piquet’s performances on track have been far less of what should be expected of a team who just a few years ago were world champions, and the positive he has done is vastly overweighed by the negative in his driving whether it be his poor qualifying performances or inconsistent driving. Would he be better with another team? Possibly. He may have a chance to get out of how he feels is Alonso’s shadow and possibly get a car he feels he can get a better drive out of, but in his current role, there is obviously no loyalty to Renault. I have mentioned plenty of times myself how he expresses no real connection to the team, and if he had the chance to up his money and go, I feel he would happily take it over this seemingly secure drive.
There is plenty more to discuss about the various aspects of loyalty within the ranks of Formula 1, and possibly not just with the drivers. But for now, I shall leave it at this and move onto my next areas of discussion in my next entry, including Jenson Button’s domination of the 2009 season and what could be next for him. Again, this is all simply how the world of Formula 1 appears to me as a diehard fan, and there is no wrong or right necessarily in what I have mentioned. I do hope though that you return for the second part of this later in the week!