Is the Indianapolis 500 *ACTUALLY* the ‘Greatest Spectacle in Racing’ ?

The Indianapolis 500 has become one of the most famous racing events over the past century, combining scintillating speed and unmitigated bravery that is quite unparalleled in motorsport.

With speeds topping over 220mph, drivers are at full throttle for approximately 3 hours, experiencing forces of (4G) across an incredible 200-lap distance.

But with speed comes danger, and hero can turn to zero in a heartbeat. The sport is recognised as one of the most dangerous with over 40 deaths occurring at The Brickyard.

Fox and Cheever 1995 Indy 500. Photo Courtesy of IndyCar.

While there has not been a death at the Indy 500 in almost a decade, serious injuries are still a reality for many. During practice for the Indy 500 in 2015, James Hinchcliffe famously flipped his No.5 Honda after touching the barriers, resulting in a burning inferno and a piece of the car’s suspension piercing his left thigh as he hit the wall. The Canadian driver would survive this incident but missed the rest of the IndyCar season as a result.

The Indianapolis 500 is a race like no other, with incredible technology and deep traditions which make it an event like no other.

But is it *REALLY* the ‘Greatest Spectacle in Racing’?

WHAT IS THE COMPETITION?

The Monaco F1 Grand Prix and the Le Mans 24 Hours can be considered its closest competitors. To win all three is what is known as the ‘Triple Crown’ – suggesting they all share qualities as the toughest races in the world. All of these races present unique challenges, and with that, different audiences.

Monaco is widely seen as the jewel in the crown of motorsport. Since its inception in 1929, the most richest and famous grace the presence of ‘The Principality’ for a week of festivities, boat parties, and galas. If there’s anything that epitomises the socioeconomic legacy of Formula 1 – its Monaco.

No other race can compare to Monaco in terms of the beauty of its surroundings. Wedged between the natural beauty of the Mediterranean Sea and the Maritime Alps, the Circuit de Monaco winds through the tight streets of the principality.

The race presents its own challenges. Like the Indy 500, one mistake can mean the end of your race.  The tight, windy streets produce one of the most exciting qualifying sessions in motorsport. It tests every inch of a driver’s concentration and skill to perfect, which is why only the very best see repeated success.

However, they also make it very difficult to overtake which detracts from the overall entertainment of the event. Many people comment on the “dullness” of Monaco and the lack of racing that occurs.

Likewise, you could make a case for the Le Mans 24 Hours, staged at the semi-permanent race course: The Circuit de la Sarthe since the very first race in 1923.

The 38-turn, 8.5-mile track takes around 3min 25sec to complete for LMP1 cars. It’s unbelievably quick and challenging, with tricky corners like the Porsche Curves and plenty of long straights.

Each team is pushed to its technological and physical limits to race through the day and into the night. Machine and humans alike withstand incredible attrition and exhaustion if they want to win this star-studded race.

Moreover, the vast number of cars on track make it an incredible spectacle to watch with: Hypercars, LMP2 Prototypes, and GT cars racing side by side. The sheer variety of teams, drivers, nationalities, and races on show is unmatched.

Now, throw in the likes of the Isle of Man TT and The Dakar Rally – Indy has some stiff competition.

COMPETITIVENESS 

While it is a misnomer that IndyCar is a ‘spec-series’, it certainly would fool you to think it was.

It is common for drivers to fight through the field from lowly positions, sometimes even fighting for the win.

Not only did Louis Meyer charge through the pack in the 1936 Indy 500, moving from a starting position of 28th to a final position of first, but he also led 96 laps while capturing his third Indy 500 win.

Moreover, three out of the last six races have seen some of the closest finishes in racing, 15′, 17′, and 19′ all with winning margins of less than 0.25s.

Anything can happen at the 500′ as can be seen this year with Penske’s Will Power nearly failing to qualify, a fate that was all-too-real for two-time Formula 1 Champion Fernando Alonso in 2019.

This unpredictability adds to the entertainment of the event and speaks volumes of the challenges facing teams who are all competing at a very similar level.

TRADITIONS

The first Indianapolis 500 race took place in 1911 (Older than *both* the Monaco GP and 24 Hours Le Mans). Since then, numerous traditions have been created.  For many fans, these traditions are an important part of the race experience that they look forward to every year.

Harroun wins the first ever 1911 Indy 500. Photo Courtesy of IndyCar.

But perhaps one of the strangest traditions of the race is the winner chugging a bottle of chilled milk in victory lane.

It’s a unique tradition that has appeared in every race since 1956 and has become a snapshot moment defining the elation of victory after winning one of the world’s most iconic races.

Likewise, the presenting of the Indy 500 rings is a special moment for all drivers who compete, a momento that only a few can say they have received

There are many traditions that may seem odd to those unfamiliar with the event, but they only add an endearing quality to it. You can tell how much this race means to drivers, teams, and fans alike by the way they celebrate and look forward to these moments. It adds richness, built upon years of hard work, achievement, failure, and redemption. This history is personified in these moments which make it hard to resist.

VIEWERSHIP/MARKETS/TV

While comparisons are difficult to make, there is certainly a gulf in global viewership between its nearest competitors.

While a 2018 report by NBC shows figures of around 5 to 6 million average viewers for its domestic audience, this puts it well short of other US events such as the Super Bowl. In other words, that is around 1.6% – 1.8% of the US population.

How does that stack up against other domestic sports events? Well, if you compare this to 3.5 million UK viewers who tuned in for the British Grand Prix – that is approximately 5% of the UK population!

Moreover, according to a report by Nielson Sports in 2017, the Monaco Grand Prix reported saw a 10% rise to 110 million viewers.

While they are no solid sources estimating the worldwide ratings for the Indianapolis 500, they all fall short of the Monaco Grand Prix’s global reach.

It is without question that the reach of ‘The Greatest Spectacle in Racing’ dwarfs that of Formula 1. There really is no competition.

GET INVOLVED

But what do *YOU* think?

We want to know whether you think the Indianapolis 500 is ‘The Greatest Spectacle in Racing’. And if so, why?

Let us know in the comments section below or interact with us on Twitter!

 

 

 

Monaco Grand Prix: Dominant Verstappen and heartbreak for Leclerc

Before the race began, Leclerc had issues on his lap to the grid. Finally making it back to his garage, it was a race to discover and fix the problem before the pitlane closed. This, however, was not possible.

After several messages between the FIA and Ferrari, the car was not able to start the race due to a failure of the left drive shaft. This was more heartbreak for the Monégasque, who has never finished a race in Monaco after getting DNFs in both 2018 and 2019 and in 2017 with Formula 2.

Because of this there was some question over whether the grid would be shuffled up. The FIA quickly decided, though, to keep everyone in the grid positions they qualified in. This meant that, for the first time since David Coulthard in 2001, nobody would start in pole position at Monaco.

Bottas then had a clean track on the inside to start with only Verstappen on the dirty side, leaving a potential for carnage at the start of the race.

Lights out and Bottas had a better start, but this was shut down by Verstappen before Turn 1. The rest of the pack got away cleanly, which is unusual for Monaco.

(Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images) – Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

From there it was a relatively straight forward race before the pitstops. On lap 24, Hamilton was the first to pit in an attempt to undercut Gasly. However, it didn’t work on this occasion.

Bottas pitted on the next lap and drama unfolded as the wheel nut on the front right was machined off and the wheel became stuck on the car. Initially it looked as if they may be able to get it off, but this was to be the end of his race.

This created a huge opportunity for Red Bull and Verstappen. Some excellent team play by Red Bull meant that Perez had opened up a gap on Hamilton, Gasly and Vettel to be able to pit without losing too many positions. Bono had to break the news to an already very annoyed Hamilton that he had lost a further position to Perez as a result.

With 20 laps to go, Lando Norris started to complain about his tyres as Perez began to catch him at nearly one second per lap. However, as is normal around Monaco, it is very difficult to overtake and Norris managed to hold off Perez for the final podium position.

McLaren Media Centre

Having accepted his position on the track, Hamilton pitted for soft tyres to fight for the fastest lap point. This was not as simple as it seemed, as he had to let Verstappen lap him before charging for fastest lap. He did eventually get the extra point, a consolation prize after a not-so-successful weekend. This point, whilst not important now, could become crucial in the last stages of the season.

Finally, after a very dominant performance, Max Verstappen won the Monaco Grand Prox. He broke his Monaco ‘curse’ by making it onto the podium for the first time. Sainz followed in P2 with Norris in P3. This was one of the happiest podiums in Formula 1, with all drivers excited to be there. It also gave the fans a great Sainz and Norris reunion which everyone has been wanting since Sainz moved to Ferrari.

Vettel got a well deserved driver of the day vote after a great performance, gaining two places in the race and making a great move on Gasly when he came out of the pits to secure him P5.

Due to his win Verstappen now leads the driver championship, which is the first time since Australia 2013 that it has been led by someone other than a Mercedes driver or Vettel. This is also the first time Red Bull have led the constructor’s championship since 2013.

F2 Monaco: Pourchaire dominates feature race

ART’s Theo Pourchaire took his first Formula 2 victory with a commanding performance in the Monaco feature race, becoming the youngest winner in F2 history.

Pourchaire got a quick launch from pole position to cover off an attack from second-placed Robert Shwartzman into Sainte Devote. The pair then spent the opening laps of the race trading fastest laps, while the gap between them stayed level at around a second.

Robert Shwartzman, Prema (Bryn Lennon, Getty Images / FIA F2)

Behind them, the order remained stable with Oscar Piastri in third, leading Dan Ticktum, Juri Vips, Ralph Boschung, Roy Nissany, Christian Lundgaard, Felipe Drugovich and Guanyu Zhou. But on lap 9, Drugovich pulled the trigger on the pit window by stopping for soft tyres on the alternate strategy, coming out in 15th.

As the cars he’d been racing against made their own stops to cover him, Drugovich got his fresh tyres up to temperature and started setting successive fastest laps. On lap 21 Drugovich moved up a net sixth by passing Boschung after the latter’s stop, then found himself ahead of Nissany and Lundgaard once they exited the pits.

On lap 29 Shwartzman stopped to attempt the undercut on Pourchaire. But a slow left rear tyre change dropped him down the order, leaving him behind Zhou who had yet to stop, and Piastri, Ticktum and Drugovich.

Pourchaire stopped a lap later and came out comfortably ahead of Piastri, with Zhou inheriting the lead as he had yet to pit. But Zhou was prevented from stopping on lap 31 when Marcus Armstrong hit the wall at La Rascasse while fighting Vips, and the virtual safety car was deployed.

The VSC was only out for one lap, but was redeployed immediately after when Lirim Zendelli locked up and hit the wall at La Rascasse at the restart. A third VSC was then brought out a lap later again, when Ticktum tried to pass Piastri around the outside of La Rascasse on the restart but ended up making it three cars in the wall in as many laps.

Guanyu Zhou, UNI-Virtuosi (Lars Baron, Getty Images / FIA F2)

When the final VSC was withdrawn, Zhou led with a 20-second gap over Pourchaire. But with the Virtuosi driver on old tyres, Pourchaire rapidly halved that lead by the time Zhou stopped on lap 37.

Zhou emerged in third ahead of Drugovich, but Drugovich passed him on the outlap with the advantage of his warmer tyres. Zhou then lost another position to Shwartzman and came under pressure from Boschung, although he was able to hold off the Campos before the chequered flag.

At the front, Pourchaire crossed the line with nearly five seconds in hand over Piastri, while Drugovich followed them home in third for his second podium of the weekend. Shwartzman took fourth ahead of Zhou and Boschung, and Liam Lawson, Vips, Nissany and Richard Verschoor rounded out the points.

Leaving Monaco, Zhou stays in the lead of the championship with 68 points, while Piastri and Pourchaire move up to second and third. UNI-Virtuosi remains at the top of the teams’ standings, although Prema have displaced Carlin from second with 15 points the difference between the top two. Find the full F2 standings here.

Monaco Grand Prix Qualifying: Leclerc crashes onto pole at home race

Charles Leclerc took pole in his home race at Monaco on Saturday afternoon after delivering a good lap on his first run in Q3. The qualifying session did not end in the best way for the rest of the drivers though, after the Monegasque driver lost control of his car coming out of the swimming pool section and ended up in the barriers and brought out the red flag.

This bitter-sweet ending to his qualifying session meant that Max Verstappen, Valtteri Bottas and Carlos Sainz, who were all setting decent times behind him, had to abort their laps.

© Copyright: FIA Pool Image for Editorial Use Only – FOTO COLOMBO IMAGES SRL

A frantic Q1 got underway under cloudy Monaco skies with cars all over the short layout track and drivers had to do multiple warm-up laps to get the tyres to running temperatures as the track was colder compared to previous sessions. Both the Haas cars saw their drivers go out in Q1, especially Mick Schumacher who had a huge crash coming out of the casino square in free practice even failed to make it onto the track in the session.

A surprise knockout of Q1 was Fernando Alonso of Alpine who has had such a brilliant record at the track previously and this meant he would only be starting as high as P17 for tomorrow’s race. His teammate Ocon on the other hand qualified at a decent P11 giving himself a chance to score points. Highly talented Japanese rookie Yuki Tsunoda in the Alpha Tauri was another driver who had to exit Q1 after his hot lap could only manage to put him at P16. Latifi in the Williams could only manage a P18 while his teammate George Russell got out of Q1 yet again and will be starting at P15.

Q2 saw the 2018 Monaco GP winner Daniel Ricciardo get knocked out after his lap was only good enough to be placed at P12 which shows that the Australian is still getting accustomed to the McLaren car. His teammate Lando Norris however had yet another good qualifying session at put his McLaren at P5. Lance Stroll of Aston Martin and Kimi Raikkonen of Alfa Romeo were the rest of the drivers to be knocked out of Q2 and they are set to start from P13 and P14.

Credit: McLaren Media Centre

Q3 got off to a brilliant start as expected with Verstappen in the Redbull taking on the Ferraris of Sainz and Leclerc but it was Leclerc who came out on top after the first runs. Mercedes who were struggling all weekend will take some comfort from the fact that Valtteri Bottas atleast managed to put his car onto P3 at the grid after the end of the session. Concern will still be present around Lewis Hamilton’s starting position after the championship leader could only manage a lap good enough to put him at P7.

Pierre Gasly put in another stellar performance even outqualifying Hamilton in the process and will be starting his race P6 alongside Norris in P5. Sebastian Vettel in the Aston Martin impressed yet again after qualifying for Q3 and he will lining up alongside an old rival in Lewis Hamilton at P8.

The Monaco GP returning after a 1 year break is all set to alter the course of the championship standings should Verstappen finish where he is starting from. Fate could still intervene for Charles Leclerc at his home race as his pole position might be taken away from him if his gear box has suffered from the crash but for now, Ferrari have a real chance of making a statement after a horrible season of 2020.

 

F2 Monaco: Lawson disqualified from second sprint race, Ticktum inherits win

Liam Lawson has been disqualified from the second Monaco sprint race for a technical regulations breach, promoting Dan Ticktum to victory.

After the race, Lawson was found to have used an incorrect throttle map at the start of the race. Under Article 3.6.5 of the Formula 2 technical regulations, drivers are required to use a defined throttle map programme during all formation lap starts and race starts until the car reaches 50kph.

With Lawson disqualified, Ticktum and Oscar Piastri are promoted to first and second in the results, while Juri Vips moves up to his first podium of the season in third. Jehan Daruvala moves up into the points in eighth.

Robert Shwartzman is promoted into the top 10, which doesn’t yield points in the sprint race but does allow him to take the bonus two points for setting the fastest lap.

Dan Ticktum, Carlin (Bryn Lennon, Getty Images / FIA F2)

F2 Monaco: Lawson wins damp sprint race

Hitech’s Liam Lawson took his second win of the season in the second Monaco sprint race, overcoming the challenge of Oscar Piastri and Dan Ticktum in tricky conditions.

Lawson inherited pole position for the reverse grid race, after original polesitter Marcus Armstrong stopped on his way to the grid and was relegated to a pit lane start. But starting on a damp track, Lawson didn’t get enough traction off the line and Piastri beat him into Sainte Devote to take the lead. Behind them, Ticktum jumped from fourth to third with a move on Theo Pourchaire.

But despite having the better launch, Piastri wasn’t able to drop Lawson over the opening laps. After staying consistently within a few tenths of the Prema, Lawson made a move to the inside of the Nouvelle chicane on lap 5. Piastri held him off there, but Lawson got him for the lead at the inside of La Rascasse later in the lap.

Oscar Piastri, Prema (Clive Rose, Formula Motorsport Limited via Getty Images / FIA F2)

Once in the lead, Lawson then began checking out while Piastri struggled to keep his wet tyres alive on the drying track and came under pressure from Ticktum. As Lawson pulled out a three-second gap over the field, Ticktum took second from Piastri with an inside lunge out of the tunnel on lap 15.

Ticktum, much more comfortable in the conditions than Piastri, started reeling in Lawson immediately. He halved Lawson’s gap by lap 18, then closed to within a second of the Hitech a lap later.

But Lawson regrouped and set the fastest lap on lap 20, while Ticktum had a wide moment through Mirabeau and lost temperature in his tyres. As he tried to recover the grip, the gap to Lawson slipped to over four seconds.

Ticktum’s mistake looked to be nullified on lap 24, when David Beckmann and Bent Viscaal brought out the safety car by coming together at Sainte Devote. But due to the slower pace of the damp track, the race was run to time instead of the planned 30 laps, and Ticktum was unable to bring his tyres back up to temperature in time to catch Lawson before the flag.

Dan Ticktum, Carlin (Bryn Lennon, Getty Images / FIA F2)

Lawson eventually came home with more than three seconds in hand over Ticktum for his second win of the year. Piastri came under pressure on the final two laps from Juri Vips, but he was able to hold the Estonian behind with clever defending through Mirabeau and finished on the podium in third.

Vips finished fourth ahead of Pourchaire. Ralph Boschung, Richard Verschoor and Lirim Zendelli rounded out the final points positions. Robert Shwartzman took the fastest lap, but was outside the top ten and so did not receive the accompanying points.

Championship leader Guanyu Zhou failed to score after an unsuccessful gamble to stop for slick tyres left him well outside the points. His gap over Lawson in the standings is now 11 points.

UPDATE: Lawson was disqualified from the results after the race for a breach of the technical regulations, with Ticktum inheriting the win. Read the full details here.

F2 Monaco: Zhou leads Virtuosi 1–2 in first sprint race

Guanyu Zhou took his second consecutive win of the Formula 2 season, leading UNI-Virtuosi teammate Felipe Drugovich across the line from pole.

Zhou and Drugovich started alongside each other on the front row. But while Zhou got a clean getaway, Drugovich was slow off the line and lost second to the faster Christian Lundgaard.

Behind them, Theo Pourchaire jumped the Premas of Oscar Piastri and Robert Shwartzman for eighth. Shwartzman’s start then got even worse as lost his front wing to the wall at Beau Rivage, and retired a few laps later from damage.

Theo Pourchaire, ART (Bryn Lennon, Getty Images / FIA F2)

At the front, Lundgaard prevented Zhou from checking out in the lead. Keeping within a second of the Chinese driver after the start, Lundgaard closed the gap to four tenths on lap 4. But Zhou regrouped and pushed on, opening up a buffer of a second just two laps later.

Zhou’s lead then grew to over three seconds when Lundgaard’s engine started smoking on lap 13. After trying to continue for two laps, Lundgaard eventually pulled off the road at the Nouvelle Chicane and retired, promoting Drugovich to second and Roy Nissany to third.

 

Drugovich, who had dropped back from Lundgaard to avoid the ART’s oil spill, assumed pursuit of Zhou with five seconds between himself and his teammate. The Brazilian made good progress to close that gap by more than two seconds by lap 19, but Zhou responded shortly after to keep out of reach.

Zhou’s gap was briefly eliminated in the closing laps after Gianluca Petecof hit the wall out of Piscine and brought out the safety car. But at the restart on lap 28, Drugovich struggled to get his tyres up to temperature in time and Zhou managed to restore his three second lead by the time he crossed the line.

Nissany finished third behind Zhou and Drugovich for his first F2 podium, while Ralph Boschung took his best F2 result so far in fourth for Campos. Juri Vips finished fifth and took the fastest lap, and Dan Ticktum, Pourchaire and Piastri rounded out the points. Marcus Armstrong finished tenth to take reverse grid pole for tomorrow’s second sprint race.

Juri Vips, Hitech (Dan Istitene, Formula Motorsport Limited via Getty Images / FIA F2)

F2 Monaco preview: can Zhou extend his championship lead?

Formula 2 will take to the streets of Monaco this weekend, as the second round of the 2021 championship gets underway.

This weekend, the action will run from Thursday to Saturday rather than Friday to Sunday. Instead of both sprint races taking place on Saturday, the first will be at midday local time on Friday and the second at 8:20am on Saturday, with the feature race then at 17:15 on Saturday evening.

Alpine vs Red Bull

Guanyu Zhou, UNI-Virtuosi (Clive Mason, Formula Motorsport Limited via Getty Images / FIA Formula 2)

The opening round of the season left us with a fascinating picture of the Alpine and Red Bull junior stables battling it out at the top of the standings.

Alpine came away with the upper hand, with Oscar Piastri and Guanyu Zhou taking two of the three wins in Bahrain and Zhou leading the championship.

But Red Bull’s juniors aren’t far behind, as Liam Lawson sits just 11 points behind Zhou with a sprint race win and a third place under his belt already. And then there’s Jehan Daruvala, who was rapid across the Bahrain weekend and is 7 points clear of Piastri in third despite not taking a victory last time out.

Monaco presents a great chance for Zhou to make up some ground on his less-experienced rivals. As one of only three drivers on this weekend’s grid to have raced in Monaco in F2 before, Zhou has some crucial experience around the tricky track — not only that, but he scored a third place on his last outing at the principality.

Inconsistency has been the bane of Zhou’s campaigns in the past. So if he can notch up more big points and top three finishes in Monte Carlo, he’ll be well on the way to turning a strong start into a strong year.

Second chance at a first impression

Juri Vips, Hitech (Dutch Photo Agency / Red Bull Content Pool)

While Lawson, Piastri and Zhou left Bahrain with winners’ trophies, their teammates ended the first round of the season with some regrouping to do.

Robert Shwartzman, the championship favourite before the season, only sits five points behind Piastri in the standings, but he seemed a long way off the Australian’s pace throughout the Bahrain weekend. Meanwhile, Felipe Drugovich managed only 2 points to Zhou’s 41, and Lawson’s Hitech teammate Juri Vips had a torrid weekend of penalties and points-free finishes.

But with Bahrain almost two months in the rearview mirror now, those three have had plenty of time to pick themselves up and look to Monaco as a second chance to start off their season well.

And as Monaco is such a difficult circuit to master, Shwartzman, Vips and Drugovich will know that all it takes is one error for their teammates while they score decent points themselves, and Bahrain will just be a minor blip rather than an omen for the season.

Return of the Jack

Jack Aitken (Courtesy of Williams Media)

Together with Zhou and Ralph Boschung, one other driver will head to Monaco with F2 experience of the principality: Jack Aitken. He’ll be returning to F2 this weekend and at Baku with HWA, replacing Matteo Nannini who’s left the series after sponsorship trouble to focus on his Formula 3 campaign.

Aitken hasn’t had the best history at Monaco, with a highest finish of 7th in the 2018 feature race. But he does bring a wealth of experience at this level to help HWA move forward, and his record as a multiple F2 winner and audacious overtaker will make him someone for the rest of the field to beware.

Is Monaco’s glamour wearing thin in a 21st century F1?

Ariel view of Moanco. Image courtesy of Getty Images/Red Bull Content Pool

‘To tell you the truth, I hate Monaco. It’s like trying to ride a bicycle around your living room’ – Nelson Piquet.

Nelson Piquet was always a conscious stream of stinging quotes, but this one is arguably his most famous. At the time, it was at complete odds with the narrative of Monte Carlo’s diamond event – one of towering importance, energising luxury and an insatiable desire that this, this be the one race every driver must win, in order to be remembered as a great.

Yet in 2019, Piquet’s summary feels very poignant and true. And as each year goes on, that feeling only grows. But why is it so? What factors are at play, bubbling over the surface to damage the armoured love for a Formula One mainstay? There are many; the lack of on-track overtakes, a heavy reliance on strategy, and an emphasis on what happens off the track rather than on it. And it’s the latter that I want to dissect.

The Cote d’Azur embodies wealth. The glitz and glamour of the event began as a fantastical shot in the arm for all involved. A setting drizzled in history, playing host to casinos, hotels and restaurants galore, Monaco provided the unique backdrop of up to 30+ of the finest racing cars of the time zooming round an opulent city, a final ingredient for an extravagant souffle. It was magical, and a gleaming beacon of hope for those who wanted to be there, be a part of it.

The super yachts of Monaco. Image courtesy of Getty Images/Red Bull Content Pool

But times, since those heady days of the ‘50s and ‘60s, have changed. We now live in a world where the excessive is held in disdain, and the necessary is king. Formula One has changed, too: no longer a gentleman’s European tour, but a worldwide hand reaching out to new fans who would never have so much as heard tyres wince within their own country. If there’s anything that sums up the change F1 has gone through (and had to, unless it loses all relevance) is the old ringmaster Bernie Ecclestone’s resistance.

‘I’m not interested in tweeting, Facebook, and whatever this nonsense is’.

Ecclestone said of the growing social media juggernaut, a key player in modernity. He’d go on to disregard the young racing demographic entirely, saying ‘I’d rather get to the 70-year-old guy who’s got plenty of cash. There’s no point trying to reach these kids because they won’t buy any of the products here and if marketers are aiming at this audience, then maybe they should advertise with Disney.’

Ecclestone’s Formula One peak came in the ‘70s and ‘80s, when sponsorship was rising to a position of potency in the series and appeasing those funnelling money into both drivers, teams and sport was of high importance. Why speak against those who are allowing the sport to grow like it never had before? More so, why do anything but bend all efforts towards getting sponsor’s services in the rich elite’s lives, and products in their possessions? Ecclestone was never able to shift from the ideology of ‘jobs for the boys’ – and by that I mean catering his circus for the rich men he was intertwined with – and that’s a major player as to why he’s no longer at the helm.

He valued Monaco as an important string in his bow, with the elite eager to turn up and flaunt their most extravagant yachts, take in the wonders of casino life and be exposed in turn to the sport’s sponsor involvement. And Monaco, to this day, is still the same event; a racing-comes-second honey trap. The issue is, while the bees may still be arriving like before, the onlooking fans aren’t salivating at the thought of this race in particular. The year on year procession, where ever-widening cars are threading a needle which hamstrings their true power, and in turn making the races heavily reliant on outside variables, is becoming more and more apparent.

The fan-base that the new owners of Formula One, Liberty Media, have tried at length to get back on side, be it with much increased social media presence (they’ve even finally embraced Snapchat), expansive content and greater scope of reach, are beginning to look past the glamour of Monaco, and are finding at the bare bones an event that quite simply isn’t up to standard.

The season generally reaches a nadir at this circuit – to the point where the weekend is written off as a bore-fest before it even starts. There’s arguably no track on the calendar so dependent on weather variables for a good race, and if Piquet thought his Brabhams were no joy in the Principality, I spare a thought for the class of 2019, with wider, longer and faster cars.

Max Verstappen ahead of Sebastian Vettel and Daniel Ricciardo. Image courtesy of Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

The glamour of Monaco is fading away. It can’t mask the unsuitability of the event any longer. It’s never been so irrelevant in the eyes of the people who make Formula One what it is, the fans. With Liberty’s aid (somewhat) the gentleman’s aura of past is starting to diminish, in favour of the new guard. A new guard who are realising, when you strip away the off-track splendour, that this mainstay of the calendar is at odds with the direction we are going in. It’s a bastion of the Ecclestone era, a rotten tooth among renovation plans. And if this trajectory continues, Monaco could well lose its relevance in the 21st century world.

F1’s Shocking Home Records

Following the 2019 Monaco Grand Prix, Charles Leclerc has now competed in four races across two open wheeled series at his home track. His record in Monaco, however, is something that no one wants. He has yet to see the chequered flag at any of his four starts despite having some very good equipment at his disposal, albeit being classified twice due to completing 90% of the race.

We will focus on F1 after his two no scores in his F2 season winning campaign. In his rookie season last year he was close to scoring points, but complained of grip and brake problems throughout the race. Eventually, a brake failure resulted in him plowing into the back of Hartley’s Toro Rosso at the chicane coming out of the tunnel. He would still be classified, though, as 90% of the race had been completed.

We know, too, about the recent mess Ferrari got Leclerc and themselves in after taking a risk and avoiding completing a second run in Q1, resulting in Leclerc being knocked out in the first stage of qualifying. He was the entertainment early on in the race, though, with some ballsy moves, but a collision resulting in a puncture ended his day early causing too much damage to the floor.

He isn’t the only one to have a pretty poor showing at his home track – some F1 legends also never did well.

Jacques Villenueve

Jacques Villenueve started off well at Montreal. He tried to emulate his father by winning at his home rack and finished P2 in 1996 behind team-mate Damon Hill, but after that he never saw the podium, and helped to create the Wall of Champions. He crashed into the wall in 1997 and also in that famous race in 1999 along with Hill and Schumacher. He actually only ever finished the race twice more in nine attempts, both outside the points, a spell of five consecutive retirements between the year 2000 and 2004.

Wikimedia Commons

Rubens Barrichello

Rubens Barrichello currently holds the record for most ever starts in F1, having competed between 1993 and 2011 using an array of machinery including the Ferrari in the early 2000s. Despite this, he was only ever on the rostrum in Brazil once, in 2004. From 1995 to 2003 he retired from every single Brazillian GP.

In 2001 he could only manage sixth on the grid, and problems prior to the race meant he had to switch to the spare car. It was over before it began really – Hakkinen stalled on the grid, bringing out the safety car, and at the restart Barrichello went straight into the back of Ralf Schumacher at turn four, ending both of their races early.

2003 looked like it could have been his year – by lap 46 of 71 he was in the lead, but his car crawled to a halt due to a fuel pressure problem.

Leandro Neumann Ciuffo – Wikimedia Commons

Jenson Button

Jenson raced at Silverstone for 17 consecutive seasons. In that time he had some great machinery, but he never managed to stand on the podium in any of those years.

The 2006 and 2011 races demonstrated his poor showings. In 2006, whilst competing for BAR, he was knocked out in Q1 behind both Midland cars. He may have started off well in the race with some great overtakes, but it was all over by lap nine as an oil leak resulted in his Honda engine failing.

2011 was no better. Mixed conditions forced Button to pit thirteen laps from the end – the front right wheel, however, wasn’t attached properly, and he was forced to retire at the pit exit.

Wikimedia Commons

As you can see Leclerc has only raced in two home races but is well on his way to being in this category. It took team-mate Sebastian Vettel until 2013 to win the German Grand Prix despite having the dominant car three seasons prior to this, so things can only get better for Leclerc.

 

[Featured image – Ferrari Media]