2017 Brazilian GP Review – By Bob Constanduros
I have to admit that I enjoyed my Brazilian Grand Prix. It seemed a remarkable race, particularly with a finishing order that was so close. But there were many factors that overshadowed what has always been a fun event, albeit, with that ever present security cloud hanging over us.
This year, that security problem threatens the future of the race. And there are lots of added factors. I don’t think we’ve ever had so many attacks on Formula One personnel. Maybe one or maximum two per weekend – which is one or two too many – but not every evening as there was this weekend. And, Mr Mayor of Sao Paulo, for your information and contrary to what you have said, this doesn’t happen at other Grands Prix; the suggestion that it does is rubbish.
To have guns pointed at team personnel and property stolen is bad news. We, as visitors, have to ensure that we try to steer clear of this, to make every effort to avoid it. For several years now, my colleagues and I ensure that we don’t display our parking passes until the last minute; we don’t show our personal passes until the last minute; we aren’t wearing any team gear or identifying clothing, and we don’t have our personal belongings in the car with us, they are in the boot. Some people even carry a small amount of cash with them, to offer to anyone threatening them.
But reports suggest that in spite of warnings in the past, some teams were travelling in easily identifiable vehicles and were wearing team gear. In most cases they were travelling late at night. When I was travelling home, there was a large police presence, even though one of my colleagues complained that there were few police at 5pm after the race. Two hours later, there were certainly enough. It was late in the evening when most of the hold-ups occurred, one suggests, after the police had gone home.
The piece of road we are talking about is about a kilometre in length. You come out of the circuit, drive for about 500 yards and then the road starts to go downhill and becomes restricted, narrowing from two lanes to one with a bus lane. On the right hand side is what might be termed low cost housing. There are three or four sets of traffic lights before a bridge over the river that runs through the city.
It is from the ‘low cost housing’ that the perpetrators appear, approaching vehicles that are stuck at the lights. If you remember, a few years ago Jenson Button was in a car that was stuck at the lights when bandits approached. His driver just accelerated ‘through’ the other cars that were at the lights.
This might be an acceptable getaway but as Lewis Hamilton said, no one should be put at risk of this sort of thing. It is up to the aforementioned mayor to sort out his town and ensure that this doesn’t happen. His race is at risk. Someone says that the circuit is being sought by several purchasers; this may well be the case but not as a racing circuit. Its value for racing has just plummeted; the Grand Prix is now seriously at risk. With no Brazilian driver and Bernie Ecclestone’s finger still in the pie, Liberty Media may no longer be interested in this race.
Which is a shame. It has always been an event that has thrown up interesting scenarios and this year was no different. Lewis Hamilton’s error in qualifying consigned him to the back of the field, starting from the pit lane, and he fought a great race from there. Valtteri Bottas lost it at the first corner and from then on it was Sebastian Vettel’s race.
But generally speaking it was disappointing in terms of performance; a good race, yes, but performance-wise it was not all it seemed. Bottas admitted that he had lost it at the first corner and that was the end of his race. Ferrari, of course, scooped the points but to be 5.4s ahead of a guy who started from the pit lane and was at one time 19s behind the leader isn’t exactly domination, particularly in temperatures that are supposed to suit the Italian team. Get real, this doesn’t show what might have been. Ferrari still have some way to go, even if they’ve won five more races than they did last year.
Just as disappointing were Red Bull with a new handicap, that Renault are running out of bits and teams are having to turn down their engines to conserve parts. This exploded into a lively spat between Renault and Toro Rosso and Helmut Marko was publicly involved too, he and Cyril Abiteboul being seen on TV having a go at one another. You have to feel for Red Bull; they’re paying big money for those engines and should expect a decent service.
And then there was Felipe Massa. Felipe, if only you could race like that every weekend. I am so fed up of watching him go backwards in every single race for about the last three years. He qualifies well and then that’s it: backwards, losing places. In front of his adoring public, Felipe fought for his seventh place after constantly being competitive throughout the weekend. If only he was that consistent every weekend. I’m not sure if it’s a Brazilian thing or not, but so often there seems to be a lack of the true grit and hard edge that only Ayrton Senna seemed to possess.
So there was lots of going on in Sao Paulo, not all of it great of course. There were discussions about engines, which is exactly what there should be as teams and suppliers fight their corner, but ultimately the FIA has to make the decision. They will assimilate all the views and come up with a formula and to paraphrase Christian Horner ‘if you like it, you can come in, and if you don’t, you stay out.’
(If you do the latter – as many manufacturers have chosen to do – you could go off and do Formula E which seems to be the competition of choice at the moment. I haven’t done a countdown of manufacturers yet, but they might like to bear in mind that someone has to come last – and a manufacturer isn’t going to like that.)
This is written in Bahrain, scene of the final round of another World Championship and one that is having its own modifications. Perhaps, as we head for FIA presidential elections, we might bear in mind the need for leadership from the governing body at this time when the sport is looking a trifle shaky in a number of areas. But I’m not holding my breath…