The Monaco Grand Prix and the Isle of Man TT. In many ways, it’s difficult to find two events so vastly different on so many levels. Monaco – The meeting point of all things rich and famous. Armco barriers separating F1 cars from celebrities, sports cars, casino’s, apartments and yachts owned by millionaires and where the warm temperate sun regularly gleans down on fans and spectators, some of which casually drink champagne trackside as Formula One cars whizz by at breakneck speed. On the other hand, the Isle of Man. A small island on the Irish Sea, where riders pass by a different form of “charisma”. Trees, hedges, stone walls, houses, bridges, fields of cows, sheep, local shops, pubs, street lamps, straw bales – And where the closest thing to Rascasse is the old pub at Creg-Ny-Baa.
Both places are worlds apart, yet both share a fundamentally important aspect of motorsport which Formula One simply does not have enough of. A real element of risk.
I really enjoyed Formula One’s return to the Red Bull Ring in Austria, as it’s a proper old school circuit. It’s fast, flowing, historic, intriguing and charismatic – words which you can’t apply to too many modern race tracks in the 21st century, sadly. But yet, I was still left quite annoyed at what I’d seen after the weekend was over in regards to the circuit.
The three most challenging corners at the Red Bull Ring are turn one and the penultimate and final corners. All three are very demanding and exceptionally tricky to get right and not make a mistake at. Yet, there were needlessly expansive tarmac run-off areas in case the driver made an error and ran wide. This is being ridiculously over-cautious. In supposedly the greatest motorsport category in the world with drivers with the highest skill-levels in driving a race car, why are they not being punished more severely for their mistakes?
Many circuits share this sort of characteristic on the Formula One calendar – Bahrain, Shanghai, Abu Dhabi – all have excessive run off areas which last for miles. How do drivers have any sort of satisfaction or “buzz” going through a corner, when they know that if they mess it up and make a mistake they aren’t going to be punished severely? Isn’t there something so wrong with the fact that if a driver misses his breaking point at the first corner in Bahrain by 500 metres, he’s not going to have any damage and continue on his merry way? Would you get away with doing the same thing at Sainte-Devote or Ballagarey? Not a chance.
One of my favourite race weekend’s of the year is the Monaco Grand Prix. Seeing the drivers race flat out, especially in qualifying, is the most breathtaking spectacle all year in Formula One. Threading a monstrous F1 car like the eye of a needle through the tight, twisty streets of Monte-Carlo, inches away from the barriers, constantly on edge with no margin for error is when F1 really has a “WOW” factor. This way it’s more satisfying for the drivers and for the millions of people watching.
It’s the exact same with the Isle of Man TT. Perhaps even more so, because when the riders make a big mistake it only ends in two ways – serious injury or death. This is why people love the TT, because there’s no room for error and it’s just breathtaking to watch. Of course I don’t want any driver or rider to die in Formula One or the TT, but F1 needs more risk in a lot of corners. Simply having gravel traps instead of the tarmac run-off areas would be a good solution. Even sleeping policemen do a good job in some circuits because a driver can make a mistake and potentially damage the car going over them.
Overall, we need more corners and circuits in Formula One which makes us think that these drivers are really earning their money. Mistakes need to be punished more severely and there should be very little margin for error. It’s better this way. You only have to look as far as Monte-Carlo and the Isle of Man to find out why.