September 17 2014 Latest news:
Michael Bailey, Formula One correspondent
Friday, September 5, 2014
There are a handful of special places that project the soul of Formula One every season. Without them, the sport would lose its entire and treasured romanticism.
"After meeting with Toto, Paddy and Lewis today, I wish to describe it as an error of judgement on my part… For that error of judgement, I apologise to Lewis and the team"
And F1 takes us to one of those very places this weekend – the Italian Grand Prix, at Monza. A beast of a track that basically amounts to thrashing the spaceships, usually until something breaks or the chequered flag comes out.
Only this year, the iconic circuit has been slightly fiddled with.
The controversy surrounds the famous Parabolica corner that rounds off the Monza lap – a long, drawn-out 200mph slanted hairpin with a vast gravel trap on the outside, sitting there, waiting.
One false move and that was it. Race over. Better luck next year.
• Pole position – Valtteri Bottas: In talks with Williams for a 2015 deal, the Finn deserves at least that on this season’s performances – if not more.
• Stalling – Caterham: It’s been confirmed the Leafield marque will face an unlawful dismissal claim of legal action, from the group of 38 employees dismissed following the team’s change of ownership earlier in the summer.
Until this year, that is. Now you will probably run a little wide before rejoining the track. We may even get a load of arguments over drivers repeatedly leaving the track limits. That would be a sad indictment on the situation.
There is a reason for the change, of course. And it’s one backed by the FIA, as you’d expect.
Race director Charlie Whiting said: “This has been requested for safety reasons by the FIA and the drivers, just as it has been at virtually every other circuit that F1 races on. Of course we know that it is not as punishing to a driver who leaves the track but that is the price we pay for much improved safety: a price both the drivers and I believe is worth paying.”
And that is the crux of the debate. Run-offs reduce the danger and with a sport as inherently risk-laden as motorsport, you would do well to win with the counter argument.
Still, it’s not all bad according to Lotus driver Romain Grosjean.
“I remember sometimes in the past coming in to the corner and knowing that to brake even a little too late you could be straight in the gravel and then the wall at high speed,” he said. “I think now you will see drivers finding the limits sooner, because we know there will not be the big gravel and crash penalty like previously.”
More speed through Parabolica? Only in F1 could safer mean quicker.
• It will be a big season for Formula One in 2015 – as Honda make their return to the sport, by supplying engines to McLaren.
They are already opening themselves to supplying engines to other teams from the following season. And they want – are almost demanding, in fact – wins in their first season back in F1.
Judging by where Mclaren have found themselves in recent seasons, it might take more than Ron Dennis and Honda’s return to put the Woking marque back on top of an F1 podium, but Honda are nothing if not ambitious – and it’s about time we saw more from McLaren.
• Follow Michael Bailey on Twitter @michaeljbailey