By Carlo Carluccio
Written in association with Missed Apex Podcast. Listen in the player below the article and please don't forget to comment.
I’m writing this shortly after watching the Baku race. What a stunning circuit, certainly not a normal Tilke-drome. Then again he couldn’t really screw up a medieval town-planner’s original design.
Baku’s setting puts to shame any street race offering that F1 has provided in over 40 years. Forget Phoenix, Valencia, Dallas and the Las Vegas’ car park – every one of them an absolute travesty. And please don’t mention Monaco – it remains as some sick joke of celebrity tripe over genuine racing.
For any worthwhile comparison you have to go back to 1975 and Barcelona’s Montjuic circuit. A stunning but absolutely terrifying race track – and that was before you took in the poorly constructed guardrails around the circuit. I wonder, with the advance in circuit and car safety, why couldn’t the Spanish Grand Prix move from Montmelo to this glorious park-land? Possibly because most of today’s participants could only cultivate haphazard facial hair.
Today’s cloud yelling is launched in the direction of these… well, I hesitate to call them men… I’ll stick with modern, pampered, bottom-talcum-powdered F1 stars. Do they have any sense of self-awareness at all?
Several of the drivers complained about aspects of the circuit they felt were unsafe – even though they declared their undying love for the FIA’s safety delegates. At the same time, several thought it a true ‘mans’ circuit – but I doubt MotoGP would be sanctioned to run on this track…
Once again I seem to have meandered away from this week’s entries. I must admit it’s difficult to maintain focus when a sporting legend effectively lies to gain an advantage. According to triple champion Niki Lauda, the modern driver needs nannying - with engineers explaining the nuances of their car, circuit and obviously how to drive at every waking moment.
Yet in Niki’s heyday, discounting mechanical failures, when a driver left the pits it was his ability that could be the difference between success and failure, life and death, fast and slow.
The 1975 Austrian GP was held at the fearsome Osterreichring with corners that were approached at over 200 mph. A change down to slow the car and then, once the car was settled, the drivers would recommit to maximum acceleration once again.
During practice a tyre failure caused Mark Donohue to crash fatally at the first flat out corner. The ensuing accident also caused the death of two track marshals. The following season brought change in the shape of the Hella-Licht chicane.
Lauda qualified his Ferrari on pole but on race day struggled with a set up that wasn’t working effectively in the wet and dropped slowly out of contention. Vittorio Brambilla – on his day of days – had worked his way up to the lead. The organisers and safety delegates remained concerned by the saturated track and called a halt to proceedings on lap 29.
As Brambilla took the flag, and held his arms aloft, he spun across the track and into the barrier. Lauda, the home hero, finished down in sixth place.