By Carlo Carluccio
I had mixed feelings driving up to Silverstone on the Friday of the Grand Prix weekend. It had been three years since I last attended and from what I had seen of the new cars – I wasn’t enamoured by the direction the sport was heading in.
Of course it would be relatively simple for people to believe that due to my age I’m a technophobe who is stifled by technology but this has no basis in truth. I achieved a distinction level for HND in electronics and I’m also qualified as a CISCO network engineer - with a 12 year career looking after multinational business networks. The truth was I became burnt out.
Even with technology as my background, at no stage have I ever been interested in how a PC or laptop works. I don’t care much for the cutting edge technology that controls all my car’s safety systems or how flat screen technology allows me to mount a large TV upon my wall. I will read ‘Which’ for reviews and reliability tests because all I want is the damn product to work.
In addition, at no time since I started watching F1 back in the 70’s - have I cared how any of their aerodynamics work, the physics of the engine nor the vast sums spent on development. I didn’t care about ground effects when it was racing and I don’t care about multi-function wheels that the drivers use now.
I care about the noise, the visual impact, and the smells of these otherworldly missiles. Am I the only one who feels that touching an F1 car in the pits or on a trade stand is almost a religious experience? Ultimately, I care about what feeds the senses. I can take my race-car and my kit-car to pieces and reassemble them without instruction manuals but the joy is driving not understanding.
I have attended every F1 race at Silverstone between 1983 and 2011 - and when tyre tests were allowed I was present at a great number. One of the things that always gave me a thrill was hearing the cars running around the circuit. Irrespective of arriving late for first practice or being prepared trackside for the start of a session – you knew when the cars were released.
As they exited the pits at Copse, you could identify them accelerate through the gears as they navigated each corner – even standing at the opposite end of the circuit. In older days when engine rules were not so stringent you could differentiate a Ferrari V12 against a Renault V10 and Ford V8.
In 2014 though F1 was neutered. I was at Stowe near the entry to the pits. The cars were released and I listened to the commentary team discuss all the cars that were on track. Down the Hangar straight they came and initially I thought I had accidently stepped into a parallel universe where all cars were electric. There was no sound…
It continued like that for the rest of practice. Then between the two sessions there was some track exhibitions including F1 cars from 50 years of Silverstone history. A collection of cars dating back to the 50’s in the shape of Coopers all the way through the 60’s, 70;s and 80’s comprising Lotus, Matra, BRM, Tyrrell, Mclaren and Williams. The final car in the line-up was a Red Bull RB8 from 2012.
The powers that be decided that despite the drivers of these machines being multiple race winners and World Champions – they would be obligated to run behind a safety car for two laps. Personally I believe it was done to not embarrass the current technology – except one Alain Prost wanted to make a statement.
Along Hangar straight he held back from the tail of slow moving cars until he had a few hundred metres of space. At which point the gearbox fired down several gears and he planted his foot to the bulkhead. I have no doubt the wail of the Renault V8 was heard in nearby Towcester and I applauded the Frenchman for demonstrating to the crowd what F1 should sound like.