Spanners' Log: Pre-season


This is just a personal blog post. Nothing to get overly excited about. As the new season approaches fast I have a few thoughts for those of you who would like to know them. On the podcast I can’t always get my personal viewpoint across in the same way the panel members do. I’m not saying I don’t voice my opinions because you know that I do. But often in the show my priority is getting listeners the top content that our expert panelists are capable of. Believe it or not I do hold back and get out of their way on many occasions.. There are also many other things to worry about on a livestream to keep the show content, audio and video running smooth.

In addition to the technical aspects, I am aware that my views to some extent represent the project as a whole. So there’s some responsibility to the whole crew in what I choose to express. I am a very political animal but even when it’s relevant I tend to pull punches and not launch into my political viewpoint. You only have to check my twitter feed to know that I think Brexit is a national disgrace but I won’t allow myself more than a cheeky jab on the show. The same goes for certain tracks that F1 goes to.

Recently my views on Grid girls were tempered as I felt it was much more of a political issue than a sporting one. Within the missed apex crew there was a range of opinions. I tried to reflect a balanced view that represented a spectrum of our feeling on the subject. Personally I had been nominally on board with removing grid girls although I don’t think it’s anything like as important as it’s been made out to be and certainly not the huge victory some imagine. Liberty were smart to remove them. Essentially it doesn’t matter to them that they are gone. Rich business men will still be entertained with attractive women I’m sure, but the cameras won’t see it. For liberty it was low hanging fruit and an easy win that placates a very loud and active segment of the F1 social media community. There were some bloggers so embattled with the grid girls issue that I wondered what they would write about now they are gone. In some notable cases the answer is… nothing. To me this was Homer’s keg of beer from Mr Burns to distract us from the loss of the dental plan. But they are gone and on balance it’s a positive step. Time will tell if more women will now want to spectate as a result. I fear the impact will be small.

I’m really glad we had the off season shows. It would have been very easy to have taken a full break for the off season. Certainly my wife would have approved. But  I felt that there are enough people like us that think about F1 all year. Actually the conversations have been different and interesting because there’s more freedom. In the regular season you are driven by the topic of the day. During the winter we’ve been free to chat about F1 as a whole. Also, when I did have a few weeks off actually recording I missed hanging out online with my friends. So we put shows out every week. I hope you thought it was worth  it.

As far as the upcoming season I am looking forward to a little bit of a closer battle. But I think it’s a little bit closer only. Every season is met with fresh optimism from fans of every team and driver but I think there will be some disappointment this year in so far as I believe the order at the top will be much the same. Ferrari already had a car that could win a championship last year but in the end the drivers made a difference. Hamilton was better than Vettel and Bottas was better than Räikkönen. I think there’s a case to be made that if they had swapped drivers with Mercedes, Ferrari could have taken home both titles. This season should still see Mercedes on top. There are simply very good at making a racing car. The only slight chink in the amour seems to be the odd tactical miss-step but as an engineering firm they appear to be simply the best. As creative as red bull? Maybe not. As fiery as Ferrari? I don’t know. How I’d love to spend a week at Mercedes to see if I’m right about how they go about building a car. I’d guess they are as close to being an industrial engineering firm such as British Aerospace as they are to  being a purely racing outfit.

RedBull will be exciting to watch this year. Overall they might still be 3rd but last year they faltered early on. I don’t see that as representative of their general place in F1. We could have a season where both Ferrari and RedBull take wins on merit. This means that Lewis is going to have a tougher challenge. Mercedes need to decide quickly if the driver title is more important than having equal drivers. Based on last season I wouldn’t judge Mercedes for having early team orders. Lewis will need a rear gunner like Vettel will have and we know that Red Bull don’t mind backing one driver over another. I think that driver will be Verstappen. I fear that Ricciardo may find that he doesn’t get the full support he’d want especially if his Dutch team mate gets early success. Already I’ve seen an article talking about the Aussie’s set up issues and how he can be sensitive to problems. I suspect Ricciardo probably needs to just stay as close as he can and then look for number 1 driver spot elsewhere.

Elsewhere in the field I expect Williams to struggle with their young driver line-up and I don’t fancy either of the other two Renault powered cars to beat Force India. The one dark horse this season could just be Sauber. Current engine and a potential superstar driver. All the ingredients of a historic snatched podium later in the season.

Follow me on twitter @SpannersReady and I’ll see you on the livestream 8pm GMT most Sundays