Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been reading with interest, but increasing weariness, about the launch of the current crop of F1 cars.
Much of that weariness derives from the yawnsome pre-season talk being dominated by the introduction of the new Halo device – how it ruins the look of the cars, how it’s not in keeping with the open cockpit philosophy of Formula 1, how it weighs 10kg, raises the centre of gravity and destroys the cars’ handling, and all such guff.
Just to add to the white noise on this subject, for what it’s worth, I’m not sure the introduction of Halo will change my enjoyment of F1 in the slightest.
Halo Blandness, My Old Friend
What possibly illustrates the bigger problem for F1 is the level of the non-Halo chatter. Because away from the histrionics of the Halo debate, the conversation about 2018 car design is pure Colombian, Class A navel-gazing.
Positioning of pushrods.
Shape of radiator ducts.
Position of the sidepod undercut vent.
While there are undoubtedly those who revel in such details and, of course, F1 has to a certain degree always been about indulging the latest technical advancements. But thanks to wind tunnels and computer simulations, and increasingly prescriptive regulations (oh, and possibly everyone wanting to be Adrian Newey), modern F1 cars have become so… samey.
To the point if you asked the average race fan (let alone the bloke on the street) to point out the difference between the new Williams and the new McLaren, they might talk about engine supplier but will just as likely say “One is white and the other is orange!”.
Though that didn’t stop the BBC brilliantly running a poll to find out who has the best looking car for the 2018 season. A poll that’s the F1 equivalent of asking what’s our favourite shade of beige, or whether we prefer Diet Coke or Coke Zero.
Scalextric Follows the Trend
And as if to perfectly highlight how all F1 cars look the same except for the paint job, Scalextric are hyping the imminent release of their new (2017) Super Resistant Williams FW40 and McLaren-Honda MCL32:
Two slot cars that are exactly the same except for the paint job (not event a different engine supplier!).
And you know what? They look like the cars they’re supposed to be.
To be slightly more even handed with F1 and Scalextric, these are designated as Super Resistant cars – made for the rough and tumble of racing – and not the High Detail cars made to be stroked by collectors.
In My Day…
Fuelled by four star nostalgia, a pleasing counter point to the blandness of modern F1 is the explosion in popularity of historic racing. Much of that growth can probably be attributed to personality and individuality we (possibly mis-)ascribe to the cars and drivers from *whispers* the good old days.
And browsing through the current selection of classic Scalextric F1 cars only goes to highlight how similar the 2018 cars are:
1970 – Scalextric Legends Team Lotus 49 – Pete Lovely (C37307)
1970 – Scalextric Legends McLaren M7C John Surtees, 1970 Dutch GP – Limited Edition (C3834A)
1971 – Scalextric Legends Tyrrell 002 – Limited Edition (C3759A)
Go, Go, Go!
Maybe you could argue that all the above classic cars go to show is the start of the development path from F1 cars in the late 60’s that leads to today’s cars.
But in a sport where winning is ever more important, and where Williams and McLaren are branded busts for a car that’s half a second slower than the top 3 teams, the risk and the penalty of being different is too great and while, for the paying punter, the opportunity and desire to be different is just too small.
Hold the Front Page
The results of the BBC’s best looking car poll are in!