Form is temporary, class is permanent.
That is the great adage of the sporting world. So what are we to make of what’s happening at the moment in F1? Is this the start of a change of order, with great names like McLaren, Renault and Ferrari in decline and new teams like Red Bull and Brawn the new top dogs?
Anyone who says that would be guilty of serious short term thinking or buying hype. Those three teams deserve great respect for their record of success spanning many years, they are not to be written off so easily.
You look at the first three races of the season, with two wins for Brawn and one for Red Bull and glance across at the constructors’ championship, where those two teams top the table with McLaren a distant fourth, Renault creeping along in 6th and Ferrari yet to get of the mark and you say to yourself, “Double diffusers.”
Except that you remember that Red Bull doesn’t have one of those, so then you say to yourself, “Ah well, the top teams were pushing to the end of last season, Brawn and Red Bull were on 2009 by then.” And you would have a point.
But does this mean that the old order will be returned once the top teams get their clever aero parts? Can Brawn and Red Bull stay out front all season and if they do, will they be able to do it again next year?
In my live twitter feed of today’s race, one of my final postings was to suggest that Sebastien Vettel has now done enough to show the ‘top teams’ what he has to offer and to speculate how long Red Bull would be able to hold on to him.
I’ve had plenty of responses on that and I imagine there will be more following this post. Many took me to be implying that Red Bull are not a top team, despite their current championship position. Others suggested that being up there now means that they have already ‘made it’ and are now de facto a top team, heck they might even run away with it once they get their double diffuser, so why would Vettel move elsewhere?
I don’t think even Red Bull’s management believes that. But they have been building up to this for some time now, they have a talented technical staff led by the great Adrian Newey and they have a billionaire owner who can spends bonkers money on whatever he wants in life and who may just have rediscovered his passion for F1 today.
Then you contemplate the main item on the agenda when FOTA next meets the FIA; the £30 million budget cap. This is like the time bomb which was planted in F1 a few weeks ago and has since been fogotten in all the hype about the McLaren liar-gate scandal and the three crazy races we’ve been enjoying.
Not many people in F1 believe that the budget cap will happen as billed, but it’s looking like a budget cap of some kind will come in and that will limit the ways in which the old ‘top teams’ can beat the new ‘top teams’.
Brawn is a good example of a team which, as Honda, was guilty of the spending excesses of all the F1 manufacturers. Now with a smaller staff, a leaner budget and a customer engine, it is the shining example of what the old ‘top teams’ must emulate if they are to limbo under the budget cap bar next season. It’s been painful for the staff who have been laid off, but it’s given Max Mosley an example to point at and say, “That’s what I’m talking about.”
Red Bull is built on the same model… a pattern is starting to emerge here. If we think like Darwin about this, the survival of he fittest and the most fitting and all that, then the teams at the front now are already equipped for the evolution F1 is to go into next year. Of course their weakness is that those customer engines have to come from manufacturers and that could all get quite political…
This season is far from over and I’m sure we all expect Ferrari, Renault and McLaren to win before the final race. And we find it hard to imagine that they won’t be back fighting for the title in 2010.
But they have a lot on their plate at the moment and if the financial playing field is levelled next year, we could end up with a lot of ‘top teams’.
So maybe Vettel will stay put after all….
PS – one of my readers, Andy Fov made this observation on the Form vs Class debate..
“And the class of Brawn and Newey is permanent. All this talk of “a new order in F1″, there’s not. It was a case of Brawn Vs Newey today. It might as well have been 1998.”
Very good point Andy. It’s amazing how some things never change in F1.