Monday, September 17, 2012

Where Are The Fighting Spirits?

"Slow down, Lewis"- "Push harder, Kimi" - "Don't overtake him,
Kamui" - "We'll undercut him in the pits, Checo". The insistent 
voices of the 'driving instructors' in their headsets are turning 
today's F1 stars into remote-controlled robots and robbing the sport 
of a vital dimension in which fighting spirits are able to flourish.  

Surely trying to overtake a car in front should be a basic
instinct for every driver in every race, but the current climate
of caution actively discourages aggressive all-out attacking and
strives to bully even the hardcore racers into submission. Yes,
there is more overtaking than ever - especially since a quarter
of the teams are ill-equipped to fight off the advances of their
richer rivals - but instead of relying on a driver's fighting
spirit the vast majority of passing manouevres are now the product 
of APE (Artificial Performance Enhancers) such as DRS, KERS and 
tyres deliberately designed to degrade. 

Moreover, rather than leave the drivers to their own devices the
bossy team strategists issue stern radio commands instructing the
drivers where, when and how to use them. Some of these 'team
orders' are a reflection of the embarrassing depths of spectacle-
denying conservatism into which the sport has descended: Why does
natural-born speedster Raikkonen ever need to be told to pick up
the pace? Does former champion overtaking tryer Hamilton really
need a voice in his helmet to tell him its OK, or not, to pass the car
in front? Why not give thrilling risk-takers like Kobayashi the freedom
to fully engage in the cut and thrust they love?

The pushy puppeteers who pull the drivers' strings from the
computer-controlled perspective of the 'Prats Perch' along the
pit wall constantly strive to curb the enthusiasm of the real
racers in the field. Today's climate of middle-of-the-road
moderation, which encourages a safe but sure approach, means
drivers can more easily stay within their comfort zones. As a
result the majority are more likely to set their minds in cruise 
control and become passive to the point that they are unable to 
summon up the sheer force of will that personifies a fighting spirit. 

Very few current drivers are notable for demonstrating the 
fearsomely forceful mindset that made heroes of some of their 
predecessors. A classic example was the renowned daredevil Gilles 
Villeneuve, whose primitive 'rage to win' meant he never stopped 
pushing as hard as he could on every lap, even in practice.

Nigel Mansell was another driver with a tremendous fighting
spirit. Hugely determined, immensely aggressive and
breathtakingly brave, he was one of the most exciting drivers
ever. Mansell was a driven man and it showed. His take-no-
prisoners philosophy was elemental: drive as hard as you can all
the time.  

No driver tried harder or pushed himself further in pursuit of
the extremes to which only the greatest drivers go than Ayrton
Senna, whose constant search to extend his personal limits, to go
faster than himself, let alone his rivals, were there for all to
see. The spectre of Senna's yellow helmet looming up their
mirrors was often enough to persuade his more submissive peers to
immediately get out of his way. 

It's much harder to see today's fighting spirits, but a shortlist
of those with real racer inclinations reminiscent of past masters
would likely only comprise about a third of the current grid. 

Grand Prix Photo
Spot The Fighting Spirits (grandprixphoto)

No comments:

Post a Comment