It's been a ritual of mine for many years. March is the start of the F1 season. It usually coincides with my birthday, so I'm happy. And for the first race in Australia I get up ridiculously early for qualifying and the race as it's on really early in Britain.
This year has been no different. What is different is the disappointment. Not because my favourite driver didn't so well, because he did and he's on pole. But because F1 is a laughing stock. The new qualifying procedures left drivers in the pits having done their laps and being knocked out. It was all wrapped up with four minutes to go. As the chequered flag came out, Lewis Hamilton was at the back of pits signing autographs. Damon Hill on Sky quipped that he could have waved the chequered flag for himself.
It was all so predictable. Drivers, mechanics, engineers all warned that this was likely to happen but the F1 bigwigs put their fingers in their ears and blew raspberries. Well you guys now have a raspberry creme brulée all over your faces.
There's many things wrong with F1. Qualifying wasn't one of them, in fact it was the only thing working well and now that has been turned into a joke.
How did F1 get here? Actually, it started with a good proposal from Bernie to have an hour long qualifying race on the Saturday. The TV companies complained though, they need the breaks between qualifying sessions for advertising as most don't interrupt the races. Once the hare had been set running on changes to qualifying, something was bound to be done and they came up with this crackpot scheme which sounds good on paper but would always be optimised to being boring. It is terrible.
Change it back, now! Don't try to tinker with the steaming pile you have created. Just change it back.
The main problems with F1 stem from it's governance. Team principals can veto changes but have a vested interest in keeping it the same way (for successful teams) and changing it (for failing teams). Bernie Ecclestone and the FIA don't have the power to impose, and there needs to be someone to set the direction, though I think Bernie has lost the plot. The way teams are paid is incredibly unfair, too, and needs to be changed too.
If the governance was sorted, maybe we could get some good regulations formed to make cars which can overtake. I like the ideas of faster, wider cars with bigger tyres. Reduce the aerodynamics, reduce the number of planes on the front wing, take away some of the turning vanes and barge boards. Increase the ground effects and mechanical grip.
If these three things were fixed, F1 would be on the mend.
Instead F1 is heading in the wrong direction, and today proved it.