Here are four of the good and four of the not so good on reflection of my 2017 Grand Prix travels.
Firstly, to be positive, and in no particular order as they say on the best TV talent shows, here are the good.
Such is their dominance that whoever Mercedes signed to replace Nico Rosberg was inevitably going to win races. So Bottas’s maiden victory was only a matter of time, unlike the surprise win by Pastor Maldonado at Barcelona in 2012, the previous first-time winner I saw. But it is always good to be there when it happens and he earned it as well, overtaking both Ferraris at the start and holding off a rapidly closing Sebastian Vettel to win by 0.6 seconds.
Grands Prix and their venues are so standardised and formatted these days that sometimes it is difficult to remember what country you are actually in. It may seem a little cheesy to the locals but the colourful displays of Russian singing and traditional folk dancing throughout the weekend in the walkabout zone gave the event a true ‘Russian’ feeling. I just hope it doesn’t give Silverstone the idea of introducing Morris dancing.
It is a great gesture by the Spa circuit to provide free coach transfers for race-day ticket holders not only from several locations in Belgium but also from Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Germany. This is the third year I have used this efficient and convenient service to a venue that I would otherwise probably now find it too much of a hassle to get to.
I enjoyed everything about Mexico. Mexico City is a great place if you stay in the right part of town, the circuit is easily reached by metro and the Mexicans are enthusiastic and friendly race-goers. And to cap it all for the first time since Spa 2014 I finally saw a win by a car that wasn’t a Mercedes
And now for the not so good.
It looked ominous when the 2017 car was unveiled in the colour-scheme of the departed Marussia team. The combination of McLaren and Honda, two big hitters with their Formula One pedigree and budgets, should have seen them up there fighting for the title by year three instead of struggling to score a point. And what a waste of Fernando Alonso one of Formula one’s greatest talents.
Try explaining to someone who doesn’t understand the sport why with only twenty starters, a driver will be given a thirty-five place grid penalty. Or why a car that qualifies last is given a ten-place grid penalty which makes no difference at all. For some races there have been so many penalties dished out they might as well have scrapped qualifying on a Saturday afternoon, drawn lots and put on some other form of entertainment.
But the main issue is this. For many races this season there have only been two or three potential winners, and at best a maximum of six. There was not the remotest possibility of any of the others winning. Therefore, when I turned up at Silverstone to find that two (Ricciardo and Bottas) and at Mexico (Ricciardo again) had already been eliminated because they had had a widget changed on their car overnight, I felt cheated. As usual, in the interest of ‘cost-cutting’ it is the paying customer who is penalised.
No matter how much money Heineken are putting into F1 it should not give them the right to pump out the non-stop, annoying, all-pervading, headache-inducing thump, thump, thump of drum and base from their beer gardens that goes on all weekend and with no respite.
Note: Many of these images are taken from original prints, negatives and slides that are nearly 40 years old and are therefore not reproduced to the same standard as current day digital images. All reasonable attempts have been made to ensure these images are reproduced to the best possible standard, however, in some instances colour casts and blemishes may be present.