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Friday, June 28, 2013

A Fan's View: Catching up with the circus

The long break is over, and the series returns to Silverstone and the breadbasket of the F1 world. Finally, the saga of Tiregate is behind us, and we can return to the business on the track.

The Tribunal

Much to the disappointment of Christian Horner, Mercedes did not lose all of their points or receive a multi-race ban for the "illegal" test with Pirelli, which really was an unsurprising result. Few know how to exploit vague rules as well as Ross Brawn, and considering the scrutiny he is under this season, he was hardly going to throw it all away on something stupid. Granted, Mercedes' seeming ability to dictate its own punishment came off a little... well ... you know...

Did Mercedes benefit from the test? Of course it did. Why else take part? Did Mercedes take advantage of vague rules? Again, yes. It's just to the team's detriment its fiercest critic, Red Bull, has never done that (ahem).

How much the Silver Arrows have benefited we shall soon see. Critics claim its performance in Monaco and Montreal prove the test was everything. But both tracks are unique, and seem to suit the Mercedes. Sunday night we may have a better idea of the state of things.

In the end, this was never about what's on the surface, it's the battle behind the scenes. Battles between the FIA and Bernie, Germans, Concorde Agreements, and all such nonsense. But it is a testament to the idiocy of all involved that Pirelli does not have a platform on which to test. Had that situation not existed, it would never have come into question. Regardless, I doubt many would have reacted well to Merc being thrown out of the championship. Punishment would seem to fit the crime, in this case. Let's race.

Safety

"...when someone dies in the racing community, whether you are a driver, writer, or fan, it hits you like a brick.

We all know the risks of the sport - speeds of 180 miles per hour or more on crowded tracks can prove deadly. Somehow, we never seem to think someone will die, perhaps because drivers so often walk away from wrecks that to the eye look deadly."

I wrote those words in 2001 on the death of Dale Earnhardt. The intervening years saw a host of improvements in cars, barriers and equipment. Yet the specter of death still rides with us.

Twice in the past month we have been reminded the sport we love is still dangerous. The death of marshal Mark Robinson in Canada, and Allan Simonsen at Le Mans, cast a long shadow over racing. There will always be an element of danger to this sport. It's part of the thrill. But we must use those tragedies -- like the one that took Dan Wheldon before it -- to improve safety. We must honor their memory by continuing to advance the cause of safety for all who take part, whether they be track workers, fans, mechanics or racers.

Mark Webber

Mark Webber put the speculation to rest this week, confirming he will return to Le Mans next season as part of Porsche's new factory LMP effort. Webber has some unfinished business with Le Mans, to be sure, and he has secured for himself what looks to be a prime position. He'll be missed in F1. His straight-shooting honesty was highly appreciated by this fan. He raced hard, but fair, and was a team player. It's good to see a driver of his caliber able to leave the sport on his own terms. At least, that's the view from here.

600

Finally, congratulations to Williams for it's 600th race. Few teams are as iconic, and it is hard to picture F1 without Frank Williams in the paddock, a man who has seen all the pits and valleys of F1 existence. After last year's strong effort, things have not gone as well this season, but a clear path of transition, successful business offshoots and strong avenues of funding, it looks likely Williams will be around for a long time to come.



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