F1 Declares 2012 ‘Year of the Platypus’

The rule changes in F1 for 2012 have created an apparent boon for the automotive plastic (carbon actually) surgeons who all appear to have learned from the same internet school of nose modification. In the name of safety, the noses must be lowered by 7.5 cm to a specified maximum height of 55cm which will help restrict the dangers of a protruding proboscis in a car-to-car incident.


So while Ecclestone continues to reshape the (over-4000 year-old) Chinese Zodiac to suit his legislative agenda, check out this lineup of F1 (ahem) “Beauties” only Bernie could love, in this, the Year of the Platypus:

Wait a tick… what do we have here?! 


A non-duckbilled auto for 2012?!  I give you the GroundedEffects (unrivaled) BEST Looking F1 car of the 2012 season… 

Thank you McLaren for doing what seemed impossible by all other designers. If for not other reason but this, I commend you and shall be cheering for your chrome carriage this season. 


Godspeed oh pretty, shiny McLaren, but beware, for the platypus is not only ugly by most standards, but also a venomous mammal that will ruin your Sunday given the chance.

Which of the above contraptions above do you see as ‘beautiful’?

Who do you trust?

Despite my very slight case of megalomania, I don’t envy Randy Bernard one bit.


All the “input” he’s been getting lately from such divergent sources as TV networks, team owners, sponsors, and the ‘almighty’ fans, all with legitimate views, he must feel a bit in need of some sorcery to fairly placate these people. The recent hoopla over the proposed changes to the restarts/pitting/lucky doggery, as suggested by the owners, raises the question of who does Bernard need to listen to the most?

Owners have ‘skin in the game’ and must always have their input, but that is to say not always will they, or should they, get what they want.  Sponsors want to have as much exposure for as little money as they can which is totally understandable, but their influence on the racing product should be minimal. 

TV networks appear to be the most flaky part of this equation with their heads half-buried in the traditional decades-old model of ‘we show it, when we want to show it, and you watch it and be thankful’. TV, while still the most traditional method, is far from the only avenue of content viewing and until they realize how much they’re missing out on by not including online access, extra features, and expanded content that a majority of the faithful viewers WOULD PAY EXTRA FOR, they will continue to underserve the very audience for which they are aiming. Traditional TV media appears quite able at head-in-the-sand thinking which stems from an acute misunderstanding of how the audience is getting their content these days (‘I want it, when I want it, on multiple devices I may use to attain it’). 

Lastly, the fans. Perhaps Mr. Bernard has set a precedent from which he may never recover.  He allowed direct contact from the fans. Wow. Big mistake. You want 17 different opinions about your product? Ask 17 different fans. Herding felines is a simpler task than understanding what the fanbase wants. I’m as guilty of taking advantage of this access as anyone and I think it’s time for the fans to take a step back, count to 10 or something, and get a grip. 

Yes, we are the reason for sponsorship dollars and ticket sales.  Yes, we buy merchandise and watch the (at times, meager) coverage. Yes, we are the end customer, but what we are NOT is racing experts. Why do we as fans feel the need to have our input so greatly valued, just because we have the ability?  I’ve never raced a day in my life so how valuable is my input on the mechanics of making a good racing product really? A significant portion of long-term fanbase (pre-split) is very knowledgeable in the ‘how it used to be and what worked 17 year ago’, but how valuable is that really in today’s game?  Not much, I say. 

What we DO have of value is a great enthusiasm and passion for our beloved sport, and for that reason alone, the league, owners, and TV coverage should be open to input from the end customer. We’re ultimately the reason everyone there has a job. We’re the people who spend money on this diversion and not one of myriad others. We deserve to be heard, but like the owners, and because of our herd-like mentality, shouldn’t always get our way with respect to racing product, because we may not actually know what the hell we’re talking about all the time.

What’s a solution? I think Mr. Bernard needs to seriously consider a competition committee which includes representatives of the league, owners, tracks, promoters, fans, media, and sponsors who all get in one room at the same time and hash out the final racing product.  Using the current ‘throw it at the wall and see what sticks’ (or put it online and see what flames erupt) is a fairly poor way of developing a product that satisfies such divergent input. 

Unfortunately for 2011, it’s too late to accomplish this feat, but for 2012, I see it as essential to maintain a product that satisfies as many as possible and can therefore grow and prosper into the future.

The Singlemost Factor in Appreciating INDYCAR over NASCAR

NASCAR’s revision of its points system, and the reaction to it, has returned me, like the swallows to Capistrano, to my very core base of appreciation for INDYCAR. Screaming typographics aside, the debate of on-track action between INDYCAR and NASCAR for this writer has always boiled down to one very simple inherent element – open wheels.


In reaction to the points system changes in NASCAR, driver Clint Bowyer states, 
“…you’re out there giving it 100 percent, you’re out there to win the race 
each and every week anyway, but you’re not going to 
step underneath somebody if you’re loose 
and you know they’re going to make you even looser. 
You’re not going to try to make that pass for 
a fifth place and take a chance of finishing 35th.”



Recollecting the ‘mosh-pit’ nature of action often found in a stock car race, there are some who will see it as Bowyer does, encouraging more caution and conservatism to attain the precious points for your season, seemingly reducing the impetus to race. One wonders if this also allows for backmarkers and multiple-car teams to play a more significant role in the system. I certainly don’t have any immediate suspects, but one could see how a car suffering misfortune early and dropping back to 32nd place could roll around out there until the opportunity presents to, er.. ‘assist’ a teammate by impeding or (dare I say it?) ‘chrome horn’ an opposing car out of contention (that doesn’t really happen, does it?).  Tongue, meet cheek. 


The ability to ‘bump and grind’ and ‘loosen-up’ and ‘slide-job’ and ‘soldier on’ after repairs (and all those other wonderful stock car colloquialisms) certainly allows for this to happen. Perhaps that IS the very nature of that form of auto-racing which makes it popular with so many.  For others, this isn’t racing at all which brings me to my point (yes, finally).


INDYCAR (or Indycar as I like to call it), from it’s inception, has the simple and inherent beauty (and violent danger) of being an auto-racing form which has vehicles specifically featuring open-wheels. No fenders means no ‘grind-bump-draft-slide-job-loosen-sheet metal repairs’. 


‘Open wheels’ means a pass must be judged and made skillfully or the penalty for locking wheels often takes both drivers, and even others, out of the race (or sometimes on a tragic occasion even out of this life). To this writer, this is, and has always been, the singlemost reason why I appreciate the sport of Indycar more than any other form of racing. 


Formula 1, it can be argued, contains the highest level of technology in a similar open-wheel format, but due to their European origin on street and road courses, it’s oft-turned and rapidly-deccelrated wheels requires primary skill in braking and turning and never reaches the overt and thrilling speeds (or passing) found with Indycars on ovals. NASCAR had speeds sometimes approaching the relative ballpark of Indycars (albeit many years and restrictions ago) on matching ovals, but all too often relies on less-sporting driving skills and tactics, and certainly aren’t also made very well for going left AND right as Indycars will also do.


I am fully aware that success in NASCAR also requires a skillset, but in my view Indycar has always represented the apogee of where extreme speed meets sporting skillfulness. I also believe that once seen in this light, Indycar has no equal in what it provides to its audience. Only then does one begin to truly understand the heritage and legacy found in its 100 years of racing.


The latest chassis (and engine) rules for 2012 have embraced this heritage by allowing this primary element to remain, yet not allowed private technology budgets to attempt to dictate the competition. This is why INDYCAR is still my preferred form of auto racing and why so many, who’ve yet to cast an eye on it will appreciate it as we, the dedicated, do.


Nearly every year since my third Indy 500 back in 1988, I’ve brought a person who has never seen an Indycar race (or in some cases any auto-racing event) to their first Indycar race only to have them be amazed at the sounds, smells, sights, speed, and atmosphere of it all. I’m glad to have passed this along to my friends as my father and mother did for me back in 1979. I intend to do it again this year and challenge you to bring at least one ‘newbie’ to a race in 2011, as there is truly no substitute for the experience.