With the Bahrain Grand Prix just a few days away, one might expect all the focus to be on the start of a record-breaking season.
Ha! Not a chance. This is Formula 1 – there are far too many inter-team squabbles and juicy rumours flying around. And as the sport’s social media fanbase grows worldwide, there are more and more new voices every day adding themselves to the discourse.
So it was not at all surprising to see comments from Ted Kravitz picked up on this week. Sky Sports launched a new F1 podcast on Tuesday – better late than never – in which everybody’s favourite pit lane reporter revealed what was treated as a juicy bit of gossip.
He declared: “There is a reasonably commonly held opinion among some people in the paddock that they only changed the rules – or part of the reason why they changed the rules – was to stop Mercedes dominance. Well, that certainly worked, didn’t it?”
Kravitz was referring to the new regulations which came into force for the 2022 season, prompting a complete design overhaul from the teams when it came to creating their cars. Of course, Mercedes did not adapt well and could only finish third in the constructors’ championship.
That put an end to a remarkable eight-year winning streak for the Silver Arrows. That run of dominance began in 2014 – the start of the so-called ‘Hybrid Era’ which was ushered in by… another, earlier overhaul of the technical regulations.
Unsurprisingly, many social media users jumped on Kravitz’s words, and understandably took the meaning to be that Mercedes were allegedly targeted by F1 bosses, who wanted to do everything in their power to knock Lewis Hamilton and his team off their perch.
To an extent that is true, only without the element of one specific team being targeted. Of course F1 bosses want more competition at the top because it makes for a better spectacle – it has nothing to do with any agenda against Mercedes or anyone else on the grid.
And it’s not as though this is some big secret. Ever since the 2022 rule change was announced it has been said on countless occasions that one of the major motivations was to promote closer racing on-track and to close the performance gap between the teams, making the sport more competitive.
In truth, we have yet to see much evidence that it has worked. Max Verstappen and his Red Bull team ran away with both championships last year while there was still a notable gulf between the ‘big three’ teams and the midfield, and then again to the backmarkers.
But the hope remains that these new cars, along with the budget cap and the aerodynamic testing time handicap system, will close the field. As for the suggestions that one F1 bosses or the FIA have it in for one specific team… well, do they even need dignifying with a response?
But it’s part of the game, these days. Agendas, perceptions of bias and unwavering tribalism are here to stay and there’s nothing we can do about it. It won’t be long before another off-hand comment from a TV pundit or former racer sets the carousel into motion again.