Sep 07 2014

Formula One 2014: Autodromo Nazionale Monza

Now I’m not going to try and blame all of Formula One’s problems on the undisputed fact that Nico Rosberg booted his ‘team mate’ Lewis Hamilton out of the race at Spa-Forchamps two weeks ago and will skate without any meaningful sanction at all, nor do I think the problem is merely ugly new circuits, ugly cars, no engine sound, or blatant nepotism, or even boring, slow, heavy cars.

Nope, the problem is money, but not the way you think.

The problem with any professional sporting franchise is that team owners pretend to think of it as a business, like selling groceries, instead of what it really is which is a gigantic penis you can masturbate in public.

First the power relationship is not at all like marketing directly.  The League you play in has every bit of it, otherwise you’re the Harlem Globetrotters inventing your opposition and playing High School Gyms against cops, firefighters, and politicians in wheelchairs (you want some public embarrassment?  Even the bad teams practice once a week and they use those chairs all day every.  Besides, they give you the crappy ones with the hinky wheels.  Yeah, that’s the ticket.  The fact I can’t hit an undefended layup standing on my own 2 feet has nothing to do with it).

The League always makes money, usually most of it, because their overhead is low and all they provide you with are rules, structure, and branding.  If you want to see libertarian Calvinball I suggest America’s Cup where everything is negotiated between the franchise owners except the wind and the water and they’re trying like heck to remove the water.

Anyway, if you want to watch Basketball you, the sports consumer, have certain expectations about what you are about to witness.  There is a ball.  It is round.  Players can touch it with their hands.  Occasionally they bounce it on the floor or throw it to another player.  There is a horizontal hoopie thing that serves as a point scoring goal.  I choose Basketball as my example because it was invented in the U.S., is familiar to most readers, and clearly and historically artificial in construction (a designed game), but the principles apply universally.  This is the ‘structure’.  If the hoopie thing were oriented vertically and the game played with your hips and the (usually) non-bouncy severed heads of your defeated enemies it would be Aztec-ball.

So ‘structure’ is what separates sports from each other and ‘branding’ is what fills the seats.  ‘Rules’ are about subtleties and competition.

You might argue that all non-running racing is ‘structurally’ the same.  You have a vehicle (bike, camel, doesn’t matter) and you win by either traveling the farthest or by crossing an arbitrary distance (could be farthest) in a smaller amount of time.  Yet there is no arguing that Turn Left racing is immensely more popular in the U.S. than camel racing, perhaps because of our Islamophobia or perhaps because of our outrageous taxes on camels (which I would walk a mile for).

And now we are getting closer to the subtleties.  What is the difference between IndyCar and Formula One?  Well, one favors close competition and the other favors speed.  In sports favoring speed the dynamic that develops is that one participant gains an early advantage which simply increases until the race is mercifully cut short.  The only chances for a change in position are reliability problems or management mistakes.  In sports favoring competition artificial and arbitrary rules are introduced to ensure any early advantage is erased.

Most team owners will complain about money when what they mean is that their team is uncompetitive because of management decisions.  Salary caps and other restrictions are put into place to make the Harlem Globetrotters play more like a team of politicians in hinky wheelchairs when the real difference is that they can make an undefended layup and you can’t.

In fact either you make a commitment to winning or you don’t.  Where Formula One has gone wrong is in restricting practice and testing.  Practice develops the pool of drivers, engineers, and mechanics so that supply side economics lowers your labor costs, not kickbacks, nepotism, and bribes.  Testing develops your design by exposing strengths and weaknesses outside of competition where corrections can reduce the impact of flaws and new strategies are suggested by discovery of advantages.

Yup, sure is expensive, but not as expensive as a failed program that is a waste and a joke (looking at you Scuderia Marlboro), simulated onanistic computer time (looking at you again Scuderia Marlboro), and wrongly calibrated high-tech wind tunnels (looking at you a third time Scuderia Marlboro).

At least Ferrari gets it and is agitating for more track time while the also rans are complaining that their cars need to get cheaper, not better, and blaming the drivers for lack of preparation while throwing ever increasing chunks of money at them in a lame attempt to create a box office bonanza out of noteriety and hype.

Autodromo Nazionale Monza is the fastest track in Formula One.  On offer today are the Hard and Medium tires between which there is not much difference.

Starting Grid

Grid Driver Team Q-Time Q-Laps
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:24.109 20
2 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:24.383 19
3 Valtteri Bottas Williams-Mercedes 1:24.697 16
4 Felipe Massa Williams-Mercedes 1:24.865 17
5 Kevin Magnussen McLaren-Mercedes 1:25.314 18
6 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1:25.379 18
7 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1:25.430 17
8 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull Racing-Renault 1:25.436 18
9 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull Racing-Renault 1:25.709 17
10 Sergio Perez Force India-Mercedes 1:25.944 23
11 Daniil Kvyat STR-Renault 1:26.070 16
12 Kimi Räikkönen Ferrari 1:26.110 13
13 Jean-Eric Vergne STR-Renault 1:26.157 15
14 Nico Hulkenberg Force India-Mercedes 1:26.279 18
15 Adrian Sutil Sauber-Ferrari 1:26.588 17
16 Esteban Gutierrez Sauber-Ferrari 1:26.692 17
17 Pastor Maldonado Lotus-Renault 1:27.520 8
18 Romain Grosjean Lotus-Renault 1:27.632 5
19 Kamui Kobayashi Caterham-Renault 1:27.671 9
20 Jules Bianchi Marussia-Ferrari 1:27.738 8
21 Max Chilton Marussia-Ferrari 1:28.247 8
22 Marcus Ericsson Caterham-Renault 1:28.562 9

Driver Standings

Rank Driver Team Points
1 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 220
2 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 191
3 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull Racing-Renault 156
4 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 121
5 Valtteri Bottas Williams-Mercedes 110
6 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull Racing-Renault 98
7 Nico Hulkenberg Force India-Mercedes 70
8 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 68
9 Felipe Massa Williams-Mercedes 40
10 Kimi Räikkönen Ferrari 39
11 Kevin Magnussen McLaren-Mercedes 37
12 Sergio Perez Force India-Mercedes 33
13 Jean-Eric Vergne STR-Renault 11
14 Romain Grosjean Lotus-Renault 8
15 Daniil Kvyat STR-Renault 8
16 Jules Bianchi Marussia-Ferrari 2

Constructor Standings

Rank Team Points
1 Mercedes 411
2 Red Bull Racing-Renault 254
3 Ferrari 160
4 Williams-Mercedes 150
5 McLaren-Mercedes 105
6 Force India-Mercedes 103
7 STR-Renault 19
8 Lotus-Renault 8
9 Marussia-Ferrari 2

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