It wasn’t the lack of overtaking and the processional nature of Sunday’s Canadian Grand Prix that shocked race fans expecting a thriller, but rather the fact that a circuit known for producing one of the better races on the calendar resulted in such a borefest.
Once again, the three drivers that attended Saturday’s post-qualifying press conference, were the same three drivers to attend the post-race version 24-hours later.
Other than the side-by-side jostling for second between Valtteri Bottas and Max Verstappen in the first couple of corners, and the subsequent clash involving Brendon Hartley and Lance Stroll, the main talking point was exactly who was to blame for model Winnie Harlow waving the chequered flag a lap early.
On a day the sport celebrated the 40th anniversary of a famous win by one of Formula One’s true legends, Gilles Villeneuve, fans were treated to little more than a high speed procession… again.
At said post-race press conference Sebastian Vettel leapt to the defence of the race.
“It’s not justified to criticise the racing or criticise the race,” he said. “I don’t know if it was boring. From my point of view, you’re still busy inside the car.
“I don’t know why people today are so short-sighted,” he continued. “We’ve had seven races this year, I think some were phenomenal, some were boring.
“Next week the World Cup is starting, and I promise you that a lot of the games won’t be exciting, but still people will watch it. Some games will probably be incredible. That’s what we always look forward to, but it can’t just always continue to go up and get better. I don’t know. There’s no reason, so don’t look for an answer.”
In his post-race debrief, Brawn, a well-known Manchester United supporter, echoed Vettel’s words in terms of football.
“That’s predictable in the streets of the Principality,” he admits, “but it’s not what you expect at the Notre-Dame Island circuit, which has usually provided some very exciting racing with the winner in doubt until the end.
“I reckon the best response to those who say Formula One is boring based on two races is what Vettel said in the post-race conference,” he added: “‘We had seven races this year, I think some were phenomenal, some were boring. Next week the World Cup is starting and I promise you that a lot of the games will not be exciting, but still people will watch it, but some games will be incredible. That’s what we always look forward to: but it can’t just always continue to go up and get better’.
“Like Sebastian, I’m a football fan and I too have seen games between top teams end in a dull goalless draw and there will probably be some like that in the forthcoming World Cup,” said Brawn.
However, the Briton is being disingenuous.
With no offence intended towards our American readers, there’s an old joke about two Americans on holiday in London who are given tickets to the Cup Final. Arriving late, mid-way through the game, they ask the person sitting beside them the score.
“Nil-Nil,” comes the reply.
“Oh good, says the American, we haven’t missed anything.”
While a 5-4 result is the stuff of dreams, not so 6-0. On the other hand a 0-0 match can be among the most thrilling, having viewers on their seats for the full ninety minutes.
A 0-0 result is usually a combination of astrong defence and poor finishing, it is about tactics and strategy, it is not because the match is essentially decided in advance because one team is playing with less men or without boots, nor is it dependent on the pitch or the weather.
Inevitably, Brawn uses the age old tactic of promising that things will improve, something that fans have been hearing for as long as they can remember.
“What we must do is ensure that Formula One can provide spectacular and unpredictable racing and that has to come from a more level playing field,” he says. “Again in Canada, only the six cars from the top teams finished the race on the lead lap, with Renault‘s Nico Hulkenberg best of the rest, a lap down.
“That’s already happened elsewhere this year and that’s not good for the sport. It’s true that these things happen in football too, but to stick with the comparison, in football, you do get the fairytale scenarios such as Leicester winning the 2016 English Premier League or Les Herbiers being finalists in the French Cup this year.
“The next era of Formula One must be able to deliver feats such as these. That doesn’t mean lowering the standards, quite the contrary. It means ensuring that talent and ingenuity should be the major factor in deciding who wins rather than just the size of budget.”
The question is, will the fans stick around for the next era, especially in light of the fact that they’ve heard most of this before.