Its amazing how you can make a run down construction site look so pristine for the television cameras – that’s what Valencia does so well. This past weekend the perfect sunshine helped present Valencia across the globe as a Monaco-esq type location despite the reality being very different. It reminded me a bit of Long Beach in the late 70’s, when a seedy port pit was presented to the globe as an energized California happening locale that could host an F1 race. From those perceptions came the Long Beach phenom reality that we have today.
Formula 1 is so powerful that it is being used as an image creation tool for cities and countries around the world. Today however we are in an unstable world where immediate gratification is a must. For this reason, there is doubt that Valencia’s “construction site” can stand the test of time to use the race as an attractive global message carrier and therefore potentially grow and develop to become a Spanish California landing.
Valencia for me was somewhat remarkable for several reasons. It was by far the most mistake riddled F1 event I have ever seen. Tire smoke filled just about every corner in every session as drivers tried to find that delicate limit. Front tires scorched flat spots at a faster rate than ever witnessed before. Run offs were as popular as apex’s – drivers used them with abandon – because they could. Yes – the unfortunate side effect that modern day “safety” asphalt run offs is that they breed indiscipline in drivers. The same drivers and cars while in Montreal two weeks earlier stayed mainly on the black stuff – because they had to. There should be a penalty for using too much circuit every time (at least in the races), as opposed to only when a driver is attempting a passing move. The car is racing all through a race not just when in close proximity to another car. Why is too much circuit to much only at certain times?
Valencia proved to everyone there that national pride in a driver takes a motor sports happening from just a race to a significant national sporting event. When Alonso in the Ferrari took the lead, adults cheered wildly and children became “impressioned” for life. Years of Formula One support was further and indelibly created in one afternoon by a Spanish national hero – just as it was in Canada (Gilles Villeneuve) Germany (Schumacher & Vettel), England (Hamilton, Mansell, Button) etc., etc,. If the same race happened to be in England, the emotional context would not have hit the red line. This however was the stuff of hero driven profit centers for race promoters – that America does not understand as evidenced by US F1 history since the departure of Mario Andretti. The TV scrum that took pace in the paddock afterwards is something that I hope America experiences in the years to come.
Alonso’s pass on Grojean for the lead was why he earns more than $30M annually. That was X-factor talent on display. That was skill, judgement, experience, and confidence on display and it was a joy to watch. Kimi was on the podium but Grojean was faster all weekend. Two Renault powered cars (Vettel & Grojean) were out while running 1st & 2nd with the same problem – broken alternator. Hamilton looked mighty, Button average, Massa better than recent form until he was mugged by Kobayashi ripping his rt front tire. Weber showed great patience coming from the back (18th on grid) and Schumacher, at 43 years old, again showed the type of inner human drive that made him a champion for so long.
Lastly, the Spanish grid girls were almost as impressive as the Ferrari twin motor homes. Yes indeed, Ferrari has TWO impressive motor homes that could actually pass for small villages – ah yes – Formula One is remarkable for several reasons. And really lastly, imagine pulling your impressive $5M yacht into the harbor at Valencia only to have it made look ordinary by VJ Malya’s (owner of Force India) impressive, Indian Empress – ah yes – Formula One is remarkable for several reasons.