Let’s discuss: Grid Girls

Last month I read an article on ‘being a woman who loves racing.’ It was beautifully written; as if every subconscious thought I have ever had, had been written down and compiled in a way that would educate others in understanding the way a moderate gender-gap works. This gender-gap is not substantial, but it is prominent. It was prominent enough to warrant David Coulthard in stating his beliefs of women racers, or should I say lack of. Prominent enough for the former Formula 1 driver to say women aren’t as brutal as men because of their ‘mothering gene.’ (I dare him to direct that comment at Nicola Adams and see what happens.) It was prominent enough for Bernie Ecclestone to claim “women racers wouldn’t be taken seriously,” and for Sir Stirling Moss to voice his two cents.

We are not defined by gender. We are not defined by our age, or by our skin colour. We are not defined by where we come from, or what we believe in. We are not defined by the way that we look at the world, or for how we treat it. We are human. Humans with goals and ambitions, just as anyone else. And there’s a way to talk to other humans and a way to respect other humans; that undermining their ability, is factually wrong.

This argument is not about racers, however. That argument ended once we stopped asking if and started asking when; enter Tatiana Calderon, Sophia Floresch, Jamie Chadwick, Simona de Silvestro and Marta Garcia. When, could be sooner than you think.

The reason I mentioned the previous article, is because it sparked an attack on Motorsport.com to remove a photo album titled ‘Paddock Beauties.’ I don’t have a problem with grid girls. I can admire an attractive person, regardless of their gender. In fact, if I looked like – or had the body to be – a grid girl, then I would be one. Why not? The problem I had with this album is it did not just have grid girls, it had engineers, team personnel, circuit administrators and all sorts. As I said, I can appreciate an attractive person. I’m sure after seeing themselves in an album titled ‘Paddock Beauties’ they were flattered; but unlike grid girls, these girls haven’t signed up to a job to be judged aesthetically. So I agree with the notion to take them out, especially when the likes of Adrian Newey and Chase Carey feature in the generic albums; are they not ‘Paddock Beauties’ or what people believe ‘Paddock Beauties’ to be? Why does beauty, in this case, have to be gender specific?

All over twitter it spread; both the article and the petition. It went ‘viral’ as they say, and it did so within reason. Albeit (in my opinion) marginal reason. Grid girls are outdated. They are old-fashioned. Is there a need for them? Perhaps not. But is it any different from the girls in tight lycra at boxing matches or walk-on girls at darts tournaments, or how about the ‘flower girls’ at the Olympics? Sport is a spectacle. It is entertainment as well as a competition. It is important to cater to both areas or it becomes flat. Football is an exception because it’s fuelled by fierce rivalry and ‘hooliganism.’ Formula 1 however, has always fallen slave to ‘glitz and glamour’ – it’s why James Hunt was and is so popular. Because let’s be serious, out of all the World Champions F1 has had, is he the best one? Debatable. But he brought mass attention to a sport that had death lingering at every corner. He was a ‘celebrity’ whereas the others were just drivers. A bit like Lewis Hamilton. Had an F1 driver ever been to the Oscars and been as high profile as Hamilton before?

Grid girls are brought to Grands Prix via their agencies. An agency chosen by FOM or by the circuit informs all of its models of a potential job and they sign up to do it – just as you or I would for a job we desire. It’s a models dream to be scouted, to be headhunted – to be chosen. To work at a Grand Prix probably seems like a once in a lifetime experience – I too would grab it with both hands. But it’s their job to turn up and do what is required, not mine. Whether it be standing at a grid slot, clapping in the cool down room or even working in hospitality. It’s luck of the draw. But that doesn’t make them any less of a person.

In January, the NEC in Birmingham held the annual Autosport Show. If any of you reading this went, you perhaps might remember that opposite the F1 Racing Stand was the Azerbaijan Grand Prix booth. They were holding a competition to visit Baku for the GP and the people walking around the venue with the tablets for you to enter – were models, too. They weren’t wearing skimpy clothes or anything ostentatious (yes Pirelli, I am looking at you,) just white and purple polo shirts with jeans. I only know this because I recognised two of the girls walking around. They were on a programme called Britain’s Next Top Model and were in the final five. Funny, because one of the two girls I was routing for and was extremely peeved when she was sent home. But it just goes to show, that you can sign up to anything that your agency sends out but what you do and how you look is not down to the model, but down to the employer. Don’t shout at grid girls, shout at the circuit. Don’t look down on someone for doing their job – they are earning money to live just like the rest of us.

Grid girls do no harm. And if I’m being strictly honest and to-the-point for just a second, I think that if you are getting annoyed by a grid girl and believe she is being exploited (for something she signed up – and is paid to do) then you are easily offended. At no point is a grid girl asking for attention or scrutiny. Yes it’s old fashioned and yes it’s not really relevant in this day and age – but the agro that’s surfaced since the album got taken down is baffling. I’m basically dragging out that I don’t care what they do, it makes no difference to my viewing. I have watched F1 for what must be 10 years now and I can happily say that this year is already shaping up to be the best season I have ever watched – and we’re only two races in. We have a huge title fight on our hands, two teams gunning for it, two proven World Champions gunning for it and yet we’re sat moaning about grid girls. What a palaver.

What do you think?

It isn’t just ‘drink driving’

Before I delve into this post, I want to pop in a little disclaimer. I’m not bashing drinking in any way – Sambuca and I go together like milk and cookies. But I’m also not bashing the sponsors or the social activities that come with alcohol. I am, of course, a student and won’t hide the fact that socially drinking is about 40/50% of what I do in a year. No, really…

The aim of this is to change the perception of how people are reacting to the open letter to Jean Todt from Eurocare’s secretary Mariann Skar. She argues that alcohol and driving should not be mixed, which is a fair point considering that on average, 3,000 people are killed or seriously injured each year because of drink-driving collisions.

To say “it’s just an advertisement” is not only hypocritical (with the ban of cigarette branding) but it’s also naïve. Do I think a logo encourages people to go out and specifically buy that drink? Yes. A sense of nostalgia and thinking I was a Bond girl made me to go and get some Martini. Do I think a logo encourages people to go out and specifically buy that drink and then drive after it? No.

But the fact is, people do. People think that because they’ve only had one or two drinks, they’re fine. There’s a reason several countries have now inflicted the zero tolerance rule. It’s because no matter how little you think you have had and no matter how much of a good driver you assume you are; alcohol changes the blood level in your brain making your reaction times a lot slower, your balance shifts and your judgement is impaired. If drink can give you the confidence to chat up someone in a bar, it can very easily manipulate the way you drive. Just one sip will linger in your body for two hours.

Ask yourself this; would you trust someone driving if they had previously had a drink that night? If the answer is yes, I think you’re mad. If your answer is no, why would you drive yourself if you have had a drink?

This is coming from someone who has had to deal with an alcoholic parent for the last six or seven years. It’s not as clear-cut as just ‘drink driving’. It’s not just the mad-men that you see on Road Wars on a crap Saturday night. It’s failure to stop when someone is walking over a zebra crossing because they were too slow to see them. It’s the not stepping hard enough on the brake pedal because they are substantially weaker. It’s the weaving across the road because their brain can’t focus on the lane that they are in. Lines are jagged, things appear closer or further away, colours merge together and so on.

Have you had to be driven somewhere by someone either severely hungover or still drunk from the night before? Maybe you have. But what about when said person has been drinking all day from the moment they got up? Perhaps not. It’s scary. You are literally a passenger with no control. Which is why I hate flying so much. But with a drunk driver, you can see how slow they are to react to a red light, to speeding up or down, to changing gears. And if they encounter a round-about; well that’s almost as hard as if they were taking an exam.  

Alcohol alters your reaction time. It slows everything down. It doesn’t matter if you are a good person, it doesn’t matter if you are a great driver. You could hurt someone. You could hurt yourself. Your friend could be hurt. Your family could be hurt. The next time you’ve had one too many and you start slurring your words and laughing at your total mess, imagine yourself driving a car. Because that’s the sort of lunacy that people do. It doesn’t damage just one person, it damages their friends and family too. Imagine the guilt of the person, who for that split-second, thought they’d be able to drive home without any problems.

By association, F1 is almost endorsing the association of alcohol and driving. Whether you admit it or not. Why would Heineken for example, pay out £150 million for it to not make an impression?

They are not forcing a drink down your throat, nor are they telling you to drink drive. But advertising alcohol whilst ‘Bernie says think before you drive’ is total hypocrisy. And actually, someone who is about to even consider driving after a drink clearly cannot think at all, let alone drive. If you don’t endorse drink driving, why allow the main factor to be showcased so much? If it’s just ‘drink driving’ perhaps you should go and say that to the hundreds of families who have lost loved ones because someone thought it would be a good idea to just ‘drink drive.’

Please stop referring to it as “just a logo” or “only idiots drink drive.” Because whilst both are true statements, it’s so much more than that. It isn’t just a thought for some people. It’s a moment of misjudgement. It’s a spur of the moment idea to get home. At that moment, the last thing they think about is other people or the chaos they might cause. All it can take is to accidentally run a red light. But when alcohol is involved, there are no accidents. There’s just the consequences of what a misjudgement can do.

It may be my bias and because of my experiences. But to me, alcohol branding in F1 is so much worse than that of cigarette. What’s just a logo to you, is an idea to someone else. In hindsight we’d all say it’s stupid, but for the wrong person at that one moment it’s a somewhat unconscious decision. Alcohol controls the way you think, the way you speak, the way you act. It will dictate the way you drive. Don’t assume otherwise. To associate smoking with athletes was wrong, but to associate drinking with the pinnacle of motorsport is stupidity.

F1’s dysfunctional relationship

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Picture courtesy of Darren Taylor

You know when you’re having an argument with someone and you realise that you just cannot be bothered to even fight your case anymore, so you just sort of roll your eyes and say “whatever” just to shut them up? That’s a strange, yet accurate comparison to F1’s governing body and its strategy group. A very dysfunctional relationship, that even marital counselling could not recover.

In a weird twist of events that saw the old qualifying return for a matter of hours (yes, Katy Perry’s ‘hot n cold’ song comes to mind), a letter from the GPDA and a response agreeing with the said letter from Bernie himself, the new elimination qualifying is back for another trial; albeit unchanged. Move over Ross and Rachel, this relationship is far more complex than you ever were.

The Australian Grand Prix weekend was heavily let down by the rushed inception of this new format. The race itself was a good opener and if Ferrari had played the game right, it may have been a different victor crossing the line first. Max Verstappen also qualified in fifth, not that anyone noticed because we were all too busy slating this new system; not many even congratulated Lewis Hamilton for his stunning lap. Both of those performances shadowed by a monumental mistake, that potentially could have been avoided if 1) they hadn’t rushed or 2) they didn’t even try to alter it.

That being said, I do grudgingly like the idea of the elimination qualifying. No, there isn’t a problem with the old system, but, whether you admit it or not, a whole bunch of you disliked the old version when drivers were sat in the pit lane or when they didn’t go out at all. As someone who has sat trackside for a few years, there is nothing more boring than sitting in the rain or sun with absolutely nothing on the track in front of you, apart from a stray marshal or bird if you’re lucky. Talk about excitement…

In a previous blog post, I spoke about another idea for this qualifying, read that here. But, from a lot of deliberation, most people were fine with Q1 and Q2 – though, the 90 second intervals need to be increased more than anything. It is Q3 they have a problem with. A lot of ideas stem from using the old version of qualifying in the final qualification, but after a lot of thought, I don’t think it would make much of a difference. The whole tyre conservation will just come to play, again. Surely you want to see a Dany Kvyat or a Nico Hulkenberg having a go at beating the usual top four? They are not likely to waste a tyre trying to beat a time they probably won’t top.

What we want is a shock. Like you get in some wet qualifying sessions. Someone to get their timings wrong and someone to get it spot on. Someone to make the jump onto the softer tyre and spring a surprise catching others out.

The system should have been simulated hundreds of times before Australia, that’s blatantly obvious. It was a shambles, a mess and embarrassing that our sport came up with that idea. On the other hand, I think they’ve laid the foundations down. Now it’s time to build on it. Formula E tried something new with their super-pole – it worked.

I think Q1 and Q2 should stay as the elimination form, with the adjusted time intervals. I also think the graphics for viewers needs to change. A big countdown clock needs to be on the screen somewhere with a noise to count down the last ten seconds. I don’t think drivers should be allowed to finish their lap; if that was the case, qualifying would last too long and there would just be a train after every knockout.

Esteban Gutierrez was on a lap that would have promoted him to fourth in Q1. But tough; he should have gone out sooner. Simply put, they were told that they’d only have 90 seconds and you can’t finish the lap. Don’t blame the system for your mathematical error. Gene Haas even admitted to knowing where the team went wrong.

Q3 should be a one-lap shoot out. It should last for about five minutes, so no one has time to mope around in the pits and it should be compulsory to set a competitive lap time. You’re probably thinking “er, what?” but, picture that system in Monaco or a wet Canada. I don’t know about you, but I am rather bored of all of the conservation in Formula 1. I want them to go all guns out and show us what they can really do. F1 is supposed to be the fastest sport in the world, so let it be that. These drivers are supposed to be the fastest drivers in the world (debatable), so let them show us. If they lock up? Tough. If they run wide? Tough. If they screw up? Tough. That’s the pressure and intensity of a one-lap shoot out.

The other option I see, is scrapping Q1, Q2 and Q3 and just having one 45 minute qualification like GP2 and GP3 have. Every two minutes a driver is knocked out until it’s just the final eight left out on track to do their final lap.

Bahrain will probably be the exact same as Australia, there’s not really a doubt about that. And it’s all well people like me having a good grumble or suggestion, but if the GPDA can’t even make a difference, then there’s no hope for anyone else.

“If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it.”

Flawed Qualifying system thoughts

Its been four months since we last saw the V6 hybrids colour our TV screens. The anticipation of the new season dawned on us all, and after pre-season testing the wait for the AusGP was on.

In it came, all guns blazing, a new qualifying system and an updated radio ban for us to all think about. A rushed major change that was brought in, in the hope to spice up Saturday’s action (a question I’d like to know who was even asking in the first place.)

The previous system was never bad. It was actually rather good. The only real issue was the dull moments of when the drivers and teams were sat waiting in the pitlane. I’m 99.9% sure, the fans sat trackside in the rain didn’t pay over £100 for nothing to happen. Moments like those were caused by the tyre rules. Why waste a tyre in Q3 when you could start on fresh rubber of your choice in the race?

Should Pirelli and the FIA allow teams to take and use as many tyres as they want? The drought of cars on track during Q2 and Q3 would be as good as gone – since there’s no advantage for not going out. Plus the strategy in the race would hot up, with the big reveal happening as soon as the tyre warmers come off five minutes before lights out.

Picture it: LH on pole, starts on super softs. Seb in 3rd, takes the gamble and starts on softs. It’s a strategy game that often spices up GP2’s Feature Races. Sometimes it works, sometimes it fails and sometimes there’s no difference.

I like the elimination form. But it needed more work. The panic to get it started for this year has uncovered more flaws. The 90 second intervals aren’t enough. Tracks like Singapore are nearly two minutes long alone so there’s not a time to reply. That needs to be upped to almost two minutes, to allow for another lap – to allow for the response. We want the “here’s what I can do, now it’s your turn” mentality. Not the “oh but if we don’t go out and stay 12th we have the tyre option for tomorrow.”

Most of us seem to like the idea of it. It’s just Q3 was so anticlimactic that suddenly it’s the worst bodge job in the history of F1. I didn’t know a sport could just pick and choose its regulations event by event, but there you go. If F1 axes it straight away, it’s nothing more of an embarrassment.

If anything, Q1 and Q2 should be kept as the elimination form. It is exciting. Imagine if Manor had got their timing right, who knows, they could have sprung a surprise.

Q3 either needs to be a one lap shoot-out, with the final eight drivers only getting one timed lap. Or, with the help of unlimited tyres, see how the elimination format works with that. They need to at least try something else. If we all failed at our first try we wouldn’t be where we are today.

What do you think?

 

Top 10 moments of F1 2014 (so far…)

Despite the dominance of Mercedes and Mercedes-powered cars, this brand new era of Formula 1 has proven to be one of the most exciting years in recent times. The volume and pitch of the engines may have been turned down, but, the on-track action has been cranked up a notch. Fires, sparks and upside-down cars are just a handful of thrilling moments this year has had to offer – and we’re only half way into the season!

10. Bumps and bruises

There have been several collisions and mistakes this year, some of which have been caused by the new BBW (brake by wire) systems – Kamui Kobayashi’s incident at the beginning of the Australian Grand Prix and Lewis Hamilton’s failure whilst qualifying in Germany were both down to the new style of brakes. Whereas Felipe Massa and Kimi Raikkonen have had spectacular crashes this year, with the former colliding with Sergio Perez in Canada. Not forgetting that Massa was one of two drivers (the other being Esteban Gutierrez) to have been flipped upside-down during a race – both drivers escaped with no injuries, thankfully.

9. Curse of the team orders

They’re back, again! Twice this year we have seen the dreaded calls over the radio to force one driver to allow their team-mate through. The first was in China where the Red Bull duo were on differing strategies, Sebastian Vettel replied “tough luck” but later yielded the position. With one more stop to make, Nico Rosberg found himself stuck behind Lewis Hamilton in Hungary, but despite the team asking Hamilton to let Rosberg through, the Briton stood firm and ignored them, knowing that Rosberg would finish ahead if he let him by.

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8. Susie Wolff’s F1 outing

Silverstone didn’t quite go according to plan and further problems in Hockenheim looked like it just wasn’t meant to be. But Williams got the car up to scratch and Wolff became the first woman in 22 years to take part in an F1 weekend. Her best lap was of 1:20:769, just 0.277 seconds behind Massa who finished the session in 11th place. Not bad!

7. Alonso vs. Ricciardo in Germany

Alonso and Ricciardo’s fight at Hockenheim was some of the best racing we’ve seen so far this season with the Ferrari coming out on top, on this occasion. Lets hope we get more wheel-to-wheel racing during the second half of the year!

6. Felipe Massa and Williams on pole

After an unusually messy session for the Mercedes’ drivers, it was the Williams duo who capitalised on their problems to produce two faultless laps to take the front row. It became Massa’s first pole in eight years and Williams’ first front row lock out since 2003. Unfortunately they couldn’t hold on to take the win, but it was nice to see Williams back where they belong.

5. Rosberg controversy

Nico Rosberg was forced into the spotlight after he – to some – purposely crashed in qualifying to secure pole position in Monaco. This rattled team-mate Hamilton who was quoted saying “we’re not friends” to a reporter despite knowing the German (or Monegasque?) since the pair were karting team-mates. They have since kissed and made up, although for how long?

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4. Marussia in the points

Following their debut in 2010 as Virgin Racing – now known as Marussia – the Banbury based team have been in a struggle to score their first points in Formula 1. However, after recruiting Max Chilton and Ferrari academy driver, Jules Bianchi, things slowly began to get better. And in Monaco of this year, Bianchi found himself in eighth place. A 5 second penalty was later added to his time for starting in the wrong grid slot, but the Frenchman took ninth place and scored his, and Marussia’s first ever F1 points.

3. Hamilton vs. Rosberg in Bahrain

Under the floodlights we finally got a feel of just how quick the Mercedes car was. But what also became evident, was just how evenly matched this team-mate partnership is. The respect between both drivers made it even better to watch with the two switching positions almost every lap. Two different driving styles at the same calibre gave us a fantastic end to the race and could make double points in Abu Dhabi even more important.

2. Ricciardo’s first win

It was once thought that Mercedes could win every race this year; that was until both cars were hit with reliability problems in Canada. But it was an unlikely candidate that took full advantage of the situation, for it was not the defending four time World Champion, but his new team-mate! Ricciardo managed his tyres well, pushed when he needed to, and proved that Mercedes weren’t unbeatable.

1. Alonso vs. Vettel in GB

Two World Champions wheel to wheel throughout Silverstone – what more could you want? Albeit, it would have been much better if the two weren’t moaning about one another over the radio, but they laughed about it afterwards.

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(All cartoons courtesy of Chris Rathbone. See his website here, and follow him on twitter here)

What has been your favourite moment this year?

Did Rosberg purposely bring out yellow flags?

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First and foremost, are you judging this as a neutral or as a specific drivers fan? Sometimes people can be heavily influenced by their favoured driver and ignore all the other factors.

Monaco is a circuit that often highlights the exceptional drivers from the good drivers. It showcases not only car control, but also a drivers raw talent and confidence. Car manufacture plays less of a part as power and down force are the crucial ingredients to pull together a competitive lap.

Nico Rosberg jumped to the top after setting a time 0.059 seconds faster than team-mate Lewis Hamilton. Both drivers were able to circulate again, however as the German approached Mirabeau he broke too late which resulted in a lock up sending him into the escape road.

When cars take to the escape road, it’s not guaranteed to bring out yellow flags as the car is well clear of the track. Hamilton was behind Rosberg on the circuit and was improving his time until he reached the yellow flagged zone, where he had to back off. Throughout the weekend Hamilton’s best sector has been sector two, which is where Mirabeau is located.

Hamilton was on a personal best, however he was not going quicker than Rosberg’s provisional pole time in that sector.

If (emphasis on if) Rosberg wanted to deliberately bring out yellow flags, he would have put his Mercedes into the barriers or parked it on the track. Instead, he took it down the escape road out of harms way. He couldn’t park it there because he had to get back to Parc Ferme or else risk his pole time being stripped. Perhaps he could have waited longer to reverse, but the yellow flags were out anyway.

There’s no rule on whether you can reverse out of an escape road, but if he were to be punished then Fernando Alonso and Marcus Ericsson were also guilty of the same manoeuvre. The former doing so in FP1 and the latter in FP3.

These ‘dodgy’ steering motions were merely corrections for being out of shape at Casino Square which resulted in the German out-braking himself into Mirabeau. Rosberg was bettering his time up until that moment – why would he sacrifice his own hot lap, that could have potentially been better than his previous time, just to ruin Hamilton and everyone else’s lap? He wouldn’t, and Hamilton shouldn’t be so grumpy about being less than a tenth behind him.

It just shows how close this pair can be.

The drama has, unfortunately for Rosberg, overshadowed just how good his pole lap was. It similarly hid the efforts of Jean-Eric Vergne, who put in a lap just 3 tenths behind Kimi Raikonnen’s Ferrari to put him in seventh place for tomorrow’s race.

I think the real culprits here are the media who are over-hyping a story whilst trying to force a rivalry similar to what was seen between Prost and Senna in 1988. A rivalry which will almost certainly, never be matched.

Hamilton made some comments towards Rosberg, and insinuated that he may have purposely done it. But when you’ve lost pole in those circumstances, it’s understandable to be frustrated. What’s not understandable is the comments that his fans have left Rosberg. Some including death threats – which, regardless of F1’s history, is disgusting behaviour.

What needs to be mentioned is that pole position does not get you points. It’s an achievement, but it doesn’t help you in the championship at all. The race is more important. And instead of banging on about qualifying in P2 – which must be a ’terrible’ place to start – the main focus should be on his race start tomorrow. A place where Rosberg has been struggling.

The FIA have taken no action on Rosberg and rightly so. Tomorrow’s race is getting ever-more interesting with tensions rising high. Will Hamilton take the lead? Can Rosberg keep Hamilton behind? What can Ricciardo or Vettel do? Only time will tell…

What are your thoughts?

Are 2014 F1 cars really that bad?

There is not a lot that we can take from the Jerez pre-season tests, other than the fact that Renault, or more-to-the-point, Red Bull, appear to have some minor problems. However, I am sure they would rather have these issues now, than say during the Australian Grand Prix. Mercedes and Ferrari also looked fairly reliable after both teams, along with McLaren, were the only teams to complete more than 200 laps over the duration of the test. But aside from that, there was one thing that seemed to be getting a lot more attention.

I am, of course, referring to the uniquely interpreted designs of the 2014 nose regulations. Whether you label them as ‘anteater noses’ or ‘finger noses’, or perhaps the most obvious name – no thanks to the Ann Summers twitter account – ‘men’s appendages’. They are off-putting, and not what you’d expect from one of the most glamorous sports around the globe.

However, lets remember that these cars are not designed to be showcased at London fashion week, but are designed to be raced hard around the legendary Spa circuit, or to be flung around the streets of Monaco.

The 2014 cars could be worse, and here are a few examples of some previous designs that are, well, different…

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Innovations aside, some of these are ghastly. So maybe this seasons cars do look inappropriate and vile, but if the racing is as good as say 2012, does it really matter? The beauty of the sport is the racing, and it should stay that way regardless of how ‘ugly’ these cars are.

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(Picture courtesy of JackLeslieF1)

Lotus were not present at the test, but which is your favourite?

“Race cars are neither beautiful nor ugly. They become beautiful when they win” – Enzo Ferrari.