Out with the old, in with the new - It's time for some drivers to retire

06-07-2020 09:12 | Updated: 06-07-2020 09:18
by Louis Shaw
Column
Out with the old, in with the new - It's time for some drivers to retire

What a race the 2020 F1 season opener was. It had it all. Controversy, retirements, safety cars, heartbreak and most importantly, three different teams making up the podium. Young stars dominated whilst the old dogs struggled to perform and keep up with the new tricks that the fresh generation of F1 talent has brought to the paddock. 

It was worrying, having watched Mercedes dominate all practice sessions and qualifying, and easy to think that the Austrian Grand Prix would be a snooze fest in which the German team would establish an early lead and coast to an easy one-two victory. How wrong this trail of thought was! 

It’s true that Valtteri Bottas led from start to finish but the race was one of the best season openers that we have seen for years. For starters, there is the fact that only 11 cars actually finished the race. The 217 days since the last competitive outing for all the teams seemingly had an effect and much of the grid looked like the aftermath of a Scalextric track when a young child who has never played on one before has their first go and puts their foot flat to the floor and the cars just fly off. Isn’t Formula 1 meant to be the pinnacle of motorsport and engineering? Much of the race was spent wondering who was going to be the next driver to breakdown or spin out of control. Although this is quite embarrassing for a sport that claims to be the creme de la creme, it did make it all rather entertaining. It brought the safety car out a few times and that really helped add to the drama of the Grand Prix.

Bottas had to work hard for the win and at every restart, he had the whole grid behind him with their gnashing teeth chomping at the bit to try and get past him. Nobody did, but the race behind him was fascinating. McLaren continued to improve from their “best of the rest” finish last season and Lando Norris became the third-youngest driver to claim a podium finish in the history of the sport. It was another youngster who came second. Charles Leclerc shone and made a move on Sergio Perez that any world champion would be proud of and went on to finish behind the race winner. What made this more impressive was the fact that Ferrari are a whole second slower than what they were last year. To put such a bathtub of a car in second place requires real talent and it is clear to see that the young blood now has what it takes to kick the old guard out of the sport. Especially when you consider the performance of his teammate… 

It was disappointing to see two world champions make such a meal of the race. For starters, Sebastian Vettel. Now, you don’t become a 4-time world champion by accident but what has gone wrong with the Ferrari driver? He seems like a lost soul behind the wheel and you would have thought that the fact that the Italian team have said that they don’t require his services next season would be enough of an incentive for him to want to prove his worth and protect his legacy. Unfortunately, he seems to be a broken man and limped across the line in 10th after issues with his car and colliding with Carlos Sainz, the man who will be pinching his seat next year. Compared to Leclerc’s performance in the same car, you wonder why any team would want to sign Vettel for next season when there is so much capable young talent coming through. 

Lewis Hamilton wasn’t at his best either and it was clear to see that his domination of the sport has meant that he has got used to leading races rather than wheel to wheel racing and his skills have rusted up like the old padlock on your shed at the end of the garden. I’m not sure what Hamilton has got against Alex Albon but after his discussions about diversity in motorsport perhaps he could not constantly knock off the only other BAME driver on the track! There was his usual moaning over the team radio that everything was unfair and not working and it has become crystal clear that Hamilton’s best days are behind him. He has reached the pinnacle and the only way he can go is downhill from here. It’s just a matter of when. He needs to time his exit from the sport carefully else end up looking like Vettel does now. Sooner rather than later would be best for his legacy. 

What’s happening now is that instead of the older generation gracefully handing over the reins, the young guns are coming up and snatching them out of the hands of those who have been in the sport for the past 10 years. Whilst they are still incredibly fast drivers, there are now faster individuals out there who would do whatever it took to get a seat where some of these veterans are racing. 

You can’t teach an old dog new tricks and it would be better for F1 to see the likes of George Russell, Esteban Ocon and Lando Norris all in the seats currently occupied by those who are coming to the end of their careers. Why can’t more people do what Nico Rosberg did and gracefully bow out at the top of the sport? 

In all honesty, it is easy to be critical after the first race of the season and there are only a few days until F1 goes again and the senior brigade have an opportunity to prove their worth. Who knows, maybe we’ll be praising Vettel on his race victory?  

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