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THE CROFTY BLOG – AUSTRIAN ‘FUZZY’ DRINK FUTURE?

David Croft, Sky Sports F1 Commentator, guest writes for Silverstone

There was a lot of talk in Austria over the weekend about what was currently wrong in F1. As you entered the Paddock on Thursday even the front page headline in the Red Bulletin magazine had that very question in big bold type. Not exactly an unexpected headline after the owner of the fizzy drinks company had chosen that week to speak out about how unhappy he was and how a Red Bull departure from the sport was still a possibility.

The fact that Dietrich Mateschitz had chosen only to speak to a Red Bull owned website and that the Red Bull owned Red Bulletin had then followed up with a critic of the sport, whilst the Red Bull team have not exactly been shy of expressing throughout this year how unhappy they were at the current regulation restrictions and how it was affecting their team, plus the fact that the team had chosen this race to take their first engine penalties of this season, might lead you to wonder if this was not an orchestrated attempt to set an agenda.

It could be complete coincidence of course, but somehow I doubt it. I can see why Red Bull are unhappy with the way things are going on the track this year, but to keep pressing the point that they might not stick around too much longer does rather look like bully boy tactics if they can’t get their way.

That said there are plenty of people other than Red Bull who are quite happy to tell you exactly what’s wrong with F1 at the moment, and not just during #AskCrofty after the race! For the record I don’t accept that Sunday’s race was dull, and there have been plenty of races far duller than that in the 172 I’ve commentated on. But I do accept that the sport isn’t perfect presently so it doesn’t surprise me to see that there are plenty of fans, and those who work within the sport, that care passionately enough about it, to want to see improvements made.

But one thing I would do right now is to find a way to help both Renault and Honda out of their nightmare situation. That’s assuming that Renault want a way out of course, because there are plenty of people who believe they too will be heading out of the sport. I don’t see it myself, but I also don’t see what benefit they, or Honda, are getting from competing in the sport, certainly in Marketing and PR terms at least.

So let’s go back to 2008 where both Renault and Honda found themselves less competitive, down on horsepower and struggling with KERS and the maximum limit of 8 engines per season coming in for 2009. 8 engines per season, sounds like such a luxury these days. Honda pulled out of F1 but Renault applied for a special dispensation and was allowed to make performance changes to make it’s engine more competitive.

Now for the sake of the show, should that not be looked at now? We have a situation where new 5th and 6th Power Unit elements are being taken far too early in the season. Where McLaren could set a new record for the most grid penalty places taken by one team in one race if we’re not careful and where the results of qualifying look nothing like the eventual grid. This isn’t the fault of the regulations, it’s hardly their fault that Renault and more particularly, Honda, have been so unreliable. But to apply them week in week out without the mechanism for either Honda or Renault to work their way out of their mess – the Engine Token system isn’t enough for them to work their way through their troubles – does seem a little ludicrous.

It would take the full agreement of all the teams, but that can’t be beyond possibility, can it? Any changes won’t come in time for Jenson Button to end his British Grand Prix podium drought, but it could at least give him a fighting chance of…well….fighting on track at some stage this year. And Fernando Alonso too who despite the rumoured $70 million pay check this year, must surely be wondering if he ought to have kept his head down a little more at Marenello.

I’m not expecting to see anything, but it would be nice to think that a little cooperation could level the playing field a little more, make the racing a touch more competitive and improve the entertainment. Because Bernie’s right on this one, F1 needs to be entertaining and whilst I don’t agree with all the negativity, the one thing that does sadden me is that some people don’t find the sport entertaining at the moment.

So here’s a little funny aside for you and a chance for me to say a massive thanks to the back room boys at Sky Sports F1 and in particular our sound department, who managed to avert a bit of a crisis when somebody decided to deliver a portable toilet to the side of the track in Canada, just minutes before qualifying.

The toilet unfortunately ended up on resting on top of the cabling that goes from the TV Compound to our Commentary Box. Not the best situation as it ended up cutting the connection. Somehow just a minutes into Q1 the boys discovered where the problem was and fixed it. How they fixed it so quickly I don’t know (the problem was apparently 260m along a cable that was 1.3km long) but I’m very glad they did, given that Martin and I had no communication back to our Gallery, other than texts from our producer, and couldn’t even hear Team Radio, or worse still, Ted Kravitz in the pitlane. Hopefully at home you won’t have noticed a thing, we could still broadcast back to London on a back up, but were it not for the speed of the guys behind the scenes we wouldn’t have known any of the key details as to why Vettel or Massa were struggling so much.

Cheers guys, you see it’s not just the drivers that rely so much on their team, at Sky we’ve got a brilliant bunch of people working hard behind the scenes, even when there isn’t a crisis.

It’ll be the same at Silverstone too where an army of people, from the man in charge of portable toilets (watch out for our cables now) to the riggers who set up the concert stage (I so can’t wait to see Madness) to the car park attendants, food vendors, bus drivers, marshalls, and….. I could go on with this list for ever. Thanks to you all, just a few days to go now.

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