Announcing Season Retrospectives
It may inevitably fail, but I’m going to try and resurrect this blog. My interest in current F1 has waned over the last 18 months for one reason or another – my gut feeling is the sport is too ‘plastic’ these days for me to enjoy. Maybe it’s a generational thing – the races are exciting when they’re on but the stench of corporatism hangs in the air. Everything about it seems fake, from the smiles on the team principles’ faces to every overtake made with the assistance of DRS. I’m an old fart, I know.
The 1990s, on the other hand, was a simpler time, and I was more naive and new to F1. Though I’ve tried to take them off many times before, my rose-tinted spectacles will not come off. The cars were better looking, the format was simpler and traditional, money was around but not dictating absolutely everything, circuits were genuinely challenging in cars that were more difficult to drive, and drivers could get away with driving aggressively and occasionally crashing without getting criticised endlessly on internet forums. It was a more innocent time – not as innocent as the 1960s, but then I didn’t grow up in the 1960s, so that’s irrelevant.
Yeah, sure, it wasn’t as riveting as it is today, but 1990s races was far more unpredictable. Contrary to popular belief, F1 isn’t that unpredictable in 2012 – OK, so 7 different winners from 7 races is unprecedented, but today it’s considered a surprise if a Toro Rosso gets anywhere near the top 6, despite the team being only a 3 or 4 tenths off the pace; back in 1994, their poorer predecessor Minardi could afford to be 2 or 3 seconds off the pace and still pick up 3 top 6 places over the course of the season, precisely 3 more than Toro Rosso have picked up this year. The answer to the question I haven’t posed is of course unreliablility – cars broke down back in 1994. Regularly. And a crash wasn’t a once-a-season event. So while you weren’t necessarily watching constant meaningless overtakes as you do today, you weren’t sitting there thinking “nothing’s happening, hurry up and finish” either, because things did happen that people didn’t expect. You just needed a bit more patience.
So I’m planning on writing some season retrospectives which I have imaginatively entitled Season Retrospectives, starting in the pivotal season of 1994. I’ve always thought there is much untapped potential to write about F1 history in an original way. Too much F1 “history” is based on sentimental guff direct from the journalists who were there at the day – and if you weren’t there then, well, what do you know? But as a historian (ish), I believe that being a distant observer not caught up in the emotions or have relationships with those involved can at least be helpful. That’s not to say I won’t be sentimental – I’ve already admitted to that. But I think some things from the time need re-evaluating – not necessarily in-depth dry analysis, but looking at through modern eyes with the cursed benefit of hindsight, while trying to avoid the classic narratives.
There will be two parts to the retrospectives – an overall review of the season, not in race order but looking at the year as a whole, and a team-by-team review. I’ll try not to make them too long like some of my previous history articles, as I am aware that some people might actually want to read them. The first should be up soon.