May 29th, 2013 (F1plus/P. Godley).- Racing in Formula 1. It's an odd concept I know, but stay with me as I attempt to explain why seeing some around the streets of Monte Carlo this past Sunday made me stand up and applaud.
It was, and has been, said that overtaking in Monaco is impossible. That Saturday is more important than Sunday. Had Sergio Perez heard this? If he had, he clearly didn't take notice. A series of bold, brave and often forceful moves up the inside of numerous experienced drivers appeared to rattle more than a few feathers. Reading some of the post-race comments, you'd be forgiven for thinking that Perez had exhibited similar driving standards to certain others in the race.
Was he being too aggressive? Was he being reckless? Or, as I said at the beginning, was he racing? Some may not have liked his moves, particularly fans of the established stars he dared to brush shoulders (and bodywork) with. And, well, those established drivers themselves. Overtaking appears to be a dying art in Formula 1. But how you may ask? We're now seeing overtaking virtually every lap around some circuits. Yes, that's true. But are those moves genuine, or born out of artificial factors? How many great on track battles do we see now? Honestly. Think back, how many truly brilliant racing fights have there been recently?
On Sunday, it seemed like one young Mexican was out to fix this. His moves were often bold, risky, but around Monaco what else do you expect? As was said on commentary, to overtake around Monaco you need to commit to the move early. You're relying on the other driver just as much as you are yourself.
With Alonso at the Chicane (Sutton)
One of the overtaking attemps with Raikkonen (LAT Photo)
On the run out of the tunnel and into the Nouvelle Chicane we saw just about everything. Clean moves, firm moves, hard moves and in the case of some, crazy moves. The escape road. Ah the escape road. One of my pet peeves in modern F1. That extra tarmac we see on the inside of the chicane, the one that oh so many drivers use, is in my eyes partially to blame for many of the incidents we saw down at that corner on Sunday. Am I saying it should be removed? I don't know. It allows too much margin for error. It allows drivers to defend their position if they feel they can't rejoin the track 'safely'. It's too easy. Perhaps?
Back to Perez, and in particular the incident with the Iceman. As has been pointed out, it was an incident that you could see from both sides? Would the reaction have been any different if the move had been the other way round?
Talking to Autosport, Martin Whitmarsh said the following.
"That is what happens in Monaco occasionally. I am happy with his spirit and his challenge.
"You can over push sometimes but I think he did some great overtakes. I have got to be pleased that he is there, he is committed and racing."
Occasionally it does happen in Monaco, yes. But I think we have to give Perez heaps of credit. He wasn't reckless, he wasn't stupid and he wasn't an idiot. Being at McLaren is a great opportunity, one that I believe he knows he must fully utilise. We've seen what has happened to one recent driver who didn't quite cut the mustard there, and Perez won't want to be the next.
The advice from the team appears to be sinking in. A tentative start is beginning to blossom into a more fiery, forceful and battling one. Dare I say it... a racing driver? Some of the posts I read after the race were worrying to say the least. It almost appears like many fans have forgotten what overtaking is, and when a driver attempts to do some, they're bombarded with discouraging and ridiculous comments.
Overtaking around Monaco is not easy, we all know that. It never has been, and never will be easy to overtake there. Nor should it be 'easy' to overtake anywhere. But when a driver attempts to and successfully pulls off a last gasp, brave move up the inside, why should we lambast for doing so. Yes, if the move is dangerous, then such comments would be some way to being justified. Could any of his moves be described as dangerous or reckless? Maybe the last one, but in my eyes that incident could be viewed two ways. On the whole his moves were firm, but fair.
These past few races Sergio has started to look like a driver that fits in a team like McLaren. He showed at Sauber that he has the speed to race at the front. We've seen in the past, and currently, that speed isn't everything. It needs to be coupled with respect, guile, awareness and skill. 'Checo' is showing signs that these attributes are being developed race-by-race. He's rattling cages, shaking egos and pushing buttons. Or the Button.
Racing does still happen in Formula 1. Phew.