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Australian GP 2011 on BBC

After a disastrous time with Jonathan Legard as main commentator, this year the BBC have gone for an all-driver commentary team, sticking with the excellent Martin Brundle and adding David Coulthard as the newbie. How did they do as a team, and how was the race as entertainment?

Qualifying

David Coulthard loves his jargon. He hasn’t learned yet that ordinary viewers don’t use it, so it’s his job to simplify, not complicate. For instance, he kept on referring to ‘Delta’ times which were somewhere on the morass of graphics on the TV screen. The only time he managed to start explaining it was just as Sebastian Vettel was exiting the last corner of his first hot lap and we really needed Martin to continue what he’d been saying about it. DC never actually finished the description, so I have no clue what on earth he was on about. I have to say though, this is something better described in the pre-race build up – in fact, the whole graphics is new and needs explanation.

Another typically DC thing is his obsession with calling tyres Prime or Option. Sorry mate, just say hard or soft. Or soft and hard, whichever way around it is. I understand what that means without any explanation being needed. Thankfully Martin was there to fill us in a little bit later, but DC really needs to drop his jargon vocab. Not sure about the Pirelli labelling though – somehow “Toast, knife, butter, jam” doesn’t help when the wheels are revolving. Stripes, Mr Pirelli, stripes please.

Biggest howler of the day though must go to Sebastian Vettel with his attempt at being intellectual/playing the ‘team boss’ role when he came on the radio with his “we are who we are” remark. Err, yes, I didn’t actually notice the Red Bull logos on your car mate… Still, that was better than his “Bear that in mind…” quip. It sounds like he’s trying to get the team behind him somehow using some strange gamesmanship but if he thinks it’ll affect Webber he must be dreaming. His driving is enough to do that with that astonishing display in both qualifying and the race.

Are the drivers now being given too much to do with all the new technology, switches and dials all over their steering wheels? Massa particularly must be struggling with the seven flappy paddles on his steering wheel of his Ferrari, while Sutil (quite over-rated in my opinion since Fisichella always outclassed him mightily. Another driver that is quite obviously struggling is Schumacher. Rosberg is all over him, but Ross Brawn still seems to have invested all his hopes in Schumacher. Time to refocus, Ross? Rumour has it that this year’s car design was altered to suit Schumacher’s driving style, last year’s failures blamed on the tyres. So, now we have both mechanical factors set up specifically for the old man, and still Rosberg out-qualifies him by four places. Makes you wonder how fast the Merc would be if they optimised it for Rosberg, he’s quite underrated in my opinion.

Race

I found it a little disrespectful that Brundle and Coulthard talked over the one minute’s silence, just after they had said many people around the world paid for the BBC feed. Just because the Beeb showed the one minute silence before doesn’t mean that all the people around the world listening to the BBC audio did too. Respect. It isn’t too much to ask, is it?

In the race itself, this was defined by Hamilton fluffing his start. This pushed Button backwards relative to the cars behind him, and they streamed past in the gap Hamilton left.

The Downforce Recovery System (DRS) seems to have been rather unsuccessful. It’s complicated, too restricted, and doesn’t make a big enough difference until the cars are travelling close to 200 kmh. If it had been any good surely Button would have been able to get past Massa when he deployed his DRS on lap three? Maybe it’ll work better on tracks with longer straights such as Malaysia, coming up next? This only goes to prove that the reason for the lack of overtaking isn’t because driver’s don’t want to, or the car’s cannot, but it is the basic design of the track that is solely responsible. Tracks like Valencia spring to mind here, whereas the Austrian A1 ring was superb but is now absent from the circus.

I loved Martin Brundle’s comment about Rubens Barrichello needing an Accident Claim Form when he ploughed into the side of Nico Rosberg. Tyre problems Rubens? Shame really, I like Nico and rate him highly as a driver and it was a bad way to go out, just like Jenson being knocked out of the running at Spa last year by a rather foolhardy Sebastian Vettel. Apart from the location they were both almost carbon copy accidents. Oh well. That’s racing.

When Button passed Kobayashi, although he used his DRS it’s likely he would have been able to pass even without using it. From the look of things DRS makes less of a difference than McLaren’s ‘f’ duct from last year” the f duct worked, DRS is struggling. I’m not a fan of the system yet. After all, it’s only a workaround because Bernie insists on choosing poor circuits and refuses to use the “American solution” of a rear wing that creates its own ‘tow’ for following cars which results in loads of passing manouevres. But apparently, it isn’t “technical” enough for F1.

DC made some very good spots of problems with cars, and who had been involved with whom – for example, spotting the flappy floor of Hamilton’s McLaren and the broken stay. TBH this just made the McLaren look (and perform!) like last year’s Red Bull which always looked like it had a flappy floor under braking.

I’ve mentioned the graphics already, but there really is too much there not to have had a decent explanation of it all. For instance, why in car the position ribbon shown at the bottom of the page did some of the cars’ placeholders suddenly turn green, and then snap off? I could get ‘Pit’ but the rest of that graphic was a mystery. I could do with use of Murray Walker’s ‘gap’ here. Both MB and DC could use that more, it works so well. Another new graphic shows whether the DRS/KERS has been deployed, but they need to standardise on which car is leading – the one on the left or the one on the right. This changed a bit during the program and was quite confusing when Alonso and Webber were battling for position.

Obviously the Director agreed with me that the race was boring as he switched to a car in the garage. Was this really the most interesting thing during the coverage? Maybe. Having so many pit stops may create a shuffling of positions, but it’s a shuffling that means from the first pit stop to the last I generally have no clue who’s where. I suspect even DC and MB didn’t know either since they didn’t comment so much on this. Don’t think I would’ve either to be honest!

Team Orders have been made legal this year. That’s a shame. Usually these don’t kick in until towards the end of the year, but Force India enforced them on behalf of their weaker driver, Sutil, before they have even worked out which driver gives them the best opportunity for points. Still, it is possible that Paul di Resta was getting physically tired as he only drove sports cars last year. He did out-qualify his team mate of course, but then Sutil made a mistake and spun – right in front of the pits. Embarrassing. Great recovery though.

In the race, di Resta was also ahead of his team mate, and running in 8th spot at one point, in the points. Next thing I hear is he has to give way to Sutil, who was consistently running outside of the points until after the race when someone complained about the Saubers for some reason. Sutil is over-rated in my book. Capricious driving style, too many mistakes, not as fast as the car. But then, di Resta looked like someone who had been told to finish second, rather like when Mansell came back from the US to drive a McLaren at the end of the season and was basically told not to influence the Championship so naturally just toured around. Sometimes team orders make for boring Championships.

Boo boo of the race? Not Bernie, not DC, not even Ross or Michael. What is it with Eddie Jordan? He does come out with some drivel from time to time, and his comment about the “ultimate penalty” in the immediate post-race chat was completely ridiculous. Surely that is reserved for drivers such as Senna or Clark who really did pay the ultimate price? A minor rule infringement is not the same at all.

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