F1 Turkey: Of Brawn, Boycotts, and TSN2

Another round of the 2009 F1 circus and another Jenson Button master class. Or should I call it a Brawn master class? Button won his sixth grand prix of the season going away. However, there was a chance that it wasn’t to be and I’m not talking about Sebastien Vettel. Meanwhile, Canada wishes TSN would just go away and give F1 coverage to someone else.

The question heading into the season was “Is Brawn’s pre-season form for real or were they running light?” Now it’s “Can anyone besides Jenson Button win a race?” With Button winning his sixth race of the season, I think we can all thank FOTA for nixing the medal system for the 2009 season. Instead of having a five win lead in the championship, it’s a 26 point lead that translates to a three race lead.

As refreshing as it has been to have new faces atop the F1 hierarchy, I’m already starting to get tired of them. I give Brawn full marks for building an absolutely dominant car. They’re clearly the best team on the grid right now. However, F1 needs something to get everyone’s mind off the political backstabbing that has overshadowed the on-track action. Like Ferrari’s dominant run earlier in the decade, Brawn GP needs a legitimate challenger than can push them to the limit each week and can contend for race wins. Sure, Red Bull took two podium spots today but they weren’t in Button’s league. Even without the mistake, Vettel’s strategy would have left him behind the Brawn car.

Can anyone legitimately step up to defeat the mighty Brawn GP? It looks as though the greatest threats to their domination come from Red Bull and Ferrari. Red Bull has already won a race this season and has been quick on and off all season. Ferrari has shown signs of life recently and, in my mind, cemented their status as the third-best team on the grid this season. Sorry, Toyota fans. Jarno Trulli doesn’t have the race pace to be a threat anywhere but from the pole in Monaco.

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Is it just me or are you embarrassed as a Formula One fan to see what TV coverage in Canada has become? After watching the last few races on Speed (yes, they’ve lifted the blackout), I was forced to watch the TSN coverage. Now I’ve posted my race breakdown now because the Turkish GP wasn’t on TSN but the digital cable only TSN2. The main network was broadcasting the French Open final which is big enough that I don’t find a major fault with the programming decision.

Back to TSN2: After being spoiled with 2.5 hours of expert analysis and sharp production, to have to comeback to TSN’s half-assed production is disheartening. The BBC commentators are good and fortunately the BBC lets Legard setup each race after the F1 logo for the international broadcasters using the BBC audio. Since I last watched a normal F1 race (Australia), TSN has gotten both a little smarter and a lot dumber about using the BBC audio. After the podium ceremony, TSN dropped the BBC audio for the FOM provided audio. This meant that we got the whole press conference from start to Vettel speaking in German. However, after the podium and after the press conference, there was silence. Absolutely pathetic. Or, to put it more bluntly, TSN sucks.

Maybe someone at TSN can explain why blaming the recession gives them the right to half-ass F1 coverage. How hard can it be and how much can it cost to have two guys in studio to do a 10-minute pre-race (before throwing to Legard and Brundle) and a 20-minute post-race. All you need for the pre-race is a qualifying recap and a lap of the circuit. The post-race wouldn’t take much effort either. A quick highlight package and some analysis. This would make the coverage immensely better than it is. If it’s really about money, I’m willing to bet that F1 fans would be willing to chip in to help at no cost to TSN to make the coverage better for everyone else. Hell, I’d be willing to come down from Northern Ontario to help.

The problem for us race fans is that we can’t really influence the situation. We can bitch all we want and send all the threatening letters we want but in the end it comes down to ratings and money. If TSN doesn’t see its ratings move much, then they don’t care. We could tune off TSN but that would just vindicate their decision to put not money into it because no one is watching. But if more people start tuning in, they could just as well leave it be because people are still watching despite the poor coverage. Let’s face it F1 fans, we are hosed. The only thing that’s left for us to do is hope that someone else gets F1 coverage in Canada.

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Keeping with the BBC crew for a moment, Martin Brundle had the quote of the race: “Your favourite teammate is the slowest one.” If that’s the case, Martin, everyone must have loved you.

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One of the big stories that popped up hours before the race was the possibility of a FOTA boycott of the event. If the FOTA teams had gone through with the boycott, it would have been the second time in five years that a race would have degenerated into a glorified test session. I’m sure you recall the fondly thought of 2005 US Grand Prix where only the six Bridgestone shod cars ran. This time around, it would have been the two teams suspended from FOTA, Williams and Force India, that would have circulated for an hour-and-a-half while Formula One went on damage control.

I know desperate times call for desperate measures but I fail to see what parking 16 cars would accomplish except pissing off Max Mosley.

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Speaking of FOTA, word out of the paddock was that the eight member teams have agreed to scrap KERS for the 2010 season. Ferrari and McLaren are the only two teams left running KERS. Ferrari’s has caused them a few problems and they desperately want rid of it. McLaren’s is considered the best on the grid but are willing drop it for the sake of cost-cutting.

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The next race is the British Grand Prix from Silverstone. With all the talk of budget racing in F1, I find it ironic that Silverstone’s spot on the 2010 schedule was essentially bought out by Donington Park. Donington may not necessarily be paying a bigger sanctioning fee but the ownership is willing to spend $150 million to bring the circuit up to Bernie’s standards. If it was up to the teams, there would always be a race at Silverstone. Instead, F1’s historic home has fallen victim to Bernie and the almighty dollar.

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