March 01, 2005
A few months ago, in a fit of good sense, I cancelled my satellite dish service when I realized that I was paying about $40 a month for the privilege of not actually watching any TV.
And, for the most part, it has worked out. I've read a lot of books. I've played a lot of videogames. I haven't missed it at all.
Unfortunately, Formula One season starts this weekend. This puts me in a bit of a bind.
I'm getting some pressure to hook the satellite service back up. Some of it comes from my friends, who somehow have decided that I'm the one that has to pay for satellite service so that they can come over at midnight and drink beer and watch the race. But most of it is internal. The pressure comes from a hope, completely unjustified by any actual evidence, that this is the year that things will change. This time, there will be battles for first place, rather than third. This year the championship will be decided in the last race, instead of midway through the season.
I'm Charlie Brown, and Bernie Ecclestone is Lucy, holding that football and beckoning me over. Formula One is the latent sporting event.
Last year, I correctly predicted the entire shape of the season. Everyone thought I was joking. I wasn't:
Wanna-be footballer and six-time world champion Michael Schumacher, Inc, is still the lead driver for Ferrari, and is scheduled to win the championship once again. Don't look for any surprises here. About once a month throughout the season various F1 online magazines will post articles with headlines asking "Can Anyone Beat Schumi? At the risk of spoiling the season, I can reveal that the answer to that question is "No." At times, people will propose various theories as to how and why Michael might manage to lose. Perhaps Bridgestone's tires will fail to be competetive with Michelin. Fernando Alonso will develop further and be able to challenge Schumacher in every race. A meteor will fall from the sky and annihilate the Ferrari paddock. None of these things will happen. Ferrari will dominate again, and despite what many people wish, he's not about to retire.I'm republishing this prediction, unchanged, for 2005. Herr Michael Schumacher will, once again, crush the field like a sumo wrestler stepping on a moth. The only drama at each race will be the question of whether he will deploy his "noble and magnanimous" face in the post-race press conferences, or his "snarky and condescending" one.
There are, for the third year running, significant rule changes that the naïve hope will somehow slow down the Ferrari juggernaut as it screams towards victory at 18,500 RPM. Engines must last for 2 races. New chassis regulations should reduce the amount of available aerodynamic downforce. Most significantly, tires have to last for qualifying and the race now -- the days of 23-man pit crews are gone. No tire changes during the race, except for dealing with punctures.
Understanding why the rule changes won't slow down the Ferrari Victory Parade is a simple matter of internalizing this fact: they really are that good. From the tiniest details of pit crew choreography up through the talents of the drivers, the selection of race strategies, and of course car and engine design and implementation, Ferrari's execution is, for all intents and purposes, flawless. People talk about how much money the team spends, but casually forget to mention that Toyota is spending even more cash on a team that fares much worse.
So that's my dilemma. The racing fan in me wants to see the races, because maybe something unexpected will happen. The dispassionate analyst in me knows that I will just be paying $40 a month to watch a race where the outcome is predetermined. And that feels dumb. There's no need to watch a race live if there's no drama. I might as well just be watching a highlight reel.
Hmm, now there's an interesting thought. I wonder if anyone will be disseminating the races on the Internet after the fact...Posted by peterb at March 1, 2005 08:26 PM | Bookmark This
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