It’s better than cricket

Motor Racing - Formula One Testing - Day 1 - Jerez, Spain

They say you only get one shot at making a first impression, but because Formula 1 is golden, the lucky child that glides through life effortlessly, loved and admired by all, maybe it will be given a second chance to make a first impression this season.

And by Christ it needs one after masochistically flagellating itself over the state of the sport throughout 2014: team principals, the promoter, drivers, pundits, press - yes, me included - and fans - yes, even you lot included - gave the newborn baby F1 a right royal kicking.

As 2014 winter testing got off to a hesitant (read, laughable) start in Jerez, there was a hysterical overreaction to the new rules and everyone was in a rush to point out what was wrong, rather than highlighting what was right. It’s true that not many laps were completed in Spain and Bahrain (unless you had a three pointed star on your engine) but in most cases what was stopping the cars out on track were systems problems. The engineers knew what they were doing, but getting all the bits to talk to one another was producing most of the headaches, as well as some good old fashioned over-heating and flames!

Motor Racing - Formula One Testing - Day 1 - Jerez, Spain

But in a relatively short space of time, most teams got on top of their problems and gradually got up to speed. It wasn’t rocket science… well, alright then, maybe it was. Of course, it was all based on technology that we've seen for a while in road cars, yet again exploding the myth that "racing improves the breed," because in most cases it's the other way round. But it has to be done, as not even F1 is exempt from political correctness. Having 20 cars each doing a couple of hundred miles every other Sunday using energy recovery systems isn’t going to save the world, but the spectators who turn up in cars that do the same, might just have an effect one day.

Anyway, it’s better to do this than have our sport banned. I can remember when most motorsport was actually stopped back in the 1970s energy crisis and it wasn’t pleasant. I was working for Castrol and I went from whizzing round the country dispensing largesse and lubricant at motor sport events, to stacking shelves in petrol stations and I don’t want that to happen again.

But I digress. By the time we got to Melbourne last March, it seemed that public opinion was being led by Private Frazer from the BBC’s ‘Dad’s Army’ with cries of “We’re all doomed” echoing around the paddock. And because the cars were so quiet, we could actually hear what people were saying in the paddock.

How the FIA’s Charlie Whiting stopped himself laughing at the Melbourne press conference, when he was asked in all seriousness what would happen if no cars finished the Australian Grand Prix, is beyond me. As the season went on, Formula 1 seemed determine to indulge in autosarcophagy, self-harming and chewing itself up about the lack of speed, the lack of noise and then, as we approached the home straight, the lack of teams.

Even allowing for one team being totally dominant, we had some absolutely cracking racing in 2014, with some real stars emerging from the pack

There was some truth in all this hand-wringing and wailing and gnashing of teeth. Being a grumpy old git, I’m one of the first to wade in with thoughts of how great it was when the drivers sat in a petrol tank, wearing helmets made of papier-mâché, with their feet way out in front of the axle, giving them a nice sight-line for the corner apex. But the sport has to move with the times. What too many people seem to have forgotten is that, even allowing for one team being totally dominant, we had some absolutely cracking racing in 2014, with some real stars emerging from the pack.

Now, after the first four days of testing in Jerez, it seems that 2015 could be even better, with some closer racing on the cards. There are old faces in new places and new faces that have never even needed a shave yet, so we can look forward to a lot of action and some soap opera drama too.

Formula 1 is never going to deliver the ooh-aah instant gratification of a top Premiership football game or the blink-and-you-miss-it adrenalin rush of the 100 metres sprint. Motorsport has to be enjoyed for what it is; a show, a bit of sport, mixed in with technology and some occasional moments of genius. Stop moaning, show a bit of positivity and enjoy it – it’s better than cricket. In fact it’s great, even if those in charge are trying their best to mess it up… but we’ll leave that side of the story for now.

Motor Racing - Formula One Testing - Day 4 - Jerez, Spain