Talk about a difference a year makes. Nico Rosberg, hands in pockets, wandered onto the grid on Sunday and stopped a few paces away from the pair of Mercedes sitting on the front row.
As he stood virtually unnoticed amid the swirling activity and vibrant hum of generators, it must have brought back memories of how he felt on this very spot 12 months before.
As a championship contender, Rosberg was then under intense scrutiny. For the following hour and 45 minutes, he was to undergo mental torture as Lewis Hamilton backed him into the Ferraris and threatened the title so close to Rosberg’s grasp.
It was to be Nico’s final race as a F1 driver, a fact that seemed as unlikely at the time as Bernie Ecclestone losing control of his personal fiefdom even though speculation was rife following the recent take-over by Liberty Media.
At the time, Ecclestone was holding court, either in his air-conditioned office suite on the first floor of the administration block or, if the mood took him, in the hospitality unit in the middle of the similarly well-appointed villas enjoyed by the teams.
Last weekend, Ecclestone was nowhere to be seen – which was a pity for his sake because he would have quietly enjoyed the undertone of concern creeping through the paddock. The refreshing optimism evident six months ago in Barcelona had been usurped as the honeymoon period came to an end on Sunday as surely as the dusk descending on the final Grand Prix.
Even allowing for the new owners needing time to set many aspects of their management process into action, the continuing absence of essential hard facts was causing more mental unrest than the dance beats thumping around Yas Marina until the early hours each morning.
You don’t have to be a genius to predict that a possible reduction in money received by the teams is creating agitation among the great and the good. An inability to budget due to the absence of reasonable accurate predictions is causing understandable concern, particularly for the small teams.
But, I detected little sympathy among the masses for either the poor souls in the upper echelons possibly losing the use of private jets or the cutting back on business class travel for the squad of marketing people speaking the corporate gobbledegook deemed so necessary by some teams.
Judicious cost cutting would not go amiss in certain areas of the sport – technical as well as administration - that have grown fat on nothing more than expensive habits. As Colin Chapman once said when discussing the running of Lotus: “Any team, no matter what size, will spend as much or as little as it gets. You do the best with what you’ve got on the understanding you always want more.”
Chapman’s firm possessed a yellow (sometimes black) circular logo that remains as distinctive today as it was 60 years ago. The subject came up for discussion over the weekend when Liberty dared to change the F1 insignia of the past 23 years.
And the new one? It’s another of those Marmite moments; you either think the old is brand identity at its best or the new is a crisp and refreshing change. Personally, I always thought the former to be simple and clever and expected to intensely dislike the latest offering. Having seen it, especially in 3D, this jury remains out and susceptible to the usual curing effect that comes with the passing of time.
But here’s the thing: regardless of your preference, the fact that this subject totally dominated post-race social comment didn’t say much for the race. And that, in a nutshell, highlights the very problem raised in this column last week. Yes, Yas Marina doesn’t work as a racetrack but the fact remains that these aero-limited cars, for all their 2017 muscle, are pathetic in close company through a succession of corners.
I’m sure Liberty are on the case. But the mood around the marina said the time has come to see evidence of that rather than receive a lengthy and intense discourse on the sincere thinking behind a new logo. There’s no point in having brand awareness if the product is suspect.