How can F1 become better? From reading the thousands of your comments posted in our series over the past week I think we’ve learned some important things about this debate.
The overtaking question is a crucial part of the debate – but it isn’t the whole story. Demands for more passing tend to overshadow other, equally important questions – and it presents the situation as being rather more dire than it really is.
And just as important, there is no one single fix, no silver bullet, that’s going to make things better. But I think the past week’s discussion has given us thought-provoking ideas.
It’s too complicated a debate for us to all agree on exactly what needs to be done. But I think we’ve generated some constructive ideas and gained a deeper understanding of the problem.
Here are a few comments from the discussion so far I especially enjoyed and some more thoughts of my own formed during the course of the debate.
Highlights from the discussion
Racing vs technology
I personally love the tech stuff but the sport can survive it going. I don’t think it can survive a lack of exciting races.
Can F1 protect its position at the forefront of motor racing technology while producing a better standard of racing in ‘normal’ conditions?
I think it can, but only if the teams can be persuaded to accept rules that force them to deploy resources in areas other an aerodynamics. As many people observed, that’s where they make the greatest gains at the moment but at a cost to the quality of racing as it becomes ever harder for one car to follow another.
A fuel limit?
Current F1 cars produce obscene amounts of downforce at the cost of equally obscene amounts of drag. In general terms, to add downforce you have to accept adding some drag too. This drag is compensated by powerful engines eating obscene amounts of fuel, much of which leaves the exhausts un-burnt.
My proposal is: limit the fuel to 100kg per race, probably of some standard fuel mix. Easy to police, before the race your car must be empty, and by the way, here is your fuel, see you at the finish line. In further years, why not reduce it to 90kg, or 80kg, or even 50kg!
Of course this would make all teams work in engine efficiency, a good thing per se, I guess, but the knock on effect on aero would be equally dramatic. If you want downforce, you’ll have to accept drag, and if you want to move a draggy car through 305km or race, well, good luck not using fuel for that!
This technical approach to the aerodynamic problem is an interesting one which I think deserves further discussion. F1 cars use less fuel in low-downforce set-ups like those seen at Monza.
Could this be a means of encouraging teams to use less downforce, with the added benefit of encouraging the teams to improve engine efficiency?
I think the best thing that F1 could do to improve racing and ‘the show’ (I hate that term as well), is to leave the sport alone. Try presenting and promoting an already incredible sport differently.
I’ve watched a NASCAR race on TV, there is no room for error, there are a thousand overtakes in a race and the tracks are almost all the same (from what I can tell), and I found it the most boring spectacle ever!
But they give their fans incredible race coverage, Internet coverage, the drivers and teams have personalities, and they appear on television broadcasts to try and promote the racing.
It’s important to keep in sight that there is more to be done than just creating overtaking opportunities. I agree strongly with Cacarella that there is much more FOM could do to improve the quality of its broadcasts and reflect the excitement and spectacle of live Formula 1 to fans watching on television.
The professionalism paradox
One thought I kept returning when reading your comments was that so much of what people find entertaining in F1 is the opposite of what teams are trying to achieve.
We want a close competition between the drivers; they are constantly looking for ways to improve their cars and increase the gap. We want to see cars catching slower cars and overtaking them; they want their cars running in clear air at their maximum potential speed. We want to see drivers winging quick laps out of tricky cars; they want to perfect their cars to make them as easy to use and as quick as possible.
Of course teams aren’t deliberately doing this to make racing less entertaining, they’re just trying to win. But can we find a way to channel their competitive efforts in a manner which also makes for more entertaining races?
Looking at how F1 has changed over a series of years, even decades, what strikes me most is a loss of variety in the sport in many ways.
Circuits are an obvious example. New tracks tend to be the same length, produce the same lap time, and have a similar mix of corners. We need more short tracks, long tracks and fast tracks. Taking the idea even further, F1’s beleaguered attempt to break into the American market would get a shot in the arm if they put on an oval race in the United States.
Lack of variety is a problem in more subtle ways. The tyre rules effectively force all the drivers to make a single pit stop per race, when we could be seeing a variety of strategies at work.
More power than grip
One area of the debate attracted more responses than any other: car design. So many different, detailed suggestions were put forward it got me wondering whether we could come up with a simple principle to shape F1’s technical rules in the future.
Here’s my first go at it: F1 cars should have more power than grip. What do you think?
Over to you
This particular series may have come to an end but the debate will continue.
In the coming weeks and months we’ll no doubt hear about future changes to the sport which will have further ramifications for the quality of racing. And it remains to be seen how well the rest of the season will go, and whether calls for radical changes to F1 racing will intensify.
So what should F1’s priorities be? Are there any quick fix solutions which can and should be introduced this year? And what are the most important things that should be changed for 2011?
This is part of “Making F1 better”, a series of articles looking at ways to improve Formula 1. Fore more information see the introduction: Making F1 better: a discussion series
Making F1 better