Is it more important for F1 to ‘improve the show’ or should increasing the number of teams take priority? Or are the two goals the same?
Does F1 need to embrace radical change to solve its problems, or will cosmetic changes be sufficient?
One of the toughest challenges for those running F1 is deciding what should take priority. Below are ten of the hottest talking points which have come up in recent months – with three would you prioritise to make the sport better?
A. Improve F1 car aesthetics
While Formula One cars will always be designed first and foremost for performance their striking designs are a key part of their appeal. The current rules have made them unattractive and are in need of revision.
B. Make F1 more challenging for drivers
Today’s cars are much slower than they were ten years ago, an abundance of sensors has neutered the challenge of driving and tracks fail to punish mistakes. This has allowed drivers with very little experience to jump straight into F1.
By increasing car performance, toughening up track limits and banning any on-car sensors which are not needed for safety reasons, Formula One will become a more satisfying sporting challenge instead of a clinical technological exercise.
C. Free up the technical regulations
Formula One is supposed to be the pinnacle of motor racing but ever-tightening rules have left designers with too little freedom and restrictions on testing means teams can make little progress with their cars once the season has begun.
It may increase costs and could lead to more of the kind of domination we have seen from Mercedes in the last year and a half, but it’s a price worth paying to restore a vital part of F1’s appeal.
E. Make F1 more accessible to fans
With grand prix ticket prices soaring and live races increasingly found only on pay television channels, it’s never been more expensive to be an F1 fan. If it isn’t made cheaper for fans to discover and watch F1, the sport’s long-term popularity will suffer.
F. Protect heritage races
There’s no German Grand Prix this year and Monza’s race is in jeopardy. F1 already gives extra money to some teams based on their historic contribution to the sport – it’s time to recognise that some circuits have the same value and protect their races.
G. Help Mercedes’ rivals catch up
Out of the last 29 races Mercedes has won 24 and set pole position 28 times. One-sided competition like this is unhealthy for the sport, and instead of waiting for other teams to catch up F1 should help them by giving them rules breaks and using performance balancing tricks such as success ballast.
H. Get rid of the gimmicks
Trying to spice up the racing with the Drag Reduction System, high degradation tyres and (virtually) mandatory pit stops has made F1 more predictable, not less. Dropping these gimmicks and encouraging natural racing will remove the taint of artificiality and allow F1 to deliver genuine, memorable thrills.
I. Preserve and increase car numbers under current rules
Formula One’s shrinking grid is a cause for concern but there is no need to make fundamental change to the formula to fix it.
The grossly inequitable distribution of revenue between the teams should be revised into a more equitable structure, as seen in many other sports, and tight new rules introduced to bring down costs.
J. Preserve and increase car numbers using third cars or customer cars
Formula One’s shrinking grid is a cause for concern and it is time to embrace radical new rules to fix it.
Allowing the top teams to run third cars would be a quick and straightforward way of filling the grid up. Similarly, top teams should be allowed to sell chassis to other competitors, allowing them to participate with much lower costs.
Nowhere is this more clear than in the gulf in performance between the front and back of the field, and the ever-thinning grid. F1 doesn’t need to reinvent itself to fix these problems, it needs to get a grip on costs and remunerate its competitors more fairly (option I), as other sports do, instead of paying off the most influential teams with huge bonuses.
A larger, healthier, full grid of 26 cars – something F1 has been missing for more than two decades – will make for more varied, interesting and unpredictable racing. Closing up the field by artificial means (G) would wreck F1’s sporting appeal and the other alternatives (J) would hasten the demise of the smaller teams and make F1 even more dependent on the whims of car manufacturer teams who are prone to departing at short notice.
Keeping the cash flowing to teams who need it most means sacrificing some desirable changes. I would like to see F1 return to free-to-air television (E), but it’s probably better for the sport to retain the lucrative pay TV contracts as long as they start sending the money to those who need it.
Similarly I would like to see designers given greater freedom to push car performance (C), but allowing the huge escalation in costs that would bring with it would be irresponsible given the apparent financial difficulties of teams like Lotus and Sauber. This is a time for stable technical regulations, not more knee-jerk changes.
I see no benefit from making cosmetic tweaks to the race weekend format (D) and I’m not sure there’s enough to be gained from improving the car aesthetics (A) for this to qualify as a high priority.
However there is plenty which can be done to promote better racing. Cutting back the amount of data teams harvest from their cars via sensors and punishing drivers more severely for leaving the track (B) are examples of how the sport can be made tougher and, vitally, more unpredictable.
My last priority will come as no surprise to regular readers: Nothing has done more to diminish the enjoyment I derive from Formula One than DRS (H).
What should be F1’s three top priorities out of these ten options? Are there any changes you would like to see which you would compromise on to improve another aspect of F1? And what other priorities would you add to this list?
Cast your vote below and have your say in the comments.
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