After a processional opening race of 2017, how will Formula One’s new owners react if the second race since they bought the sport also fails to excite?
Just a handful of legitimate overtaking moves were made after the first lap during the Australian Grand Prix. Although the race raised prospects of a season-long championship contest between Mercedes and Ferrari, will they be able to fight wheel-to-wheel in F1’s new cars?
However much fans like the look of the new cars and relish the potential title battle, many were clearly concerned about the lack of racing. The Australian race had its second-lowest score in Rate the Race of the past decade. Reaction elsewhere on social media was also mixed at best:
Pretty dull Grand Prix. Melbourne is a tough track to pass on so maybe racing will improve, but as a start it's a bit worrying #F1
— Damian Stack (@damianstack) March 26, 2017
Finally sat down to watch the Aussie GP and I wish I'd not bothered. Crock-o-shite "racing". Liberty Media must be horrified. #AusGP
— Jonny Huntridge (@jhuntridge) March 26, 2017
— James Whitmore (@jimmy_waffle) March 26, 2017
— GovBarney (@GovBarney) March 26, 2017
Watching #F1 as a young boy, I was mesmerised by the cars, I still am with motor racing. Overtakes should be a special moment of a GP. 2/2
— Umar Hassan (@umarjourno) March 26, 2017
The race itself wasn't great though. Overtaking does look like its going to be a serious issue at some tracks. #AusGP
— Stewart (@StewForsyth) March 26, 2017
Brilliant start to the season. Not a classic race by any means, but seems Ferrari's testing pace was not a false dawn. Bring on China! #F1
— Callum Eakins (@callumeakins) March 26, 2017
— Löuis (@Loose89) March 26, 2017
Watching the #F1 awful, what a dull, monotonous sport it has become. You want casual fans to come back, you need major changes.
— Tony (@MrTonyBe) March 26, 2017
— Justin Whitby (@jaydubya76) March 26, 2017
— Chris Buckle (@MrChrisBuckle) March 26, 2017
I was so disappointed while watching F1
— Billy diabetes (@SimonWr84778598) March 26, 2017
— Mathew James Ford (@mathewjamesford) March 26, 2017
— awfulwarbler (@awfulwarbler) March 26, 2017
— Stephen Camp (@SteveCampF1) March 26, 2017
— Bonsai Pottery (@china_mist_pots) March 26, 2017
Love motorsport but christ #F1 is tedious again. What a dull race
— Adrian Bodsworth (@AdeBodsworth) March 26, 2017
— Martyn Barnes (@BARNESMK10) March 26, 2017
— David Chapman (@DJChappers01) March 26, 2017
The new F1 cars look great and everything but I fell asleep in the *highlights*
— Craig Lager (@CraigTheLiar) March 26, 2017
Waited all day to watch the race only to be massively disappointed. Awful race in my opinion. Hoping for some better races #F1
— James (@saxokid) March 26, 2017
— Jamie Clarke (@jamieclarke) March 26, 2017
Just caught up on the #F1. Might have been a different winner but what a dull dull "race"
— Chris Kerwin (@chris_sw17) March 26, 2017
As usual the motogp race made the earlier f1 look a rather dull affair. Could count the overtakes on 1 hand #motorsport
— Jay78 (@jayellison78) March 26, 2017
So far F1 is matching my expectations: grip and speed enhancing spectacle while hurting racing due to turbulence and shortened brake zones
— Tommy Kendall (@TommyKendall11) March 26, 2017
— James M. Thurlow (@jamesthurlow) March 26, 2017
— Ian McGregor (@IanMcGregor1) March 26, 2017
— Barry Adams (@badams) March 26, 2017
@F1 new rules new cars engines still not loud😠 race was appalling boring and uneventful not a good start to the season 👎👎
— essexv6 (@kll1_ndrw) March 26, 2017
#F1 New season, New Cars, New rules, New drivers ! Same old overtaking in the pit lane. It's just 😴😴😴💩💩💩
— Jules Tyson (@J7TYS) March 26, 2017
Something for Wolff and co to think about after that stellar race from Vettel. Can't judge the racing yet, Melbourne is often tricky. #AusGP
— David Jones (@Deej_44) March 26, 2017
Drivers all said the same about #F1 changes: tyres better, can push for longer; harder to overtake. As predicted.
— Greg (@stratnine) March 26, 2017
— Lewis Blenkin (@bulablenks) March 26, 2017
F1 good to see Ferrari at the races. However I have my concerns about overtaking opportunities for the new cars. Slip stream dirty air grip?
— David Pearce (@OO7Pearcey) March 26, 2017
I was looking forward to F1 season. New cars were interesting. First race ONCE AGAIN determined by pit strategy with little passing. Lame!
— cwgarr (@cwgarr) March 26, 2017
— Gabriel Doncel (@689DNCL) March 26, 2017
It was great to see Ferrari getting the win yesterday, but it was a terrible race. A lot of work to be done to improve #F1 as a spectacle.
— doogie nights (@doogie_nights) March 27, 2017
— Gloatysock (@Gloatysock) March 27, 2017
— stevean (@dino246gts) March 27, 2017
#F1 hamilton saying he pitted because he thought ferrari would pass yet he says overtaking not possible. As usuall panic pit lose
— Sylvester (@slybauer) March 27, 2017
— Mark Steel (@msmarksteel) March 27, 2017
Reserving judgement on #F1 aero rules until after China. It's alarming that Max 'king of the overtake' Verstappen expressed concerns however
— Kyle Stephens (@Ky1e_S) March 28, 2017
Will the current formula with more Aero result in processional races, it likely will but the cars do have quicker cornering speeds #F1
— kingjim665 (@kingjim665) March 29, 2017
More action in 30 seconds than the whole of the f1 race last weekend. #btcc
— Dave (@DavidHackney5) April 2, 2017
— Mj (@MJGAIR83) April 2, 2017
More action at the start of the race than the whole of last week F1 race #BTCCisBack
— Brian Pim (@bp0274) April 2, 2017
Of course one race doesn’t make a season. The Albert Park track has never been one of F1’s best venues for overtaking.
But the Shanghai Internatinoal Circuit, scene of this weekend’s race, tends to see plenty of passing. If F1 delivers another 56 laps of follow-my-leader, the calls for something to be done to improve passing will grow louder.
How Liberty respond to this may provide a telling sign of how they intend to manage their new $8 billion investment.
An obvious fix is already on the table. After Sunday’s race the FIA will examine whether the Drag Reduction System needs to be altered due to the changed aerodynamics of this year’s cars.
These changes are among the reasons why drivers are finding it more difficult to find each other closely. During one revealing radio exchange in Australia Felipe Massa expressed astonishment that he wasn’t close enough to the car in front to be able to use DRS.
Adjusting the DRS activation gap so that it is triggered when cars are within two seconds of each other instead of one second may increase passing opportunities. Another option would be to extend the DRS zones, though this wouldn’t necessarily be possible at all circuits.
But Liberty’s motorsport chief Ross Brawn has already signalled more than once he is no fan of DRS. He wants to explore the problem of cars following each other in a thorough, engineering-focused manner in order to arrive at a better set of regulations.
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This seems a sensible plan. But if the first race of 2017 turns out to be the shape of things to come, the pressure for F1 to respond immediately with a short-term fix will be high.
Arguably, adjusting DRS would merely be a case of making the current rules work as they were intended to. If it does happen expect it to be justified it in those terms, rather than as a continuation of the hair-trigger, knee-jerk management of the F1 which was familiar during the Bernie Ecclestone era.
2017 F1 season
- Stripping Verstappen of 2017 US podium was “one of the toughest decisions” – steward
- Sepang pays Haas compensation for Grosjean’s 2017 crash
- Williams revenues rose in 2017 after Bottas deal with Mercedes
- New kerbs at COTA in response to Verstappen’s corner-cutting
- Australian Grand Prix cost government £56 million last year