Romain Grosjean, Haas, Monza, 2018

Grosjean: F1 isn’t focusing on its real problem

2018 Japanese Grand Prix

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Formula 1 is focussing on the wrong problem by considering changes to the qualifying format, according to Romain Grosjean.

Last week the Strategy Group discussed adding a fourth stage to qualifying in 2019 which eight drivers would participate in. But Grosjean says the proposal wouldn’t add anything to F1.

“I don’t think it’s a solution,” he said. “It’s actually going to disadvantage even more the first midfield team, seventh and eighth.

“And it’s not going to change anything about the big teams. Because they are through qualifying even if they do a slow lap they’re two seconds a lap faster so they’re going to go through.

“So actually I think it’s just making things more complicated when they shouldn’t be and trying to solve a problem which is not the problem we’re having.”

Grosjean called on F1 to address the wide gap between the top three teams and the rest.

“The problem is that we’re going this weekend, who is going to win the race? [Lewis] or Vettel. You know it. And we haven’t started the weekend. Who’s going to finish then third and fourth? Number two of Mercedes and Ferrari. Who’s going to finish fifth and sixth? The Red Bulls. That’s it.

“So you’ve got four places left to have points and not knowing what’s going to happen. That’s the problem.”

He pointed out that even when a driver from one of the top teams qualifies low down the grid they are able to regain their lost positions easily.

“Even if you try to make quali unpredictable, and I think that’s what they’re trying to do, look at Russia where the Red Bulls started last. After five laps they were in the top five.

“Look at Hungary where Ricciardo start last, look at Monza where Vettel spin on the first lap and had to pit for a new front wing. They’re always going to end up there because they are not in the same category.”

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Dieter Rencken
Dieter Rencken has held full FIA Formula 1 media accreditation since 2000, during which period he has reported from over 300 grands prix, plus...
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  • 29 comments on “Grosjean: F1 isn’t focusing on its real problem”

    1. Either that Romain, or F1 has found it can’t fix what you are talking about and are trying to force an artificial solution.

    2. I mean, he’s right. The gap between the top 3 teams and everyone else is ridiculously huge. Charging through the field used to be pretty impressive but now it’s kinda expected if you’re driving a Mercedes/Ferrari/Red Bull. F1 really needs to address the huge disparity in performance to improve the racing rather than breaking things that aren’t broken.

      1. @rocketpanda that’s so true. Remember in China in 2011, when Mark Webber started last and finished 3rd we were all crazy about it (even if it was slightly artificial given the tyre situation) but now it’s pretty much normal and easy if you have the car capable of doing it. Things changed so much in a very short period of time.

        1. @fer-no65 good point. I wonder about that race…was it really as good as it was rated at the time? I think it was good, but not great. subsequently, we learnt that the fragile tyres were a bit of a lottery back then and that there was a big advantage in having lots of new sets. still, i remember some of the great on-track action rather than a bunch of DRS motorway passes (although I imagine there were a few i have blotted from my memory).

          grosjean is saying what needs to be said – the lack of a competitive field is killing the sport. It depresses me no end to read of F1-a and F1-b. just awful.

          1. @frood19 I remember saying that it wasn’t that special for me and I didn’t understand the highly favourable rating it got in the site. But DRS and rubbish tyres were a novelty back then and it was the very first race in which a lot happened, so it’s understandable that it felt great to most people.

        2. @fer-no65 Interestingly Mark Webber said his China 2011 drive through the field was one of the most unsatisfying drives of his career given how easy DRS made most of the passes & how huge an advantage been on fresh tyres was.

          1. I think it was also due to the fight between Hamilton and Vettel: Hamilton on a 3 stop, and Vettel on a 2 stop. This led to Hamilton overtaking Vettel on track for the win.

            These days we have one stop strategies on the softest tires. Riveting!

    3. This is the price we pay for not running F1 as a spec series. Personally, I think more standard parts in the formula would help with costs and the performance differences we’re seeing. But it’s never going to be perfect, so stop trying to punish the front runners for their superior performance.

      1. This is the price we pay for not running F1 as a spec series.

        I’m sure Liberty have and are thinking about it, but you see the problem is this.
        There is already a spec series called indycar and it’s not particularly popular outside of America. They have tried it in other countries and as far as I know it fell over because no one turned up to watch it.
        So if Liberty do go down the one car 10 different colours route, F1 will cease to exist.

    4. Well said Romain I think.
      Max is a tremendous driver but the way he scythed through the pack at Singapore was ridiculously easy. Danny wasn’t far behind him and he had a broken front wing.

      I’m not sure what the solution is right now so I’m praying that the new regulations incoming will shake this massive disparity out of the sport.

      1. @nullapax It would have been more impressive at Singapore!
        I understand your point. If you were to look at Red Bull’s result in Sochi, or Hamilton’s in Silverstone without knowing what the qualifying or race was like, you wouldn’t be mistaken in thinking that the started where they finished. The three of those drivers had recovery drives and yet they finished where they normally would.

    5. I agree totaly with Grosjean. Romain has shown he used to be able to knick a podium left and right in a top 4 or 5 car, so did a guy like Perez.

      But this year there’s such a gulf between formula 1 and Formula 1B, that you effectively need 4 out of 6 top 6 cars to withdraw to have a chance of a surprise podium, even if all 6 of them started P14 to P20. Since the start of 2017, only Baku 2017 has had a non top 3 car on the podium. Worst, in 2018, the best non top 3 result is two 4th, and that’s from Gasly and Grosjean.

      It’s a shame, the top end of the midfield (FI / Haas / Renault) should be able to walk into a race feeling like a podium is a (albeit remote) possibility.

      Its a double shame, as for once in F1 history all pilots have scored points in a regular season, the midfield extends right to the back of the field, and yet a podium is a near impossibility for 14 of 20 drivers.

      1. @tango, I presume you mean Baku 2018 rather than Baku 2017 in your post, even if the result by Force India was later rendered moot by the team restarting over again.

        1. I believe it was 2017 when Stroll got his podium

          1. Oh boy I had forgot about Perez this year Anon. 3 top 6 cars out and I can’t remember what happened to Vettel plus safety cars….

    6. I agree although the #1 problem definitely is the long-standing difficulty of following another car closely, and hopefully, that’s going to be fixed for 2021.

      1. @jerejj, Let’s hope the 2021 solution is more successful than the last effort, and the effort before that, and the effort before that one, and………

    7. Agreed, however it was once largely held that the difference between the manufacturer engine and the customer engine accounted for a large portion of that gap. With the recent changes mandating that the customers get the same engine we’ve found that the assumption was completely wrong.
      So clearly the big three have significantly better chassis than the others and how do you correct that? You can either bring the top three back to the field or find a way to get the field moved up to the performance of the top three. Considering that Liberty have yet to define what F1 is and will be, I don’t see the gap being properly addressed and closed anytime soon.

      1. I’d say : “Money”.

    8. I don’t think it’s really any different now to what it’s been throughout F1’s history.

      Go back 20 years & you knew Schumacher or a Mclaren was going to win, Go back 10 & you knew it was going to be Hamilton or a Ferrari. Go back a bit further to 1992/93 where you pretty much knew it was going to be a Williams front row & at times the gap from 1st to 3rd was as big as 2 seconds with the gap to 10th at times been 3-4+ seconds & the gap from 1st to last at times as big as 10.

      There have been rare exceptions where the field has been closer & more cars were in the winning discussion but there the exceptions not the rule and in the more recent examples were more down to artificial nonsense (Comedy cheese tyres) than outright car/driver performance.

      1. Yes but if you go before the end of 2000’s at least you had reliability to account for.

        1. You’re right Peter. Some team dominating has been of all times. Only now we have three teams dominating, making the podium a fata morgana for the other teams. And, as @tango meant, the silly 3-engine rule means the cars are so damn bomb-proof now that some of the favourites dropping out is not happening either…

    9. Grosjean talks sense. It’s very frustrating every time bosses talk about artificial problems instead of focusing on the bigger ones, as if to cover up. Surely, Mercedes, Ferrari or Red Bull must be very keen to discuss qualifying changes instead of equalising the money distribution. Meanwhile the almost certain changes for 2021 are now facing delays and deadline after deadline is being missed. Instead of continuing the progress achieved in the first part of 2017, Liberty is going backwards.

    10. Creating advantages for lower-performing teams might be one idea to level the field. Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull should not get the tire testing and other F1 “work” they get — that should go to the bottom teams, and they should be compensated by Liberty for the work so they can hire the staff needed. Another idea would be to offer extra testing to those teams who finish out of the points, either during the race weekend or dedicated tests. If the big three are allowed a spending advantage and are two seconds faster, nobody wins, not even them. Offer a pathway to improvement aside from money for those at the bottom.

    11. Romain is absolutely right. We can pretty much guarantee that in any race the winner will come from one of three teams. Except on maybe three or four circuits, one of two teams. The sport cannot continue like this or the interest in it will continue to fall.

      As some have said, probably the major difference to the sport say 15/20 years ago is reliability. Back then occasionally cars from slower teams would get onto the podium owing to retirements or issues during the race. This just does not happen now.

      F1 has to think of a way of making the whole field more competitive. I think though that given time the differences in Engine performance for example would start to even out providing there were no major changes in engine spec.

    12. He’s right. To put it another way… “It’s the formula stupid!”.

    13. Time for unified software. Its what makes the difference.

    14. im hard pressed to believe that the top 3 teams are doing anything illegal but instead they’re simply THAT much better than the rest. Unless the cars are standardized across all parts there will always be big gaps. Basically Ferrari, Mercedes and Red Bull have better quality ingredients to make their cake not only look but taste better. Whilst the rest of the field has to suffer with basic mediocre ingredients.. so my point again is.. unless ALL the cars come from a standard supplier and are all the same. this will always, and sadly even as a Ferrari fan, be the case..

    15. Grosjean is absolutely correct. Liberty Media has completely squandered an opportunity to turn a page and let F1 have a fresh start in 2021. Together, the FIA and LM had sufficient sway to bring about real change, but they have made one concession after another to a couple of multinational corporations who are concerned with nothing except cementing in competitive advantages that they have bought and paid by spending more than all of the other teams.

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