Charles Leclerc, Sauber, Sochi, 2018

Team bosses hold Suzuka summit on “improving the show”

2018 F1 season

Posted on

| Written by and

The 10 Formula 1 team bosses held a specially-convened meeting in the Mercedes motorhome at Suzuka today to discuss ways of “improving the show”.

Force India team principal Otmar Szafnauer said the meeting, which did not include any FIA or FOM representatives, was a “talk about the state of Formula 1 and how we’re going to improve it.”

He said it focused on ways to encourage teams to use different strategies during races.

“The racing’s gotten a lot better but it could be even better. So for example if we have two-pit-stop race it might be better. Or a combination of some doing one, some doing two. So how do we do that? It was all about improving the show.”

The teams agreed that encouraging more variation in strategy would make for better races. “Everyone tends to the same strategy now,” said Szafnauer. “But at the beginning it wasn’t like that if you remember.”

Earlier today Lewis Hamilton called on Pirelli to make much softer tyres for 2019 to encourage more varied strategies.

The teams discussed asking Pirelli to bring tyres which degrade more quickly. However Szafnauer pointed out F1’s official tyre supplier had come in for criticism when this was done in the past.

“At the beginning Pirelli did what Bernie [Ecclestone] asked: high tyre degradation. Then people split strategies and we all said bad things about Pirelli.

Go ad-free for just £1 per month

>> Find out more and sign up

“So the key is to ask Pirelli to do the same but don’t say bad things. That’s what we really want.”

“We asked Pirelli to do something, they do it, and then we slag them off. That can’t be right,” he added. “So if we’re asking them to do that we should not slag them off if they deliver.”

Speaking in today’s FIA press conference, Sauber team principal Frederic Vasseur said last week’s race showed F1 must produce better racing.

“It’s quite obvious that we need to improve the show,” he said. “That Sochi was a race with less than five overtakes – if I don’t consider the two Red Bulls, [they] won’t start from the back every single weekend.”

Red Bull team principal Christian Horner echoed Vasseur’s view. “Formula 1 ultimately is a show,” he said. “It’s entertainment, and to be entertaining the racing has to be good, the drivers have to be the heroes and I think we need to improve the spectacle of what we currently have.”

Concern over F1’s declining television audiences and teams’ earnings projections are understood to have prompted all the teams to meet together for the first time in 12 months. However Szafnauer played down the possibility that the meeting could lead to the re-forming of the Formula One Teams Association, which officially disbanded in 2014.

“I don’t think so,” he said. “It wasn’t that inclined.”

Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and go ad-free

2018 F1 season

Browse all 2018 F1 season articles

56 comments on “Team bosses hold Suzuka summit on “improving the show””

  1. Is it just me or does anyone else’s skin crawl when they hear those three words?

    1. nope, probably the majority of fans over here have that @tomd11.

      Luckily it is not Bernie running the sport anymore though or we would get something kneejerk announced to be in place for next race, only be be then called off later because it spectaculary backfires.

      Now it is just the teams exchanging thoughts about this. With Liberty it seems that at least these things are thought through a bit more thoroughly so it shouldn’t be too damaging.

      1. I have no problem with everything they are discussing. The fact that they are even discussing it is a bonus compared to the BE era, of which we of course are still feeling the side effects and will be until 2021. To me, F1 will inevitably only get better and better with the kind of things Liberty wants to do.

        1. Unfortunately, @robbie, Bernies’ maligne influence will be felt long past 2021, in fact the financial burden he placed on F1 will be felt until the demise of F1 or Liberty media, whichever comes first.

    2. YES!!!!! They could start by not worrying about the “show” anymore and just focus on the making the sport the best it can be. Its not WWE, there’s no “show” they should worry about. That’s what fans feel is fake and artificial.

    3. I know. I have a plan for ‘improving the show’ let them race!

    4. Agreed. I was always under the impression this was a sport, not a show.

  2. We don’t need mandated 2 stop races. We need no rules on pit stops, and relaxed rules on tyres. Let someone do a whole race on hard tyres. Let others do a 3 stop race using ultra softs in the same race.

    Forcing teams to do the same thing makes boring racing.

    1. This.

      Bring 3 sets of tires, each with a 2-step difference between them, then let the teams decide what they want to do.

    2. Give teams a tyre allocation for the season and let them use them how they want.
      If a team wants to bring 10 sets of the super-sticky-chewing-gum tyres and stop five times, let them.
      If a different team wants to bring ones set of concrete-ever-lasting tyres and not stop at all, let them.

      If you want teams to use different strategies you have to remove limitations on choice not mandate more limits.

    3. This. No mandatory stops. Been saying this for years.

    4. Duncan Snowden
      5th October 2018, 22:12

      “Forcing teams to do the same thing makes boring racing.”

      Yes. Free up the technical regulations, too.

  3. How quickly do we reckon Horner, Wolff and Arrivabene took ‘sensible & sustainable distribution of wealth’ off the table?

    1. It probably wasn’t even allowed into the motorhome ;)

      1. @optimaximal Exactly. That’s the one and the only one thing that really matters for making the sport more competitive, and that is literally the one thing they don’t want.

        Hahaha absolutely! :)

  4. I’ve been a fan of this sport since 1995 but I have to concede that it’s BLOODY BORING on the whole. For christ’s sake F1, improve the show, HAT IS ALL THAT COUNTS! This ‘sport’ is grown men driving around in circles, so let’s not get too pious about the purity or the ethos of the sport. We have drivers turning up to circuits saying ‘you can’t really overtake here’. I mean think about that…. this is a ‘racing series’. This is not a ‘pure’ sport, it is not a meritocracy, so wet the track, take the front wing off, do anything you need to but MAKE IT ENTERTAINING. It is all very well for drivers like Vettel to leave the sport as it is, but that prune doesn’t have to watch the bloody thing!

  5. The cars have become too dependent on aerodynamics. We see it every race, one car catches up to another fairly quickly and then “gets stuck” and can’t pass. Until they change the cars so they are more dependent on mechanical grip than aero we’ll be seeing the same problem over and over.

    1. Exactly right. The number one problem is too much dependence on clean air.

      As to tires, Szafnauer has said above that Pirelli has made high deg tires as BE asked. But particularly @gt-racer has told us several times now that nobody is happy with HOW they have made the tires high-deg, namely through a tiny temp window rather than through tread wear.

      Anyway, for me we have been seeing processions for years on many different tires from a few different makers. The lowest common denominator to lack of close racing remains too much dependence on clean air.

  6. Seems like everyone has it’s own views about what F1 is and isn’t. Sometimes it’s technology at its peak. Sometimes it’s entertainment. Most of the times it can’t be both, can it? The guys doing the rules (and the ones interpreting it) don’t care smittens about the entertainment value and what ultimately is “fast cars going around” mean to people.

    In any case, if they want to improve things, making tyre degrade more and adding pit stops isn’t gonna cut it. We’ve seen it in the past, soon enough they all converge in the best possible strategy and it stops being a novelty, and we have borefest of races.

    F1 cars unability to follow each other has been a problem ever since I started following the sport back in the early 90s. But as usual things developed and now it’s worse. And it was made a lot worse 2 years ago when some bright soul decided what we really wanted was cars with much more downforce… talk about shooting yourself in your own foot.

    1. There’s also a big problem when tlaking about having 2 stop races… if you only want that, that only gives 1 guy two opportunities to overtake. And all the guy in front has to do is replicate and stop one lap after the other guy did. And that’s it! We’ve seen it forever now… “Oh, they are going to try to undercut him!” next thing the leader pits and stays in front and that’s the race done.

      Make cars able to overtake each other! It’s not about the pit stops darn it!

    2. Exactly. It’s like talking to a brick wall though. Less aero, no DRS, no mandatory stops, tyres that wear gradually instead of falling off the cliff… *Sigh*

      1. @john-h: Yes, the F1 aero addiction is tougher to kick than tobacco sponsorship

  7. One way to not improve the sport is to take the possibility for variable strategies off the table by mandating a certain number of pit stops…

    If some one can run a race on a single set of tyres and be quick enough to challenge for a race win (thinking of Berger at Mexico in 86) then let them. Variety is the key, not more restrictive rules.

    1. I think this is the key. The tyres need to have 2 characteristics. The ability to be pushed hard and deliver lap time but wear out fast. Or to be paced and wear out slower over a longer period of time. This then gives teams the option to run a set up to exploit the full pace of a tyre or to be more conservative and run longer on a tyre below pace and factor in SC periods.

    2. Exactly. Why can’t these so called intelligent F1 engineers work this simple fact out. It’s completely baffling.

      1. Wait @Geemac… maybe you’ve got it all wrong… perhaps we need to mandate MORE pitstops.

        While we’re at it we could have a rule which says all the cars need to be wearing the same coloured tyres at any one time.

  8. Meeting’s over. 100% agreement.
    Drivers will wear funny hats to improve the show.
    Under their helmets.
    The fact that they even had a meeting is revealing; they must be recognising that F1 is in a bit of a state. The smaller teams are in a financial hole and I expect even the manufacturers are wondering if they need to spend quite so much on ICE racing when the future seems to be elsewhere. I’d love to know what was discussed.

    1. They already passed on that. Vettel was always entertaining with his specialist helmet designs. I looked forward to seeing what mad creation would turn up week after week. It was another reason to watch and invest in F1. What did the idiots in charge do? Lets ban custom helmets but to show they are in charge allow one ‘special’ a year. If they want to improve the show sack every last board member and employ any one else who has a clue. Nonsense touted last week. Let’s mess up Qualifying just because we can and there is nothing wrong with it. Pay earned for the week. This week lets postpone messing up Qualifying. Pay earned for the week.
      The sooner F1 dies and is reborn as something else the better.

  9. “Improving the show” is Greek for “more gimmicks and less racing”.

  10. Forgive me if I’m being dense, but the 2020 tyre supply tender has already specifically stated that higher-deg tyres are required, and the 2021 technical regulations are being built around the issue of close racing…

    Why are the teams meeting about improving the show when the wheels are already in motion? Pardon the pun.

  11. We’ve had these Pirelli tyres for seven years now and during that time we’ve had several cycles of “this is boring, let’s make the tyres softer….. OK this is kinda ridiculous we need to make the tyres harder again”. Pirelli introduces softer compounds for 2019, we see a 4-stop race at Barcelona, one team comes out worst and complains that this is ridiculous and we’re back where we started. F1 never learns.

    The most straight-forward way to increase the number of overtakes is to increase the number of cars from 20 to 26 and make sure that there’s not a 2-second gap between the top teams and the rest of the field – all of which can be achieved with a strict budget cap. But that would be too logical of course, let’s keep discussing tyre degradation and 3-car teams, for crying out loud.

    1. @andae23,
      You are right of course, but the top teams prefer talking about artificial solutions so not to lose their sporting and financial advantage. I am sure they smile every time they see serious discussions about qualifying systems, tyre compounds. It is not so easy because the teams have been given a lot of power in this disastrous agreement that runs to 2020, not to mention income inequality. We have meetings to ‘improve the show’ all the time in the V6 era, so it shows F1 is not in great shape, but since we have another this weekend, little come out of them.

    2. The thing is, imposing a budget cap on teams like Ferrari and Mercedes is anything but simple. If we were starting from scratch then yes, but these teams employ hundreds of staff that would be laid off with a strict budget cap.

    3. 26 cars won’t happen in the near future at least.
      Higher tire degradation generally means more overtakes. Unfortunately, the top teams try to minimize tire degradation in order to dominate races more easily. This is especially true for this year, as we see fewer stops, even though the tire compounds have become softer. The real problem is not the softness of the tire, but that nursing the tires all race long is the safest and quickest way to complete the full race distance. The tires should reward flat-out driving more. That might mean more physical degradation and less thermal degradation.

  12. F1 is business. So you need sponsors and customers, that’s us. So to earn money you need buyers. Tickets merchandise, tv rights and so on. People only buy what they like, so your product must be wanted by as many customers as possible. If the product is a 2 hours train on a track, with a 80% certainty how it will begin and end, you won’t sell. (maybe to some idiots) So yes, it need show, heroes and action.

  13. the drivers have to be the heroes

    Funny that. They said that when they increased downforce and made wider cars and tyres in order to make laptimes faster. Faster = more heroic apparently.

    Apparently it now turns out that the drivers are probably not heroic enough.

  14. [Apologies, I don’t have time today to read all your comments, so sorry if I repeat something.]

    Overtakes enabled by pitstops are almost never exciting! Plus, when there is the potential for an undercut, etc., the television director almost always gets it wrong and squanders the potential for excitement. This whole soft, quickly-degrading tyre argument angers me so much. I want to see the drivers on the edge of their cars’ limits and their skills’ limits from race start to race finish! Is this too much to ask for? I want them to step out of their cockpits at the end of the race and stumble around, they are so tired.

    For sure, my argument is too simplistic and probably misses many important technical understandings, but – fundamentally – am I wrong to want and expect this? Grrrrr!!! [Bites angrily into Tortilla sandwich.]

  15. Six drivers fighting for the WDC would really be great.
    I’ve lost interest in races recently, nodded off a few, skipped Russian GP
    and not excited for this weekend’s Japan GP.
    If only Hamilton and Vettel were fans like us it’s basically boring and predictable.
    How many more two horse race for the future.
    F1 is not a sport and not entertaining at the same time.

    We need some form of liberty eh.

    1. “not excited for this weekend’s Japan GP”
      Maybe Lewis and Seb should start trash talking and get into each other’s faces when they get out of the cars ?
      Joking apart it’s Suzuka, I’m optimistic for a great race.. always am.

  16. Aero is the problem………….Mechanical grip is the solution.

    1. +1

      I wonder if anyone else has ever wondered whether Adrien Newey, the undisputed guru of aerodynamics, has actually had a net detrimental effect on the sport of Formula 1?

      I mean, this multi-decade, hyper focus on aerodynamics has not only destroyed the ability of the cars to race closely, it has also had an increasingly negative effect on the aesthetics of the cars.

      The clean, flowing lines that defined many of the modern era cars from the mid 70s to late 90s have given way to what should probably be called the post-modern era of Formula 1 where form is almost completely dictated by function with all of these silly winglets, barges, vanes, fins, ducts and other tacked-on nick-nacks that do little to improve the show but a lot to ruin the looks.

      Unless you’re attending races, the fact that the cars are now (much) faster thanks to aero is almost irrelevant because the inept TV producers so often choose to use camera shots and angles that make the cars look so slow.

      So many times during the Singapore GP, I kept thinking cars were breaking down along the straights because they looked like they were barely moving. What’s the point of having fast cars if they look slow?

      While it’s true that some ‘fans’ will find things to complain about no matter what, most of us just want to see close racing, throughout the field, between the very best drivers in cars that look and sound great. I don’t think that’s asking too much.

      Hopefully, Ross & company will find a formula that consistently delivers the goods. Soon.

      1. Spot on, @Boris!

        Ban Newey from F1! Burn down the wind tunnels! Crash the CFD farms! Give Michelin the tyre contract!

  17. So Mercedes held talks to fix every single race positions and cheorographed the race to make it interesting?

  18. Is this real? This can’t be real

  19. I’m not sure how much longer i’ll be watching this train wreck.

    I still love the sport, I still love F1 but the past few years with all these silly gimmicks & all this focus on ‘improving the show’ at any cost has really taken my passion down to an all time low & i’m just not sure how much longer i’m going to care because i’m at the point now where I almost don’t.

    I want to see close, competitive racing where drivers can push one another over many laps, Where an overtake isn’t a guarantee but may be possible. Many of the gimmicks & more artificial rules may well increase passing stats, But they very rarely make the actual racing better & that is & always will be my contention with things like DRS, High-deg tyres & some of the other more artificial rules aimed at spicing up the show.

    1. Yes, and when do do an overtake they get punished. There is alway’s something.

  20. Sochi actually did feature different tyre strategies between Red Bull and the other two top teams. I don’t know how it was a race with less than five-overtakes…the Red Bull cars alone must have made 25 passes between them. All this is just talk. Who really cares how many overtakes are there for 16th position when the top six cars are already a lap ahead of everybody else. As @DieterRencken and others have said here and elsewhere many times…if they made it possible for more (or all) teams to have solid and relatively level budgets, the show would improve itself in no time.

  21. If they want varied strategies I think there are a couple of ways to do it.
    1. Allow teams to run different tire compounds front to back with no mandatory tire use
    2. Bring back re-fueling and allow teams to manipulate the weight of the car with no mandatory stops
    3. Eliminate pit to car communications and let the drivers figure out out for themselves.

  22. ALL. TALK.

    It took me almost 2 decades, but eventually, I figured out the little game the F1 big wigs were playing; as long as the billions kept rolling in, the FIA, BE & the big teams had no intention of ever actually ‘improving the show’.

    Oh, they might pay lip service to it every now and then and tinker around the edges fixing things that ain’t broke but aside from increasing revenues, their main concern has always been maintaining the gap between the rich and ‘poor’ teams.

    The big bosses are NOT stupid people. And the problems with the show are not rocket science – well, actually, they kind of are, but if they truly wanted to fix them, they would have done so DECADES ago. If you think some of the races are boring now, go back and check out some of the qualifying and race gaps from the 70s or 80s.

    FF to today and essentially, nothing’s changed; while smaller, the gaps are still too big between the top teams and everyone else. More importantly, the sport is nowhere near as exciting as it could be.

    IMO, it’s not enough for fans to just complain. Once I realized that F1 had no real intention of doing anything about boring races which are the rule rather than the exception, I protested in the only way I could; I stopped attending live races, and for almost a decade now, I’ve been downloading the races rather than watching them on TV.

    By FF through all the boring bits, I still get to enjoy the exciting parts of F1 without F1 benefiting financially from my enjoyment. I’ll be happy to resume supporting the ‘sport’ again if those greedy b…….. ever decide to START respecting the fans.

    1. +11

  23. I mean an easy way of “improving the show” would be bringing the perfomance gulf between the teams down substantially. A more competetive field, that ideally can follow each other and fight equally, would greatly improve the show without resorting to silly gimmicks.

    “Fanboost”, incoming?

  24. If I really cared anymore I would scream ! When do high-deg tyres degrade most ? when they are close behind another car that’s when. What is the definition of good exciting racing ? it’s cars inches away from each other ducking and diving trying to pass/block each other, higher deg tyres will only exacerbate the current problems high deg tyres introduced into F1 in the delusional belief that F1 drivers/tacticians would fail to learn this lesson and spend the entire race wearing out their tyres and pitting for new ones. The proposed solution is not as simple as it sounds, I hope the proposers are also not as simple as they sound.

  25. If F1 is the WWE of motorsports can someone direct me to the UFC of motorsports?
    I want my racing to be a sport. And I’ve been waiting a long long time.

  26. My crazy ideas for “improving the show”

    Two pit lanes with half the garages on each. Significantly reduces the time for a stop and encourages variation in tyre strategy. Downside – major changes to tracks. Worth doing for new tracks, of which there are a few in planning.

    Change the pit lane top speed to make a pit stop take much longer, which will also change the balance of strategies.

    Introduce a mandatory “joker” lap where a driver must take a different route, maybe longer or shorter. Only possible at tracks with a decent amount of infield, won’t be easy to do at street circuits. Alonso already does this.

    Clean specified corners between sessions so that a single racing line cannot set in, removing the penalty for going offline in order to overtake or square the corner for better traction out onto a straight when following a slower car.

    Remotely disable the ERS or turn down the engine for a car ignoring blue flags.

    Bring back active aerodynamics and reduce the aero elements which create turbulence and “dirty air” behind the car.

    Free-to-air broadcasting, free simulcast streaming of at least the main TV feed.

    Get all the team principals and the Liberty board to watch people playing e-sports and driving games. That might put the fear of [deity of your choice] in them and elicit some real action.

    Use technology (which exists and has been used successfully in other series) to place an identifier above each car on screen so that non-experts (aka new viewers) can follow who is who. It’s not rocket science. By the way, we can do rocket science pretty well too.

    Rockets! No…

Comments are closed.