Fernando Alonso, Alpine, Monza, 2021

Alonso: F1 too preoccupied with “improving the show”

2021 Italian Grand Prix

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Formula 1 concerns itself too much with trying to “improve the show”, says Fernando Alonso, after a processional sprint qualifying prompted more calls for changes.

The series is experimenting with the sprint qualifying format at three races this year. Today’s race saw few changes of position after the first lap, prompting criticism of the format.

Alonso said Formula 1 should ask whether it needs to revise its race weekend format, pointing out other sports do not keep changing their rules to create more excitement.

“I think Formula 1 is always pursuing an improvement that sometimes this is not needed, in a way,” said the two-times world champion. “I don’t see any other sport being so worried about making or improving the show.

“I see football, which normally is the king of sports, and there are so many games that are so boring. And the following week there is not any drama, there is not any change.

“There are not suggestions how to change the game to make the goal bigger, to play without a goalkeeper to improve the show. There are no dramas.

“The sport is at it is and Formula 1 should be happy and proud as a show because it is a very big thing. So that’s the first thing.”

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If Formula 1 is to pursue further changes Alonso believes they should address the forgiving nature of the current qualifying system, which he believes makes it easy for drivers to avoid being compromised by mistakes.

“My feeling is that the Friday is what is maybe dictating the rest of the weekend. Because the qualifying is made by the car performance, not by the driver input.

“When you have only one set of tyres or one attempt – okay, the car is the most important thing – but the driver has to deliver on that minute-and-a-half. When you have one hour and six sets of tyres, you made one mistake, you make two mistakes, but then you put another set of tyres, you make another mistake, okay, you put another set of tyres and at the end you finish in the position you deserve or the car deserves.

“So that will be my opinion with experience. To really add some difficulty on Friday, maybe giving only one attempt, not six.”

F1 is considering more extreme changes to the race weekend format next year, including a reverse-grid race, which Alonso is not a fan of.

“The reverse grid, I would take it because I’m in a slow car. But I don’t think that is fair, and I don’t think that Formula 1 should make that revolution either.”

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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...
Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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39 comments on “Alonso: F1 too preoccupied with “improving the show””

  1. I agree with him on his first point but don’t necessarily agree in terms of qualifying been too forgiving & especially not on him suggesting a single lap format.

    When they did the single lap format in 2003 I was a fan of it when they announced it as I thought it would be great to see every lap without the risk of traffic & with all the pressure drivers would be under with 1 lap to get it right. However after a couple races I quickly turned against the format as I just found it really dull to watch & felt it lacked a lot of what made the prior & subsequent formats so exciting. Not to mention the inherent unfairness of the format in terms of track evolution & how changeable weather could affect it.

    I don’t think the weekend or qualifying format needs to be changed as I think it’s pretty much perfect as it is & feel that the qualifying format is the best i’ve ever seen used in any category i’ve ever watched.

    1. Fernando really nailed it,Yes but……Money Money Money

    2. Yeah, single lap qualifying meant that I stopped watching most of qualifying, save either highlights of the fastest few laps, of a crash or maybe just tuning in for the last 5-10 minutes @stefmeister.

      It was tedious. It meant that weekends where the track was drying up during qualifying were very unfair to those having to set their laps first and it meant one single mistake in a single lap could ruin a weekend before the race had even started.

      1. One single mistake in a single lap could ruin a weekend before the race had even started.

        That’s exactly the point of it. Drivers have to deliver on one lap to get it right. They can push the maximum, taking risks that potentially ruin their weekend. Or play it a bit more safe. The drying up conditions are rare and just as unfair as a SC situation. You could potentially do a Q1 and Q2 as it is. Then do single lap qualifying for Q3. In my opinion this makes qualifying much more exciting.

    3. I liked the 03 format but I’d rather watch more laps, as in the old 12 lap format, at the time fp was not as accessible or as interesting as it is now or used to be last season, we didn’t get to watch as much running. I agree that the last friday format left us knowing everything about the Q and race. f1 would benefit from strategy, having a dicotomy between going for pole and going for the race, a lot like super formula.

  2. Looks like the sprint (qualifying) races are with its days numbered.

    Reply moderated
  3. Football doesn’t have aerodynamic wake though Fernando, remove that and job’s a good’un.

    1. Yes it does.

      “Bend it like Beckham”.

  4. I was a big fan of one-lap qualifying for the simple fact that the camera would focus on driver per lap. So even the back-of-the-field runners, who don’t usually get much video coverage, have a lap devoted to them. Being an Indian, I was really excited to be able to see a full lap of Narain Karthikeyan in his debut year in 2005. Alonso’s point is that slower drivers could get to qualify higher. That’s why we used to have the “Trulli train” in 2005. Jarno Trulli was the king of one-lap qualifying in the Toyota. He would qualify higher than faster cars resulting in them being stuck behind Trulli during the races. But it was still processional, since overtaking was much harder back then. Considering how much Hamilton struggled today after falling back at the start, I wonder even if one-lap qualifying could help. The problem is with the circuit.

    1. @PT The single-lap format has its cons, so I’m not really in favor of reintroduction.

    2. Monza has been in this format for 50 years or more.
      The very fact that it’s hard to overtake in Monza tells us the simple truth – change the cars.

  5. SUGGESTED FORMAT
    Friday Morning: FP1 then Friday Afternoon: 1 lap qualifying championship leader goes 1st decides grid for Sprint Race
    Saturday Morning: Conventional qualifting for GP Saturday Afternoon: Sprint race (grid set yesterday)
    Sunday Afternoon GP

    1. 2 race’s and 2 qualifying sessions is unnecessary

    2. Thought teams would want qualifying and sprint race that close to each other. Any issue in the qualifying and it might be tough to turn around or fix the car for the sprint.

      Reply moderated
  6. the day they introduce the reverse grid, this sport dies and I’m out for good

    1. I’m a reverse grid supporter, seen it work in hungary.

    2. The sport’s already dead, mate. That’s why they feel the need to introduce these things.

  7. I’d be okay with a weekend format change, but at least no reverse grid stuff, which penalizes success.

  8. Totally agree with Fernando on everything he says.

    F1 is always looking at the wrong areas when it comes to improving the show. The format doesn’t need a revolution of adding reverse grids or sprint races.

    At the same time, I agree with his comments regarding qualifying. I think a good compromise between what we have now and 1 shot quali is replacing Q3 for a 1 lap, top 10 shootout. That way fans on track still get plenty of action on track during the session, and drivers just get 1 chance to deliver when it matters.

  9. The point is that all professional sport is more and more about the money/financial. The sport is only there to generate it in as many ways as possible.
    You can add that football to that with all the gimmicks in matches like Video Referees and the substitutions. Even more so the different expanding regional series.

    It got worse when Liberty (USA) bought FOM. But FIA has also joined in by supporting new series totally gimmick ridden and given them an unproven cache of World status.

    Driving take over of analysis, calling data statistics, and presenting coincidence from the almanac, as science.

    To be honest, the nearest to real sport – best performance – is amateur competition.

  10. Fernando is spot on.
    I also liked in the beggining the 1 lap qualifying but it was unfair in wet conditions (although we had Suzuka 2005 and Kimi last lap overtake thanks to that).
    Maybe we can use just 1 set of soft tyres for each session. If you nail your first lap is perfect, but if you don’t you can still take a second attempt with the same tyre or risk it with just 1 attempt at the end of the session.

    1. Other point in favour of reverse grid races that race.

      1. The thing is though is that that race and ones like it are only brilliant because they’re few and far between. If every race was like that, we’d be saying it was just as predictable as Mercedes winning over the last several years.

    2. That 1-set idea also seems not bad.

  11. I don’t think they are. They are too late if anything. Solving the dirty-air following problem is decades too late…
    They should also be pulling the cars closer together, because the gaps in performance are still obscene and the cost cap won’t deliver a quick improvement for sure.

  12. Fernando should throw his hat in for FIA director. He doesn’t tolerate any BS.

  13. I was never that fond of the one shot qualifying in F1 or elsewhere it’s used.

    But putting my own feelings aside it was also never especially popular which is why that style of format in F1 only lasted 3 years. Fans in the stands complained that it was boring getting to see only 1 car on a hot lap every 90-ish seconds which led to a decline in Saturday attendance that saw promoters pushing for a change in format but it also saw a decline in TV viewership for qualifying which had broadcasters pushing for a different format to be introduced.

    And the one shot qualifying session that was held on a Friday in 2003 drew significantly less TV viewers than the Saturday session which is why the Friday session was dropped for 2004.

  14. Surprising that some are surprised that the 18 (more like 16) lap race was processional.
    Monza is a processional track and the format further adds to that. Changing the cars likely won’t alter anything as the rules and application of the rules has resulted in the cars being near identical in performance.
    The commentators were really excited to talk about the soft tyres going away after 15 laps. Never happened.
    Reminiscent of the Monty Python Career planning episode for the Accountant / Lion Tamer.

    1. Reverse grid – how would you prevent drivers from slowing down to get a better grid position? Makes me think of nba teams tanking games to get a better draft pick the next year.

      Reply moderated
  15. The fact is is Liberty are not going to stop with the gimmicks. They are in it for the money and if it dramatically changes F1 in the medium to long term they don’t care. Success ballast, cheer leaders, marching bands, fireworks and other cheap meaningless gimmicks that add zero vale to the sport.
    We will still get races but they won’t have any relationship to the F1 that we know. It will be just another car race barely indistinguishable from others.
    The concept of the helmet cams is great imo, it puts the fans in the car with the driver. If they want a gimmick how about a virtual race running simultaneously so fans that wished to could race virtually against real drivers in real time.

    1. You make it sound like Liberty’s predecessor wasn’t concerned about money at all. Bernie never suggested or introduced anything unpopular or controversial… Right?

      If F1 changes dramatically, it’s because they know that it’s already dying – and adapting to changing audience tastes is necessary for their longer term sustainability.

  16. The changing taste of audience is the biggest logical fallacy that can be used while talking about the reason of these changes.

    1. Reply to S above me.

      1. Is it? What makes you say that?

        People’s taste in everything else has changed over the last 50 years – it’s perfectly logical to think that their sporting and entertainment requirements have also shifted, wouldn’t you say?
        F1 itself had changed so drastically over that period in almost every way that it is barely recognisable.

        Individuals (you, me or whoever else) may not have changed much, but viewers come and go over time – each newcomer almost certainly a different set of preferences than the person they replaced.
        Many new F1 fans happily acknowledge that they became attracted to F1 through the Netflix docudramas, for example. But they are hardly representative of what F1 is actually like, though.

        1. Recently I watched a race from 1968 season, I think. It was brilliant. The taste of the fans, if we strictly define fans like people who are regularly watching the races and have some sort of awareness about the sport, doesn’t change that much, what changes is the focus of the “producers of the show” on different groups of potential viewers. But good points about the Netflix and such, you made me think about it deeper.

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