Archive | October 2013

Something has to be done in Formula 1… but not that

A piece inspired by this: http://www.motorsportmagazine.com/f1/opinion/something-has-to-be-done/

msmag

Apparently F1 is boring and this will stop it being boring:

Cars would still practice as before but come Saturday afternoon would compete not for grid positions on a Sunday, but in a separate competition in the form of a sprint, with lap times aggregated to ensure every team covered a minimum distance flat out to ensure the customers (that’s us) didn’t spend most of the session looking at either an empty track or the slowest cars desperate to gain some air times for their sponsors. A small but significant number of points would be awarded to make sure the sprint retained the undivided attention of all teams, but grids for Sunday would be allocated on a basis that was randomised save for ensuring that over the course of the season everyone was treated equally.

Not knowing whether you were going to start first or last would, of course, wreak a small amount of havoc with strategy but I think that’s an entirely good thing: races should be won on the track not the pit wall. What it would achieve is more overtaking (also known as racing), less predictability and a far greater opportunity for drivers to show us what they’re really made of. And guess what: I expect the top teams would still be the ones on the top steps at the end of the day and all that would happened is we’d have had a lot more fun watching them get there, as we did with Grosjean on Sunday.

One last thing: I hate it when Vettel is told to stop going for the fastest lap of the race. I think it should be encouraged, and would award to a point or two to anyone who did.

It might stop it being boring but it fundamentally changes something that’s been running as a World Championship since 1950 and as smaller championships and individual races for a long time before that.

F1 is all about high-end technology. Technology that, by rights, should filter its way down to road cars. If there are any changes to be made, they should be made in areas where no benefits are gained for the customers of the manufacturers who compete in the sport.

There are pure racing constructors such as Williams, of course, who don’t have end customers to worry about, but I doubt that the changes I propose would see them leave the sport.

From the top of my head, here is a list of things featured on F1 cars or within teams that give no benefit to road cars:

s1_16198High levels of downforce (wings, diffusers)

This is a problem for F1 and has been for a long time, ever since cars could find their way through Eau Rouge and the 130R without lifting off the throttle. I’m no expert but I cannot see where the benefits are to a person who wants to buy a road car from any of the manufacturers – and I include Ferrari in that. Why would a road car require a high level of downforce? A track car might but the amount of downforce provided by even a lower-level aero package on a new-breed F1 car would provide that.


f1-rear-wing-inlineDrag reduction systems

This is probably the most farcical rule in F1 history. It’s allowed easier overtaking and would likely have won my favourite driver a third world title (Alonso) but overtaking in F1 has historically be hard and now it’s easy.


Pirelli-tyres_2738103Highly degradable tyres

Again, this has helped people overtake each other and caused team strategies to disintegrate late on in races (I’m looking at you, Lotus/Kimi) but there is an anti-benefit to road cars with the current technology. I’m also sick of people blaming Pirelli for the tyre woes this season. Pirelli would gladly build the finest race tyre the world has ever seen if they were allowed to but they’re not. F1, the peak of automotive technology? Not a chance. Tyre improvements would also stop the mandatory pit-stops that are part of the current formula. Why should people stop? Cars not going anywhere makes good racing? It didn’t work in BTCC, why do they insist on it in F1?


damvelrs1Real-time telemetry

I can see the safety benefits to team and driver. It stops cars going beyond their capability. Look at Webber this weekend for an example. His alternator was failing so he was told to stop the car. It hadn’t failed – it was probably going to. None of us out on the highways and byways have this kind of assistance and a car that is going to stop out on track still will do. Where’s the benefit? It’s an arms race. If one team has it, they all must.


whitmarshPit-to-car radio

Ok, the messages when broadcast can be amusing and enlightening but as Kimi says, “Leave me alone. I know what I doing”. All the drivers out there do. They have pit boards. They came through category after category of racing without it. Letting the drivers make their own decisions will highlight the best. We all have radio in our cars and if there’s a safety announcement such as a build-up of traffic we can set our radios to automatically seek the information out and tell us. F1 can still have that. A race control radio can inform of safety cars, penalties and suchlike. The rest can be handled by the flag system and pit boards.


mcla-butt-shan-20133-470x313Large pit crews

Again, this is an arms race. If a team found a way to make them faster by adding more people or changing a procedure, every team would be doing the same by the following weekend. When I take my car to the garage for a new set of tyres, one bloke does it all. Considering he’s on his own and I just have a Ford Fiesta he does it quite quickly, to be fair, considering there are over 30 people working on a F1 car designed to be serviced at speed. Indycar, WEC/Le Mans and V8 Supercars are just three categories that do this right. Less people doesn’t mean a worse spectacle.


445260216_640Engines with restricted power output

They wanted to help increase overtaking so introduced DRS. When on low fuel with DRS open, cars routinely hit the rev limiter, set by the FIA at 18,000RPM. Work that one out. I liked the engine formula before they told all manufacturers that they had to build engines that are exactly the same as each other. That’s why I’m looking forward to 2014 more than any season I can remember as to begin with at least, there will be differences between them. To bring this around to my road car point, I’m not certain that running technology far from the edge of performance improves anything.


You could also make a point for removing seamless switch gearboxes as well, but they could benefit road cars so I’m not including that.

One final point. There was a comment ‘below the line’ which caught my eye from someone speak for ‘real racing fans’. They’re not speaking for me as they miss one very important point about the nature of F1.

“What F1 should be about is putting on a show,”

Your opinion, but I’m sure the real racing fans would argue F1 is about seeing the best drivers race each other, and may the best man win.

No. May the best team win.

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