The FIA Survey: How to fix Formula One

The FIA have launched a survey to canvas Formula One fans on their opinions of how the sport should develop in the future. F1 Fanatic sets out what changes need to be made to ensure F1 gets stronger and stronger over the coming years.

As much as they suffer criticism for their handling of the sport, the FIA deserve some sympathy for the complexity of the task before them in terms of governing Formula One. If the racing is poor, viewing figures tumble. If the cars are too unsafe, the media may ignite another hysterical frenzy as in 1994. If the purity of the racing is compromised, the sport becomes ‘just another car racing series’ – instead of the pinnacle of automotive excellence.

Against this background it is commendable that the FIA have chosen to invite comments from the fans of the sport on how it must develop in the future. It is clear that the tweaks of recent years have proved insufficient, often counter-productive and in need of revision. The fact that the qualifying system has been changed for the fifth time in three years is testament to that.

So, F1Fanatic have put together our own proposal for the FIA. It is reasonable and, more often than not, based on precedent set in F1 and in other series. It is entirely justifiable and sensible, and has the goal of creating a fair and exciting sport at its heart.

Distribution of points

New rule
Points will be distributed 10-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 for 1st – 8th, plus one point for pole position.

Explanation
The present points system provides too little incentive to push for a race win. Offering a point for pole position will encourage to push harder in qualifying.

New rule
A new event cannot be held in a country which already hosts one Event, regardless of whether or not that Event is held in the name of that country. Event promoters that hold races in a country with more than one Event may see out the duration of their contracts, after which that country may hold only one Event.

Explanation
i.e. One country – one race. No more ?????ǣEuropean?????? Grands Prix that are always held in Germany, nor ?????ǣSan Marino?????? Grands Prix as a bonus Italian round. It is preposterous that drivers from certain countries should enjoy the benefit of multiple ‘home’ events while others have no home race.

FIA-appointed race steward

New rule
The FIA will nominate an additional third steward to arbitrate in disputes over driving discipline. This third steward will fulfil the same capacity at each round of the championship.

Explanation
There have been many past instances of drivers receiving penalties of differing degrees of severity (or none at all) for identical misdemeanours. Having one individual present at each round of the championship to judge on such disputes will help guarantee effective, consistent regulation of Formula One.

Entering a team in the championship

New rule
The $48,000,000 entry bond for new teams will be abolished.

Explanation
Simply to encourage new teams to enter Formula One. This was introduced to stop obviously third-rate outfits entering the series during the mid-1990s, after Formula One had suffered from over-subscription by grossly inadequate entrants. Costs have become so high, now, that this entry bond is unnecessary.

Maximum number of championship entrants

New rule
The maximum number of entrants to the Championship shall be raised to 26.

Explanation
Formula One grids have held 26 cars in the past and still could. Again, this is a now-redundant quality control measure. It’s difficult to see more than 26 cars squeezing into the confines of Monaco, but on vast modern circuits like Sepang the current 20 cars (18 in Spain and Monaco due to disqualification of BAR) creates the impression of a series in jeopardy.

Definition of an ‘incident’

New rule
An ‘incident’ additionally means the actions of a driver who:

  • Without provocation, forces another driver to take evasive action to avoid an accident.
  • Makes more than one change of direction to defend a position.
  • Deliberately makes a late change of direction at the last possible moment to defend a position and willingly risk an accident by doing so.

Explanation
Standards of driving etiquette need tightening up. A driver may defend his position. He may even move to the extreme opposite edge of the track to complete block an inside or outside line. But he must not risk an accident by closing the door too late.

Race distance

New rule
Race distance increased to 350km.

Explanation
Grands Prix are run to a minimum duration of 2hrs, or minimum length of 305km (190m), whichever comes first (except at Monaco). In practice even a moderate, incremental year-on-year growth of average speeds in F1 means that Grands Prix are actually getting shorter. The 2003 Italian Grand Prix took just 1hr 14m to complete. This 15% increase in Grand Prix length would provide a greater challenge to the drivers and manufacturers for relatively little extra cost.

Race penalties

New rule
Drive-through and ten-second penalties will no longer be applied. The stewards may impose a time penalty on a driver, which will consist of them entering the pits and stopping for a specified length of time. This duration will be such that the total time lost to the driver by having to enter, stop, and leave the pits is 30 seconds longer than were he to continue on the circuit as per normal. The purpose of this is to ensure that the impact of this penalty is the same at every circuit visited.

Explanation
At present the exact impact of a ?????ǣdrive-through?????? or ?????ǣten-second?????? penalty is inconsistent from race to race because all pit lanes are of different lengths – that at Magny-Cours is very short, but the Interlagos pitlane has a long exit. This change will mean that a driver is stopped in the pits for a different length of time at each track, so that the total time lost by entering & exiting is the same no matter which circuit they are at.

Intermediate weather tyres

New rule
?????ǣIntermediate?????? specification tyres are banned. Tyre companies must provide a single specification of dry tyre and a single specification of wet tyre of a minimum depth stipulated by the FIA to be suitable for use in extreme wet weather.

Explanation
The advent of intermediate tyres has removed much of the driver’s skill in selecting when to run wet and when to use dry weather tyres. There is also a safety aspect – a track dries more quickly when the cars using it are running on intermediate rather than full wet tyres. The FIA imposed a similar rule at the beginning of 2003, but failed to add the ?????ǣminimum tread depth?????? proviso, which caused havoc at the soaking wet Brazilian Grand Prix where the teams had only dry and ?????ǣIntermediate?????? tyres.

Dry weather tyres

New rule
Dry tyres must be flat, grooveless slicks.

Explanation
Grooved tyres are not used in any other form of professional road racing motorsport. They produce unusual, ‘twitchy’ and unattractive handling qualities in the cars. The reduced mechanical grip forces a greater reliance on aerodynamic grip which impedes overtaking. And, even after eight years of them. they still look plain stupid.

Refuelling

New rule
Refuelling is not permitted during the race.

Explanation
Reintroduced in 1994 to ?????ǣspice up the show??????, refuelling has done the exact opposite. Drivers are reluctant to try overtaking until after the pit stops, because passing via a quicker pit stop is easier. Contrary to the belief of some observers, fans do not find refuelling ‘entertaining’ or ‘exciting’. The endless permutations of race strategy are not interesting, they are a complete turn-off.

Despite the attempts to provide standardised equipment many drivers suffer equipment failures which at the very least spoil their races, and on occasions cover them in burning fuel, both of which have happened in 2005. The counter-argument that 20 cars starting a race with full fuel loads is unsafe does not stand up – during the last period of banned refuelling (1984-93) there were no such start-line fires. Banning refuelling would also allow the governing body to regulate engine performance when necessary by limiting the amount of fuel a car may use.

Qualifying

New rule
Qualifying will be a two part-session. In the first 15m part each driver must set at least one timed lap. This would serve as a ‘warm-up’ for the second part, but the lap times would not count towards qualifying position. However, the presence of cars on the track would help to clean it for qualifying and reduce the disadvantage on drivers who run earlier.

The second part of the session would be 45m long in which drivers will carry out a single timed lap starting in the order in which they finished the previous race. After qualifying cars will be held under parc ferme conditions. At this time, fuel may be added.

Explanation
A simple solution to a complex and controversial problem. Each driver gets a single, low-fuel attempt to set a time. The incentive of a championship point for pole will encourage drivers to push. Every team will get airtime for their sponsors. The effect of running order on track conditions is lessened by the preceding ‘mini-session’ and the grid is known on the Saturday before the race.

Stopping a race

New rule
Races may be stopped due to a blocked circuit, dangerous conditions, to ensure that medical assistance can reach an injured driver or marshall with no delay, or in the event that a first-lap accident eliminates more than a quarter of the field.

Explanation
On two occasions races have continued under safety car conditions while a marshall died due to injuries sustained during an accident (Italy 2000, Australia 2001). In 2004 Ralf Schumacher was left in his cockpit for two minutes while awaiting an ambulance. This is simply unacceptable. The excuse that it would ?????ǣdangerous to allow a second standing start?????? is self-defeating – it questions why standing starts are ever used in the first place – and hides the true reason, that television companies consider red-flag circumstances bad for viewing audiences. A guarantee of swift and unimpeded medical attention is rather more important. The demands of television must be secondary with regards to safety. Also, allowing races to continue with a substantial number of competitors eliminated, given the huge costs involved to run them in the first place, is just senseless.

Traction control banned via standard ECUs

New rule
All engines must be fitted with a standard Electronic Control Unit (ECU). Traction control, launch control and fully automated gearbox systems are banned.

Explanation
Traction control was legalised in 2001 because it had become impossible for the FIA to guarantee that any teams weren’t using such systems. Attempts to ban traction control since have foundered on the fact that each engine manufacturer uses its own ECU, and regulating them has proved impossible. The only solution is to enforce a standard ECU. Traction control is anathema to true motorsport, as it neuters a driver’s skill in controlling the power delivered to the car’s wheels.

Single-race engines

New rule
Engines will be required to last a single race weekend.

Explanation
The decision to impose two-race engines for 2005 has had all manner of complicated and unsatisfactory consequences. For example, a driver whose engine fails in the first of two races become out of sync with the other drivers, and may have greater or lesser performance as a result. It also unfairly benefits any driver who gets to change their engine before the final race, as they can run a more powerful engine than their rivals.

Testing

New rule
All teams are limited to 30 days’ testing.

Explanation
An obvious and fair solution to the excessive cost of testing. This was put to the FIA by nine of the ten teams competing in Formula One in October 2004 and should have been accepted immediately.

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1 comment on The FIA Survey: How to fix Formula One

  1. Jean Voorjans said on 28th February 2007, 12:25

    I absolutely agree with all the points raised in the article “The FIA Survey: How to fix Formula One”.

    It is a pity that some of the people who most care about the sport are not allowed a say in the FIA. How do you get on the FIA? Could I become a member? I would love it!

    More poeple power, we know what we want, and we know when we want it!

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