The foolishness of crowds

Posted on Author Keith Collantine

Mark Webber, Red Bull, Montreal, 2007, 470150

Mark Webber is frustrated that Formula 1’s flawed safety car rules still haven’t been fixed – and he blames the team bosses for it:

As far as I know, a solution is being worked on. But there needs to be unanimity and I have heard that some teams want to keep the current rules. I don?t know who it is, but I hope they will change their minds.

For all the flak the sports’ governing body gets about F1’s sometimes baffling regulations, the fact is the teams are responsible for some of F1’s dumbest rules, and the delays in getting them fixed. This is just one example.

It’s clear to anyone with eyes to see that the safety car rules are badly flawed. At the moment a poorly-timed safety car can ruin a drivers’ race in an instant. If they have to pit for fuel under safety car conditions while the pit lane is closed, they receive a drive-through penalty.

So far this season Nick Heidfeld and Heikki Kovalainen have been among the victims of the rule (at Spain and Australia respectively) and Fernando Alonso and Nico Rosberg were at Canada last year. It’s only a matter of time until it happens again.

It would look very terrible for F1 if it changed the course of a race at a vital part of the championship. Alonso may even consider that, without his misfortune at Montreal last year, he would have been champion.

This is one of those situations where the teams don’t want the rule changed because they imagine they might somehow be disadvantaged by it.

Exactly the same flawed reasoning is what has prevented all the teams’ radio broadcasts from being opened up for people to listen to. In other forms of motor racing all the teams have to broadcast on public frequencies which the fans at the track can listen to and television companies can use.

F1 has no such requirement, despite the obvious improvements it would bring to the show, because the teams cannot agree on it.

Some are happy to and we often hear conversations from Williams, Renault and BMW during F1 coverage. But Ferrari and McLaren refuse to open up their airwaves, only ever allowing us to listen in to post-race celebrations, if at all.

Max Mosley has admitted the only stumbling block to freeing up radio broadcasts in F1 is opposition from the teams. Some think they have more to lose than others from letting people listen to their broadcasts, but if everyone’s communications are free, then what have they got to lose?

‘The wisdom of crowds’ isn’t working for F1…