Four mistakes F1 must avoid

FOTA are looking at how to improve the action at F1 weekends

FOTA are looking at how to improve the action at F1 weekends

The Formula One Teams Association (FOTA) is looking at making radical changes to how Grand Prix weekends are structured.

So far they’ve come up with the oddball of idea of having a million-dollar prize for fastest lap on a Friday, which seems a bit… irrelevant. Ollie’s comment that it’s “just plain silly” is about the nicest reaction to it I’ve read.

The team bosses should exercise caution if they’re going to start tampering with the DNA of Formula 1. Here are four ideas, which have been tried in other championships to make racing more entertaining, that don’t belong in F1.

Success ballast

Success ballasting makes political lobbying more important than car development

Success ballasting makes political lobbying more important than car development

Series: World Touring Car Championship, British Touring Car Championship, German Touring Car Championship

‘Success ballasting’ is a polite way of saying ‘handicapping the winner’. It is anathema to anyone who wants Grand Prix racing to be about the fastest driver/car combination winning.

My concern that such a lousy idea might be given serious consideration in F1 is that it is often popular with car manufacturers. In touring car series, where the cars are based on stock shells, it is used to ‘help’ carmakers whose creations are less suited to racing to win races.

Thus halfway through a season the championship leaders are ballasted up to their eyeballs, struggling to pick up the odd point here and squabbling over the minor placings instead of fighting for race wins. The effects are particularly strong in the FIA-administered World Touring Car Championship, where the weight penalties are the most swingeing.

I can’t imagine the likes of McLaren and Ferrari giving serious consideration to performance handicapping just so Honda and Force India can win the odd race.

But when it comes to Formula 1 you must never to be too quick to say, “they’d never be stupid enough to do that.” Pitpass raised the spectre of performance handicapping in this article.

Mandatory pit stop windows

A1 cars must make two pit stops per feature race whether they need to or not

A1 cars must make two pit stops per feature race whether they need to or not

Series: A1 Grand Prix, German Touring Car Championship

It’s bad enough F1 has de facto mandatory pit stops in dry weather conditions because of the rule forcing each driver to use two different compounds of tyre during the race.

In A1 and the DTM, for reasons I cannot fathom, someone decided it would be good to force all the cars to make pit stops within a set time frame (‘window’) during each race.

For pity’s sake, why? All it does is give all the disadvantages of pit stops (drivers waiting until the pit stops instead of passing on track) and none of the benefits (drivers using alternative strategies to move up the field).

Unless you get your thrills sat outside Kwik-Fit watching people change tyres on cars, this is a dismal spectacle that ruins real racing.

Reverse grids

The F3 Euroseries uses reverse grids on Sundays

The F3 Euroseries uses reverse grids on Sundays

Series: GP2, F3 Euroseries, World Touring Car Championship

Reverse grids are fine for lower category series which hold multiple races at one event. But do we really want something as artificial as this in Formula 1?

Some of the best races I’ve seen have been ones where the top drivers have found themselves stuck at the back of the grid – think Suzuka 2005 and Hungary 2006. But if we had this every race weekend the drama would wear off very quickly.

Motor sport is exciting when it’s unpredictable. Reversing the grid all the time would make the unpredictable predictable, and it would stop being entertaining.

Points for pole position and fastest lap

Lewis Hamilton won his GP2 title after a fastest lap mix-up

Lewis Hamilton won his GP2 title after a fastest lap mix-up

Series: GP2

A classic “nice in theory, flawed in practice” idea.

I doubt Bernie Ecclestone would approve of it: Firstly because he’s in favour of getting rid of points and awarding the championship to whoever wins the most races (which is an excellent idea); Second, because he wouldn’t want the world championship to be decided during a qualifying session.

Giving a point for fastest lap would also be fraught with problems: a driver needing only one point to win the championship could use a low-fuel qualifying setup in the race to bag the point he needs and then park up.

Lewis Hamilton won his GP2 title in 2006 by gaining a point for fastest lap after Giorgio Pantano was stripped of his having passed another car under yellow flags at the time. It would be a shame to see an F1 title decided in the same way.

Better ideas

Of course, all this doesn’t mean F1 has nothing to learn from other championships – far from it. Here are five things F1 can learn from other racing series and what F1 can learn (and forget) from NASCAR.

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45 comments on Four mistakes F1 must avoid

  1. Shahriar said on 3rd October 2008, 7:09

    Crap…. Idiotic… Horseshyyt…
    apart from the “fastest lap – pole” idea… all are idiotic…

  2. Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 3rd October 2008, 15:02

    The soon-to-be-relaunched Formula Two has a new twist on the ‘mandatory pit stop’ nonsense:

    In another effort to style the F2 series as an F1 proving ground, the second race at each round will feature mandatory pit stops. However, there will be no tyre changes at these stops, and the drivers will simply remain stationary for 10 seconds before rejoining. Palmer explained that the idea behind this rule was to train drivers in maximising their in and out-laps, and positioning their cars accurately at pit stops, but that he did not want external factors like fumbled wheel changes deciding race results.

  3. Robert McKay said on 3rd October 2008, 17:36

    The soon-to-be-relaunched Formula Two has a new twist on the ‘mandatory pit stop’ nonsense:

    In another effort to style the F2 series as an F1 proving ground, the second race at each round will feature mandatory pit stops. However, there will be no tyre changes at these stops, and the drivers will simply remain stationary for 10 seconds before rejoining. Palmer explained that the idea behind this rule was to train drivers in maximising their in and out-laps, and positioning their cars accurately at pit stops, but that he did not want external factors like fumbled wheel changes deciding race results.

    For the love of God…

  4. Robert McKay said on 3rd October 2008, 18:38

    Cynic inside me says the Formula 2 pitstop is to get drivers ready for F1 stop-go penalties.

  5. Shahriar said on 3rd October 2008, 21:30

    Boy ow boy… what next!!
    A drivers helmet change and a car wash?

  6. Steven Roy said on 3rd October 2008, 23:36

    I have heard some crazy ideas but Amy that is the craziest ever. 2 or three random races a year you reverse the grid. Apart from the fact that should one of the faster guys have a problem and end up on pole everyone would think it was fixed the whole idea is grossly unfair. Imagine you are a driver and get the only pole of your career on the day that someone randomly decides to reverse the grid.

    Pit stops do not spice up anything. How many times have you heard a driver say that he decided to wait to see what happened at the stops rathe than just try and overtake the car in front. Pit stops should be banned in all races in all clasees that run for less than 3 hours. Let the drivers sort things out on track rather than let the pit crew/strategists/statiticans decide who wins. Think of it being kinda like a race. That works for me.

  7. the limit said on 4th October 2008, 2:48

    I had to laugh at your spin off article from this one Keith about the Daytona 500 and how annoying Darrell Waltrip is. If you want real annoying, listen to his brother Michael, he has an ego the size of Texas and talent the size of Rhode Island.
    To the point at hand, the basic structure of Formula One races is good, but I would like to see more incentive for rewarding drivers who lead laps. Maybe a points system for the driver who leads the most would not be a bad idea, and rewards the spirit of the enterprise, which is to come first!
    On the odd occasion when a team that would normally not be a contender leads a race, such as Renault did recently with Alonso, then that would indeed spice things up in the constructors championship aswell as the drivers.
    Also, a cash prize to the winner and the team should be introduced, with a cut in driver salaries so there is more incentive to actually race than just sit at the back of the field, ala Ralf Schumacher, and collect $30 million for doing sweet f.a.

  8. I used to enjoy the series that was, at the time, called “Toyota Atlantic Series,” now I think it’s just “The Atlantic Championship” (a CART orphan) but was once “Formula Atlantic,” in specification and principle it’s like F3 with spec cars.

    The reason I used to enjoy it was because the crews would make very basic mistakes that made the races completely unpredictable, like, sending the driver with loose wheel lugs, or sending a car while the fuel is still filling. It’s a bit sadistic but at the time I was 13 years old.

    Mandatory pitstop windows are stupid, not just because someone should have the right to dare to run on spent tires, but you should also be allowed to change tires if you get a puncture before the “window” without being forced to stop again for no reason.

    Success ballast is stupid, not because it is unfair to the winners, but because it is a road to hell paved with a good intention. You see, ballast makes the car heavy, but it also can be used to adjust the balance of a car, and if placed strategically, it can give a tall car, like a touring car, a big advantage. If success ballast was installed in Formula 1, the ballast weight would have to be negligible because of how razor’s-edge sensitive the cars are, and I assure you, the engineers would use a weight-jacking system to create a sort of active counterweight suspension with the success ballast.

    I have nothing against the bonus point for qualifying, though I agree it doesn’t really add anything to the competition. Best qualifications would make for a good tiebreaker following the “most wins, most seconds,…” if it was ever necessary to use it. The bonus point for fastest lap, like Indianapolis’ “leading at halfway” prize, seems a bit meaningless, however. Such prizes should earn drivers and teams money but not be worth points towards the championship.

    I like the simplicity of F1’s point system as well. The only reason American series will give points to any competitors is that it serves as incentive for teams that cannot show at every race.

  9. Melanie said on 4th October 2008, 7:01

    I think people are mistaking the purpose of this idea. I think the idea is not meant to intervene with any of the normal racing or even really meant to “spice up” the show. The idea comes from FOTA not from the FIA so I don’t think it is meant to intervene with the racing.

    The idea is properly more aimed at hardcore F1 fans (to give something extra back to the fans) and perhaps more for the spectators at the track. At many races there are sometimes still very few people on Fridays, so it would perhaps also make Fridays a bit more interesting for the not so hardcore fans.

    But it might even be more interesting for the hardcore fans, we are always discussing who was really faster, tyre and fuel strategies saving the engine at the end or how well the track is rubbered in, or traffic; we are always speculating about these things. So something like this would perhaps provide us with some more definite answers. The truth of matter is even if we think it is a silly idea, I bet everyone would watch it in any case, and everyone would soon be debating that their driver has the most raw pace.

    There are perhaps better variations on the idea around(like letting the test drivers race on Fridays), but in principal I don’t think it is a bad idea.

    The fact that they are offering prize money, means that it isn’t something that should get into the way of the actual grandprix’s or even qualifying. Besides I don’t think the FIA would approve of something like that in any case.

    F1 should never even consider things likes ballast and reverse grids, things like that are just gimmicks, with different manufacturers it would be unfair to “award” mediocre type performances. Although it wouldn’t be so bad to give points for pole and for the fastest lap, many other racing series’s does this.

  10. beneboy said on 4th October 2008, 15:36

    Let’s just go all the way:

    Every driver in the top 10 has to make a pit stop in the last 10 laps.
    They get out of their cars and run around them 3 times, get back in and rejoin the race.
    No fuel can be added or tyres changed in this pit stop.

    That should let the back markers win a few.

    If any driver gets more than a 10 point advantage in the championship then they could start the next race once the field had finished their first lap.

    Or

    Get rid of most of the aerodynamic devices and give the teams some massive slick tyres instead, ban carbon brakes & give us low fuel qualifying for Q3 and let all the teams pick their fuel load before the race.

    If they really want to make us happy then let the teams innovate & don’t ban all of the new technology they develop.
    Active suspension is good racing technology, traction control is not – differentiate between the two, allow the former, ban the latter.

  11. Toby said on 6th October 2008, 8:50

    I’ve got an idea that might suit Bernie (most victories wins)and teams that never score points. How about a reverse points system for both Driver’s and Constructor’s Championships? Team and Driver with the least points at the end of the season wins. Everyone gets points (1 for the win, 20 or whatever for last), car failure is punished to the maximum, as is driver error – in fact, the points tally after Brazil really would reflect each team/driver’s season.

  12. Its Hammer time said on 6th October 2008, 12:26

    I come from the view point that to change the inherent nature of an f1 weekend is wrong. I for one not only thoroughly enjoy both qualifying and the race in current format (ITV adverts not with standing), but i could not get permission from the missus to allow any more time to be earmarked ‘motorsport’ over the weekend.

    However, fridays could be made more interesting. Indeed, Silverstone was empty on Friday this year despite ‘sold out claims at the time’ and so an effort to pep it up could increase profits.

    What about something similar to the BMW procar. At least one RACE driver from each team has to compete, Renault, Toyota, Honda or BMW could easily provide 20 identical small hot hatchbacks, fill them with cameras and micro phones so we can see and hear the drivers. Include a couple of wild card seats for ex race driver TV presenters/ up and coming GP2 stars and drop the flag. In truely equal machinery we would see how Kimi/ Alonso/ Bruno/ Sutil/ Button/ Lewis compare with each other. Could also be a useful tool for teams to assess drivers true pace. Something like a Type R or a 130 BMW. Wouldn’t cost alot comparibly, the space on the cars could be covered in sponsors to pay for it. Imagine Brundle or Coultard commentating ‘australian touring cars style’ live at the wheel of a Clio Cup 182 hussling up behind Hamilton or Heidfeld.

    There would have to be a suitable ‘carrot’ to stop them piling up in the first corner. $1,000,000 or 1WCP as inital thoughts

  13. Its Hammer time said on 6th October 2008, 12:34

    ‘There would have to be a suitable ‘carrot’ to stop them piling up in the first corner. $1,000,000 or 1WCP as inital thoughts’

    Actually, no, when i wrote this i wasn’t sure about it. If you win this race you have an additional engine change for the remainder of the year…

  14. Its Hammer time said on 6th October 2008, 12:41

    My other idea centres around ‘why-on-earth-aren’t-the- drivers-allowed-to-burnout-and-doughnut’ but i fear this will come across as a rant, so i won’t…

  15. Would there be any of this talk if cars could overtake each other more easily? Lets try less aero / more mechanical grip first and see how that goes.

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