What?s the point of Formula 1?

Is F1 in good shape - or is it falling apart?

Is F1 in good shape - or is it falling apart?

Tomorrow I?m being interviewed by BBC Radio 4 for a programme called ??What?s the point of Formula 1???

They?re keen to hear opinions from passionate F1 fans about the state of the sport. So let?s have them!

The programme will be broadcast in May. Among the topics we?re going to be covering include:

  • Whether fans enjoy the political side of the sport, or find it a distraction from the racing
  • The quality of racing in F1 compared to sports like NASCAR
  • What the appeal of Formula 1 is
  • What fans think of Max Mosley, his potential re-election, and their reaction to last year?s sadomasochism scandal
  • Whether Bernie Ecclestone is doing a good job of running the commercial side of the sport
  • Is F1 elitist ?ǣ or is exclusivity part of its appeal?
  • The importance of technology in F1

What?s your take on the state of Formula 1? Why do you follow it? Have your say in the comments and I?ll make a point of reading them al before I head of to the studio tomorrow.

I had a couple of media appearances at the end of last year on Sky News:

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97 comments on What?s the point of Formula 1?

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  1. The politics are interesting to read in between races, unless it’s really ruining the sport.

    There does need to be more overtaking, but I wouldn’t it to be too easy to overtake otherwise it loses its excitement. I prefer Football to American sports where they score constantly, a goal in football is much more exciting because its not as common. Same with the overtaking in F1.

    F1′s appeal is its cutting edge technology, with probably some of the best drivers in the world driving these machines. The use of some classic tracks also makes it more appealing.

    I think Ecclestone did a good job turning F1 into a well known sport, but he’s taking it downhill. Making a street circuit as the potential title decider is insane, imagine if last year’s Valencia GP was the title decider? Yawn. I think Monaco should stay becuase of its history, but the others are bleh.

    • Richard said on 30th March 2009, 18:52

      Melbourne is a street circuit no bleh really :)

    • Kovy said on 31st March 2009, 4:12

      Wouldn’t mind Adelaide coming back to be the title decider :)

    • Bookgrub said on 31st March 2009, 7:26

      Overtaking should have a simple metric.

      If a chasing driver can be prevented from overtaking a slower car only by dint of skilled defensive driving; and, conversely, if a defending driver cannot rely on aerodynamic effect to hold his pursuers at bay; then, and only then, is overtaking ‘right’.

    • Montreal is a street circuit too, don’t hear too many ‘bleh’s’ about that. Quite the opposite, in fact.

  2. theo said on 30th March 2009, 18:52

    technology and engineering is fascinating in F1 along with the best drivers in the world, makes it hard not to love!!

  3. Richard said on 30th March 2009, 18:54

    The fact that two drivers can go 18 great races minus a few (Valencia!!) With all the rain and controversy of last year and still finish with only 2 points between each other driving in different cars with different engines, is a testimony to the drivers, the teams and the sport

  4. Striay said on 30th March 2009, 19:03

    ECCLESTONE OUT NOW!!! New tracks are ruining the sport, as most are proving to be boring street circuits. I think Technology is very important in F1 as it gives it that extra boost of excitement (no pun intended) and it is one of the biggest helps to the car industry nowadays. F1 is the pinicle of motorsport, beats NASCAR by 10000! F1 is where all the great drivers end up where sponsers are attracted to the most.
    F1 gives job opportunities to many people. ( unless you are Brawn GP)

    Keith if there is a “credits” part say my name plz lol!!

    • Derek said on 31st March 2009, 16:25

      I agree Ecclestone should quit now. He is holding back the viewing enjoyment of Formula 1 buy not investing in High Definition TV. He has the TV rights to the sport, he should be investing in the latest technology. After all that’s what the sport is all about! He is simply creaming off all the cash.

    • Cat said on 1st April 2009, 17:42

      Ecclestone loves money. F1 is just his tool to make as much money as he can. If in the process of making his fortune he kills the sport, so be it.
      Out with Bernie, I say, and the sooner the better. Let somebody who loves the sport be in charge.

  5. I am completely addicted to F1!

    It borders on being my religion, I take it that seriously. I enjoy all aspects of the sport and specifically like all the little meticulous details! I would love to be involved in the sport in some way, and should I be lucky enough to have a child that is interested, I would probably push him to be a driver if he was good enough! The only turn offs for me are when drivers moan and lodge petty appeals, and when drivers aren’t aggressive enough.

    F1 kicks bottom over any other sport in the world and I quite honestly can’t think of anything more exciting. The appeal for me is the speed and excitement, and the unpredicability, even the best bookmakers could not predict the outcome of everything in a race. Although I was originally very sceptical about KERS I think it is very exciting in the race and Lewis proved this on Sunday!

    Mosley seems to have done alot for the sport, but sometimes interferes a little bit too much and can go to far with rule changes, his scandal last year does nothing for me and doesn’t affect F1 in anyway, as we can all do what we want with our personal lives and this was just an intrusion. I do think it is time for him to step down and somebody else to take on his role and this will progress the sport, as it needs freshening up a little.

    Bernie Ecclestone is another person I believe needs to step down, he makes the sport alot of money, but I believe he is too financially motivated to take the sport further and we need to stop losing these brilliant classic races!

    Exclusivity is definitly part of its appeal, only the best of the best should succeed and it should be hard to enter as only the deadly serious should be able to enter.

    Technology is not as important as it should be in F1 and I believe new technologies should be given alot more freedom. If somebody makes a car much faster than anybody else, it should be everybody elses job to catch up. The way they slow the sport down is understandably necessary, but KERs wouuld be tried and tested by now if they left them to it, and people would have no choice but to implement it if they wanted to stay competitive. To slow the sport down they should keep changing the rules like they do, as history as shown it brings out the best of the designers and they find new ways to go fast.

    Formula One is in a steady state but very recently they seem to be internally separating it into separate formuli with the voluntary budget cap. This, i believe needs to be rectified, and they should work with FOTA to find a unified way forwards.

  6. FuriousA83 said on 30th March 2009, 19:15

    Whether fans enjoy the political side of the sport, or find it a distraction from the racing?

    No – No – No & NO – I also watch GP2 & that does not have the media coverage (thus the political side is never explored). Do i enjoy it any less? not one bit… Do i think you can escape it in F1 which is a global sport with worldwide audiences? No.

    The quality of racing in F1 compared to sports like NASCAR

    F1′s quality of racing is derived from its worldwide aspect of the sport & teams desire to showcase their design & innovation. I like the history of the sport which was a battle of man & machine, and the tracks were designed as such. NASCAR is built to support advertising & the quality of the action is “super imposed” (for that read spec racing) or forced, which can be felt when watching. Why have 1 overtaking manovure when you can 30, 40, 50? Because the appeal, the excitement & isn’t there. Rather 1 well thought out move over a couple of laps, than 10 forced overtakes…

    What the appeal of Formula 1 is

    Best machines, with the best drivers on the best tracks

    What fans think of Max Mosley, his potential re-election, and their reaction to last year’s sadomasochism scandal

    The man has far too much power and the dictorial posistion of Bernie & himself – whilst in the past has been necessary – is now killing the sport – a few more years at this pace the fans will leave thus causing the manufactures to leave and with them the best drivers

    Whether Bernie Ecclestone is doing a good job of running the commercial side of the sport

    Too much power, too much abuse of that power, too much debt & no succesion plan….

    Is F1 elitist – or is exclusivity part of its appeal?

    I don’t understand the question – i believe the sport to be the most watched sport in the world (i am not sure if this fact or common belief?) how can it then be elitist? If there is elitisim in F1 thats only because of the cost, but that is the same as any motorsport formula

    The importance of technology in F1

    Crucial – And its crucial for the sport to continue to allow the freedom of engineers to invent ways, it is not up to the FIA to tell them what to innovate or how to i.e. KERS – only 35% of the grid using it? I think the diffuser breakthrough of the Brawn/Williams & Toyota teams is fantastic & mixes the grid, adds to the theatre and creates an enoyable race.

  7. James said on 30th March 2009, 19:21

    If you ask “what is the point in F1″ then perhaps the question should be “what is the point in sport”. Just because F1 exists in the current financial climate doesn’t mean that it should become extinct. The benefits of the technology do filter down to more every-day usages. And I don’t necessarily mean the stuff put on the cars, I also mean the processes used to create the cars; CFD, CAD etc etc.

    Mosley should not be re-elected.

    Bernie has done a good job in the past, but now is showing signs of senility, delusion and paranoia. JYS has a very interesting take on Bernie in his autobiography.

    As for a season decider on a street circuit – what about Las Vegas? I’m pretty sure that was a season decider and that was held in a car park!

  8. Daniel said on 30th March 2009, 19:27

    It is the combination of man and machine!

    Its the excitmant of the speed and the adrenaline!!

    Its not just cars going around a track 50 odd times its where you see men risk there lives to preform and do things no off could do!!

    Its the entertainment of the sport to

  9. Loki said on 30th March 2009, 19:28

    Whether fans enjoy the political side of the sport, or find it a distraction from the racing

    I enjoy a bit of controversy, and I don’t find it a distraction – if anything I find it adds to the fuel of fire. It’s good to see a driver/team block out issues they’re having to come out on top at a GP weekend, the negativity in the press or whatever, because that’s what F1 (and most other sports) entails – rising above everything else to come out on top.

    The quality of racing in F1 compared to sports like NASCAR

    I’m not a fan of NASCAR, but I watch F1 because it is the pinnacle of motorsport, and is international. True you get NASCAR type series across the world, but it’s not the same drivers or anything.

    What the appeal of Formula 1 is

    It’s hard to answer this question because there’s just too much, and everyone’s point of view will differ – some will like the noise, some will like the glamour, some will like the drivers. Personally, I like the stories of the teams and drivers, the cars, the forefront of technology and motorsport, the top echelon of drivers and teams, the passion (and frustration), and its an ever evolving sport, nothing ever stays the same. If you don’t move with the times, you get left behind, and I like how the eras of F1 reflect the era of the world at the time (mostly through technological innovation, but modernly through the economy and green issues recently as well).

    What fans think of Max Mosley, his potential re-election, and their reaction to last year’s sadomasochism scandal

    I want to see him out, but I still think that last years episode was an intrusion of privacy that should not have happened, and therefore should not have an impact on such a decision. There’s a billion other reasons for him to be out – let it be for the right decision. I don’t care what he does in his private life as long as he’s not abusing children and such like.

    Whether Bernie Ecclestone is doing a good job of running the commercial side of the sport

    No real opinion, I’m unaware of the commercial success of the sport and the amount of turnover/revenue/profit it makes – chances are he’s doing a good job of running a commercial side to it (i.e. making lots of money) because he’s always selling tracks dates to high bidders and not dishing out an appropriate amount to the teams.

    Is F1 elitist – or is exclusivity part of its appeal?

    Yes and no – yes, in the way that no one is going to get close to the experience of driving an F1 car, or being an F1 driver. No, in the sense that F1 goes around the world, and whilst it may not be the cheapest thing to attend, it’s part of what makes it accessible. I think the exclusitivity of it adds to the appeal – it’s something most of us can’t even dream of becoming a part of, in any way shape or form. In a way it’s almost perverse because it’s like flaunting this spectacular world in front of the world and making people pay for the privilege…Except, I’m not bothered by it, I love it for what it is, and I don’t care if it seems elitest or otherwise.

    The importance of technology in F1

    Extremely – when the FIA have to step in to slow the cars down because the engineers are making too many breakthroughs, it makes you wonder what a car would be like today if the restrictions were even relaxed…and how would someone drive it. The innovation in F1 is part of what the sport is about – finding solutions to make the package as efficient as possible, and doing it better than the team next to you. Every 10th, 100th, and 1000th of a second counts. Yes, it introduces controversy and upset at times, but take the recent diffuser issue for example – you have to be clever to make solutions work. It shows the out the box thinking which help make the sport what it is. It’s not only innnovation in cars, take Ferrari’s ridiculed system of pit traffic lights (something we didn’t see in Australia) – in theory, it saves time but still requires that human element. Which is another thing about F1 – regardless of the innovation, it’s about how it works with the human element. It’s like a man-machine symbiosis that lives on the edge during a race. I think people forget that just because the car’s good, it automatically means champions are made. True, the car has to be good for a driver to become champion – but it’s down to the driver to get the car across the line before everyone else.

  10. Achilles said on 30th March 2009, 19:34

    On Politics, they are an inevitable part of all activities in sport or general living, and the more popular/powerfull the bigger the politics..
    Elitist? Definitely, adds to the glamour…
    Nascar is largely an American event, F1 is global, however, unless you get some of the top Nascar drivers to swap with the F1 guys it is difficult to evaluate the quality, both are exciting visually…
    Bernies contribution to the commercial side of the sport is enormous, love him, or loathe him, his cleverness should not be underestimated…
    Max has a right to his privacy, regardless of whether you approve or not…
    The technology is a fascinating side to F1, where else would you get teams of people who would spend millions developing hub-caps…I do feel that the tech should be relevant to every day cars, if possible, pushing the envelope with aero? most of us are quite happy to drive on the base of the tunnel…
    The buzz i get from F1 is a big part of my leisuretime, subscribing to forums where like-minded people hang out gives me, and a HUGE no. of people a great deal of pleasure, this is probably my 30th year of following the sport/show, long may it continue.

  11. Luigismen said on 30th March 2009, 19:46

    I do find enjoyable all the political side between races, but it really suck when it gets too much envolved with the sport and the results of it.
    What I like about F1 is the technical side, the development of the cars, the little parts of them, how they changes between races, the competition of who makes the faster car and the regulation changes are good, they give a lot of work to the engineers so they can feel as important as the driver, and it’s coll that this year the cars look preety much differents between each other, and are all kind of close in perfomance (apart for the Brawns, but the rest will catch up)
    F1 its just great!

  12. muckymuck said on 30th March 2009, 19:47

    Politics
    I find the competition politics interesting at times(e.g. diffuser row) as there is a direct impact on how the teams respond in their racing. But the regulatory politics is more of an annoyance as the impact on the cars is far removed sometimes.

    Quality compared to NASCAR
    Before F1 I didn’t watch any motorsport. F1 appealed to me as they had the greatest technology and technical driving. Even now, I have no desire to watch NASCAR, esp. oval racing.

    Appeal of F1
    The biggest reason I avoided F1 for so long is because it was too technical and uninteresting/predictable (every time F1 news came on, Schumi was the winner). With all the controversy and unpredictability in the last couple years, it has made F1 facinating. The background of the driver/teams and rivalries are a significant part of the appeal.

    Max Mosely
    Max makes some good point (e.g. budget cuts), but how he goes about implementing his decisions is despicable. His style of going behind the back of the teams is a turn off to the sport. Some fresh blood here would be welcome.

    Bernie
    If I cared about the politics, then yes, Bernie is doing a good job running the commercial side of the business. But his suggestions/actions quite often have a negative impact on the competition and his stubborness is also a turn off.

    F1 elitist
    I think it’s part of its appeal. As a fan, I want to know all the going-ons of the teams. But not knowing exactly what Ferrari or McLaren have up their sleeve adds a mystique. Quite often the answers come in the racing, which definitely makes it more interesting.

    Technology
    Very important to F1, but a balance must be struck. I’ve come to appreciate that the fact that both driver and car needs to be at their best for a good performance. But the frustration is when there is a big deal over some small aero part (e.g. shark fins, dumbo ears).

    Technology is good to the extent there is a material impact on racing. The 09 regulations have a big impact and is easy to understand by a casual observer. The diffuser itself can be boring, but when it has such a great impact on performance it is automatically interesting. But when I hear that McLaren spent $5M on development before Brazil, that isn’t interesting as I don’t know what they worked on and the performance gain wasn’t obvious during the race. Of course, the race itself was amazing…

  13. Robert McKay said on 30th March 2009, 19:47

    Nicely done Keith, it’s good that you’re getting all this recognition for a job well done!

    To the actual question: there’s obviously many different facets of the sport that appeal, and in a way that’s why it’s so hard to govern/manage. It’s definitely true that engineering excellence, technological progress, the “scientific element” are all big factors for me. But it’s a big melting point and those things aren’t the be-all and end-all, because the human element, driver skill and bravery, the passion and history of the teams and tracks, and wheel to wheel racing are also big factors and the technology aspect can stifle that at times (e.g. launch/traction control, auto gearboxes etc.). The technology is good provided it doesn’t replace or override the driver or completely and totally determine the outcome. KERS interests me, because it keeps the driver in the loop by giving him options in how to use it. I think it’s important not to lose the human element under layers of fancy gadgets. Should F1 be entertaining for the fans? Yes. But again, should not be the sole concern above all others, as it would detract from the technical aspect, the engineering challenge and the seriousness if we had frivolous rules solely designed to appeal to people looking for a quick thrill on a Sunday afternoon.

    It’s so tricky to get the balance of all these elements – you couldn’t start a new series from scratch and get all these balanced just right, just like F1 has. It’s had to evolve over a long period of time to get to where it is today.

    The politics is in many ways annoying but I think it’s a big part of the appeal for me, oddly enough – it fleshes out the sport from just ten teams assembling for a race every other week to something much more than that, the continual struggle of the teams to outdo each other, each running as hard as they can to not be left behind by the others. The politics add to the story. GP2′s got some great racing, and often it seems better racing than F1, but it lacks the personality and dare I say it soul of F1, precisely because it doesn’t feel like there’s anything going on outside of the times they turn up to race. Maybe some prefer the lack of complications that gives and you don’t get the frustrations of theings like “diffuser-gate” or “mass-damper-gate” but those things are precisely what I think are part of Formula 1′s blood. Does it distract from the racing? It can do, yes, although I think the.

    The other thing that I like is that it’s a chance to follow an entire sport. Everybody turns up in one place – it’s not like football where there’s other teams playing in other games at other times in other places…the whole focus is boiled down into one place at one time.

    Do I think Bernie is doing a good job of running the commercial side? No, I don’t. I think he’s done a lot of what made F1 what it is today but between him and Max they’ve been in power too long and become a bit too much like that which they fought to replace with their own war against the governing body. Bernie just seems greedy now and lazy with it – if the sport wants to embrace new ideas like HD or the internet it seems that Bernie wants someone else to do it and him to take his cut from their efforts. Tracks aren’t to hold races to make profits any more, they’re supposed to be government-funded, if you listen to Bernie, even though the sport has insane amounts of money swilling round it. The sport spends too much effort and time trying to service a debt for CVC that forces it to make decisions based not what’s best for the sport, but what’s most profitable, which is not a good thing in the eyes of a fan. I’m of the opinion that it’s time Bernie and Max both retired with a sense of dignity and let some new blood come in without feeling the need to manipulate the process and groom someone to carry out the job in their image.

    Is Formula 1 elitist? Yes. It’s got to be, in a way, to be the pinnacle of the sport. Can it be too elitist? Most definitely, it can. It’s certainly off-putting for the fans, if you want to compare it to the accessibility of, say, NASCAR, who are much more proactive in appealing to the fans whereas F1 rather relies on them being fanatical enough to care come what may.

    So, to sum up – what’s F1 about? In terms of motorsport, it’s about balance I think. Other forms of motorsport might do one of the many, many facets that constitute the sport much better than Formula 1 does it. But Formula 1 gets overall balance much better. It’s not perfect, not by a long way, but as a sum of its parts it has no real rival in my view.

    • Achilles said on 1st April 2009, 8:13

      Just a thought, But I think that Bernie recognised the fact early on that F1 had to be an entertainment first, for it to succeed as a ‘sport’…He aquired the rights at a time when no-one, including the teams, were interested,his return on that investment became an envied one, and now he is pilloried because of that success. F1 is awash in money, true, that is because of Bernie, if the accountants take over will it stay that way?

  14. William said on 30th March 2009, 19:48

    I love the political side of F1, it gives me my daily fix of drama. Furthermore, the more I study the behind the scenes action the more exciting the race becomes. Example, following the demise of Honda and Brawn GP emerging in it’s place.

    I’m going to combine these into one answer, “The quality of racing in F1”, and “What the appeal of Formula 1 is”

    I live in America so people often ask me why I watch F1. I always tell people the same two reasons. The cars, and the tracks. The cars are most advances racing vehicles in existence, there design has one goal, go as fast as possible around the track. The reason I don’t like NASCAR is because the cars are not designed for racing only, they still want them to look like a street car of sorts. Open wheel is only about performance.

    Tracks, for one there is a blend of tracks. F1 has Race, Road, and Street. As opposed to Ovals(fail). Oh I’m taking a left hand turn, oh another left, oh another left. F1 tracks have excitement, I like sitting around studying the layout of these tracks; past ones, new ones, young ones, old ones. These tracks are works of art, ie. Spa, Monaco. Now, I do wish the FIA regulation were a bit more lax so we could see places like Laguna Seca, or Mountain road coarse with vicious elevation change like pike peak. But, they are a far cry from the lame ovals all over this country.

    I don’t know that much about Max, and really don’t care. I do care about what regulation the FIA put in place or take away.

    Bernie on the other hand I do have some beef with, seriously, who following the sport doesn’t. We will leave him as a person out of this, but his management style is great for making himself a lot of money, which as a businessman I can understand. Were I have problems is when his greed interferes with the vitality and path the sport takes. Im glad Bernie can negotiate his way to 50 million a race with a country dieing to get into the sport. I have problems because this leads him to demand that amounts great than profitability allows, which translates to if you government won’t pay, “expletive” you. The list is growing USA, Canada, and now Hockenhiem is having problems. So are many of the other race circuits because of the cost. The US, I understand our track sucked, but Canada has a really great circuit that we’re not seeing because the Canadians don’t have anymore lunch money to give.

    And the medal system what the heck. He is trying to cram a system down the throat of the sport it unanimously doesn’t want. His love of dictatorship reminds me fact democracy isn’t perfect but it still beats Bernie.

    The last two go together as well, The sport isn’t elitist, it’s very expensive and is very competitive. Technology is what makes F1 different it’s a sport about the team not just the driver. Engineers, mechanics, and drives all work together. If the care is stock like in A1 then there is less room for the teams to show there engineering abilities. Part of the reason the greatest car manufactures compete in this sport is to show there company has the best talent in making cars. You don’t see grand unveiling of a teams new car in nascar do you?

  15. Robert McKay said on 30th March 2009, 19:49

    Sorry, I didn’t realise that was so long, I think I got a bit of typing diarrhoea there!

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