The FIA wants to “improve the show”. Here’s how to get it right (and wrong)

The pit-to-car radio broadcasts are great - let's hear some more

The pit-to-car radio broadcasts are great - let's hear some more

Last year the FIA announced:

A mandate has been given to the F1 Sporting Working Group to develop detailed proposals to improve the show. The Working Group will meet in January and make recommendations for the World Motor Sport Council to consider in advance of the 2010 F1 season.

We’ve seen a lot of positive changes made to F1 in recent years – the banning of traction control and the return of slick tyres, for example. But sometimes the FIA gets it badly wrong – who remembers aggregate qualifying?

Here’s some simple changes they could make to improve the show in 2010 – and a few mistakes they need to avoid:

Let more people watch it

For all the talk of ‘improving the show’ there’s too little discussion of the fundamental problem that not everyone can watch it.

Here in Britain we’re fortunate to have BBC’s excellent coverage. But join the F1 Fanatic live blogs during any session and there are always fans from parts of the world where F1 isn’t broadcast live, looking for video streams.

Why isn’t FOA supplying a video stream for these dedicated fans who are trying to follow a sport in a country where it isn’t even shown live? A commentary-free pictures-and-sound version on F1.com, supplied only in regions which don’t have live television coverage for a particular session, offered for a fair price, could bolster F1’s popularity and bring in revenue.

Let people watch it in HD

There are many ways FOA’s outdated broadcasts could be brought up to scratch to improve the show. High definition coverage is the least of them, especially considering the 2010 football world cup will be shown in 3D.

In a similar vein, we’re starting to see too much of FOA’s best material held back from the live broadcast and kept for the end-of-season DVD review.

Use more team radio

Getting all the teams to agree to have their pit-to-car-radio communcations broadcast was an important step forward for the quality of F1 broadcasts.

Many of the most memorable moments of 2009 were framed by quotes from the radio: Jenson Button’s “monster of a car” at Istanbul which a few races later he complained was “terrible”, Rob Smedley telling “Felipe baby” to “be cool” and Mark Webber slating Kimi Raikkonen for holding him up in qualifying at Silverstone.

But it’s still used very sparingly. Watch an Indy Car or NASCAR race and the chatter from the pits is almost uninterrupted in the background.

We need to hear more from the radios. And why not let fans subscribe to their favourite drivers’ broadcasts on the internet? That way they could hear them in real time and uncensored.

Drop the compulsory tyre change

Let drivers pit as much or as little as they want to increase variety

Let drivers pit as much or as little as they want to increase variety

As discussed here recently, the banning of refuelling opens up opportunities for interesting strategy variations creating more interesting races. But the compulsory tyre change rule introduced in 2007 will work against this if it is not removed.

At the moment drivers are required to use both types of tyres at least once during a dry race. By removing that requirement drivers will be free to approach the race in different ways. One might use a softer, quicker tyres but make two pit stops for fresh rubber. Another might bolt on harder tyres and try to get through with one stop or none at all.

That variety will produce more interesting and exciting races – like the thrilling battle between Nigel Mansell and Nelson Piquet at Silverstone in 1987.

Read more: 14 reasons to love the F1 refuelling ban

Keep working on the cars

One of the most important avenues the teams and FIA must work on is how the cars can be modified to allow them to follow each other more closely. The 2009 rules changes made some progress here, but much of it was undone when ‘double diffusers’ were declared legal.

In the Indy Racing League a lack of passing last season was quickly remedied by some changes to the cars. It’s much easier for the IRL to address this sort of thing because all the cars are the same specification. And with the F1 teams just weeks away from launching their 2010 cars it’s too late now for any significant changes to the technical rules.

But we can’t ignore the fact that the design of the cars has a serious effect on how closely they can follow each other. If that’s going to be improved, the FIA needs to look at long-term changes as well as quick fixes it can make in the next two months.

Don’t overlook the world champion

Give the world champions a proper post-race celebration

Give the world champions a proper post-race celebration

Jenson Button came home in fifth place to secure the world championship at Interlagos. The official podium ceremony went on as usual to celebrate the race winner, while completely ignoring the fact that the championship had been won.

Why ignore the new world champion until the official end-of-season FIA prizegiving – which gets far less media attention than the championship-deciding title race?

Bring back Friday test drivers

Third drivers get hardly any opportunities for testing these days, so let them have some track time on Fridays. It’s good for them and good for the fans.

…and how to mess it up

With only 67 days until the first practice session at Bahrain there is little time for the FIA to make major changes to things like car design. Whatever innovations are introduced are likely to be cosmetic.

The danger is they might rush into unnecessary changes to the race weekend format which will leave us with some dreadful error – like the terrible aggregate qualifying which was introduced and then quickly dropped in 2005.

The worst thing they could do would be to introduce some of these flawed ideas seen in other racing categories:

Point for pole position – Offering extra points for anything other than where a driver finishes in a race would make things more complicated rather than exciting. Pole position already gives a driver the significant advantage of starting in frotn of everyone, so why increase its value? This would only open up the possibility for the championship to be decided during a qualifying session, when far fewer people are watching, which is no good for “the show”.

Point for fastest lap – Cue arguments over whether a fastest lap was set while a yellow flag was out. A dispute over exactly that handed Lewis Hamilton the 2006 GP2 title after the race had finished.

Success ballast – Making the winner of the previous race carry extra weight is fundamentally opposed to the spirit of racing – it’s a disgrace to see it happen even in touring car racing. Also, it would pretty much guarantee the world championship being decided by a battle in the lowest reaches of the points.

More mandatory pit stops – As described earlier, making drivers pit two or three times would remove any potential for variation in strategy and scupper many of the benefits of the refuelling ban.

Reverse grids – Normal qualifying can be relied upon to throw up an unusual grid and an exciting race once in a while. But if every race started with the quickest cars at the back the novelty would wear off quickly.

For more on why these favoured methods of ‘improving the show’ would only cause more problems, see here: Four mistakes F1 must avoid

How would you “improve the show”? Does the show need improving? Leave a comment below.

Images (C) Red Bull/Getty Images, Renault/LAT, Brawn GP

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99 comments on The FIA wants to “improve the show”. Here’s how to get it right (and wrong)

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  1. Kovy said on 4th January 2010, 8:01

    It’s not that broken, it doesn’t need fixing. They need to avoid regulating everything, e.g. mandating 2 required pit stops. F1 is the most watched sport outside of the Olympics and World Cup, it can’t be that bad.

    Shortening races is an idea that I think is personally terrible, but it’s been thrown up a few times. Points for pole is stupid too, I want to see championships decided in races. I say that aero should be cut by at leas 90%. We all know that teams will claw back half of it anyway.

    • Hakka said on 4th January 2010, 15:11

      It’s not that broken, it doesn’t need fixing.

      Exactly. In fact, I think stability in the rules is the most important aspect of all.

      Lay down sensible rules, stick to them, and let the teams innovate. Given enough time, designers will automatically gravitate towards car that can follow and pass without being too sensitive to turbulence – the incentives already exist for that.

      Plus, there’s something that just feels wrong about a sport that needs to keep changing it’s rules. Tennis, for example, has remained roughly the same for centuries.

  2. sw6569 said on 4th January 2010, 8:12

    Get rid of the compulsory tyre rule and bring back nice hard tyres.

  3. David said on 4th January 2010, 8:15

    I totally agree.
    By a concept point of view I think that the right strategy is technical. Find a way to allow cars to follow each other more closely, and that’s all. Please remove all rules like mandatory pit stops (refuelling ban is the very best starting point there), mandatory tyre change, strange qualification rules, grid penalties…just flat out and go until the car works, no other machiavellian stuff.

  4. In my view, just racing is the show. Don’t mess with it: F1 is not NASCAR, and it’s not endurance racing, either.

  5. Prisoner Monkeys said on 4th January 2010, 8:45

    Going off in a completely different direction here: what about modelling it after tennis (at least in part)?

    Pick four events throughout the season and give them “Grand Slam” status. Normal races are three hundred kilometres; Grand Slams could be upped to four hundred or four-fifty. The points could also be doubled in value. The idea would be to single out a handful of races – like at Monaco – and up the prestige factor. It does do it a little artificially by giving more incentive for the drivers to win, but the idea is to make these the biggest events, the most prestigious race of the season. You could have the Asian Grand Slam at Suzuka, the Grand Slam of the Americas somewhere in North America, the Grand Slam Australasia in Australia and the European Grand Slam in Monte Carlo.

    Another idea I’ve had would be to bring back third drivers and open up two or four extra grid spaces a weekend. The role of a third driver could only be filled by a rookie. On Fridays, they would have their own testing sessions separate from the main drivers. Then, on Saturdays, they would practice with the main crowd. However, the Saturday session would also be a mini-qualifying event for the rookie drivers with the two or four fastest (depending on how many teams enter third cars) being accepted to qualifying proper and the race. It would be a great way to showcase new talent without the pressures of a full-time drive, and a mini-championship could be made for it with points awarded to the best-placed rookie in each race (eve if they all retire). And the teams would not be obligated to run the same rookie driver all the time. The rules would state that the drivers have to have no Grand Prix starts before their first rookie race, and that they could not be pay drivers – they’d have to be accepted on the basis of their driving abilities alone.

    • HounslowBusGarage said on 4th January 2010, 9:00

      @ PM.
      How would the third-car idea for rookies work in terms of Constructor points and on-track blocking of competitors?

      On the basis that the start of a Grand Prix is often the most exciting bit, is there an argument for introducing two or three shorter ‘sprint’ races over some weekends in the same manner as Australian Touring Cars?

      • Prisoner Monkeys said on 4th January 2010, 9:18

        How would the third-car idea for rookies work in terms of Constructor points and on-track blocking of competitors?

        They’d be inelgigible for constructor and normal drivers’ points. The only points they could score would be rookie points. As for on-track blocking, I’d say their radio transmissions between team and driver would have to be fully disclosed to the stewards. There would only be one channel available for communicating to prevent the teams using a secure line.

        On the basis that the start of a Grand Prix is often the most exciting bit, is there an argument for introducing two or three shorter ’sprint’ races over some weekends in the same manner as Australian Touring Cars?

        No, I think that would just confuse things. It should just be a single race for simplicity’s sake.

      • thestig84 said on 4th January 2010, 9:24

        Shorter races are a horrible idea. Its Grand Prix not Sprint Prix. I love sitting down for the best part of Sunday to unfold bit by bit before me.

        If people like lots of starts then go and enjoy touring cars where they are devalued to the point of not even being that interesting. Grand Prix starts are so exciting because there are only 17-19 of them. Make the 40 odd and they loose all that excitement.

        Keith, great ideas on how to improve it. Hope the big wigs read your site!! The how to mess it up is pretty scary reading though, lets hope we never see those ideas mentioned again.

      • Terry Fabulous said on 4th January 2010, 10:58

        Yes Yes Yes! Great Idea P. Monkey.

        Why not make one race for the year a six hour affair that requires two drivers per car? Each team would have to bring up to speed two reserve drivers to team up with the main drivers.

        It could be at Suzuka, The Japanese racing fans have a long tradition of supporting endurance racing (I think that there was a six hour 500cc motor cycle race a few years back)

    • LewisC said on 4th January 2010, 10:30

      I like the Slam idea. It’s a bit artificial, but could be used to give extra cachet to the ‘driver’s circuits’ – I’d pick Suzuka, Monaco, Silverstone, Monza and Interlagos.

    • Ned Flanders said on 4th January 2010, 12:27

      I like the Grand Slam idea, although it would take time to give certain events an artificial prestige.

      I had a similar idea a few weeks ago- declare champions for each of the F1 ‘tours’- eg the champion for the first 4 fly aways in Australia and Asia, the first European leg, the second European leg (after Canada), and the Asian/ South American fly aways at the end of the season. Could be a nice novelty

        • wasiF1 said on 4th January 2010, 14:44

          I hope the FIA is not planning to shorten the race distance.

          • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 4th January 2010, 14:50

            The teams will have already designed the size of their fuel tanks to cover 200 miles, so they certainly can’t increase them. They could decrease them but it might be seen as giving an advantage to teams with thirstier engines (who have to carry more fuel which would put them at a disadvantage).

  6. Owen G said on 4th January 2010, 9:08

    One way to improve “the show” is for the FIA to stop referring to it as “the show”.

    It’s a sport. Not WWF.

    • Thank you, I was just about to say that. We don’t need artificial excitement and spectacular showmanship. What we need is racing, and if the racing is good, the viewers will come from themselves and the “show” will be improved.

    • Ned Flanders said on 4th January 2010, 12:30

      Agreed- but if they can make things more exciting without making too many artifical changes than they should do

  7. roberttty said on 4th January 2010, 9:44

    I still cannot understand why they declared the double diffuser legal. Aerodynamics spoil the show.

    • Prisoner Monkeys said on 4th January 2010, 11:07

      Itwas decalred legal because it wasn’t in violation of the rules. The rules forbade diffusers with holes in them, but Brawn, Williams and Toyota found a way around that by making their diffusers out of two separate pieces and bringing them together, which wasn’t banned in the rules.

      And besides, not banning the diffusers was one of the best things the sport has seen in years. It allowed Brawn to stay competitive – though their speed was not solely a product of the diffuser – and break the Big Four stranglehold on the titles. It was the first time since the 1980s that a driver for a team other than Ferrari, McLaren, Williams or Renault won a drivers’ title (Bennetton being an incarnation of Renault), and the first time since the 1970s that a team outside the Ferrari, McLaren, Williams and Renault club won a constuctors’ title.

      Why wuld you want to take that away?

      • Adrian said on 4th January 2010, 13:22

        I understand why they were allowed in 2009…

        What I don’t understand is why they weren’t banned for the 2010 season…they saw many of the ways that teams clawed back the lost downforce in 2009…why not close the loop holes in the rules and try and maintain the good work that the OWG seemed to have done…

      • Why wuld you want to take that away?

        Because it made it really hard for the majority of the cars to follow close to the car in front. The drivers have said themselves that the diffusers are the problem. At Melbourne they could follow so much closer and overtake easier, as more teams introduced the double decker diffuser this disappeared.

        Agreed it did make this season more interesting as the teams lagging at the start of the season improved as the season went on. And it would have been unfair to punish the teams that had made use of the diffuser. However, why not close the loophole for next year so that the cars have less downforce, less dirty air and therefore hopefully more overtaking :)

      • Benetton won with Ford engines also. That list should be Ferrari, McLaren, Williams, Renault and Benetton.

        Why would you want to take that away?

        Because it ruined overtaking.

  8. Bartholomew said on 4th January 2010, 9:59

    Limit on the size of standart steel brakes ( smaller )
    Get rid of compulsory tyre change
    More work to lessen the influence of aerodynamics

  9. Icthyes said on 4th January 2010, 10:01

    I agree with pretty much everything in the article. The one thing I’m not too sure about is getting rid of the two-compound rule. It’s silly, but it’s also a leveller; some drivers can make their softs last but have trouble heating their hards, whilst imothers wear out their softs too quickly. Thing is, it doesn’t always work that way, as sometimes – like in Bahrain – thete’s a massive pace difference between tyres regardless of the driving style. Also, the benefits brought by the rule – a driver on the better tyre catching up to someone on the worse tyre in the final stint – will come abot from the new fuel rules anyway, with drivers on fresh rubber trying to catch those on knackered tyres.

    Looking at it that way, it’s time to get rid of the rule, but only if it the compounds themselves are properly weighted, e.g a choice between a compound that lasts a third, two-thirds, or three-quarters of the race. Strategies could then be worked out accordingly and evolve during the race according to circumstances. I think if you just gave them the same compound or two fairly similar ones it might favour some drivers over others.

  10. Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 4th January 2010, 10:06

    Joe Saward reckons the new points system will get another change:

    http://joesaward.wordpress.com/2010/01/04/another-change-coming-for-the-f1-points-system/

    At the very least they need to fix the seventh place problem, but I hope they increase the value of a win too.

    • Joe also says that the most likely change is to add points for pole and fastest lap, which is worrying. That sort of thing is for touring cars.

      I think the points system is fine as it is – winning is its own reward.

    • I hate the new points system.

  11. adaptalis said on 4th January 2010, 10:15

    Off topic, but regarding “Don’t Overlook the World Champion”, i kinda felt shortchanged for Mark Webber who won Interlagos 09. Can’t speak for the other broadcasters, but Starsports were only interested in Button at that time. There’s only like a short glimpse of the actual podium.

    In the same note that we shouldn’t overlook the world champions, we shouldn’t overlook race winners too.

    On topic though, if football can have trophy presentation the moment champions are mathematically decided, and telecast extended for that 15 – 30min, F1 should do it too. After all, its not like they need to have buffers all the way back to the last 4 – 5 races of the season just in case it gets decided then. Its maybe the last 2 or 3 where max of 20 or 30 points can still be won. This way, we can actually see a bit of the celebrations of the newly crowned champions.

    Medals for the pit crew, maybe?

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 4th January 2010, 10:18

      If football can have trophy presentation the moment champions are mathematically decided, and telecast extended for that 15 – 30min, F1 should do it too. After all, its not like they need to have buffers all the way back to the last 4 – 5 races of the season just in case it gets decided then. Its maybe the last 2 or 3 where max of 20 or 30 points can still be won. This way, we can actually see a bit of the celebrations of the newly crowned champions.

      That’s exactly what I’m talking about. By all means keep the podium ceremony but let’s have something official for the champion too.

      • Pedro Andrade said on 4th January 2010, 11:17

        I actually disagree with you here Keith. Though it is nice to see a champion celebrating in the podium, I think there’s a special feel in seeing him partying with the mechanics and all sorts of unknown people in the middle of the garage. Making a special podium just for him and Jean Todt to be there would make it seem very desolated.

        Speaking of football, when a team won a cup they used to go to the top of the stadium, where the president/queen/whoever used to present the trophy, and by doing that they would be passing through the fans, and celebrating near them. More recently, the trophies have been handed in a special-made podium in the middle of the field, away from the fans, where only the winning team and the black suited politicians were. Thankfully the trend is reversing.

      • Pedro Andrade said on 4th January 2010, 11:18

        Oh, but I do agree with handing him the championship trophy on the spot, not waiting until the “gala”.

      • Matt said on 6th January 2010, 3:49

        Have the normal podium for the placegetters in the current race with champagne spraying and photos, then those drivers step to the side…
        Up gets the new world champion driver and representative from his team to receive the world championship trophy (and drivers on the side get fresh champagne to spray them with)…
        Done.

  12. Jonesracing82 said on 4th January 2010, 10:16

    well for a start, allowing the double diffuser killed all the work the OWG did in making the cars racable, which is what they had done, see 1st 3 races of ’09 before they were legal!
    i dont really agree with the grand slam idea, tho the way things r going, there wont be any “gandee” events left as we r going to al these new markets with little or no history/interest in motorsport whatsover, just look at the turkish GP!
    i also agree that the tyre change rule should go, have the 2 compounds available and let the teams do as they please, if u think about it, the iudea of a car on used tyres being caught by a car on newer tyres in the last 10-15 laps an exciting prospect!
    another idea, stop penalising drivers for collisions, as this is a deterrant, if it’s a deliberate/stupid act then by all means, but this is F1 with (supposedly) the best drivers in the world and we want to see them “race” each other.
    2 things i’d love to see return, “H” p[attern gearboxes and big fat 70’s-80’s style rear tyres that allowed the cars to powerslide! to me, it’s a crying shame i have to watch the old season reviews to see this kind of action, these days IMO the cars r too easy to drive and compared to the older cars from the “powerslide” era, they appear as if they are on rails.
    the FIA go on and on about “road relevance” to which aerodynamics has none at all.
    and with the front wings, y alow “flip ups” on there and the “wing mounts” in front of the sidepods, isnt this the very thing they outlawed at the start of the year?

  13. Jonesracing82 said on 4th January 2010, 10:19

    P.S y not let the winning driver do burnouts on the slowdown lap, i know F1 isnt nascar but seeing the winner crawl around the slow down lap then simply dissapear as a bit of an anti-climax, not one fan would complain!

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 4th January 2010, 10:21

      Let the winning driver do burnouts on the slowdown lap

      Definitely – great idea.

      • Woffin said on 4th January 2010, 11:43

        Something Ive always said for ages is that the cars should be weighed straight after the finish, and THEN do their slowdown lap to park the car. That way, you’re not gonna get disqualified by being underweight after you’ve deposited half your tyres infront of the nearest grandstand.

    • yes yes and yes. Those are rules for rules sake. Another point happening doughnuts is also engine rules. You don’t want to use up your engine revving it up. Last year motogp introduced rules for engines to last multiple races with the result that donuts were out. I mean look at their celebrations. Rossi jumps off his bike, over a barrier and into a portaloo- classic. Fans embrace him, give him t-shitrs, let alone indy, nascar etc. F1 can be too boring and staid at times.

    • Matt said on 6th January 2010, 4:20

      Exactly, let ‘em go nuts to celebrate. Find me one person trackside who wouldn’t be loving it :)

  14. David said on 4th January 2010, 10:28

    I would ban wings at all.

  15. James said on 4th January 2010, 10:36

    How would I improve the show? Bring back refuelling, but not the rule which meant the FIA posted car weights.

    Not knowing which driver on which strategy improved the show for me. It made me want to keep watching. i.e. Why was driver A going so slow during qualifying when we know he is one of the fastest on the grid? We then see during the race he was fueled much further than everyone else, and goes onto win the race.

    Or, how on earth did driver B qualify there? He must be bone dry on fuel! And as it turns out, driver B has a respectable fuel load and is just in good form.

    The qualifying show just wont be the same. The last session of qualifying was really exciting at every race last year, this year I can’t see that being the case as we know that each car will only have a coke can’s worth of fuel on board.

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 4th January 2010, 10:42

      The qualifying show just wont be the same

      I think it’ll be much better because we’ll know every driver qualified where they did on merit. If a driver is half a second and ten places behind his team mate he’ll have some explaining to do.

      What the driver can do behind the wheel is far more interesting to me than how much fuel he’s got in the tank.

      • Terry Fabulous said on 4th January 2010, 11:08

        Great article Keith, spot on.

        Also, I love the fact that you are fighting the good fight for low fuel qualifying.

        I have given up and am just licking my lips in anticipation for the first Qualifying session from Bahrain when the only sound to be heard from the naysayers will be socks being blown off.

      • James said on 4th January 2010, 19:11

        I’ll agree that driver skill critical, but often fuel strategy has been required in the past few seasons as certain cars “dislike” certain circuits, for example, the Brawn car didn’t like the cooler/cold European tracks this year, but the Red Bull’s were happy about it. So, it took immense driver skill for Jenson and Rubens to get the cars to where they were in said races. Had the job been given to more medicore drivers such as Nakajima or Grosjean, they would have struggled full stop.

        I’ll agree that driver skill is defintely shown up when the field is levelled. The feeder series for the BTCC shows this quite evidently (Ginetta Juniors, Ginetta G50s, Renault Clio Cup, Formula Renault and Porsche Carerra). The point here is that these feeder series are lower formula. Part of their ethos is to find the tallent in the field, so they can advance to a higher level. Formula One does not have the same level playing field these series show.

        Fuel strategy showed us which drivers were the best, and which teams. There was a bigger emphasis on driver and teamwork. Think Hamilton and Mclaren, Think Alonso and Reanult, Schumacher and Ferrari, Hakkinen and Mclaren. These drivers were at the top of their game in the car as individuals, but all would have been nowhere without the work of the team behind them.

        The only way we’re gonna see which driver is the best on the grid is if Formula One becomes a single engine supplier form of racing, and that isn’t what Formula One is about… is it?

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