Stop the needless rules changes

Posted on | Author Keith Collantine

Top qualifiers face a tyre choice handicap in 2010
Top qualifiers face a tyre choice handicap in 2010

It comes as no surprise to learn there are yet more changes to the F1 rules planned for this year.

Not only is a second change to the points system planned – the second in two months – but now some drivers may also be forced to start the race on the tyres they qualified on.

Will the needless meddling with the F1 rules ever stop?

The ‘top ten tyre’ rule

The latest proposed change, which will require drivers who reach the final stage of qualifying to start the race using the same set of tyres they qualify on, is particularly poorly thought-out rule.

Drivers who reach Q3 will now face a dilemma. They can qualify on the softer tyre, which will be quicker over a single lap but struggle for durability on a heavy fuel load at the start of the race. Or set a slower qualifying time on the harder tyre and be in a better position for the race.

In short, the rule makers have decided to handicap the top ten qualifiers with a compromise decision the rest of the field don’t have to make.

It is a classic piece of needless, arbitrary decision-making. Why penalise the top ten in this way? Why not the top three, or the 15 best qualifiers?

A football team that goes five goals down does not get a free penalty. They get thrashed, go home and figure out how to improve their team. In the same way anyone who qualifies outside the top ten for an F1 race should not be getting hand-outs from the rule makers, they should be building faster cars.

The new rule, proposed by the FIA’s Sporting Working Group, will be voted on at the World Motor Sports Council next week. I hope they throw it out.

“Improving the show”

I don’t believe the SWG is trying to spoil F1. And I’m grateful there is – as yet – no sign of them making matters worse by forcing drivers to make more pit stops, dishing out points for pole and fastest lap, or other such tweaks.

But I do think they need better leadership. The FIA instructed them to find a way of “improving the show” (their words, not mine) and, 41 days away from free practice one at Bahrain, their options were pretty limited.

F1 has somehow got hooked on tweaking its rules year after year. It began in 2003 when they first started fiddling with the points and the qualifying format after a particularly dull 2002 season dominated by Ferrari.

It’s as if those in charge are having a crisis of confidence about the shape the sport is in – but they needn’t worry.

This year we’ve got Michael Schumacher back in a works Mercedes, the last two world champions driving for McLaren, and Fernando Alonso back with a top team alongside the ever-improving Felipe Massa.

That’s not a show that needs improving.

Later this week FOTA is launching (another) survey of fans opinions on F1 (find it here). Among their key findings when they surveyed F1 fans last year was “F1 isn’t broken, so beware ‘over-fixing’ it” and “there is no evidence to suggest that grand prix formats need ‘tricking up’ via, for example, handicapping.”

This is clearly a message that needs repeating to the powers-that-be. So when the survey launches on Tuesday let’s give them a clear message that this endless, needless fiddling with the rules – especially handicapping the faster cars – is no good for F1.

Changing the F1 rules

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  • 108 comments on “Stop the needless rules changes”

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    1. Here, here. I completely agree.

      I’m all for taking the rules back to the 90’s!

      1. i understand this rule because what might happen is that races wont have any overtake less overtakes on the pits more on track with different tyre strategy

        1. without refueling races could be like watching a train going by different tyre strategies would make a lot of overtakes all of them on track

        2. Key words, though, being “could be” – how about waiting to see what happens before trying to make improvements when no one really knows how it’s going to pan out?

          1. Tell that to the FIA ;)

      2. Totally agree. F1 should be a SPORT, not a “show”. Qualifying should be pure qualifying, then the race should be cars racing for ~70 laps. Simple.

        1. Everything said, Kovy. Totally with you guys.

      3. David (not the same :p)
        31st January 2010, 9:36


        My God. You missed his point COMPLETELY.

    2. I remember those years when schumacher won everything, and I found it very frustrating. But why was it such a problem back then? I mean, there was a year in the late 80’s where McLaren dominated the season. And this also happens in other sports.

      1. there is a big diference between the mclaren and the ferrari dominant years. When mclaren was winning in the late eighties, there was big competition between teammates( senna and prost).During the ferrari years, schumacher made the sport boring. And todt humiliated barrichello and the fans, with the unnecessary call at austria 2002.

    3. I really hate this rule. It makes a mockery again of Q3. Yet again we potentially have a false grid and the threat of a wet race or wet qualifying makes the rule useless too.

      Stop the rules changes. I fully agree.

    4. Well said. Let’s hope the idiots listen.

      1. smart people listen. Idiots don’t. They scare me stiff.
        And thanks god briatore is gone, he wanted to make reversed grids!!! Can you imagine the poleman starting 11th?
        They made the right call, returning to the classic qualy, on low fuel, and now they plan to destroy it again.
        They are lucky they are not in a small business, it will go bankrupt in months.

        1. Big businesses go down too. Don’t you remember 2008?

          What we need is more technical freedom, not silly gimmicks.

          1. And better venues too.

    5. Wait, so what if the quali. is wet and the race is dry? or vice versa? Thats just stupid to even consider such a rule change!

    6. Comment from steph90 moved here

      1. Thanks Keith and blimey that was quick

    7. I hate all these rule changes. It doesn’t help the show and I’m going to be frank- I’d rather have a procession than some artifical overtaking. It’s just strategy all over again and I thought the refuelling was supposed to limit that element?
      The other big problem is that the rule changes can take a while to get head around and all this tinkering takes away credibility and is confusing to the casual fan. How on earth is F1 supposed to get more fans if noone can understand the rules?

      1. Yep, spot on Steph.

        As I’ve mentioned before, the FIA or the OWG or whomever do not seem to assign ‘quality’ to the overtakes. they assume the oversimplified equation applies:

        more overtakes = more ‘show.’

        Which is absolute garbage basically.

        1. Poor TV coverage is as much to blame for the “lack” of over taking. There are lots of passes in almost every race but they are often missed by the TV producers.

    8. There’s nothing wrong in changing the rules for better. Doh!
      The problem is they’re making stupid changes – for worse.

    9. I’ve said this many times before, F1 with the constant tinkering of rules is a joke. I put it on par with pro-wrestling. It’s great to watch but none of it is real. I pray that a real hi-tech racing series emerges, with stable rules that only get tinkered with to improve safety, if ever.

      F1 is a circus and a disgrace to real racing.

      1. Jesus. you are more radical than me.
        Like i wrote before. They are upseting the fan base, and that’s not smart.
        I am a fan since 1981. I saw a race a year during the 80’s and 90’s. I came back last year to see a race, and struck me to see that there was no sensation of speed, and the sound was bland. Until they don’t make those engines more powerfull, i will watch the races on tv, and go to see moto gp at the race track.

      2. Agreed. Even breathing the words “improve the show” is a direct insult to the memories of Senna, Clark, Cevert, Villeneuve, Pryce… did they give their lives for a castrated sport whose ultimate goal appears to be parity with reality TV?

        Those who utter those words, and those who fail to condemn them with every opportunity, are complicit in the rape of a hundred years of true sport.


    10. As often as not, the law of unintended consequences seems to come into play with these hastily formulated rule changes. Grooved tires, for example. They might have slowed the cars temporarily, but they reduced mechanical grip, and made the cars more reliant upon aerodynamic downforce, which in turn made overtaking all that more difficult. The best way to improve the show is to improve overtaking opportunities. The 2009 changes didn’t go far enough. By the end of this year, designers will have recovered all the downforce they lost at the beginning of 2009.

    11. This rule is meant to create an extra tactical dimension to the racing as well as potential for more overtaking. It is aimed at making it more interesting for the main F1 audience, the casual viewer, who complain about boring races and lack of overtaking. As such, it’s a great initiative from the SPW who should be commended for trying to improve the show.

      Of course the purists and avid fans aren’t interested in that, they prefer things like they were 50 years ago and I can understand how they feel. But please, for once, stop bickering.

      1. Mark Hitchcock
        30th January 2010, 18:55

        This won’t make anything more interesting for the casual fans, it just adds something extra to confuse them now that they don’t have to get their minds round refuelling.

        Finally this year we could have the fastest car/driver on pole, then all race positions changing on track rather than in pits. Perfect for the casual viewer who doesn’t want to have to read a rule book to understand what’s happening.

        1. Yes, clearly this year we could’ve seen a return to a pole position that was clearly a pole, i.e. the time of quickest guy on the track on the day. I remember watching Senna snag poles, when he was hands down the quickest. There was nothing else like it, he was a demon, especially at Monaco, where he reigned. (Interesting to note that, until Schumi, Senna was unbeatable on poles, but he was nowhere with fastest laps…he knew what counted!) Now there’s still room to fudge…er, strategize…with tires.

      2. they want to attract women as well. At valencia gp 2008, there were grid boys!!
        I will never go there, i promise. They can fill the grand stand with women, if they can.
        The engines are underpowered. They all sound the same, and never brake.
        Do you think this is going to attract people to see the show. But i can tell you is going to make the fan base upset. And that’s not a good business extrategy.
        Excuse my bickering.

    12. Yep, and Bernie is the problem here. Don’t get me wrong, I do recognise what Bernie has done to make this sport a global event that most fans have good and easy access to via TV.

      But this isn’t a Simon Cowell style TV event. It’s meant to be a sport. I don’t want competitors punished for success ‘for the show’. That isn’t sport. That’s queering the pitch.

      Want to make the ‘show’ better. Engage the fans. You have the internet. You have cameras on every car. Put us onboard. Give us camera choice. Stream the lot. Put a small and reasonable subscription price on it for this option – don’t take the basic feeds from freeview stations – that is creating your fanbase. We are fans, stop shutting us out, engage us! We ultimately are the reason you make money. I can’t see a full previous GP anywhere on the internet – not even your official site. If I try and explain to my kids how Michael and Damon were streets ahead at Adelaide, I has nothing NOTHING to back that up. Why should they care if Michael is racing again? 3 years is a long time to a kid.

      Damn this subject makes me vexed. Rant over. But Bernie, your ball, if we all ask extra nicely, can we play please!

    13. Just when I thought Q3 would be good again. This is retarted!

      1. i was drinking a few in a bar with a couple of friends, and we said the same.
        There are a bunch of guys having to show there employers that they are worth their salaries. And they are not.

    14. Very well said Keith. As I posted in the forum while it was working and as you’ve pointed out above, this is a needless and nonsensical rule which is ill thought out. I realise where they’re coming from, in terms of keeping a proper strategic element to the racing in the absence of refuelling, but this is ridiculous! I genuinely hope that this rule will be scrapped but I doubt it.
      Like you say Keith, I wish the powers that be appreciate that there is no need for constant rule changing. Afterall, when so many things are being changed at once and continuously, it becomes difficult to determine which rules are ‘improving the show’ and which ones are ruining it.

    15. If I here the words “improving the show” one more time, I will probably explode.

      Q3, once again, will have artificial results. I hope to God , this rule doesn’t make it through.

    16. I think the rule will have little impact.
      Imo most teams will figure out the best option and you’ll see little gambling going on.
      Only from P10 they do have an advantage.
      But we will see :)

      1. The thing is that on the first row you might have a guy on soft tires, that does not deserve to be on pole.
        I remember when i used to go to the races, spend the evening before the race talking obout the pole lap, and enjoying the saturday almost as much as race day. The poleman on softs will ruin that feeling.

    17. If they want to improve the show for casual fans, how about stop changing the rules? It’s a hard enough sport to follow without the constant rule changes.

      Maybe casual fans like sports such as tennis and football more because they limit the number of rules, they are clear and they don’t change them dramatically every single year.

      Imagine next Wimbledon they said “OK you have to use wooden rackets and instead of 0,15,30,40 it’s now 1,10,100,100” The sport would be a laughing stock.

      Doing more than one rule change each year also makes it impossible to see which changes have worked and which ones haven’t.

      1. Mark Hitchcock
        30th January 2010, 21:15

        And every time one player serves an ace they must play the next point with a table tennis bat.

    18. wow, every rule change seems to be an attempt to drive me away from watching.

    19. When will they leave F1 alone! They keep saying about how F1 needs stability but then they go and change the points system and qualifying. They want to bring more new fans into the sport by making it less confusing to outsiders so what do they do? try and bring in meaningless stupid rules like this one! Theyre completely contradicting themselves. I remember watching the Brazillian Grand prix with my sister who has never seen a Grand prix before and she was bombarding me with questions because she found the rules so confusing and she ended up giving up and walking away. The past couple of seasons have been fantastic, why cant they just leave it be?

    20. ‘Among their (FOTA’s) key findings when they surveyed F1 fans last year was “F1 isn’t broken, so beware ‘over-fixing’ it”’

      That is true, but I’m pretty sure there’d be a lot more people who saw F1 as ‘broken’ after the tepid, politics driven 2009 season than the riveting 2008 campaign.

      I seem to be in a small minority (a minority of 1?) of people who are in favour of this new regulation. OK, so there have been way too many daft rule changes in F1 over the past few years, but that doesn’t mean the next one isn’t going to make things better.

      Unfortunately, I don’t expect the refuelling ban to do much to improve overtaking. I fear we’ll see some pretty processional races in 2010, with cars simply circulating the track in a huge multi million pound convoy. But what this rule might do is mix up the top 10, and hopefully the drivers on the better tyres in the first stint might actually be able to overtake the cars in front.

      1. Maybe Ned, but it’s a step in the right direction. If the ban doesn’t improve overtaking, then you go to the next step, which is changing the cars.

        Of course, if it didn’t work we’d instead get some artificial new rule instead of real change. But it hasn’t even been given a chance to work yet and it’s already been changed. What then was the point of the rule change, if you’re going to effectively admit it won’t work by introducing another factor into it?

        The answer of course is that the rule was never to improve overtaking, but simply to cut costs. They don’t really care about the quality of the racing, only its apparent quality created with smoke and mirrors.

        The reason things didn’t work as well last year is that we went from a lot of aero with cars having a large range in pace to less aero but cars with less difference in pace, effectively putting us back to square one. If we had as little aero as possible, cars would have to be identical in pace for there to be no overtaking. All that will happen with this stupid new rule is that faster cars will end up, as before, behind slower cars and unable to pass them in the track.

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