Stop the needless rules changes

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

  1. SoLiD said on 30th January 2010, 19:20

    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 :)

    • 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.

  2. 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.

    • Mark Hitchcock said on 30th January 2010, 21:15

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

  3. matt90 said on 30th January 2010, 19:38

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

  4. Hazel J said on 30th January 2010, 19:38

    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?

  5. Ned Flanders said on 30th January 2010, 19:47

    ‘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.

    • Icthyes said on 30th January 2010, 20:09

      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.

  6. Icthyes said on 30th January 2010, 19:56

    More artificial nonsense. We haven’t had one race yet to see if no-refuelling will work and yet they’re already trying to “fix” it, on top of the ridiculous points change as well.

    Our beloved sport is becoming a joke. F1 will end up like a MotoGP/NASCAR hybrid in 10 years or less at this rate. Relative stability with minor changes over 50 years, and now suddenly all the need for comparatively massive change. The biggest joke is that these changes will make the show worse; the casual fans will be confused, and the hardcore fans will know it’s fake. If moaners want lots of overtaking at any price, they can go watch an inferior series. F1 became the pinnacle of motorsports without this rubbish, it has never needed it and never will.

    All this nonsense, and it could all be fixed instead by changing the cars, and yet we have to have all this artificial rubbish instead. Why? Are the teams in on this? Why is there such resistance to changing the aero rules, and who else could be so invested in keeping the ridiculous aero-mech grip ratio, so that you can dominate simply by perfecting the former and oreventing others from catching up by having the best aerodynamicists and keeping them away from the other teams?

    If the teams have any integrity, they’ll plan a seperate series for 2012 and use it to ransom the FIA and Bernie into changing things to move F1 in the right direction. If they allow things to keep going this way, then they can go and rot with the rest of the corpse that F1 will become.

    • CounterStrike said on 30th January 2010, 20:08

      If the teams have any integrity, they’ll plan a seperate series for 2012 and use it to ransom the FIA and Bernie into changing things to move F1 in the right direction.

      They had their golden chance last year, but LDM’s poor leadership qualities let FOTA down.

      As F1 oldest & most celebrated team it is Ferrari that must lead the way forward, but they seem to have their mind set on petty things like “interpretation of diffuser rules” and other trivial things.

      Surely the FIA & Mosley’s puppet will make use of this diffuser saga to split up FOTA.Hope Ferrari see reason before they decide to join hands with the cunning FIA.

      • A FOTA ‘spendathon’ would now include which teams?

        Ferrari and Mercedes line up on the grid at God-knows-where, and then what?

        I can’t imagine why Todt or the FIA or anyone else would want to split up FOTA when they managed it all by themselves and now it’s made up of two manufacturer teams and eleven independent teams.

  7. As I was saying to a friend at work today, F1 is supposed to be the pinnacle of motorsports, where only the best should expect to compete and only the absolute greatest should expect to be successful.

    The less rules, the better I say.

    • There should just be ‘one’ rule for the teams that says you are only allowed to spend this much money, and that would then simplify all the rules on the track.

      No one should be at a disadvantage because they have the brains but not the money. Unless of course you think that the greatest should have more money?

      • Salty said on 30th January 2010, 22:32

        The budget rule is the hardest to enforce, pretty much unenforcable infact.

        Accounting an independant like Williams is fairly simple. Beans in, beans out, plus sponsor support, such as HP providing computer resource and condiments at corporate events.

        How does the FIA impose an ‘access all areas’ on the finances of Mercedes to ensure there is no leakage of finance or intellect into the team from corporate Merc? FIA does not have any right to march in and investigate the finances or business of any company it fancies.

        FIA is an independant governing body, a sporting club if you like, but as such, holds no legal power whatsoever. That was what made Flavio’s recent court win such a cakewalk.

        Anyway, point is, budget cap is not truly enforcable. I agree that greater flexibility is required. But if the want to green up the sport, set them 3 years to develop a new bio-supportable fuel standard to race with. Set the parameters now, not 2 months before the first race. Would love to see the result and it would turn F1 back toward what it always did best, developing new tech.

  8. “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.”

    Actually, like me, they probably wonder why it is that so much money is allowed to be poured into so few teams in what should otherwise be a fairly ‘basic’ sport.

  9. Brian said on 30th January 2010, 20:22

    UGH!!! They are supposed to be racing drivers, so let them race, that would be the most exciting thing that could happen.

    • But they are racing in unequal cars, which is hardly fair is it. ;)

      FOTA are doing their damndest to try and instill a bit of excitement into the proceedings and all we can do is pull them down for it and then no doubt moan about the lack of overtaking and so-and-so is only winning because he’s in the best car and how much better it would have been if only the cars at the front weren’t always the same colour.

      • Jarred Walmsley said on 30th January 2010, 23:51

        But that is just it, the rules are the same for everyone the 2010 championship effectively started before the 2009 one was over with development. If the cars were equal then there would be no need for the teams like Ferrari and Mercedes, anyway truly equal cars would require identical chassis/body/engine/tires/etc… and that takes even more excitment away, and anyway the best car isn’t always the one on top as was proven when Fischella took pole in a FI, and the rules FOTA/FIA are tying to install is not making the game more exciting. on the contrary it will be less exciting if many of the proposed rule changes are put in place.

  10. Bottom qualifiers face handicap of poor car in qualifying.

    MS: Damn, I now have to start zer race on zer soft tyre.

    JT: Damn, I now have to start zer race in a Lotus.

    I know which ‘choice’ I’d rather have.

  11. Pingguest said on 30th January 2010, 20:48

    Indeed the rules shouldn’t be changed needless. But I’d go even further: stop trying to artificially ‘spice up’ the racing!

  12. Totally agree with the article, I get annoyed when the powers that be keep talking about improving the show, not just because I dislike the phrase but what they usually mean is introducing stupid gimmicks which F1 doesn’t need.

    I thought we would see the return of proper qualifying but if the top ten tyre rule is introduced we will have a similar situation to recent years where you could argue that the driver on pole was not the quickest because of another driver’s handicap.

    • They would all be allowed to set a fastest lap on both the soft and the hard tyre. I can’t see why it’s not possible to decide from that who went quickest in qualifying.

      It may also be that a driver decides that his quickest time on the hard tyre isn’t much worse than his quickest time on the soft tyre, so he then starts the race on the hard tyre.

      It may also be that the hard tyre is faster than the soft tyre. It may also be that there is very little between the two tyres. It may also be that I haven’t got a clue what I’m talking about.LOL

  13. sumedh said on 30th January 2010, 20:54

    I am going to be in minority here. But strategy is one of the few aspects of Formula One which make it a team sport. If there was no strategy, the rest of the team can just work in the winter and bide their time in garages during the season where only the driver matters.

    It is good to have some guessing work between Saturday and Sunday.

    About the fascination about “Overtaking on track”, If it has not been happening over the last few years (when the average level of drivers has gone up), then it is possibly down to the cars being extremely difficult to follow each other rather than drivers waiting for pitstops.

    Re-fuelling was last used in early 1990s, when cars were much simpler, and the grid was spaced out by atleast 5 seconds, thus allowing easier overtaking. Fast forward to 2010, the cars are complex, hence faster, hence the grid is spaced out by less than 1.5 seconds. Rules have to be made to help overtaking. Keeping the strategy element is the key to this.

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 30th January 2010, 23:31

      Without this rule, strategy would still be important – drivers would still have to choose which type of tyres to use and when.

      This rule isn’t about strategy. It’s about artificially holding back the fastest runners and finding a contrived way of jumbling up the order.

  14. Keith, can you send this to the people in charge?

  15. Prisoner Monkeys said on 30th January 2010, 22:44

    I don’t really have a problem with the rule changes, because I can see where they’re coming from and why they’re hppening.

    The 2009 regulations were intended to bring the cars closer together and promote overtaking. And for the most part, that worked, at least in the early races. But then it was found that there was a loophole in the regulations and double diffusers allowed more downforce, and as everyone deeloped their own – and even went so far as to design triple diffusers – there was less and less overtaking. And, as has been said, some of the teams have “extreme” interpretations of the diffuser rules, which sre only going to generate more downforce and make it harder for cars to overtake.

    Double diffusers will be banned for 2011, but that still leaves the problem of 2010. I’ve heard reports that the cars will be developing more downforce than they were in 2008 by the middle of this season, thus undoing all the work that the Overtaking Working Group did. So in the meantime, the sport needs to find a way to promote overtaking, even if it is through artifically stacking the grid.

    I’m afraid we’re not going to be free of rule changes until there can be a paradigm shift within the sport. Once the focus moves from aerodynamic to mechanical grip and the cars can actually get close to one another (much less pass each other), the rules are going to be amended and updated to try and encourage overtaking. The only real positive in all of this is that even if the rule changes fail, at least the Powers That Be are trying to encourage overtaking. Unfortunately given the cold war between designers and the rule setters, the casr are constantly going to be on the edge of the rules because designers know that more downforce equals more aerodynamic grip, which equals a faster car. They will always be exploiting rules and pushing the boundaries, even if you went so far as to ban wings outright.

    The problem isn’t the rule changes – it’s the designers and aerodynamics.

    • Salty said on 30th January 2010, 23:20

      Can’t agree there is a ‘cold war’ between designers and rule setters. Once the rules are layed out, it is a designers job to work within those rules to produce the best car they can. Yes the cars should be constantly on the edge of those rules if that provides the fastest car. If that weren’t true, you would have a standardised series with no innovation, no progress and, bluntly, not F1.

      Innovation and design excellence in F1 have lead to a lot of the tech on modern street cars. And the point of F1 should surely be about being the cutting edge of motor sport, not just very fast carting.

      The problem isn’t the designers. The problem is the stifling of the designers.

      • Prisoner Monkeys said on 31st January 2010, 2:39

        If you let the designers do what they want, we’ll just have a re-run of 2004, and no-one wants that.

        • 2004? Not sure about that.

          Salty is right and this proposed rule change is bs. Downforce doesn’t automatically make overtaking harder. Aero is here to stay so you may as well accept it.

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