Bringing back refuelling will not solve F1′s overtaking problem

The first race of 2010 was a processional affair

The first race of 2010 was a processional affair

After months of anticipation and despite a mouth-watering line-up of teams and drivers, not to mention the biggest grid in 15 years, the Bahrain Grand Prix was a damp squib. And that’s putting it politely.

But the F1 community – be it the fans, the teams or the rule makers – should not be too hasty to jump to conclusions after just one race.

And blaming the refuelling ban for yesterday’s uninspiring race would overlook more serious problems with competition in F1 that need to be fixed.

Long-time readers of this site will know I never had much time for F1′s refuelling era and was glad to see it dropped. Artificial jumbling of the running order holds no excitement for me.

I enjoy proper wheel-to-wheel racing. Genuine passes for position on the track and robust defensive driving. Neither of which we saw much of yesterday – or in quite a few races last year for that matter.

Blaming the refuelling ban for the lack of overtaking yesterday is a simplistic, knee-jerk reaction to a problem which has been around much longer and whose roots are more complicated.

Cars

Over the winter the designers were left free to push the development of their cars’ aerodynamics without new restrictions. And, as has always been the case when they’re allowed to do that, the cars now produce more downforce and so are more sensitive to running in the air of a leading car.

That much was clear in the opening stages of yesterday’s race when Lewis Hamilton was unable to get within half a second of Nico Rosberg despite having a car that was up to a second faster per lap in clean air and the fastest in a straight line.

The improved aerodynamic performance of this year’s cars has been accompanied by a reduction in mechanical grip due to the narrower front tyres. The balance of the cars’ performance has shifted away from mechanical grip – which is not impaired by running behind another car – to aerodynamic downforce – which is impaired by running behind another car.

But it’s not just aerodynamics which has made it harder for one F1 car to follow another closely.

Running in the hot air of another car causes cooling problems, as we saw when Fernando Alonso caught Sebastian Vettel in the later stages of yesterday’s race. Alonso had to pull out from behind Vettel on the straights in order to keep cooler air flowing into his radiators.

This brings us to a third problem – the need to conserve car and engine life. Felipe Massa was being urged not to run closely behind other cars to avoid overheating his engine, which will have to do at least one, possible two more Grand Prix distances after this one.

In short, since the last race of 2009 it’s become harder for F1 cars to follow each other. And with none of the cars able to use KERS for a handy power boost, hardly anyone was able to get in range to make a pass.

The circuit

From the moment we first laid eyes on the revised Bahrain circuit, used for the first time by F1 this year, people were saying it would be no good for overtaking.

From the satellite photo alone you could tell it was too tight, too slow and too narrow. The race proved the organisers’ promise the section would “provide new overtaking opportunities” was well wide of the mark.

It wasn’t just in the F1 race that cars found it hard to pass on the new section. The GP2 Asia drivers couldn’t do much with it either but could still pass on the rest of the circuit. Incidentally, these are cars with tightly restricted spec aero, spec tyres, and no refuelling, and have consistently produced the best single-seater racing I’ve seen over the past six years. Sadly last weekend was their last scheduled outing.

The sheer length of the track played a part as well. The longer the lap a car has to do the less likely it is to encounter other cars. At around two minutes per lap every car on the grid could circulate five seconds apart. It’s no coincidence that Interlagos, which consistently produces some of the best races we see, is also one of the shortest tracks.

At the very least the circuit organisers should switch back to the normal layout for next year’s race. It’s no classic, but it’s far better than the configuration they used this year. And if they really want to make things interesting and increase opportunities for overtaking, they want to use their shorter ‘outer’ track.

Expectations

The first race was always going to struggle to live up to the pre-season expectations. We all wanted to see Schumacher battling with Alonso and the fight for supremacy at McLaren. What little racing there was seemed to be between the Virgins and Lotuses at the back of the field.

And in one respect we were unlucky. The Vettel/Alonso/Massa battle for the lead was getting close when the Red Bull driver’s exhaust packed in, spoiling the fun.

But we shouldn’t judge the entire season based on one race. The first Grand Prix of 2002 was a thriller but the rest of the year was largely forgettable. Was yesterday’s race really any worse than Istanbul or Singapore were last year with refuelling? I don’t think so.

The real problem

The fundamental problem is still that cars can’t follow each other closely. This is what the FIA needs to fix. Bringing in more mandatory pit stops and reintroducing refuelling would be like putting a sticking plaster on a broken leg.

Instead of over-reacting in a panicky fashion with ill thought-out changes the rule makers need to look at the big picture and understand how many of the technical changes in recent years have conspired to make it hard for cars to follow each other: engine use restrictions, rev limits, double diffusers and more.

Even after the Overtaking Working Group’s changes last year, F1 cars still can’t follow each other closely enough often enough. Encouragingly the FIA has already taken a step towards fixing it by banning double diffusers for 2011.

But they need to go further and consider not just cutting back downforce, but also looking at this problem of cars overheating when they run close behind a leading car.

That’s the real heart of F1′s overtaking problem. And solving it is much more challenging than just forcing more pit stops or bringing back refuelling.

Overtaking and the refuelling ban

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397 comments on Bringing back refuelling will not solve F1′s overtaking problem

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  1. EdinlexusV8 said on 15th March 2010, 0:15

    Keith I very much appreciate you efforts in running the forum and putting up some very good posts.

    I am an F1 fan for the last 12 years. I have been eagerly waiting for the first race of this season for the last 5 months. I am very very disappointed with today’s race. In all honesty F1 is not racing any more! When is conserving tyres and driving economically called racing? No wheel to wheel action, this year none of the cars break any previously set records due to the stupid rules like no refuelling, fixed no of engines for the whole season (tho the race calendar increased by two GPs), no testing during the season and finally no KERS (tho some of the teams spent enormously last year to develop the system). It is more like a parade of cars 49 times rounds the track. Everybody (or atleast the top 10 cars) have the same strategy, qualify and start on soft compound and then use the hard compound to last until the end. Why would anybody even pay to watch this rubbish?

    I would soon be sticking/switcing to WRC and Moto GP which are way more exciting to watch than F1 unless somebody really takes the leadership and scraps the new rules and make F1 more exciting. Bye Bye F1.

    • wasiF1 said on 15th March 2010, 2:22

      Feel sorry that you want to leave F1.Well it’s true the right people are not making the right decision.Even I am a F1 fan for 10 years,so I do feel same as you.I think the banning double diffusers will solve the problem.I think keeping low fuel qualifying on Saturday F1 should bring back refueling.This will help to keep the pace up & we won’t see any economical driver to save fuel & tyre.

      • todd said on 15th March 2010, 3:04

        how cant bringing back refuling solve the issue?

        all they are going to do now is save the tires… every race it will all be about going slow and taking care of the tyres.

        and you cant get close enough to overtake because the cars are SO HEAVY FROM TOO MUCH FUEL, and if you go in too hard with a full load of fuel, you destroy the tires, if you try to follow close to get that chance, with heavy fuel, you destroy the tires…

        fuel stops = lighter cars
        fuel stops = more tires

        lighter cars + more tires = overtaking.

        • anthony said on 15th March 2010, 3:34

          Last year they were trying to save fuel…. so, the problem just transfer to other side

        • GeeMac said on 15th March 2010, 7:24

          Fuel stops = A call from your race engineer saying “You are running two laps longer, so try save fuel and we will get him at the fuel stop”.

          Brining back in race refuelling is not the answer.

          • phil c said on 15th March 2010, 7:46

            The difference for me isn’t the overtaking, because there has never been a truck load of it, the difference is you can now visibly see the drivers taking it easy. Last year you would see Hamilton powersliding everycorner, counter sterring, and pushing lap after lap. It was good to watch and appreciated. Now we have 24 cars doing fu&k all for the first 3/4 of the race, for a quick 10lap dash at the end which was spoilt last night because the Redbull packed it in. Alonso pulls out a laps over a sec quicker then everybody else, this shows how much he had in reserve

            I enjoyed the sprint, wathcing schumacher pulling out a 24 sec lead, when he was 4 stoping vs everyone 3 stoping etc etc.

          • Frank said on 15th March 2010, 22:25

            I’m sorry, but while your engineer tells you to save fuel and that you’ll get him in the pit stop at least we, as spectators, don’t necessarily know that, and the other guy is pushing as hard as possible so that it doesn’t happen. Furthermore, I remember being very excited about seeing the stopped car leaving the pits as the other one came down the main straight and then watching a fight for the next two laps as the tires got up to temperature. Maybe it wasn’t “real” racing, but at least it was more than what I saw this weekend.

        • I think we need to be clear that overtaking means overtaking on the track not in the pitstops.

          The first problem with fuel stops is that everyone has to stop, so they really make no difference.

          The second problem is that you have light cars on worn tyres, or heavy cars on fresh tyres, all performing very similarly.

          To get real track action we need cars on worn tyres vs cars on fresh tyres, with fuel loads not being in the equation. We also need fresh tyres to perform much better than used tyres.

          I don’t understand why anyone didn’t try changing tyres with 10 laps to go. They were 6seconds off the low fuel quali pace and a stop costs about 24seconds, so within 4 laps they’d be back where they were with a 6 second a lap car advantage. Even Ralf could turn that into an overtake!

          • Herbie said on 15th March 2010, 19:07

            there cars wouldnt be light enough with ten laps of fuel on board!

          • Frank said on 15th March 2010, 22:27

            The problem is your 24 second pit stop cost you 5 positions which cost you another extra 1 or 2 second a lap.

        • Daffid said on 15th March 2010, 16:20

          Since we’re starting shouting, let me spell it out. THE CARS HAVE EXACTLY THE SAME WEIGHT OF FUEL ON BOARD for the last 3rd of the race as they did last year! They are NO heavier towards the end and STILL no-one could overtake yesterday. So how would refuelling have fixed that?

          fuelled to the race after last stop = fuelled to the end of the race after 2/3rds distance (Or half distance in one stop race strategies)

          No-one was complaining yesterday their tyres were shot, in fact the opposite. Yet still, due to all the points Keith spells out, no-one can get close.

          • All we can hope is the increased understanding of tyre wear from the first race may let some teams push a bit harder next race.

          • SERIOUSLY! Too much is getting made out of the fuel loads. The same distance of fuel for each team means that the difference is in the cars aero. I agree with Keith that we need more mechanical grip and less aero grip as this would alleviate some of the wake problems overheating the followers and not allowing them to corner. More mechanical grip also means that new teams won’t be sucking it the whole time during the first year. They will be much closer to the lead drivers; and from this we will see which driver is truly better as the cars will only be 1 second (or thereabouts) off each other instead of 3,4,5… et cetera.
            And yes, when we watch someone creeping out of the pitlane just in front of the other guy at the end of the straight we are excited but only because its the only damn passing going on during the race. There are no duels anymore because the tracks only have 1 line through each turn and the cars can’t get close enough before they lose grip.

    • MigueLP said on 15th March 2010, 4:57

      i agree with everything said here
      this was predictable.
      2007 and 08 had very competitive quallys because of the big levels of downforce on every car saving less to the drivers improving the show but the overtaking was impossible because of the turbulance.
      last year the turbulance prob was partly solved comprimising downforce but solved with the new slicks.result making easy enough to drive to minimize gaps and ending with turbulence.this year fia became things worse made the cars too hard to drive making the drivers on the upper hand winning very easily.at last in 2 weeks time we r going to watch an huge race

      • NDINYO said on 15th March 2010, 5:19

        Only barrier to overtaking i remember form the refuelling days is the FIA – Spa 2008 anybody? Even lie gate in Australia 2008 was because of overtaking!!! I think all the decision markers are just hypocrites – they talk of overtaking and the moment a driver comes along a does exactly that, they fine his team, call him a liar and take away his wins!!

      • Senor Paz said on 15th March 2010, 10:59

        One thing that really surprised me – and got me very worried about the rest of the season – was the fact that every team found the one-stop strategy to be optimal. For a place like Bahrein where temperatures are so high and tyre degradation quite substantial, the Bridgestone tyres seemed to cope extremely well.

        Too well. That meant that there were no alternative strategies that were worth the gamble. For instance, had the optimal pit strategy been 2 stops (with tyres wearing out quicker), I am sure a few teams at the back would have would have given the one-stopper a shot. That would’ve also meant that drivers on the optimal strategy could have pushed more each stint (with the possibility of some drivers even contemplating a three-stopper with super fast, on the limit stints).

        This would have surely meant more interesting racing, even if it didn’t necessarily increase the actual amount of overtaking manouvres. And also, what can we expect of the next races, where presumably tyre degradation will be less of a factor?

        If the FIA wants to cut costs, fair enough. Ban double-diffusers, bargeboards and, why not, give teams the possibility of running a single set of tyres for the race! In the case of yesterday’s race, I am sure the likes of Button could have flirted with the idea of a race without a single pitstop.

        • David A said on 15th March 2010, 16:08

          I agree Senor Paz. I thought with tyres being the only reason to stop, some teams would try something different in an attempt to gain positions by making one less stop. Bridgestone need to help sort this out!

        • Senor Paz said on 15th March 2010, 23:21

          And now the teams are talking about having two mandatory pitstops to ‘enhance’ the show… Are they mad? It’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard.

          Either get Bridgestone to supply tyres that are grippier but wear out quicker (hence shifting the optimal pit strategy to 2 or 3 pits) or simply ban the mandatory two-tyre rule.

    • scarface said on 15th March 2010, 6:46

      i am a fan for almost 30 years, so i understand you. but what concerns me more, it’s reducing power and increasing the weight. Those narrow tyres make me sick as well. We need the v10′s back, and fat tyres, that can take the abuse. Alonso can be world champ in 2010, and he isn’t the fastest driver. is this still f1?

      • superted666 said on 15th March 2010, 7:24

        Spot on, bring back the V10′s!

        • UneedAFinn2Win said on 15th March 2010, 8:48

          Well ,the turbocharged “world engine” is coming 2012, or has that scheme been scrapped, do we know?

          Was it back in the 80′s when they drove those 1,6 liter 1400+ BHP V6′s and really fat sticky tires, i remember racing being pretty exiting back then, pre V10. Just imagine those engines made with todays standards.

      • David said on 15th March 2010, 8:34

        what on earth are you on about? Alonso won his first title in 05 with a V10 engine, and arguably wasn’t the fastest over the entire year (though I have no idea what point you’re trying to make). was that still f1?

      • matt90 said on 15th March 2010, 10:06

        The weight limit was increased this year, despite KERS being dropped. Lower the weight limit again to AT LEAST what it was before, increase the width of the tires- front in particular- and increase the rev limit and power limit to 17,500/18,000 and 800 respectively. Completely outlaw double diffusers and bargeboards, and allow a low number of engine vents to aide cooling issues.

      • First, Who is the fastest driver Alpa Chino?

        Second, V-10′s are gone for good old people! Yeah, I like em too, but the world is moving on and I suggest we drop these ridiculous suggestions. Turbo-charged tiny displacement super-high output engines are going to be the thing for awhile. They are going to sound like **** but they are going to produce more power and use less petrol/bio-fuel. If you like the sound of v-10′s so much then make one that can compete for fuel figures with a bio-diesel turbo-charged 4 cylinder engine; whats that? Oh, yeah it can’t possibly.

    • Torms123 said on 15th March 2010, 10:12

      I agree 100% with you.

      Every pundit said before the race that we were in for the best ever F1 season. Give me a break !!!.

      What a sleep inducing spectacle. Pity I didn’t record the race. Would be great help when I can’t get to sleep of a night.

      WRC, WTCC and Moto GP had more excitement in one race than F1 had in all of last season.

      WTCC and Moto GP had more real overtaking on a couple of laps than F1 had in all of last season.

      By the way this is from someone who loves F1 and has not missed watching live an F1 race in over 25 years.

      Will give the next few races a look but if they are anything like yesterday bye bye F1. Will record the races and watch the first few laps and the last few laps.

      I’m beginning to think that no one in F1 really wants to chance, all talk and no action.

    • Achilles said on 15th March 2010, 11:07

      A few minutes before the race, on the grid, Ex F1 driver, and team boss, Gerhard Berger was of the opinion that there had been little ‘racing’ for many years, and a huge reduction in Aero was needed if we are to see it again, the biggest obstacle to racing is the air turbulence, and unless you stop the engineers seeing it as an advantage to keep someone behind you using aero, they will wait until they are forced to remove it, and we, the fans, will be able to accurately predict the race outcome from quali, subject to mechanical gremlins….from a drivers point of view it can be no fun to realise that your only chance is someone else’s misfortune…

      • Ayrton said on 16th March 2010, 14:20

        The issue with F1 is that it still hasn’t gotten over the death of Ayrton Senna. Because of his celebrity and fans world wide, his death put the FIA in such a panic over the issue of driver safety that it when overboard. The cars have become more and more hideous looking and less passable on the track due to lack of mechanical grip and the over reliance of aero grip causing turbulence for the car behind wishing to pass. In the name of safety we have gone from men racing fast dangerous cars to boys going to the track on weekends with their dads in the pits watching their sons in a timed rally race with no passing just beat the clock of the other driver, particularly in the pits.

        I’m not opposed to driver safety but not at the expense of the spirit of the sport. What F1 needs to do is go back to the wheel track of at least 1994 or better yet the wheel track/base and tire size of 1992. This would increase mechanical grip thus producing more passing. If the FIA is concerned about reducing speed in the name of driver safety, it could reduce engine displacement and power. As noted in this past weekend broadcast by one commentator, “the cars today are producing more downforce then they did in the ground effects era of the early 80′s. Why, because with a longer and narrow wheel base, you need a why to keep them on the track.

        If the cars had a wider track, refueling or the lack there of wouldn’t make a difference because there would be passing on the track. Just look at the refueling and non-refueling era’s between 1980 and 1992. You still have close racing with drivers on the tails of each other passing all over the place.

        As a fan of F1 for the last 24 years, I remember a time when being on the pole just meant they your were the fasted on Saturday with no guaranty of victory or a podium on Sunday.

        • We need smaller wings (same width as the inner distance between front wheels) with only 1 element allowed on each, no cascaes, and straight side plates, without all those channels, ground effect flat bottom floors, and of course the 92 wheel size and track width (2meters). Also, all bargeboards need to be forbidden.

    • Mike said on 15th March 2010, 11:50

      Ok this obviously needs some clearing up, Edin, I think you misunderstood what Keith meant,

      I do believe that Keith is in favour of the refuelling ban, But is concerned with the nature of F1′s unrestricted aerodynamic grip compared to the vastly limited mechanical grip, and even more so, The problem of F1 engines being pushed so far to the limit, which we saw the result of when the Ferrari’s had to get out of the slipstream to avoid damaging their engines instead of trying to make a pass.
      If this is what he meant, then I would agree.

      The heavy fuel shouldn’t make to much difference one way or the other, The argument against the ban is countered by the cars almost always making their passes in the pit stops.

      To back up my thoughts on the weight of the cars not really affecting overtaking, look at Australia’s V8 Supercars, they overtake a heck of a lot, But weight wise, are quite heavy.
      Weight is a minor issue, and I think it resembles one of Keith’s so called, knee jerk reactions.

      Formula one cars are still very light, even with the huge amount of fuel on board. Personally, I think mechanical grip needs to be promoted, and Aerodynamics restricted… Not restricted so much that having Newey on your side isn’t a coup, just so that the cars can still be fast with the mitigated grip behind another car.

  2. Jess said on 15th March 2010, 0:15

    I would say the race was what I expected it to be. Minus the big red winning. But it was what I expected as far as a race gose in F1

    • I think a big majority of people that really really hated it was because the red cars won.

      Great article though, You can’t judge on just one race with new rules. When has the Bahrain Grand Prix ever been good? 2007 was boring, 2008 was boring and 2009 was boring… all turned out to be great F1 seasons with some good racing.

  3. James_mc said on 15th March 2010, 0:17

    Quite a forceful post I would say!

    I would certainly agree in a lot of respects, but to mix it up a bit, how about some more low-downforce, fast circuits such as Monza (less the dog-leg chicanes), or even the chance of an oval?

    • James_mc said on 15th March 2010, 0:18

      I would also like to add that HRH Crown Prince of Bahrain said that he decided on the new fiddly bit to test drivers but then said he was going to iron out some of the bumps, rather defeating the purpose of the new bit in my opinion.

      Secondly, he said he was a “true racing fan”, if so, how about the outer circuit! :-)

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 15th March 2010, 0:36

      I think an oval race would be great – and it would be F1′s best chance of cracking the US market:

      Why F1 should race on ovals

      • sato113 said on 15th March 2010, 1:16

        the bahrain outer circuit is good for overtaking but imagine how many complaints it would draw from the drivers. they’d find it incredibly dull!

      • Fer no.65 said on 15th March 2010, 1:33

        An Oval Race would force me not to watch a Formula One race again.

        I hate the idea of oval racing. Not only it’s too much dangerous, it’s also a matter of winning or crashing… and everytime it rains, the race has to be stopped. Every little thing that affects or might affect the cars, needs to be cleaned, and to be cleaned, you need the safety car, and the safety car means the racing cars don’t race for 10 laps or more!…

        And then you have the fact that while Americans are used to waiting million hours for the track to be cleaned and the race completed, the rest of the world isn’t. Everytime i watch an Indy race, i switch off after the first safety car. How can Americans watch an entire race (or even go to the track to watch it) it’s a big mistery for me.

        Oval racing sure offers what F1 can’t nowadays; overtakings. But recently, But overtaking’s a lot… but not all!

        And lets not forget Indycars are also getting it difficult nowadays to overtake, so they have to try power boost systems and stuff. And all their cars and engines comes from the same manufacturer.

        Oval racing should’ve never been invented. Im very glad F1 will NEVER go oval racing!

        • wasiF1 said on 15th March 2010, 2:24

          I don’t want an oval F1 race, 7 if there is even a plan like that in the future then I think the best place to do an oval race must be in USA where F1 is not so popular & they really oval racing.

      • NDINYO said on 15th March 2010, 5:23

        If that is what i wanted, i wouldn’t be watching formula 1 since there is already a product on the market that offers exactly that.

      • scarface said on 15th March 2010, 6:49

        the purists will kill you. But trying on an oval wouldn’t be such a bad idea. It couldn’t be worse than last sunday’s parade.

      • I’m a long time F1 fan, but the best race I’ve ever watched live was a ChampCar race at Michigan super speedway. There were 63 official lead changes (probably well over 100 actual lead changes because it would change 2 or 3 times a lap)(see finish: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=soYF-9SJ1h0).
        Now maybe ovals are not for F1, but a high-speed (400kph) simple, safe, low-downforce circuit could be amazing.

        • matt90 said on 15th March 2010, 10:11

          I think the chances of a race where the cars go 250mph is quite slim. With V10s and the right circuit then maybe 230-240.

        • SennaRainho said on 16th March 2010, 1:54

          So, oval racing has lead changes, sure: One inch forward, one inch backwards! It has been a horrible start to the F1 season but as boring as oval “racing” it will never be! 400km/hr makes no difference the speed is constant for all cars throughout the race. No form of car racing is as static as oval IMO, because in reality only the track moves fast under the static, only very slightly moving cars. Oval racing has missed three out of four of the main points to car racing; acceleration, braking and cornering. All it has left is speed, which I find utterly pointless without the other three.

          Keith, I think you have written a great article and you are spot on about your points. However, I still think that the refuling added some valuable things to the exitement; first of all the strategic concerns and the fact that it was possible to significantly change strategi during the race in case of rain, accidents or other changes. I also the fast low fuel laps that would speed someone in front in case of carrying a little extra. Kimi was always strong in this dicipline.

          That being said I would certainly prefer actual on track wheel to wheel action and I agree that aero grip should be seriously limited and mechanical grip enhanced. I think it was almost insanity to let the double difusers slip through in the first place but how on earth they are still legal is completely beyond me, considering that they pretty much destroyed 2010.

          Let’s get back to basics: fat sticky tires and for my sake they can even rip off the front and rear wings completely! Did everyone forget why gokart racing is so great fun??

      • “I think an oval race would be great – and it would be F1’s best chance of cracking the US market:”

        …As an American, that comment just made me throw up a little bit in my mouth Keith!

    • Just Me said on 15th March 2010, 23:01

      Building more fast circuits would be certainly nice, as well as having an oval race. However, that are very ‘expensive’ solutions.

      The easiest and more cost effictive way to improve the show and spice up the races at the permanent circuits is to install a sprinkler system and make 1/3 of each race a WET race (preferably the last 1/3rd).
      A fair challenge that puts the emphasis on driver skills again.

      I don’t know why nobody ever discusses such a simple option.

      • Oval racing? Great. Hill-billy formula 1 teams; thats just what we need. NO. If it only goes left it drives in Nascar. You’d have to have no soul to want to drive an oval over a real track. Like some sort of robot without any concern for yourself or the fans and only about increasing the amount of times the sponsors get seen on the car… not to mention how many bodies fly through the air much to the delight of the inbred simpletons who enjoy truckin’ [expletive]‘ muddin and circle racing.

        I’d rather see the cars equipped with 007 style oil slick, smoke screens and headlight machine guns than go do 1 single circle race. Heck, add in pop up ramps just to throw the drivers off a little and nitrous tanks like Mickey Thompson offroad video games had!
        Welcome to Thunderdome b!tc8.

  4. razer13rr said on 15th March 2010, 0:17

    Another thing I though of that adds to the lack of excitment is the reliability+aero of the cars. Back in the v10 days the cars had more weight in the rear and more power and the aero was simpler so they would spin more. Plus you saw more cars DNF because of reliability problems (top teams, not just lower one too). The 18,000 rev limit also contributes to that. I may be less expensive, but it’s also less exciting.

    • The thing is that the cars are so reliable these days that, for a championship contender, a DNF is incredibly costly. As such teams will try and pick up some points wherever they can, rather than going all out for big results. So it doesn’t matter how many arbitrary rules you throw at them, the teams are always going to go for the most conservative option. It’s difficult to think of a solution for that – dropped scores might work but always struck me as a bit arbitrary.

      I agree with Keith that bringing back refuelling will not magically cause the cars to overtake, but equally that the banning of refuelling was never going to solve the overtaking problem either, despite what many people had predicted.

      Interestingly Virgin and Lotus were having a few decent battles before Glock retired yesterday. Those cars are a bit short on downforce at present, which reinforces the idea that it’s the cars’ aero that is the biggest barrier to overtaking rather than strategies, points systems or whatever.

  5. StefMeister said on 15th March 2010, 0:18

    Completely agree with all of that.

    I was horrified when I heard Martin Whitmarsh talking about 2 mandatory stops & things like forcing Bridgestone to bring worse tyres.

    Leave refueling away from F1 & just fix the cars inability to follow, Do that & Im certain we would see better racing.

    • TommyC said on 15th March 2010, 0:53

      i agree, but at least in the meantime refuelling gives drivers a chance to overtake at some stage in a race as it seems impossible to if fuel loads are the same and tyres are the same.

  6. zplol said on 15th March 2010, 0:20

    Keith, I am pretty sure the size of the sidepod inlets is governed by the teams themselves and if the cars are overheating, its their problem. Most teams run at the limit of what’s possible. Mclaren used some kind of removable plastic plugs for the 2008 German GP since the weather was colder.

    They could introduce a universal surface area like they do with the air intake tho…

  7. Bertie said on 15th March 2010, 0:22

    I think they should keep the diffuser next year and make heavier restriction on wings. I also thing giving the cars more power and worse brakes would help.

    • Exactly, as far as I understand the diffuser adds grip without affecting the wake. What we need is to see the FIA introduce a standard front wing but the problem is the teams don’t recognise. They are aero addicts and the first step is to get them to admit there is a problem. Given that all the top teams have invested millions in windtunnels they won’t stand for standard aero. We’re probably in for more talks of breakway sadly, as the FIA is going to need to force the issue.

  8. SteveH said on 15th March 2010, 0:26

    Good article, Keith. You’ve covered many of the overtaking problems root causes, but I would go even further. The way rules are so restrictive as to bodywork and engines the designers are being forced into narrower and narrower envelopes as to what they can design. I feel that the problem is basically the attempt to force a spec series on F1. There is no innovation allowed in engines or aerodynamics, and no chance to rethink solutions. We see occasional innovation within the rules, such as the double diffuser and the McLaren ductwork, but there is no chance to really innovate. Maybe we need to go back a bit and allow some underbody aero. Maybe we need to open up engine development. How about controlling the amount of heat available from combustion but let the fuel be free? For example, allow diesel, allow toluene rocket fuel, allow alcohol, but control the flow rate so that per second heat of combustion is equal for all fuels. Allow turbos, allow rotary engines, allow diesels, but control the potential heat available for combustion. I know this would increase costs, but maybe engine manufacturers would step up and be innovative. Put bigger tires on the cars and get rid of wings. This formula has become too constrained and is dying a slow death. F1 used to be the bleeding edge, now it’s a spec series and getting really boring.

    • Anthony said on 15th March 2010, 3:17

      I agree Steve H. F1 needs to be an inovative force.

      I love the idea of using underbody aero and this is a great way of keeping F1 the fastest formula, while encouraging overtaking.

      This year without intervention is going to be as many predicted, a procession. and I fear we will lose a few fans this year due to this.

      My personal favourite engine has been the 3.0 V10. Lots of power from a balanced engine and a great sound. Bring this back (which goes against current fuel saving initiatives) and go for more underbody aero to allow close racing with the refueling ban.

      Clearly the current regs need looking at to see what can be salvaged out of the rest of the year, but there are positive answers out there for the future.

  9. manatcna said on 15th March 2010, 0:27

    ” Bringing back refuelling will not solve F1’s overtaking problem ”

    Maybe not – but banning it sure as hull made it worse.

    • It’s artificial overtaking though, isn’t it? Like Keith, I yearn to see wheel to wheel racing and without changes to the design of the cars (and some of the circuits – not likely I guess), I can’t see ANY of the daft ideas that have been floated (mandatory stops etc.) improving things.

      Don’t Indycars (and GP2 cars for that matter), use limited ground effect? isn’t it about time the FIA considered the potential benefits of a GE chassis once again? After all, assuming you had a minimum ride height to prevent a sudden loss of GE, wouldn’t the cars then be able to follow each other more closely? The early 80s wasn’t a particularly exciting period*, but as I recall the cars COULD follow each other – even through long sweeping corners, such as those at Rio, Hockenheim (the Ostkurve pre-chicane), the Osterreichring and so on.

      Just a thought.

      * I’m aware of the tradegies associated with F1s GE era (I remember the races well), but much of that was down to weak goverance on the part of Balestre (Mosley’s predessesor), weak chassis (pre carbon fibre) and vicious politics between the manufacturers and the garagistas. No change there then! ;-)

      • Addendum to my addendum: and not forgetting a general lack of understanding of exactly how GE worked.

        • MuzzleFlash said on 15th March 2010, 10:50

          I agree almost completely with everything said here, ground effect cars with no wings and maybe even wheel cowlings powered by small turbo-charged engines burning petrol, diesel, or a fuel cell. Instead of a fuel sample do an emissions test.

          In fact don’t introduce it, build TWO cars like that as a test and have a race between them, then if that works use the knowledge gained from that experiment and apply to the regulations.

          Of course a basic scientific experiment like that will never happen. F1 is run by solicitors and accountants, not scientists or engineers.

        • TMFOX said on 15th March 2010, 10:56

          Maybe some ground effect system that you can turn on and off (similar to how they got round a GE ban before by simply moving a switch to lower the skirt?)

  10. the ban on refulleing was never going to fix it. Refuelling added some intrest to races in terms of the stratergy, and that combined with cars that could overtake each other could have produced some good races.
    There needs to be an increase in the mechanicl grip as a percentage of overall grip to solve this problem. Weather this is achieved through having a maxium coefficent of turblance at a set distance and speed behind of a car, or by just making the wing progresively smaller / disapering. IRL cars have wings and ‘look like’ racing cars but seem to be able to follow eachother a lot better, maybe that needs to be investigated.

    In terms of the heat coming of cars – this is a problem but it cant be solved. It even affects the v8 supercars. If a car was struggling to pass someone at the clipsal 500, which was an exellent event just gone, then they to have to search for cooler air.

  11. Kyle said on 15th March 2010, 0:29

    Hey Keith,

    Speaking as a hardcore fan here, it’s not the lack of overtaking that really got me today – I’ve come to expect and accept that as part of modern day F1.

    What made this race so dull for me was the total lack of diverse strategies. The front 8 all pitted within a two-lap window and ran the same one-stop strategy, and thereafter the order was settled (granted Vettel vs Alonso was looking interesting until that got snatched away) and it was simply a case of waiting for an hour for the chequered flag to come out.

    Even further back, everyone who started on the harder tyre, they all changed tyres once, within a few laps (18-23 pretty much) and then settled. Only the Lotus and Toro Rosso teams even tried to do anything slightly different, and they were so far back they received no attention.

    There was never a prospect of an overtake once Vettel faded. I don’t mind overtaking NOT happening, but I want to know that there’s at least a chance it might, or what is the point of watching?

    Maybe Sakhir exacerbated the problem today, especially given the ultra-durable tyre situation today. We’ll see in Melbourne. But if the teams all stick to the “optimum” strategy as designated by a computer, then I don’t see the situation improving much. Even on tracks good for overtaking, there does need to be some differentiation in performance for overtaking to happen. With cars all running the same strategy, that’s much less likely.

    The teams need to be bolder in making unorthodox strategy calls, because today they were uber-conservative. There was no real performance differentiator in play, and therefore (with the root causes of the overtaking problem you correctly point out still in play) there was never going to be any real action.

    It would be brilliant if the root causes of the overtaking problem were eliminated, because then we could see some proper racing – much better than if refuelling were in place.

    But as it is, the main source of interest in most F1 races comes from the strategy, and today’s race was completely devoid of it. I hope that’s not an indicator of what’s going to happen in the races to come, because I don’t see the overtaking problem disappearing for good any time soon.

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 15th March 2010, 0:34

      What made this race so dull for me was the total lack of diverse strategies.

      And mandatory pit stops, which they’re talking about bringing in, would make that even worse.

      I think they should have let the season start without this “top ten drivers start on their qualifying tyres” rule. That would give the drivers more freedom.

      • Kyle said on 15th March 2010, 0:38

        If the next few races unfold in a similar manner to this one, then the first rule change to be made is to remove the mandatory stop that already exists.

        The Q3 tyres rule also seems to have had a detrimental effect this weekend, although at circuits where the option is more marginal and the top teams opt to qualify on the primes, it may add an extra (if artifical) element to things.

        • TommyC said on 15th March 2010, 0:47

          you mean to say no pit stops and just run one set of hard tyres for the whole race?

          that’s what i was thinking, then we will get more differentiation between cars that can manage the tyre wear vs those who have to pit.

          • Kyle said on 15th March 2010, 0:51

            Exactly. We saw the problem with mandatory stops today. As soon as one of the front 8 pitted, the whole lot had to pit immediately or risk losing time.

            Pitting should not be free. It should be a carefully considered decision, weighing up the benefits of fresh tyres versus the drawbacks of lost time and track position.

            A mandatory stop is a free stop, and is therefore has no effect in differentiating the strategies.

          • Have you ever seriously watched F1 before?

          • wasiF1 said on 15th March 2010, 2:26

            Like 2005 no tyre change?

        • I agree. Make pit stops completely optional. Some teams might try a stragegy of lasting the whole race on set of tyres, others will pit once, some maybe twice. Some might just change the rears, or left or side. At least it’ll mix it up a bit and give the teams some alternatives to explore.

      • RFB said on 15th March 2010, 0:50

        More freedom ? You would just end up with all cars running the same strategy. Harder compound at the start, one stop strategy for everyone (because otherwise you take the risk of being held up during your second stint), and everybody pitting within 3 laps, because if your opponent pits he will have brand new tyres and be much quicker on the same fuel load if he’s in clean air, so you have to stop immediately after to not lose time.

      • rmstrong said on 15th March 2010, 1:07

        But wouldn’t another mandatory stop allow the drivers to push harder and worry less about tire degradation?

        • Kyle said on 15th March 2010, 10:59

          Push harder, yes. But with the cars so closely matched, and with all the cars certain to run the same strategy if they’re FORCED to make two stops, there’s no hope for overtaking given the dirty air problem.

          Drivers should have the option to pit whenever they like for fresh tyres. The problem with a mandatory stop is that it simply has no drawback, because you know the time spent pitting will be made back when everyone else pits too – which invariably they will within a lap or two because they don’t want to lose time, which they will do if they stay out on worn rubber.

          Making the tyres last the whole race, on the other hand, up against a well-timed one-stop strategy, there will be an element of chase in that sooner or later. And if there is a mix of strategies in the field, we will see the drivers having to deal with guys on different strategies.

          That’s not perfect, but it’s what F1 had with refuelling, and it’s what it desperately needs to find again if it wants to maintain some level of strategic and wheel-to-wheel action.

          • Also, if a driver decides to try to go the whole race without pitting, then it would make sense for another to pit and try to gain advantage with fresh rubber.

      • NDINYO said on 15th March 2010, 10:30

        Get a first grader and randomly pick the grid on Sunday afternoon – problem solved.

    • MinusTwo said on 15th March 2010, 15:30

      Totally Agree. Excellent Post.

  12. TommyC said on 15th March 2010, 0:44

    Hi Keith,
    I agree with 99.9% of what you’re saying. the true problem is that the cars cannot get close enough to overtake. but surely at least with refuelling, drivers like webber in yesterday’s race would have at least some chance of passing through pit stops, given he had a faster car than shui and couldn’t overtake on track. i might be in the minority here but i really liked working out the fuel strategies and seeing who could benefit from quick in and out laps (as again with webber vs barrichello in silverstone last year).

    at the very least, refuelling mixed up the order a bit (like piquet in germany 08 going the one stopper). i have a bad feeling that we are going to see a lot of pole to flag race wins this season due to the identical strategy (if you can call it that) of the top ten and not much change from grid positions. it seems the first corner is going to be the most decisive.

    i can’t help but fear what monaco will be like… at least the high attrition provides some entertainment for part time f1 fans. regardless though, i still love it.

    • Joey-Poey said on 15th March 2010, 18:08

      Let me ask you this, then: who did you have posters of on the wall growing up? Drivers or race strategists? I don’t know about you, but I idolized the drivers. I’m with Keith in that leap-frogging in the pits is a pitiful replacement for actual on-track passing. It’s so much more thrilling to see two drivers go at it in a test of one another’s skill and machinery.

      • TommyC said on 16th March 2010, 8:34

        i completely agree. The only problem is that f1 in its current form doesn’t really make such exciting racing due to the physical limitations as outlined by keith. the problem i have with banning refuelling is that there is now almost no chance of getting past another driver if they are not that much slower. in terms of ‘the show’ (i hate that term), overtaking in the pitlane can be quite boring but for the drivers, it must be frustrating knowing that you’re faster than the guy in front but cannot overtake through driving faster for a lap or two to jump them in the pits.

        of course we will have to wait and see what happens in the next few races. maybe the drivers will have more confidence to truly race at other circuits with lower temperatures and reduced tyre wear, etc.

        oh yeh, and it was the fantastic on track passing of suzuka 2005 that got me truly hooked on f1 and i’m still growing up. plenty of f1 posters on my wall.

  13. CRM said on 15th March 2010, 0:48

    Many races are going to be one early stop for 90% of the grid and then the rest of the laps played out in a boring procession as every driver looks after thier tyres and engines. Not exactly thrilling.

    I liked refuelling. It definately added to ‘the show’ and although endlessly discussing strategy could be tedious, at least teams did things differently and that added some variation to the race.

    At the very least refuelling added a second pit stop for most teams and that added something for the viewers. The one early stop followed by no racing (due to drivers not wanting to destroy their tyres or risk an engine) makes for seriosly boring races.

    There are many causes of F1′s no overtaking woes – boring Tilke tracks, too much aero grip and not enough mechanical grip, double diffusers, only getting 8 engines a season etc. But at least refuelling added a strategy element and now even that has been taken away!

    I really, really hope this isn’t a boring season to forget, but after today I think it might be.

  14. Paul Owen said on 15th March 2010, 0:50

    Well that was THE most woeful race I’ve seen in a VERY long time.

    The Start was slow and lacked that ‘seat of the pants’ anticipation the the start/first corner normally offers as they limped tank full’s of fuel around.

    This endless tinkering from the FIA fails again to achieve anything. I’ll wager that even those fans who welcomed the refuelling ban, wouldn’t have preferred to see what Messrs Schumacher / Brawn could have pulled off with strategy.

    I really appreciate Keith’s comments but I have the most uncomfortable feeling in the pit of my stomach that this is what we can expect for all 19 races this year. if this is the case then I worry about a mass exodus from the fans.

    The sport has been through turmoil over the past couple of years with all of the political twoing and frowing, threats of breakaway series, Renault gate and manufacturers leaving en mass.

    Then if course there’s the distinct lack of sponsors. Teams old and new struggling to attract sponsorship surely only goes to prove that our sport, the one that we all sacrifice so much of our free/family time up for because we love it so much, is damaged.

    Now what? More panic meetings? More knee jerk reaction from the FIA? Another Band Aid on a Burst Water Main?

    What do people think now about the stifling of technology in F1? They removed it all with the absolute promise of ‘Real Driving’ and ‘Wheel to Wheel Racing’. Well I’ve not seen any of this. EVER since they removed it all. Sure we get the occasional spurt of driving talent, Lewis Hamilton, Jenson in Brazil last year and Alonso on a good day but beyond that….

    Is F1 still the pinnacle of motor sport? Is it REALLY?

    • TommyC said on 15th March 2010, 0:55

      so it wasn’t just me who thought the cars seemed super slow. it was like monaco 2008, it just didn’t feel like a grand prix, and that’s a strange feeling…

      • MinusTwo said on 15th March 2010, 15:44

        Yeah, I agree. I felt like yelling at the screen “Hey! There’s a race on boys, get a move on!!!” It just felt sleepy.

        If I wanted to see drivers take care of their tires I would have taken a sunday drive and looked at oncoming traffic.

      • David A said on 16th March 2010, 21:10

        Of course, Monaco 2008 was a thriller! But I see what you mean with the lap times. It felt weird seeing them struggle to get under 2 minutes most of the time.

  15. fff said on 15th March 2010, 0:55

    The one problem F1 has today is called HERMANN TILKE!

    He designed all this new circuits. Anyone show saw last years brazilian grand prix (every car had the diffusers and aero artifacts) know this is true.

    • wasiF1 said on 15th March 2010, 2:28

      Have to agree with you.

    • David said on 15th March 2010, 8:38

      YES! The worst races of every year are the Tilkedromes. Everyone knows this because one of the most boring races of last year – a year with refuelling – was the pathetic Tilkedrome called Suzuka.

      • David said on 15th March 2010, 8:42

        Oh, hang on a minute. You’re completely wrong.

        Suzuka is one of the greatest tracks ever built and it produced a very boring race last year, a year when refuelling existed.

        People must learn to think. It’s the key to success.

        • Lachie said on 15th March 2010, 10:17

          While I think that Tilke tracks on the whole are boring I completely agree that we’ve had boring races before and will have again regardless of refuelling. Seems to me the biggest cause of boring races is Sebastian Vettel more than anything else. Check out China, Britain, Japan and Abu Dhabi last year. Plonk him on pole and let him get to the first corner first and it’s all aboard the Boredom Express. The FIA guy should do something about Vettel! :)

        • David A said on 15th March 2010, 16:24

          To be honest, only 2 races at Suzuka in the 2000′s were any good – 2003 and 2005. Fuji produced two good races but gets unfairly derided.

      • TMFOX said on 15th March 2010, 11:28

        Surely you know that Suzuka was designed by John Hugenholtz?

    • beanzoo said on 15th March 2010, 11:55

      i agree also not a fan of his designs, and why do all the new tracks seem to be done by him there must be other designers out there, heck i’ll do it!

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