Making F1 better: a discussion series

Posted on | Author Keith Collantine

F1 has had three good races since its widely criticised Bahrain season-opener
F1 has had three good races since its widely criticised Bahrain season-opener

In recent years F1 has become fixated with “improving the show”. And the calls for better racing doubled after the dull season opener at Bahrain.

Since then we’ve had three much better races. That doesn’t necessarily mean F1’s problems are solved.

In a new series starting today I aim to start a constructive debate on what can be done to make F1 better.

Why F1 is great in 2010

Usually at this point in a championship we know where we stand: last year the narrative was ‘Can anyone catch Brawn?’ The two years before that McLaren and Ferrari were slugging it out from the beginning. Four races into 2010 the picture is still coming into focus.

At Bahrain it looked like Ferrari were the team to beat but they haven’t come close to winning a race since. Red Bull are struggling to translate their one-lap pace into wins. McLaren are leading the championship despite not having the quickest car and Nico Rosberg’s Mercedes is somehow second.

This is great for those of us who tune in hoping for an unpredictable race and close fight for the world championship. And there’s plenty more to get excited about as we anticipate the season ahead.

Robert Kubica is working wonders with the Renault R30. While Kubica dazzles everyone has an opinion on what’s gone wrong with Michael Schumacher’s return to F1, if he can turn it around, and whether he would be better off packing it in.

A crop of new drivers have already grabbed their first championship points. Thanks to the six new cars on the grid we have the biggest races in 15 years and while they try to get on terms with the established runners the front-runners have to work that bit harder in traffic to get by.

Now the season stretches ahead of us with visits to classic F1 circuits in prospect – Monte-Carlo, Silverstone, Spa-Francorchamps, Monza and Interlagos.

Off-track the political fury of recent years has subsided. After last year’s row over race-fixing in Singapore, budget caps, double diffusers and everything else, that is a welcome change for the better, reflected in Jean Todt’s steadily rising approval ratings on this site.

“Improving the show”

Yes, this is a vision of everything that’s right with F1 at the moment.

It’s not an complete picture, of course. But before we dive into yet another discussion about what’s wrong with F1 we should remember that there’s an awful lot right with it at the moment.

After the Bahrain Grand Prix newspapers and websites were awash with criticisms of “boring” F1. Yes, some of that was a reaction against an anti-climactic start to the season after months of hype. But by any measure the first race of the year was a snoozer.

It’s got better since then but we all know we’ve been exceptionally lucky with the weather. Rain enlivened the Australian and Chinese Grands Prix and mixed up the grid at Malaysia.

But I suspect this is only temporary – Catalunya is the next stop on the calendar and races there are consistently rated among the worst year after year (see here and here).

In the meantime, with the panicky reaction to boring Bahrain behind us, let’s take this opportunity to really get to the bottom of the “improving the show” debate while cooler heads may prevail.

Improving the debate

The phrases “improving the show” and “spicing up the action” tend to provoke groans among fans. And with good reason – they’re usually the preface to some drivel urging yet more knee-jerk rules change to create an illusion of overtaking.

We need a better standard of debate about how to improve F1 and that’s just what we’re going to do here at F1 Fanatic over the next week.

Instead of trying to cover a complicated subject in a single article, we’re going to take the “improving the show” debate apart and look at it from different angles.

Beginning tomorrow we’ll have a series of six articles over eight days, conceived to provoke an informed discussion about what F1 is today and what it should try to be in the future.

In the meantime, please use the comments below to suggest what topics you think we should cover in the coming days to better understand how F1 can be improved.

Is it all about increasing overtaking? Has technical innovation become too constrained? Does the calendar need more variety? Or is everything perfect the way it is? Over to you.

The next part of the “Making F1 better” series will ask whether F1 had a ‘golden age’ and, if it did, when it was and what we can learn from it. Keep an eye out for that article on Friday on F1 Fanatic.

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Making F1 better

163 comments on “Making F1 better: a discussion series”

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  1. Nice job Keith, with no forum now we can chat & learn many things about F1.I am looking forward for this.

  2. When the 5 red lights go off, set off an old lady driving a Morris Minor the OTHER WAY round the circuit…

    Just kidding…It’s got to be less downforce and standardisation of wings….

  3. Is difficult to improve the show if we keep on cutting the budget and adding limitations. Now the pilots not only have to drive but to manage engines, gearboxes,…
    On the other hand, I don’t want overtaking to become so easy. For me is a exciting part of the show see how an inferior car can still defend his position to a top one.

  4. Mid 80s were easily the golden age! More power than could be controlled by the aero on bumpy circuits requiring soft(ish) suspension meant the cars were a real handful.

    The cars looked good with the right proportions and you could see the drivers working at keeping it on the tarmac, rather than the illusion of being a playstation game we have now.

  5. I think that they should bring back KERS but offer a higher level of horsepower. Also make the cars simpler in design and equal in performance.

  6. If you are going to win this title then you have two options:

    1) Do what Nico Rosberg and Robert Kubica are doing with consistent finishes around 4th or 3rd and ultimately you will get enough points over the season.


    2) Do as Button is and the Redbulls will have to do, and that is regularly win in order to make up for low point finishes or retirements.

    Obvious really.

  7. Christian Biddon
    23rd April 2010, 8:38

    Less aero, more mechanical grip (big tyres) and instead of spending millions on KERS, why not bring back turbo charged engines. Correct me if I am wrong but didn’t the overdrive button in years gone by do the same thing as KERS?

    What we need to avoid is stupid ideas put forward by people obviously entering senility such as shortcuts. Oh how I laughed at that one. :-)

    1. Christian Biddon
      23rd April 2010, 8:49

      Just though of some more changes I think would be good. :-)

      Allow the teams to use whatever tyres the wish. The reason Bahrain was boring was due to them all using the soft tyres for qualifying and they all changed to the hard at the same time. Dull! At least get rid of the top 10 teams having to start on their qualifying tyres.

      Get some new track designers. Even if Tilke was the Van Gogh of track design(which he is not), some variation of designer would stop them all being ‘samey’.

  8. First of all, I think we (the people who REALLY enjoy watching F1) should establish WHAT is the purpose of F1. In my opinion, it’s a sport. It’s entertainment. It should be a delightful sunday tv event, because TV needs more interesting programs right now. This whole “leading tech development” is a load of crap. People need new groundbreaking ideas in how to feed the poor and stop wars, not how to go faster in a car. Cars go fast enough nowadays, people, just cut the crap.
    So, if we establish that it IS a show, and the main objective is to make for an enjoyable 2 hours, then what has to change?
    I don’t think changing rules here and there, tyres, regulations, etc, will do any good if the mentality doesn’t change. Because like everything else in the world, the more it’s developed, the more boring it is. Take travelling. To go from France to Australia, 100 years ago? Now that was DEFINITELY not boring. Dangerous, exciting, mind boggling. Today you sit down for half a day, watch a couple of movies, sleep and there you are. That applies to MOST activities – from finding food to building palaces. That and the mentality of “always safer”. No weaving in braking zones, no pushing other drivers out of the race, no nothing. Let’s face it; we had MUCH more fun when Piquet and Senna and Mansell and Prost were being mean to each other while driving ‘crappy’ cars.
    (By the way, I’m happy about F1 today – I haven’t seen such good racing for a long time. It can be better, definitely, but it’s not bad right now. But that, I think, is because of the nice crop of talented drivers.)

  9. Herewith my topics

    – coverage / camera’s (eg. more or less onboard, more or less Nicole, more or less overtaking action (I keep reading that Bahrain did have 21 overtaking actions)

    – internet / data sharing (eg. should all set up and telemetry data be available for the fans and competetion as well? (imagine the graphs on this site after a race!)

    – blue flag discussion
    – how to improve / test the improvements and keep budgets in balance?

    What is F1 about?
    – drivers (how much influnce should the driver have on the result? 60%? 80%)
    – engineering
    – tyres
    – innovation
    – road car relevance
    – is ‘green’relevant? and if so, what is ‘green’ (eg. biofuel, ‘side’ effect is that area’s of rainforests are being suffered to produce bio fuel)
    – what is racing? (fast laps? tyre management? overtaking? or just finish first)

    – Live discussions: can you invite, say, Adrian Newey, Mike Gascoyne etc etc, some Tyre specialist, teambosses and even drivers for a live debate on the subject of overtaking

    1. I agree, these are issues we need to decide when trying to find an improved package for F1.

  10. Ive always thought that KERS could potentially work and create more exciting races without radical change to the cars. A quick overview would be –

    Only 60 seconds etc.. of KERS boost per race

    Restrictions ie..not allowing the use of KERS to defend position (oviously there would be a lot of grey areas here but im sure something could be ironed out.

    Only allowed to be used after the completion of the 1st lap.

  11. I am against steel brakes. Road cars have carbon ceramic nowadays so why should F1 not?
    A quick, easy and cheaper way to increase braking distances so overtaking opportunities by driver skill would be to make the disc diameter smaller!

  12. Glen Crompton has a view on this as well in pitpass last week.

    Maybe he can join in our discussion here.

  13. Some of the areas I would like to see covered are the format of the race weekend, the technical aspects of F1 including overtaking, how standardised should F1 be and should it be a test bed for green technology and be more relevant to road cars, the race calendar, F1 finances, how F1 uses new media and promotes itself and probably a final general debate to cover any aspects not covered in the main topics people can think of.

  14. RandomChimp
    23rd April 2010, 9:48

    Remove the silly tire rules (top 10 quali tires, 2 compounds rule) and substantially increase minimum car+driver mass for longer breaking zones while keeping the aerodynamicists happy.

  15. I would like to see cars with around 800 bhp from the engine and 200 bhp from KERS operating on the front wheels, so when the KERS is not used the car has 2 wheel drive from the engine on the rear wheels and when KERS is connected the car has 4 wheel drive. This would create many more overtaking opportunities since the KERS 4 wheel drive would make a difference almost everywhere and not only on long straits.
    Also use much wider tyres that are harder so they do not produce as much marbels so the off racing line can be used more easily for overtaking.
    And then of course cut down on the downforce by using standard wings with the front wing freely adjustable to compensate for the turbulence from the car ahead.

    1. I sort of like it but is that actually realistic!! Has there ever been a single seater that has run 4×4 in the past? I cant see where they would to find space for the driveshaft.

      1. With electric motors inside the wheels no drive shafts is required, only the electrical wires to the motors.
        Some teams tried 4×4 in Formula 1 in 1969,
        (Matra, McLaren and Lotus) but gave it up due to the weight and problems with space for the differential and driveshafts. Also at this time the focus shifted more and more to aerodynamic downforce which gave greater gains in laptime.

        1. loved those lotus wings on stilts over the front and rear axles. genius

  16. No reverse grids or punishing the lead drivers/teams. I don’t think it’s fair and anyway reverse grids would just make cars go as slow as possible in quali so they’d end up near the front. Maybe something like the GP2 system would work but I don’t want anything artificial as then it really is just about the ‘show’ and not racing. The cut off points for quali could be changed though as it is very boring at the moment. Quali has lost its madness it had last year.

    Maybe loosen up the engine rules abit and rev limit, 18 inch wheel rims hopefully will come in, less focus on aero and free up tyre rules. No mandatory stops at all, and an extremely hard compund brought with an incredibnly soft but much quicker tyre then we might see something like this .

    The big problem with all of those is money; the teams look like they’re going to end up paying for their tyres and if engine regs are more open then that will probably be a financial black hole but realistically some compromise has to be struck.

    What is helping overtaking will be the stewards too. If things are more consistent and less strict then drivers will be more willing to attempt to pass.

    Kers should definately be brought back. Any team who wants to use it should. It should not by any means forced on a team which would rather concentrate and invest in another area of design. That doesn’t make things equal, that hurts innovation and individuality. Kers should be allowed to be used for longer or give more of a boost so there is more incentive to be used. I doubt Williams would want that though.

    F1 has had some great and historic passes, including some very recent ones but it’s always about a driver challenge and technology not about NASCAR style racing so I think we shouldn’t whinge too much but rather have F1 the pinnacle of motorsport with some more freedom or ideas for an area to design (so costs don’t go out of control) and see what happens. I don’t want artificial racing and positions changing a thousand times, I’d rather wait through a procession to see one really great overtake. More overtakes would be nice but I really don’t think anything too radical needs to happen just yet although I would like Monza to have some classic slipstreaming battles again. That would be fun.

    1. there would be no qualy w/ reverse grids, except for first race – driver championship standings as of that race, reversed –

  17. It’s quite simple to improve really. We need much more mechanical grip and drastic aero restrictions. Much larger tyres should be the 1st change in regulations. It would be the quickest way the address the mechanical vs aero grip problem.

  18. Set a fixed budget for development of the cars only. Then go trough the rulebook and scrap a lot of rules. Instead of saying you need a 2.4 liters v8 etc. say your car can have a maximum of x horsepower measured at the wheels. This will make for a lot of different solutions, but within a certain limit so f1 doesn’t become to expensive again. Also cut back on aero, atleast so that cars can follow eachother closely again.

  19. I think we should determine what factors make F1 different from any other motorsport series, which ones make it THE motorsport. In other words – what we should preserve and emphasize at all costs. IMO these are:

    1. The technological race – innovations, genius engineers, unorthodox designs etc.
    2. History – legendary tracks and teams
    3. Personalities and skill of drivers, rather than skill – We could probably find better drivers than Lewis elsewhere, but none of them would bring such thrill as Lewis does, because, well he is Lewis. Same goes with legends such as Senna, Schumacher, Mansell etc. On the other hand, F1 becomes full of average drivers who shouldn’t really be there.
    4. Unpredictability of races – one wrong tire choice, one wrong pit stop and suddenly a champion finds himself fighting at the very end.

    My conclusions based on the above-mentioned factors are:
    1. DON’T make cars standardized. It kills the show.
    2. DON’T remove fabulous and proven race tracks from the calender to make place for tilkedroms. It kills the show.
    3. DON’T let anyone from the street to F1 and support drivers who bring the skill and the character. Otherwise, you kill the show.
    4.DON’T try to regulate the races too much, leave somethings to a chance, make room for surprises, of course within boundaries of safety and common sense. Or you… you know what :)

    I intentionally omitted the problem of overtaking, because I don’t of it as a crucial characteristic of F1, and I regarded as one of the things that can be compromised in order to improve the previous mentioned one. Moreover I think that given more technical freedom, therefore more variate between the cars, we should have sufficient amount of overtaking. Of course we could drastically cut aero but that would contradict ma initial thought of giving more technical freedom. Cheers.

  20. Hi Keith, great introduction to the series…

    I’ve said plenty of idea over the past couple of years on this site… and looking back at them i have contradicted myself at times, mostly because I’m caught up in the emotion of the championship or the boredom some races generate… below are carefully thought out ideas, that i hope i will stick on for the future.

    1st Testing:

    Increase testing prior to the season with cost cutting restrictions in terms of location from factory, number of personnel, equipment, catering and stuff of that nature.

    2nd Qualification:

    for God’s sake, return to 1 hour session with maximum 12 or even 10 flying laps per driver. the current knockout is not all that bad, but the flurry of fast laps at the end of the lap make it very very confusing and hard to follow, especially for people without Live Timing.

    Also allow the third chassis to be used by rookie driver in practice 1 and be on stand-bye as spare car whose parts would be included as spares within the shipping quantities limit.

    3rd mechanical regulations:

    Drop the V8’s… as mentioned above, in my opinion F1’s golden age in terms of performance was the Turbocharged 80’s, bring back small displacement 4 cylinder Force induced engines, with limited fuel quantities and no refueling.
    Engine and gearbox development would be allowed but only implemented to the units after they have run 4 races… to keep costs at a limit. (quota to remain 1 engine / 4 races with no Rev limit)

    Bigger tires, metal brakes (like on road cars), and less aerodynamics down-force.

    Boost capabilities with the use of KERS or hybrid devices should be allowed, use solar or wind energy if you have to…

    All the above should be designed in such a way that all the solutions and technologies, from safety, tires,and power can be implemented or at least spun off to road cars within a 5 year cycle max.

    4th Racing:

    With regards to racing, the above should mix up the grid a tad bit…pit stops should only be restricted to tires or repairs if needed, and refueling should remain banned.

    5th Promo:
    Safety and medical car should be supplied by the company and brand who’s engine has won the constructor’s championship.
    Tickets to F1 events should be a whole lot cheaper, TV and video internet access should be made available and more public to attract more viewers…

    more ideas should be forth coming as the series goes forth…

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