Making F1 better: a discussion series

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

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163 comments on Making F1 better: a discussion series

  1. his_majesty said on 23rd April 2010, 6:01

    Bernie is somewhat correct with his changing drivers with teams. You only get what you win, (purses would increase of course, drivers would have personal sponsors on their suit, and helmet) drivers will compete for cash! You get a true drivers champion and a true constructors champion. Drivers with the highest points pick the car they want to drive next. You can’t pick the same car twice until all have been driven. Then the driver with the most points picks a team for the final races, and so on down the line. Can others tell me how they feel about this, I think it’s pretty bad a$$

  2. damonsmedley said on 23rd April 2010, 6:04

    F1 isn’t too bad at the moment. All I think it needs is a few more classic circuits with more variety (less street circuits and Tilke creations), a bit less aero (but please, no reducing width of rear wings and increasing width of front wings, just restrict them to circa 2000 levels) and most importantly yet least damaging of the racing; better coverage by FOM. If FOM can lift their game a little F1 would be dramatically improved and the rules wouldn’t even have been changed. All they need to do is broadcast F1 in high definition and fit all cars with onboard cameras as well as decrease the delay in radio transmissions that are often irrelevant by the time we hear them.

  3. Steve said on 23rd April 2010, 6:09

    my top three tips would be, (one of them WILL NEVER HAPPEN)

    1 – standard rear wing or reduce the number of elements a rear wing can have to one, making it a lot less efficient

    2 – let the drivers adjust their front wing as often as they would like, i.e when in clean air, certain setting, when behind another car, a certain setting

    3 – 200-400 more HP…. F1 cars have less power than nascar and indycar…. the brabham engine with 60lbs of turbo boost had over 1400HP , 20 years ago…. F1 cars should be very very difficult to drive and should easily overpower their aero and tires, …. look at senna and mansell around monaco 20 years ago, and how the cars are fighting all the time…. these days, its simply too much aero and too LITTLE POWER!


  4. fred schechter said on 23rd April 2010, 6:17

    SERIOUSLY?! Not one mention of monkey juggling, or pit stop games of operation before returning to the car,, some show!
    But seriously,, maybe monkeys in the cockpit?
    Monkeys taped to the front wheels to increase mechanical grip.
    Possibly some sort of isolation room for girlfriends and wives of drivers and possibly pugil sticks, or simply a single plate of food for them to fight over,, and lots of cameras.
    Maybe some new tethers for Torro Rosso’s wheels (who are we kidding, THAT was exciting!) (Poor guy, I’d have yelled at my engineers to!)
    Monkey co-pilots?
    Better yet, monkey lorry drivers doing the parking of the trailers in the paddock!!!
    You may be noticing a theme here.
    More mechanical grip,
    More Monkeys,
    A little less rear aero wake turbulence.
    Actual good interviews,, (why not, Peter Windsor is free!)

    Oh, Oh,, AND MONKEYS!!!

  5. martin said on 23rd April 2010, 7:01

    The main problem is (was :)) not in the cars but stewarding. Let the guys race out track instead of engineers competing in labcoats and the “show” is improved.
    This means that every overtaking attempt gone wrong should not be awarded with penalty and no more results altering decisions after the race.
    So far, so good this year :)

  6. JohnnyBlazeFire said on 23rd April 2010, 7:17

    Imagine Alonso in a Virgin, battling Button in a Lotus?
    Simply issue the cars on a race weekend on a random basis by a draw.
    That would shake the show up, but the best drivers would still end up shining.

  7. John Edwards said on 23rd April 2010, 7:32

    If I could change one thing and one thing alone:

    -Race at better circuits.

  8. Howard said on 23rd April 2010, 7:49

    I want to see F1 come back to the be the showcase of technology that it once was & to be more relevant to normal cars.

    The first thing would be to progressively reduce the amount of fuel used, but allow the manufacturers to develop new forms of energy recovery – not just the limited KERS system.

    Secondly the resource restriction should be kept in place to prevent it being won by the company with the deepest pockets.

    Thirdly dramatically reduce the rules – the Le Mans rules are much simpler – except for safety aspect. That will encourage inovation, not engineering legal experts:)

  9. BMW said on 23rd April 2010, 7:55

    please stop with the “Improving the show”
    It is NOT a show, it is a sport.

    My own opinion is that F1 does not need improvement. It is fine the way it is. The reason Bernie and the media want to “improve it” is of course to have more viewers, and thereby, more money.
    And there is the problem. Bernie and co. are trying to make F1 appeal to everybody who is watching and thereby appealing to the lowest common denominator, who just want mindless action to fit their beer.

    These is no technical solution to this problem. We can go on and on about banning and un-banning slick, banning and un-banning movable aero, or diffusers, but it will not solve the underlying problem.

  10. Accidental Mick said on 23rd April 2010, 7:58

    Get rid of all the nit-picking rules. Specify the dimensions of the car plus the minimum weight (to avoid the Chapman effect) and set a maximum turbulance left behind (to stop designers deliberately designing a car that is difficult to pass).

    Then allow the designers and engineers do what they want within those parameters.

  11. wasiF1 said on 23rd April 2010, 7:58

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

  12. Mr Jof said on 23rd April 2010, 7:59

    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….

  13. Toncho said on 23rd April 2010, 8:00

    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.

  14. 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.

  15. Nixon said on 23rd April 2010, 8:21

    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.

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