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

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  1. Speedboat said on 27th April 2010, 23:49

    What’s wrong with Formula 1?

    Most of the chatter is about the technical stuff, but there is more to racing than that. It’s supposed to be entertaining.

    1. The existing downforce/ground clearance dynamic requires rigid suspensions. Flexible tires take the place of compliance. An upside down airplane riding a megabucks go-kart. And it can’t pass a slower car because it comes unstuck in bubbly wind. Functional racing agility has been sacrificed to ultimate cornering speed. This is a weird situation for a class that supposedly is the paragon of handling.

    2. Everyone knows it; F1 needs less aero and more grip. Comparing apples to oranges, NASCAR drives bumper to bumper at similar speeds, so it must be possible to at least improve F1. We don’t care if cornering speeds go down. Aerodynamic regulations should be purposed toward less turbulent wakes. Design for more mechanical grip and torque; let the show go on.

    3. Current regulation tires offer less grip than in 2009 and leave marbles all over the track so there is no place to run outside the racing line. Rain makes an interesting race because the whole track is equally slippery, therefore equally useable. Tires should get traction from a bigger contact patch, with tougher compounds that don’t leave so much debris.

    4. Rule makers should ask the drivers what they need to improve the show. Who knows better than the gladiators?

    5. The new race tracks look like CAD products. No soul. No feng shui. That’s why everyone likes Montreal and Monaco, Spa and Silverstone. Street courses and old tracks.

    6. Fat hips and a beak like a toucan. And that baroque marzipan front wing…! The total F1 aerodynamic package makes ugly race cars. Admit it. They are disproportioned. You wonder how a man can do a day’s work inside that freakish shape.

    7. The action is often difficult to follow on ordinary TV. Too frequent camera jumps and flashy paint jobs; visually confusing like darting reef fish. One basic color per team and big numbers would help.

    8. In this era of digital everything, why are there no online 3D course maps that show the hills and dips?

    9. Bernie should make concessions to get an F1 date started in the USA. The advertising values and the eventual participation of an American team would be a huge payoff. Get them Charlotte rednecks in the game, that’ll wake things up.

    10. Twiddling on the rules and format can suck the life out of any sport. Schemes to artificially induce overtaking, like the fastest cars at the back of the grid, or wetting part of the track, are just dumb stylings.

    11. Who will ever be up to Jackie Stewart’s level as a commentator?

  2. J.A. Summers said on 29th April 2010, 17:02

    Keith, will you post something like a conclusion article at the end of this series? It would be interesting to see if we, your readers, collectively, had reached some kind of conclusion.

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