When was F1 at its best? The rose-tinted spectacles problem (Making F1 better)

Posted on | Author Keith Collantine

Did F1 really have a golden era?
Did F1 really have a golden era?

In the golden days of F1 every Grand Prix was a classic, with 20 changes of lead and a photo finish. Dashing drivers would climb from beautiful, sponsor-free cars, light a cigarette and regale the world’s press with quick-witted quips.

Nonsense, of course. It’s easy to write off modern F1 as a pale shadow of its former self, but all too often we are looking at the past through rose-tinted spectacles.

Still, there is much F1 can learn from its past. Which is why we should begin our discussion of how to make F1 better by asking what made F1 great, and what – if anything – is it missing now.

I started watching F1 in 1989 and I always think of those first three years as among the best ever seen in F1. These were the glory days of Prost-vs-Senna-vs-Mansell and I saw some spellbinding races – Hungary ’89, Suzuka ’89, Mexico ’90, Suzuka ’90, Spain ’91 and more.

But I suspect I’m falling victim to the ‘rose-tinted spectacles’ effect when I forget about the less exciting races – the ones where Senna or Prost led all race long and only saw a rival car when they lapped them.

Re-watching race highlights on Youtube makes things worst. A ten-minute race clip can make any race seem exciting – but what happened in the other 110 minutes?

Watch an unedited race from the seventies or eighties and a few things strike you.

First, there were so many retirements. Barely half the field made it to the chequered flag on a good day. Today a failure for one of the top teams is unusual, even at this early stage in the season.

Driver errors were not necessarily more common, but they were more likely to result in a retirement. Cars became stuck on kerbs, bogged down in gravel traps and smashed into walls.

Closer barriers contributed to a greater sense of speed and a more impressive spectacle – as did the showers of sparks from those low-running cars of the early nineties. Modern safety standards may make it impossible to recapture that kind of drama.

Above all, looking at past races you get the sense that everything was much less professional, even as little a 20 years ago. Teams were less well-prepared, more likely to make mistakes.

But they can’t un-learn what they already know any more than we can put a wall around the outside of Eau Rouge. Not all the lessons we learn from the past can be applied to the future.

Over to you

What do you think we can learn from past F1 seasons? Here’s some questions for you discuss in the comments.

When did you start watching F1? Which do you consider were the best seasons you ever saw – and why?

We never see slipstreaming races like those we had at Monza in the fifties and sixties any more. Races where a different leader every lap was common, and a driver knew if he led at the start of the final lap he wouldn’t win a race. Why is that? Would you like to see a return to that kind of racing at some tracks?

In the past F1 cars have lapped circuits in under a minute (at Dijon) and up to ten (at Pescara and the Nurburgring). Now they take a minute and a half, give or take 15 seconds, wherever they go. Why has that variety been lost, and should we bring it back?

The practice of multiple circuits sharing one Grand Prix, which was common in France and Britain for decades, has disappeared everywhere apart from Germany. Is this a good thing?

Why is the Circuit de Catalunya, a track that was lauded as an excellent venue for overtaking when it was added to the calendar in 1991, now condemned for producing boring races?

Share your thoughts in the comments.

This is part of “Making F1 better”, a series of articles looking at ways to improve Formula 1. Fore more information see the introduction: Making F1 better: a discussion series

Making F1 better

218 comments on “When was F1 at its best? The rose-tinted spectacles problem (Making F1 better)”

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  1. The first full season I watched was 2003, and funnily enough, that’s also my favourite ever season. :D

    1. It was a good year – but then the seasons before and after it were the worst I’ve ever seen, so perhaps that’s part of the reasons why.

      1. Yeah I agree with that, 2002 and 2004 were very bad indeed so maybe made 2003 look brilliant. Still a good year though.

        1. damonsmedley
          24th April 2010, 14:39

          2002 was my first year and although it is considered a boring year by many, it remains one of my personal favourites and I don’t even support Schumacher! But what I miss dearly is the scream of a V10 going past… I would turn the volume up so loud my hairs would stand on end and tears would form in my eyes, and I was only 8 years old. Now revisiting videos where I can hear that sound makes me sad when I think of the horrible monotonous low-revving drone of the severely rev limited V8s of today. But Bernie keeps changing F1 far too dramatically and in the wrong areas. He only needs to reduce the aero to around the late ’90s levels, which in turn would increase overtaking, improve the FOM telecast and make it more accessible for fans. (And give us HD!)

      2. when your team is wining nothing matters more thats why you liked 89 90 and 91 the rose tinted spectacles maybe that lacked last year because no one said 09 was perfect because it was an unusual season it finished a few months back and we arent kids anymore (some of us) i loved 2000 its stuck on my brain but reviewing maybe it wasnt that good

      3. I started watching in the late 90’s when the Schumi-Hakkinen rivalry was its peak.

    2. Same here, that season made me fall in love with the sport :D

      1. Ummm … so, 1967 as a VERY young wee boy cheering on the dominant Scot (My parents didn’t know GP. They knew countrymen! lol) makes me seem olde?

        Or, the pedal car decked out in Lotus livery and plastic Cosworth? :)

        Roaring around the neighbourhood, I was Stirling, Jimmy and Jackie all in one!



        I was andy.

        Best of them all! LOL

        Cute side story? Like most Scots,
        Jimmy Clark had relatives in Canada.

        One day whilst driving the busiest
        highway in the world, I spotted a well
        dressed man at the side of the road.
        His motor was non groovy-like.

        I pulled over to offer him help.
        Gave the lad a lift to the village next to mine. We got talking and he told me his name was Jimmy Clark. I jokingly asked if he was related to “the” Jimmy Clark.

        Yes he replied. His maw’s uncle.


        Turns out dad’s last name was Clark too!

        And, the lads dad was named Jimmy! (Yeah. I know. What a shock. A Scot named Jimmy).

        The boy was a school teacher on the way to visit his sister for the weekend and we did not have mobiles back then.

        1. 2003 was a very good season then, the race went to the final round of the season in Japan.It was the season that made know Kimi.

        2. J.A. Summers
          29th April 2010, 16:56

          What a great story, gpfan!

    3. I started watching F1 in 1986.
      It was the age of dueling Prost-Senna-Mansell-Piquet-Berger
      It was the picture of the late 80s and early 90s…
      There was an atmosphere a bit special (many today are nostalgic of that period)
      The races were not necessarily more exciting than today. The tempo of the race was slower in my opinion, punctuated by pit stops and overtaking slower cars. Not always big battles !

      I remembered :
      The bravery of the pilots (they had the “balls” to drive in thses conditions with a total lack of security)
      The real rivalry between the drivers, with fair play
      The uncertainty associated with retirement of racing, accidents …
      The many cars…, the golden age of sponsorship (cigarettes, alcohol)

      I stopped watching F1 in the early 2000s, more annoying to me and those who really have hurt the F1 with ultra boring race and to much domination

      Since 2005, the seasons are more interesting fom me, more exciting, wtith a lot of new strong driver – but business and politic are killing the sport.
      I hope that it could change ..

      I Continue to watch F1 and I found the beginning of the season very nice. I’m also on some tracks sometime and I’m never disappointed from the show.

  2. Grace Puddleduck
    23rd April 2010, 16:02

    Barcelona always produces boring races because teams know how to set their cars up perfectly due to the fact they test there every single year.
    Easy fix to this, change the test tracks around evey year, or, test at tracks that dont have F1 races – ala San Marino, Paul Ricard etc.

    1. Totally they shouldn’t be allow to test on race tracks that will be used for racing in that particular year.But the problem this season it was easy for the team to go to Spain as it cost them less money.

      1. J.A. Summers
        29th April 2010, 16:52

        In Spain, you could still go to Valencia or Jérez to test. (Or even Motorland Aragón, but that would probably only offer needless setup worries.)

    2. I was at the UAE race!!

    3. I went to the UAE race!!! Miss ya!!

  3. I think there are two issues here. Firstly there is the issue of more entertaining racing – which is lots of overtaking, not knowing who’s going to win until near the end of the race, and so on. Then there is the issue of what makes a season entertaining – which tends to be a close championship with lots of different people in contention at different stages. For me the two issues are somewhat independent – for example, 2007 will go down in history as one of the closest and most interesting championships of its era, but taken individually the races were largely extremely dull.

    You can control the first factor much more easily than you can the second, at least while keeping something that vaguely adheres to the spirit of F1. The danger with sweeping rule changes is that one team will get a headstart on the rest and dominate, as we saw with Brawn in 2009, Renault in 2005 and McLaren in 1998, to give recent examples. But the rule changes can improve individual races by increasing overtaking opportunities and so on. So for me it’s not so much a question of “Which season was the best?” as a question of “What factors produced the best individual races?”

    1. OK, so, which factors produced the best individual races?

      1. There’s the other problem! The races we tend to remember as being the “best” are the ones with exceptional circumstances – Suzuka 2005, for example, where the race wasn’t decided until the last lap. But if it hadn’t rained on Saturday and mixed up the grid, that race wouldn’t have been nearly as exciting. If every race was decided on the final lap it would cease to be remarkable or interesting.

        That’s not to say that there can’t be improvement in the general quality of racing. But the “rose-tinted specs” effect you mention means that it’s difficult to compare between eras, because it’s only the truly classic races that remain in the memory. And by definition, not every race can be a classic.

        1. … and even if every race could be a “classic” that would make them all a little less special and we’d probably hear complaints of “These races are all just to chaotic.”

        2. And by definition, not every race can be a classic.

          I do think that gets forgotten sometimes. I’m sure even football fans can get bored during nil-nil draws.

          1. J.A. Summers
            29th April 2010, 16:55

            Yes, I do agree. When talking about the “golden era” of F1, we seem to remember that even those years had boring races. To me, it’s not about making every race exciting. Not every race needs to be exciting. On the contrary, boring races make the few exciting ones stand out a lot more. Boring races are part of F1, just like goalless draws are part of football, and no one complains about them, millions of new people start watching football every year, and no one is asking to “improve the show” there.

  4. I’ve enjoyed watching F1 since the mid eighties. I’ve always enjoyed it however, I did turn off for a couple of years in the early 2000’s. Honestly I think for non-Shumacer/Ferrai fans that was the only time that F1 was more ‘boring’ than it is right now.

    1. I reckon F1 was only fun for Schumacher fans in 2002 the way it was only fun for Mansell fans in 1992.

      1. Christian Biddon
        23rd April 2010, 16:30

        My first attended GP was Estoril 1992 where I saw Mansell win not only the race but the championship. I also got to see Senna drive.

        A stunning first live race. :-)

        1. he won the championship at hungary, not at estoril.

        2. Did you see Patrese’s crash? (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nj7TewU5AVc for those who haven’t seen it)

          1. Thanks KC,never saw that before…Patrese taking a draft from Breger going in to the pits…maybe you could do a post on bad moves in F1.

      2. Praveen Titus
        28th April 2010, 11:23

        You can say that again. In fact if there was an option to cancel a few seasons from the history of the sport, it should be 2002 and 2004, because those seasons were responsible for the creation of the myth that Schumacher is Invincible!

        I’m not interested in sparking an argument here. I’m not discrediting Schumi. Michael Schumacher is one of the greatest drivers of all time – no question about that. But, the fact that he had no realistic competition from anyone made people think he could beat anyone, anytime, anywhere.

        In contrast, Jimmie Johnson, though creating a somewhat Schumacher effect in NASCAR, does not make it boring because there is still the unknown factor in NASCAR – u never know who will win the race. F1 did not have that unpredictability factor in 2002, and to a certain extent in 2004.

        However, Schumi did display some great driving in 2004, fending off Montoya at the start to get the lead at Monza, for example.

        1. The 2009 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, if I counted correctly had 37 points races. If you recall, Jeff Gordon came third in the Championship even though he only won 1 race in the whole season. Mark Martin came second in the series scoring only 5 wins. Jimmie Johnson, the champion, won 7 races. That’s only 18.9% of the races (Sebastien Vettel won 23.5% of the F1 races in 2009 and still came second in the championship). However, Kyle Busch, like Mark Martin, won 5 races in the 2009 NASCAR season, but missed the Chase for the Cup because he didn’t have consistent top 20 or better finishes. Again, Denny Hamlin scored 4 wins, but only finished fifth in the chase because he didn’t have enough Top 20 or better finished. Success in NASCAR is far more about consistent finishes rather than winning. Jimmie Johnson won four consecutive titles during which time plenty of other drivers won races. Since they weren’t able the match he overall consistent top 20 or better finishes, they couldn’t beat him. So what does it matter if you don’t know who will win a NASCAR race? You know Johnson will be within 5 places of whoever does win and will most likely win the championship because of it. My point being that in the grand scheme of the NASCAR season you know who’s probably going to take the title, just like in 2002 and 2004 you knew Schumacher was going to take the title. Drivers winning an odd race in NASCAR is like Ralf Schumacher, David Coulthard, or Montoya winning an race or even getting pole in 2002 or 2004. Eight times out of ten Michael Schumacher had the better race pace and even if the other drivers managed to win a race Michael was still on the podium. So how can you say NASCAR, in context, isn’t as allegedly boring as F1 was in 2002 and 2004?

          1. Praveen Titus
            28th April 2010, 14:22

            I understand your point. Totally agree. But if you leave the grand scheme and talk about NASCAR on a race-by-race basis, it makes you want to see till the end of the race because u never know when something would happen. Who would get a draft to soar to the front of the pack,who would run out of fuel or when a last lap carnage would bring out the pace car and the change the strategy for the drivers? If you watched the race at Talladega, no one knew Kevin Harvick had a chance at that win except at the last lap. In just the previous lap it looked as if Montoya would pull it off!

            But in F1 in 2002 I could know by around lap 10 in almost any race that Schumacher would clinch it. It wasn’t a “race” anymore. Forget the championship situation – not knowing who will win till at least the last 5 laps does make a difference.

          2. I’ve watched all the NASCAR races this season except Texas. Yes, Talledega, and other races were exciting, in and of themselves. Looking at F1, though, it really gets me on the edge of my seat when someone wins, or has a chance of winning because you know it actually means a lot towards the championship. For me, NASCAR does not get me as exciting because wins don’t mean as much. Again, as you said, the finishes this year Talladega and Daytona to name a couple, were exciting, but nowhere near as exciting, for me, as an F1 win or finish. I find when I’m watching a NASCAR race, I’m more concerned as to whether my favorite drivers finish well rather than who won because I feel that it’s more important. For Example, Talledega last year. Jamie MacMurray won the race – meh. However, Jimmie Johnson crashed – that’s exciting. That result had the potential to close up the chase for the cup. So, for me, the excitement in NASCAR is more in whether teams will keep out of trouble and keep their car in tune with the changing track conditions so that they will finish well. I would say the same thing about Formula One if Formula had a similar points system and amount of races.
            Going back to one of the original comments about F1 in 2002 and 2004 being allegedly boring. I personally found it amazing that Schumacher and Ferrari won so Formula One races. I always thought, given to peak level of competition that is Formula One, that it’s just as exciting when a driver or drivers dominate races as it is when the races are close because it is so hard, as we’ve see in the last 3 seasons of F1, to be that dominant. It’s tempting to think that what Schumacher and Ferrari did from 2000 to 2006 was easy, but is unbelievably hard to do that in F1. That’s why Michael Schumacher is considered on of the greats.

    2. How can you say that F1 is boring now. The last 3 championships have gone down to the wire.

      1. I dont really think you could say that 2009 went down to the wire, but I agree with your point.

        1. The individual races are boring. The sum of their parts made the championship interesting.

          2008 was a fairly boring year up until the last corner of the last race.

          1. I don’t think as much, similar to previous comments, as a whole the 2008 season i enjoyed, but individual races werent the best. However this year the individual races have been pretty good.

          2. Why? I think that in 2008 there have been much more exciting races than in other years. Of course there where some snoozers (Valencia) but the races at Melbourne, Monaco, Canada, Silverstone, Spa, Monza and Brazil have been great while some others (Turkey, Japan,…) have been reasonably good. Compare this to the almost totally boring races of 2007, a season that was only saved by the tight championship and the last few races.

        2. It’s true that 2009 didn’t go to the wire but Button had a tough fight in Brazil to get his championship & that last couple of laps battle between Webber & Button really highlighted the year showing that the usual front runner Mclaren Ferrari & Renault were taking a back seat.

  5. Started watching in the 70s. Attended the British GP in Mansell’s heyday.

    Race coverage and coverage of the sport is much more intense now. We used to be treated to abbreviated highlight coverage of some races which was frustrating. And of course there was no internet coverage, limited in-car shots and fewer cameras in general. I actually could understand the race a lot better from one spot at the circuit, with no large TV screens to observe and no radio commentary/mobile TV than I could watching on TV. I remember seeing the joy in the Minardi pit when they actually scored a point from my spot at the end of the front straight at Silverstone.
    But some of the most boring seasons were those dominated by the likes of Lotus where two cars would practically be in a separate race from the other teams. I lost interest to a great degree when Shumi dominated because the result was a foregone conclusion. The last three seasons and this one have actually been amongst the best from that perspective, who knew Braun would dominate or if they could hang on for a full season? Who knew the championship could be decided at the last corner of the last race of a season?
    So enjoy it kids! It’s great! Millions spent for your entertainment and you can watch it all for free!

    1. Cheerio- I think F1 hasn’t been boring since alonso took schumachers dominance away. Those 2k to 2004 was a complete snooze! More overtaking would be welcome with open arms of course, but what are you going to do? Take the wings away? I think that would be a great idea actually! More performance commanded by the driver and overtaking! Tell me what’s wrong with that. By the way Bernie, that would significantly cut costs!

      1. >Take the wings away? I think that would be a >great idea actually! More performance >commanded by the driver and overtaking! Tell >me what’s wrong with that.

        Team sponsors wouldn’t be very happy tho’ :)

    2. Well said, Scalextric.
      And, most here don’t
      know what Scalextric
      means! ;)

      Play Station? pffff.

      By the by. We were lucky
      to get the footage you got.

      Were it not for The Indy
      500, I should not have seen
      GP stars live at all.

      Every year of F1 is the best


  6. Closer barriers contributed to a greater sense of speed and a more impressive spectacle

    The Tech-Pro barriers could help with this, I know they have them at newer tracks like Yas Marina. I’m not sure how much run-off they could potentially remove the need for, but perhaps we could wrap them round the Nordschleife! ;)

    1. Now that’s the kind of thinking I like!

      Al though you have got me wondering whether it was a TecPro barrier that Natacha Gachnang crashed into last week. Anyone know?

      1. don’t forget that the teams want to bring down costs, so they wouldn’t be happy to write-off a car, bringuing those berriers closer, just for the show.

    2. Ned Flanders
      23rd April 2010, 16:18

      Are they that safe though? Natacha Gachnang hit them (albeit pretty hard) at Abu Dhabi on Saturday, and she broke her leg. Plus the session had to be postponed for ages while the barriers were prepared

      1. I was watching that session, she went in pretty damn hard nose first, I’m sure the barrier system actually stopped her from receiving worse injuries.

      2. I would take the possibility of having an extended delay, if the nordsclife be put into modern F1 hands.

      3. But would she have been safer in an F1 car or not? I have no idea, because although an F1 can resist incredible impacts, the drivers still has their feet fairly close to the front of the car, so it might only take a minor failure to prove critical.

    3. How much would 26 miles of Tech-Pro cost?!

      I wish they’d put some up at the last corner at Barcelona. Lose that stupid chicane, and give us the old fast, scary corner back. That might improve the races there.

      1. The main reason for not racing at Nordsclife is response times. Granted cars are less likely to catch fire but the threat is still there.

        1. Plus the cars can’t get round all the corners quickly now, they have to creep round the top of at least one of the banked hairpins! :-)

      2. i agree. As long as they keep doing that thing to race tracks, they won’t see me at any of them. I only watch moto gp live, f1, i watch it on tv. Moesley must do a lot to bring f1 to a decent standard. He is on the right path, it seems.

        1. i meant jean todt. Mosley was the one that started the mess.

  7. When did you start watching F1? Which do you consider were the best seasons you ever saw – and why?
    – I started watching in 2000 or 2001, schus dominant era, i remember being bored of him winning all the time, somehow i stuck with it though, which is some going for a 12 year old! But i think 2008 or 09 where the best i have actually seen.

    Shorter sub 1minute tracks.
    -I have no issue with them, if places liek Laguna Seca are ever suggested by fans, another fan will immediately short them down with “its too short” I dont buy it. I want to see mega long 16 mile tracks back, there more issues with them though.

    Alternating tracks
    – Couldn’t care less quiet frankly

    -Its a high speed track, lots of long progressive, quick corners, just the kind of corners that the current days cars, can’t follow in because of the wake.

    Make it better by – Less Wing, Fatter tyres, maybe the low profile will work too, turbo or kers engines, no double diffusers, and allow teams to use things like adjustable rear wings, or fduct stalling device things.

    1. if everbody has f-ducts adjustables and kers ther is no point but if you r mclaren fan thats brilliant

  8. That’s exactly it, in most cases people say their child hood was the best part of their lives because their memeries are vague and only seem to remember the best bits, it’s like that in f1 too, clearly, the best bits of the past seasons are remembered for the overtakes, but surelythere were races where few maneuvers occured, even in that classic period in the 70s and 80s we would have seen our fair shares of Bahrain 2010s.

    Another point is that the invention of the computer seems to have been problematic for the spectator, long ago a huge engine could be enough, brute force would win you a race. Then teams began trying aerodynamic components (lotus high rear spoiler ect) but these could be crude estimates and took a long time to prepare, hand drawn and written mathematic calculations. The computer, as great as it is, has spoiled f1, teams can make adjustments and new components and see acurately ( for the most part) how they will react on a track. The pieces made are so efficient that the front runners cars are now almost equal in terms of downforce/ drag efficiency, and the engine regulations mean that there is not much to be gained by using differant engines so:

    how about regulating the amount of electricity a team can use to stop them using their computers or give them less powerful stock supercomputers to limit their calculations, failing that increase rear tyre sizes, give us V10s and much softer or much harder tyres please.

    1. Adrian Newey still uses a pencil and paper

      1. Yes, He’s also a distant relative of Jesus :)

  9. Geoff Thomas
    23rd April 2010, 16:13

    Interesting series of questions! I started following F1 in the early ‘sixties and the first GP I attended was at Brands Hatch in 1964 and I’ve attended just about every British GP since then…
    And the truth of the matter is that there wasn’t a ‘golden age’ at all – just some formulae were better than others. I miss the sound of a V12 engine and also the mind-blowing speed of the turbo cars in a straight line even if the noise was nothing special. When I watched 1.5-litre cars they were F1 so they were OK if slow by today’s standards. However, in the early ‘sixties they were the biz.
    I certainly don’t miss the tragic fatality rate in the first 20 years I watched the sport and we all owe Jackie Stewart a huge debt of gratitude for his safety stance which so many deplored at the time.
    Truth be known, I’ve enjoyed watching F1 racing in each of the decades I’ve been attending Grands Prix. Wildly different, but always at the cutting edge of technology and with drivers I’ve admired for their skill, personalities and sheer bravado.
    It’s a wonderful sport and although I can understand people not being turned-on by it, I still get up at ungodly hours to watch events unfold. And although I’ve frequently not agreed with him, we should all thank Bernie – and to a degree Max – for creating a sport which receives widespread media coverage. In the 1960s, F1, with the exception of Monaco and the British GP was only covered in depth if someone was killed or seriously injured. Thank god those days are behind us.
    Yes, it’s far, far more professional and vastly more difficult to get into the paddock to see the cars which is a shame. Technology has changed – telemetry didn’t even exist in 1964 – and the circuits are more prone to boring races. But it that means fewer drivers at one with unyielding barriers, then I’m in favour.
    In my time I’ve been to races at Monaco, Monza, Spa, the new Nurburgring, Clermont Ferrand, Silverstone, Brands Hatch and Donington and enjoyed each and every one of them. Here’s to another 30 years – or more – of F1 for me!
    Geoff Thomas (60)

    1. Wow, that is great experience you sum up there.
      So one thing keeping F1 interesting is continuously reinventing itself and changing, giving the teams new challenges to be on top?
      And interesting and controversial figures competing in it to spice things up.

    2. Finally someone older than me. I start to watch F1 in 1972. For those who think 70´s was a gold age: I watched an interview with Emerson Fittipaldi few days ago. What really stroke me was two things. First one fact, through all his F1 career, there was almost two deaths per year. Second one story, he was in a hospital looking after Nick Lauda who had just suffer that horrible crash in Nurburgring (1976) and was practicly dead. The Ferrari chief, by that time, said to him: Horrible isn´t it? By the way, How do you feel about driving a Ferrari?
      My best race was Susuka 89. It was my girl friend´s prom. The organization put a big screen in the middle of the saloon and for two hours I forgot completly my girl friend and watched that race. I lost her. No regrets.

      1. Spoken like a true F1 Fanatic!

      2. Praveen Titus
        28th April 2010, 19:30

        The deaths were really horrendous. Starting from Jochen Rindt, it was a list of great names including, Francois Cevert, Peter Revson, Tom Pryce, Ronnie Peterson. And these were the most horrible and bloody too.

        The Ferrari chief’s (wasn’t it Montezemolo?) comment shows the callous attitude towards driver safety these glorified teams, including Lotus, had at the time. It took someone with guts, like Jackie Stewart, to fight the establishment. But I do like the 70s for aggressive design of the cars, with those tiny front tyres and massive canisters at the rear.

    3. Good luck to you, Geoff.

      30 years at CGP for me.
      4 or 5 at USGP East.
      1 at Silverstone.

      Wish I did Germany (split
      with wife).

      Hope you do another 30 more.

      If ever in Canada, ding me.

      Every year was the best.

      andy (46)

    4. great post geoff, thanks for sharing that :)

  10. I think the ‘Golden Age of F1’ is person dependant, and for many I think that the period people start watching the sport is well remembered. For me that was around ’96/’97/’98, and I look back fondly on that time.

    I think variety in tracks is something that needs to be looked at – how can the sport claim to have the best drivers and cars in the world when, they race on such a limited spectrum of tracks? F1 should broaden it’s horizons – a couple of oval races a year would be interesting, as would a really short, fast track run to something like 100 laps. Going to a longer circuit like the Nordschleife might be a bit out of reach, but I see no reason why F1 can’t go to longer tracks that are still in use – La Sarthe for example – or commission brand new venues which have longer circuits. I like the way that Germany currently rotates it’s GP – it gives me a new appreciation for both the Nurburgring and the Hockenheimring and I think it’s something that more countries could do.

    1. F1 should broaden it’s horizons – a couple of oval races a year would be interesting, as would a really short, fast track run to something like 100 laps. Going to a longer circuit like the Nordschleife might be a bit out of reach, but I see no reason why F1 can’t go to longer tracks that are still in use – La Sarthe for example – or commission brand new venues which have longer circuits.

      All sounds good to me!

    2. I’ll second that. Track variety would be an added test of individual drivers’ particular skills and teams’ particular strengths. Ovals would be cool, but I don’t see it happening – just don’t see the political will for that materializing. Shorter & longer tracks are more feasible I think, though I doubt it’ll happen before someone takes over from Bernie. It would certainly be a way of throwing more variables into the mix without tampering with rules.

      (It’ll never happen, but who wouldn’t want to see what modern F1 cars would look like plying the length of the old Nurburgring?)

    3. Oval races are a horrible idea. Overly dangerous and boring.

    4. The roads that formed the old Spa-Francoshamps are still there. With a bit of effort one could bring the Alsa-Masta back. And it would not be too long of a circuit: less than 14 kms. I still drive those roads thinking the likes of Jim Clark and Fangio drove here (and now, so did I) – up to 2003 you could actually drive the whole old circuit. It would divert from the new one at Les Combes and joint it back at Blanchimont…great stuff.

  11. I started watching F1 full time in 1992 after having become hooked on the sport in late 1991. The seasons which really stand out for me were 94, 96, 98 and 2008.

    1994 stands out because it was a tragic year for F1, it was the first season I watched were politics played a major role, and it was a genuinely exciting race for the title.

    1996 stands out because the cars all looked fantastic, and the thought of a MSC v D Hill battle in which MSC (who I had to concede to my regret was the far better driver) would be taking on Hill in vastly inferior machinery was just a fantastic prospect. The relief on Hill’s face when he finally won the WDC is an image I will never forget, and I had a very big lump I my throat (just like Murray Walker) when he crossed the line to clinch the title in Japan… I actually wept with joy, and I’m not ashamed to admit that!

    1998 was great because the rules shake up spiced up life at the front. McLaren were back, and the Mika MSC battles were epic.

    The MSC era was largely forgettable. While I can appreciate and commend the work that he and the team put in to achieve that level of dominance, very few races stand out. Spa 2000 (classic Mika versus MSC action and France 2004 stands out because of Ferrari’s crazy 4 stop strategy.

    I have to say that the 2008 season was one of the best i ever saw. The Ferrari-McLaren battle was epic, with both sides making mistakes, and the title coming down to the final corner of the final race was the stuff of Hollywood…

    1. I felt the same during the 1996 season, it was fantastic to see Damon win the title that year.

      I got into the sport in 1993 when I was 10 years old and it’s still one of my favourite years, even though I know it was hardly a classic really.

      I loved the look of the Williams that year and the 1994 for one, obviously minus the accident three races into that season. :P

  12. Ned Flanders
    23rd April 2010, 16:26

    I’ve been watching F1 live since 2000, know all the seasons well back to the late 80’s, and have a decent awareness of F1 before that period.

    Of all the seasons I’ve watched, I’d say 2008 was best. But I think that was simply down to luck- there were lots of safety car affected and/ or wet races in ’08. I think the general process has been for F1 to get more boring

  13. I atarted watching in ’99 having had my interest piqued from Nigel Mansell’s World Championship Racing on SNES thru Formula 1 and ’97 on PSX. I saw the Aussie races cos they had blanket coverage but only by ’99 did I realise this was something I wanted to stay up late for.

    The circuits have always been the priority for me, either a cause or as a result of the video games. In that way I think ’99 is an odd year for me to start with F1 in that it saw the first of the full Tilkedromes come in with Malaysia.

    I can only look upon the olden golden days as they are presented to me and seeing cars rip around Paddock Bend or flying off Flugplatz is really special. I know safety is more important now than ever and with that as somewhat of a spectre then tracks like the Nordschlieffe cannot be considered. But Keith’s right, even without the Pescara’s and the AVUS’s there used to be such variations in circuits which we don’t see now. This is turning into another Tilke rant but I think it’s telling that I can’t see any rose-tinted views on Tilke races over the last decade and a bit.

    I can’t really say which is the best season I saw as I too drifted around 2002 onwards. I have fond memories of that first season ’99 and of 2008 and 2009 but that can easily be traced to the close championships and my general liking of McLaren (and underdogs).

    I think ideas like using the Outer circuit of Bahrain are a good place to start. Make it a real Desert Dash, a proper reason to go there. Obviously you can have short fast circuits elsewhere, but they don’t. So make Bahrain the one. The races are Grands Prix, they should be special and unique. The should scream BAHRAIN, CHINA, VALENCIA! Not just be an excuse for people to get a tan overlooking the cars or an exercise in selling luxury cars to countries that are yet to have their own luxury car industries.

  14. Ned Flanders
    23rd April 2010, 16:29

    In fact, my last comment has made me think… in the last 10 years, how many great races have there been which weren’t wet, or shaken up by rain affected qualifying or the safety car? I can’t think of many…

    1. The 2002 Australian GP

      1. San Marino 2005. You’re right though, I can’t think of many either!

        1. Ned Flanders
          23rd April 2010, 19:19

          San Marino is a good example. I think Schumacher qualified in the midfield, presumably he made a mistake in qualifying or something, but obviously he was by far the quickest man on race day

        2. Preferred the ’06 one to be honest :-P but both great races.

    2. Can you mention how many great races there have been ever in the history of F1 where nothing out of the ordinary has happened?

      1. Zero, is the answer.

  15. Robert McKay
    23rd April 2010, 16:30

    I’m all for greater variety of tracks.

    Oval is extreme but a couple more Monza/Hockenheim like races, definitely. A few more new circuits designed to be theoretical absolute modern classics would be nice too, as opposed to whacking some floodlights and a hotel in a desert tarmac car park. I don’t believe anyone is actually designing circuits

    I keep banging on about it but less overdesigned circuits with too many corners – if the lap is a bit short, I don’t care, we’ll do more of them. There’s little modern need for chicanes if you are building from scratch…they only ever should have been ways of temporarily slowing down dangerous sections, not a de rigeur design feature of a circuit.

    I’d definitely take the new circuit design monopoly away from Tilke…he might be doing what he can within restrictive regulations, but a bit of variety from others would definitely be nice…ideally from a proper tender process for circuit design, but even 3 different Tilke-type gurus would help that.

    No more street circuits, and drop Valencia. Monaco, yes, keep, definitely. Singapore, needs revised in places, the night race will keep it there.

    I know it is artificial, but I am quite liking the “forced” rain races we are getting or being very likely to get, with Shanghai and Sepang. Wouldn’t want every race to be like that or do that, but this helps.

    And that lot is what I’d do JUST on the circuit design side…there’s so much more :-D

    1. Robert McKay
      23rd April 2010, 16:31

      Meant to say “I don’t believe anyone is actually designing circuits to be classic, challenging, amazing venues…not for F1, anyway”.

    2. I second that. More verity in tracks, length and layout. An oval race would be interesting.

  16. The first race I ever saw was Hungary 2002. From there on, I watched F1 every now and then. But now I’ve seen every race since Hungary 2007.

    My favourite season was 2006, I have seen most races from that season. I loved how Schumacher was playing catch up to Alonso, and how he actually caught him, only to lose out in Japan.

  17. I started watching f1 in 1999 and the first full season that I watched was 2000, when I was 10 years old. I remember the battles between schumacher and hakkinen. I remember when Hakkinen passed schumacher few laps remaining to race finish, but I can’t remember what gp it was. So the most fascinating years were 2000 and 2001. I was Hakkinen’s fan and I really enjoyed his battle with schuey.

  18. I think everybody should stop living in the past, F1 will never return to any era, it’s impossible, it is a sport which advances so quickly in technology, even the thought of it is stupid. My first season that I watched was 1997 in full, but, I don’t have a ‘favourite’ season, each one is different. 2007 saw possibly the closest season ever, 2008 saw a rise of the underdogs, and 2009 was just mayhem. They were all great seasons, but there is no favourite one. I think F1 should be able to be as technically advanced as possible, while keeping a high safety aspect of course.

  19. I agree with R McKay, these Tilke circuits are so boring, there is no character to them what so ever. As long as the fastest cars start at the front and slowest at the back, well then they will always be somewhat predictable. Unless we take away computer designed cars, this is what we are left with, predictable races.

    Get rid of the massive areodynamics and let the drivers drive.

  20. My first full season was 1999, and the first race Spa 1998. Interestingly enough, these also almost qualify for my favourite season and race, respectively. Although Spa 1998 was a thriller of a race, it is clear that the rose-tinted glasses effect is still occurring. Having recently watched the reply of the race, I seriously think that Spa 2008 and Monza 2008 (a similar example, consider that Vettel, just like Hill ten years ago, won in a midfield car) were no worse races.

    Similarly, although 1999 season produced some breathtaking races, some of them were boring. I come to think of it, it is actually good for Formula 1 if we have a mix of more interesting and less interesting GP’s. Why am I in favour of so-called “boring” GP’s? Surely, an opening race in Bahrain this year went a little too far, but “boring” races bring a sense of consistency to the season. Obviously the races such as Albert Park and Shanghai this year were a pleasure to watch, but I believe that F1 wouldn’t do better if all the races in the calendar were of similar calibre. Why not? Because then the result of the race will be too unpredictable, and subsequently the emphasis on the car development and the “technological race” will be diminished. In the situation where every car from top 10 has a realistic shot at the win, lost tenths in the qualifying will lose their utmost significance. The sport will be too bogged in strategy/driver advantage and the technological development (which in my viewpoint, should contribute about 40% of “the show”) will fade in importance. Seriously, I think we will all get bored if we watch 19 Shanghai’s in the row. The championship will be too unpredictable, our discussions regarding the future of the season would be rendered useless, and we will eventually bill the races as essentially “tyre-strategy” dependent.

    That said, don’t get me wrong, I do not need repeats of Bahrain. Perhaps a more-or-less linear race throws a stabilising mix into the championship, but a processional race with virtually no overtaking must be a forgotten concept for Formula 1. We, the fans, do not need it. Below I will expand on my thoughts of which factors would make for closer racing.

    1. Overtaking is a problem for F1. And yet, crucially, I do not want to see drivers overtake all the time. As Jenson Button has recently said, we will all get bored if there’s too much overtaking. Sure enough, we all want to give the attacking guy a chance of an overtake, but we should not forget about the defending guy. What I really want in Formula 1 are race battles, and not people casually passing each other because they’re 5 tenths quicker a lap. Then we’d see an opposite example of processional races. The first few laps will be thrilling, and then, once everyone has put his car in a tidy sequence of drivers ranked from fastest to slowest, we will willingly turn off the TV. More overtaking helps F1, but there should not be too much of it. I think last season had a decent overtaking/lack-of-such balance. This season, especially in the dry, is painfully more tilted towards no overtaking.

    2. Now, the technology. In my previous post, I have defended aero’s significance in F1 and yet considered the easing of the technical regulations to boost design creativity. Another problem that is too pressing for me personally; however, is the endurance of the technology. Keith did well to remark that the previous seasons featured many more retirements that we are used to in recent years. And I am not even talking of eighties. Even the beginning of the “noughties” threw some remarkably non-durable cars onto the field. Personally, I would to see more of such retirements. Random retirements among the top teams especially, will raise marginal unpredictability in the sport, which would yet endanger the front-runners in the case they do build up a healthy points margin. How can we achieve that? Push up the speeds. Formula 1 is the pinnacle of motorsport and its cars should be rockets compared to lower series. I do not see the point (other than safety, of course) of limiting speeds in F1. If designers can design faster cars, let them do it. We should not build faster cars at the expense of safety, but I’m sure some meaningless restrictions can be lifted.

    3. Circuits. I am really against venues that year-by-year throw up processional races. Sure enough, let some circuits retain their places in the calendar for 3-4 years just to test them. I’m all for keeping Valencia and Abu Dhabi just to see if they can produce anything exciting. But come on, if Montmelo has had one interesting race in the past 20! years, it has to go. Same goes for Hungaroring. If such places have any historic meaning for F1, redesign them.

    1. I think you hit the nail on the head. Overtaking is necessary, but shouldn’t necessarily be “easy”, although there is something to be said about the races in CART when the ground effect cars ruled. I also fully agree with technolgy being crucial for the following reasons:
      1) relagation forces a team to live with inherent weaknesses in a design for an entire year, which means by 1/4 into the season, they are stuck if they have a major problem with their car. It also requires teams to be more conservative in their approaches to avoid this so their designs won’t be as radical.
      2) Reliability sucks because no one retires. Some of the greatest races were created because someone retired. Lets be honest, Vettel retiring near the end of the Bahrain race was the only thing that made that race just “terrible” instead of “God awful”.
      3) Pushing technology to its limit creates exciting vehicles, exciting racing, and exciting retirements. Alot of the reason for the consistantly increasing budgets was teams having to invest in ridiculously awful ROI research projects to improve their pace by 0.1s/lap. It’s like what STR said about developing an F-duct: “If I have ten euros and am hungry, I would buy two sandwiches instead of three grams of caviar.” This is precisely what tighter regulations produce, HUGE costs to get the same performance that could be had at a cheaper price with more open regulations.

      1. Reliability sucks because no one retires. Some of the greatest races were created because someone retired. Lets be honest, Vettel retiring near the end of the Bahrain race was the only thing that made that race just “terrible” instead of “God awful”.

        But is there any way to encourage people to create less reliable cars?

        I wonder whether the points system could help here. The changes in 2003 and again this year have made finishing in the lower reaches of the top ten much more valuable.

        As a consequence, it’s now more important to make sure you finish a race, rather than make sure you win a race.

        Does this encourage teams to be more conservative when they design their cars? Better to have one that can be expected to finish every race in the points than one that will definitely win races but might not finish all of them?

        To illustrate my point, winning a race used to be worth the same as finishing second in one race and finishing third in another added together. Now a win is worth 75% of that.

        (See: Every F1 points system 1950-2010)

        1. Dropped scores could be a possible solution. I used to think that not being allowed to count results from a certain number of races each season was tremendously silly, but now I can see the value of it.

          Basically if each team knew they had a certain number of “free passes,” they would be able to design cars and formulate strategies that carried greater risk, knowing that a DNF or failure to score wouldn’t be the end of the world.

          1. It’s such a pain when you’re trying to follow the championship at the end of the year though, and trying to remember how high up the field each driver has to finish for it to count.

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