What should F1 be? (Making F1 better)

Posted on | Author Keith Collantine

What is the point of Formula 1?
What is the point of Formula 1?

We began our discussion about how to make F1 better yesterday by asking what made F1 great in the past and what – if anything – is missing from it now.

In part two we’ll tackle a question that often provoked disagreement and debate between F1 fans: just what is Formula 1 supposed to be?

I’ve suggested some answers inspired by quotes from readers from earlier in the discussion. Pick the one that you think best describes what F1 should be, or write one of your own, and explain why you support it in the comments:

A contest to find the best racing driver in the world

In the sixties and seventies, the majority of overtaking took place under acceleration out of corners usually due to missed gear changes; something that rarely happens today.

This argument holds that what people who watch F1 really care about is who is the best driver. Technology that makes it easy to drive the cars, like semi-automatic gearboxes, should be banned. If the cars are more difficult to drive we’ll see more mistakes and better racing.

Making teams use more standard components is good because it will create a level playing field.

A contest to find the best racing car constructor in the world

Things like the proposed budget cap, the engine development freeze and the ban on testing were all conceived by the FIA in an effort to make the sport less costly and consequently more attractive to smaller teams, but I feel this goes against the spirit of F1.

This argument is the opposite to the first one.

The point of F1 is to see who can build the best car and so we should roll back the enormous restrictions on car design that have grown in the past decades. Allowing teams to develop radical new technologies will make F1 more exciting.

But some technologies – traction control, stability control and the like – may diminish the importance of the driver.

The most entertaining form of motor racing

Can we even expect much overtaking when the cars start in the order of which one is fastest?

Do we want to mix up the starting grid? Either reverse it or add fuel strategy into the mix to get some order changes.

Other motor sports have not been shy about introducing rules to ‘spice up’ the racing, so why should F1, one might argue.

If the cars started every race in reverse championship order we’d see much more overtaking. Bringing back refuelling would mix up the order during the races even more. A NASCAR-style ‘chase for the championship’ would keep interest alive late in the season.

The most dangerous form of motor racing

I don?t want drivers to die, but i want the possibility to be there.

A very controversial idea. Should danger be a part of Formula 1? Even some F1 drivers have suggested the sport is now “too safe” but can it ever be too safe?

Is risk or injury healthy for a sport – or can relishing an element of danger only ever be seen as bloodthirstiness?

A test bed for the automotive industry

Think how much of a real world impact F1 could have if hybrid/KERS technology was unlimited

Instead of allowing unrestricted, undirected technological development in F1, the sport should only allow innovation where it helps build better road cars.

For example, through Kinetic Energy Recovery Systems similar to hybrid engines on road cars, through tyres which are closer in specification to those used on the road, and through fuel-saving technology.

A worldwide motor racing competition

The sport is effectively a ??European gentlemen’s club??. Of the 24 drivers, only 6 are from outside Europe. To me that eliminates the ??best drivers in the world?? label. Europe may hold he best drivers, but that cannot be proven. He from a certain country or he with the deepest pocket, prevails.

Another arguments is that F1 should do more to spread its appeal around the world. Countries with large populations and large car-buying markets are neglected at the moment like America, Russia and the whole of Africa.

Over to you

Do you agree strongly with any of these statements? If so, why? Which of them are wrong?

Some of these statements are mutually exclusive – such as the first two. Which of them is more important?

What’s your definition of what Formula 1 should be?

This is part of “Making F1 better”, a series of articles looking at ways to improve Formula 1. The next instalment in this series will run on Monday. For more information see the introduction: Making F1 better: a discussion series

Making F1 better

Image (C) Renault/LAT

194 comments on “What should F1 be? (Making F1 better)”

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  1. The coverage would have to be more of a focussed effort, maybe offering some kind of fan packages including team visits, GP tickets, merchandise and on line acces or a F2V acces for those who do not want to commit to a longer period with just some things accesible (live coverage of race events and reviews live and on line).

    The races should be more of a mix of different types of circuit. Monaco style, some like Melbourne / Montreal, have long circuits as SPA, Le Mans or maybe the Nordschleife, or that Argentinian circuit around the lake. Add some real tight circuit like mabe Long Beach. Have high speed ciruits like Monza and bring in the Bahrain outside ring for high speed. Maybe have a try at oval racing each year.

    I think the field will become more international in time anyhow, with more Asian interest and hopefully more drivers from the Americas. There are Indians, Malaysians, drivers from Argentina as well as the USA and a Chinese/Dutch driver waiting to break into the fray.

  2. Let us have a closer look at what Nico Rosberg said about having a good time following the McLaren with the F-duct stalled wing on the straights.
    If it helps drivers following them, let all teams develop this, it would be nice to see some slipstreaming again.

  3. I would like to see a limit on down-force, some sort of point system. But with moveable aero. that way when drivers come to over take they can just dial the wings in. also I’de would love to see some engine restrictions with limited BHP and emissions. but freedom to use any means to meet those requirements.

    increasing the danger in F1 is stupid. rent Death Race if you want to watch that kind of thing.

  4. haha just thought, apparently f1 cars could drive on the ceiling. I’DE WATCH THAT.

    1. maybe they can build a long tunnel on the straight, a car can then find clean air … upside down !!
      the stands would have to go though, but a fantastic idea indeed; is it too late for SIlverstone to construct the new infield underground ?

  5. MouseNightshirt
    24th April 2010, 18:44

    I think F1 should be a balance of all of these things to be frank. There are respective motorsport series for each particular point.

    I mean if you look at it, best driver is arguable, it’s single seater – a DTM driver may be as, if not more skilled in his respective series, you can’t really compare between them. Rossi is a superb “driver”, but you can’t really compare him with the likes of Vettel or Hamilton because he races in a vastly different series.

    In terms of best constructor, DTM is not far off technologically than F1, and many F1 cars are an amalgamation of the excellence of several partners. Even the works teams use independently manufactured brakes, wheel rims and tyres etc.

    Most entertaining is all relative. BTCC is high contact, with lots of overtaking, NASCAR as well. GP2 produces “exciting” races, but the “race excitement” of F1 isn’t necessarily better, or worse, it’s just different.

    The most dangerous form of motor racing? MotoGP is horrendously dangerous, drag racing can be fatal, and look at American single seaters. F1’s danger comes from its speed, but as with all my other points, that is a different form of danger than say, motorbikes, where danger comes from exposure, or NASCAR, where danger comes from contact.

    A test bed? F1 provides extremes. It’s excellent for “pushing” the envelope, but then wouldn’t BTCC be more useful for relevant road technologies? Rallying for fancy suspension innovations. Different series provide different opportunities for road relevant technology.

    And worldwide racing? There are plenty of series with more “National Geographic” potential, but then the exposure is less, the glamour is less, the business bonuses are less than F1.

    I guess what I’m trying to say is that F1 should be a finely blended combination of *all* of the above things. That’s what makes F1, as a series superb. Every single “area” in which people want F1 to excel at inevitably has a series which does it much better than F1, but only F1 combines all of these areas into one amalgam that can provide everything to the viewer and fan, all in one go. For that, F1 will always head in the right direction, as you will always please a section of fans with each new area you try to focus on.

    F1 is great. Don’t forget it!

    1. I am very close to you in opinion.

      I add, that Rally is very good for showing different countries and has a very challenging program with ice, gravel, sand, mudtracks and tarmac. But it is somewhat like a series of qualifying to determine the results, no real racing.

      I think it is very good, to have some restriction on fuel use or co2 output per season or something. But maybe given the options, the teams are allready good into more efficiency (while stayin realistic – this is racing) to get better speed at the start of the race.

  6. It wouldn’t matter if F1 were a completely spec series or used as much technology as it did in the early nineties. F1 would still be F1- An open wheel series run to a set of regulations that allow each team to build a car within the rules. And that’s all F1 is or ever should be. If you think it should be the ‘fastest’ or the most ‘innovative’ or even be the most ‘dangerous’, then you might want to look elsewhere.

  7. Out of the choices, I’d put them in this order of importance:

    Best driver
    Most entertaining
    Best car
    Being a “world” championship
    Relevance to road industry

    I don’t support teams, I support drivers. Also, whilst drivers get help from their team, in the end it’s up to him to deliver the goods. If you’re Romain Grosjean, you can get all the help in the world and still not beat Alonso.

    Which isn’t to say I don’t have respect for the teams. But I don’t like having the car being more important than the driver. Sometimes I wish the FIA would design the base F1 car, give it to the teams in January, and see what they can do with it in terms of improvement. Next year’s car would then be based on the best car of that year. But I digress.

    I think the entertainment is more important than which car is best. At the end of the day, I’m never going to be able to buy an F1 car, certainly not for road use at least. When I look at the RB6, I know it’s the best, but somehow don’t find that as exciting as seeing a Lotus Exige and knowing what it can do compared to other cars.

    I think it’s pretty important to have a world championship take place on every continent (well, not Antarctica, though that would be interesting!). It’s part of the reason I dislike Bernie taking F1 to all these Asian races; why does South America only deserve one race, and why is Central America not represented at all (it’s not an official continent, but it’s more distinct from North America than Eastern Europe is from the West)? Why should the issue be which place can pay Bernie the most cash?

    I don’t think F1 needs to be relevant to the road. There are plenty of other formulae for that. KERS was a good idea, but botched in its regulation and cost/advantage balance, and though it appealed to my green sensibilities, I thought push-to-pass was too hackneyed. I’m glad F1 doesn’t have things like ABS or traction control, because it takes away from the drivers’ ability. Other things like active suspension may not do so as much, but then there’s a speed-safety reason for that not being in F1. The one area I’d like to see F1 become road-relevant in is fuel, because oil is going to become a massive issue soon enough. Hydrogen fuel cell technology is apparently just waiting for investment before it can become viable. Why not F1?

    And whilst I think the FIA are a little too paranoid about safety, I don’t think an obvious higher risk of danger would make F1 any better. Massive run-offs and excluding some circuits because they don’t have them are annoying, but there’s a limit to how far we can claw things back in that direction. Thankfully the cars are always getting safer, and that should continue.

    The best drivers in exciting races, aided by the best cars, driving around the world. That’s the point of F1 for me.

    1. But for entertainment, i hope you do not mean reverse grids, or more to the extreme sprinklers on site, handicapping winners, etc.?

      In the article Keith cites Patrickl with these kind of things.

      The issue there is, weather we are speaking about a sport or purely a form of entertainment

  8. As to safety, I would feel truly ashamed as a fan to argue for more dangerous racing. If Kubica’s Canada crash was horrifying to watch, what must it have been like to experience? (one of many things separating me from the ranks of F1 drivers) – just because we were shocked at the minor extent of his injuries, does that mean we would have preferred it otherwise? It was recently and well-said on this site that you might ask Felipe Massa about safety, he could tell you. Henry Surtees can’t.

    1. he will tell you he is happy with safety nowadays, but what is he risking for having the life he dreamt about? not much i must add. This makes him not better than any other sportsman in any other sport. I didn’t start watching f1 thinking like that. I started because lauda coming back from that accident, to a young kid, was bigger than life. He captured my imagination, and got me hooked for life. Even if, with how the sport changed, somtimes i regret it.

  9. I think that in terms of developing technologies, ALMS is more relevant, and Audi have indicated so and in the past cited it as a reason for not joining F1 as the ALMS provides a more relevant test-bed for their technologies.

    However… I believe that KERS had great potential but it was not properly utilised. I believe some teams’ systems were only working at approximately 20% capacity due to the regulations.

    The FIA didn’t want a KERS “arms war”, therefore I think we can accept that currently F1 is not interested in it’s relevance to road cars.

    Much as I would like F1 to become a development lab for road cars, I will fully concede that ALMS is much better in this respect, even in terms of something as simple as body-shape. (Ok my Nondescript PassengerVehicle, doesn’t look like and AUDI R10 but it does have 4 wheels covered by bodywork, a passenger seat and has fuel consumption better than 2mpg….)

  10. Younger Hamilton
    24th April 2010, 20:19

    The things F1 Needs right now are:

    1.3L V8 Turbo Charged Engines
    Michelin Low Profile Tyres(Help with Making the F1 cars more environmentally friendly)
    Bio Fuel
    Qualifying lap commentary by Martin Brundle on the BBC(Started doing it now i believe)
    Unlimited Testing

    and of course lots more Overtaking,those are all my suggestions of making F1 its best level what does everyone think about all of those Suggestions?

  11. I think most of the previous comments were refering to what we all want to see at the circus. F1 is about drivers, technology,speed and the danger involved. If you are bored with one season or something has not happened it’s because you have not watched long enough. The problem with F1 is that everyone who thinks they know what the sport is about knows the answer, the answer is that the people behind the sport know what is wrong and they will sort it out.Do you really think people like Newey, Montezemolo, Whitmarsh, Williams etc don’t know what they are involved in? If you find it boring go and watch something else.

    1. “Do you really think people like Newey, Montezemolo, Whitmarsh, Williams etc don’t know what they are involved in?”

      Up until FOTA turned up on the scene, I really don’t think they did!

      1. Think about what you said. Between them they have 80 plus years of experience at the very top of the sport and you think without FOTA and all is previous forms before knew nothing?

        1. The teams weren’t interested in what the fans wanted, what they were interested in were their own self interests and you can point your finger at one team in particular in that respect if you like. ;)

          When the FIA asked for a 50% cut in aero, the top teams were almost aghast that such a request had been made. Suffice to say that the 50% aero cut never saw the light of day.

          Even under the new FOTA regime we are still waiting for someone to pick up the reigns with regard to the aero situation. Don’t be fooled by what you’ve seen so far, Barcelona is likely to be more akin to ‘Bore’rain than the three previous races. The danger is that we will once again be told to wait and see and that nothing should be rushed into. Meanwhile, back at the factories……..

          1. I may be alone on this site but I know the teams would be very happy with 2 or 3 dry races just to see exactly where they all stand. Rain does mix the grid up but never shows the true ability of a car. A few “boring” races will do me fine thank you.

    2. the thing is politics got in the way. Now with todt, lets see if they can sort it out.

      1. Politics will still get in the way, only Todt will be conspicuous by his absence when it all blows off.

  12. Safety-wise, you can’t really compare accidents of Massa and Kubica. Other one was freak incident while other was normal racing crash although a big one.

    I too dislike tarmac runoffs. It is often said that they are dangerous because they can cause cars flipping. After all, how many flips we have seen because of them. In F1, I can really recall Zonta at Spa and Warwick at Hockenheim. In some other events car has already flipped but has flipped more times because of that.

  13. The inverse grid idea is the best one by far.

    1. nonesense. It would be a too artificial way to spice up the races.

    2. Its rubbish that leads to lots of accidents as the slower cars in front brake earlier than the faster cars behind. See V8 Supercars

  14. f1 should always be 1988/9 it should always be donnington ’93 it should never be imola’94….i think at present we have it like it should be.

    1. 89!!!! What do you mean? the fia manipulating the results, and giving the crown to prost, when senna was the winner in japan? I agree with the rest though.

  15. The best drivers racing the fastest cars. If mechanical restrictions wouldn’t have been brought in the way they were, entertainment would likely have never left the sport in the first place and we wouldn’t have to discuss improving it (rose-tinted glasses notwithstanding).

    I have to say I don’t understand the argument about having the fastest cars start at the front being detrimental to racing – hasn’t it always worked like that, even in the high-overtaking 80s? Cars set up for qualifying pace aren’t necessarily quickest over a race distance – and this becomes all the more true without refueling when a car’s handling is subject to changes due to weight fluctuation. (Unless you figure out a not so clearly legal way to circumvent that, but I digress). Reverse grids are an even worse concept than Bernie’s shortcuts.

    This sport is still plenty dangerous enough – how could it not be, driving cars at those speeds? I think some people confuse how mistake-free the sport has gotten with too much safety. I don’t see how a sport can ever be too safe – only armchair drivers come up with this stuff. That the cars could be less reliant on electronics and more on mechanics, thereby making it ‘dirtier’ and having the human factor play a bigger role (as in missed gear changes, or race-day set-up decisions) is another matter.

  16. The biggest word I saw upon the introduction of Kobayashi during Brazil last year was ACCIDENT. He continues to proof me right and I don’t know what his team or F1 will do about people like him.

    1. let him race, maybe? this is called racing, so let the boys do their job.
      What i see with these young blogers, it’s that the job that mosley set himself to do, when he took control of the fia, has worked. They are all obsessed with safety, even though they haven’t even seen a death in the little time they have been following the sport. That’s called brain wash.

    2. How can you say that with any justification. He’s retired 4 times this season, one engine, one hydraulics, one his front wing failed (and they had to re-design the part), and lastly he was shunted off in an accident through no fault of his own.

      1. I thought Kobayashi was very entertaining last year in Brazil. Unfortunately, this year he has a Sauber, which so far is awful. And de la Rosa has only beating his once in a race because so far he’s the only one of the two whose managed to finish a race. I also remember Kobayashi causing to Nakajima to crash out. So what? The list of drivers, great or poor, who have done that during overtaking maneuvers is endless. Especially if we’re talking only 1 incident.

  17. The concensus seems to be people want to human aspect back in the sport. By that I mean there is scope for mistakes to the made, and for them to be punished for these (sandtraps, walls, missed gears etc) Its catch 20/20 as restoring the human aspect compromises safety. I’m all for that, but at what point do you say “stop, this is now too safe”.

    Heres something I’ve always believed would work but no one has caught onto. As Frank Williams mentioned F1 must do something to eliminate the potential criticism from environmentalists. Why doesn’t Tilke build a circuit that is surrounded by trees? It adds character to the track (which currently lacks) and the surrounding trees yearly CO2 intake would easily cater for 3 days of F1 use. I’ve always said this about track – build the track without compromising the landscape, not the other way around. These flat tracks are just a joke. Why do you think Monza, Nordschleife, Laguna Seca, Bathurst will always be respected?

    1. well, they had this: the old Hockenheim – beautifull straights into the woods and back again … turned into a joke of a track now.
      I guess F1 is not that green after all then.

  18. 1.- Yes, F1 cars should be very difficult to drive. Like what Alonso was doing at Sepang. Doubt many people think that wasn’t an epic performance by him, with those clutch problems or whatever…

    2.- Engine freeze is rubbish, really. Engines are getting more and more and more reliable and nowadays an engine related failure is not that common as it used to be. And it brings another question. How to close the gap to the Merc engines? they are clearly the best of the field (last year’s Monza Qualy had 6 out of 10 mercs on Q3).

    Engine development should go along with the chassis. More and more and more power for the drivers every season.

    3.- Disagree completely. Imagine what would happen if Chandhok and company started every race at the front. It would be so annoying. Imagine that but in Monaco. It would be even worse than the Valencian GP. And that’s a hell of a task…

    4.- Yeah, that’s a hard one. But it used to be a good way of rating drivers. To see who braked the lattest, who accelerated the earlier, who went flat out and where. Balls used to play a much more important part of the game. And track designs kill that too. Where’s the danger of a very difficult flat-out corner if hundreds of miles each side is tarmac too?. A bit wide, no problem. I can easily get back to the race track hardly loosing time. Why? What did grass and gravel do to us to avoid it completely?

    6.- It’s F1 interest that decides who gets a drive. Why there were so many Japanese drivers and non of them truly successful? Because F1 needs Japan. And Japan needs (or used to) F1. Honda, Toyota, Yamaha, Bridgestone, Suzuka, Fuji, Mugen, plus a large amount of sponsors… all need a good way to show their products. And promoting F1 drivers no matter the cost it’s a good way. Look at Vitaly Petrov and his 15 million dollars.

  19. F1 is ideally about best drivers AND best team.

    To have this strictly, you would have to make a rule where the drivers have to change team every week. However, this would be a sponsor nightmare, so it will never happen.

    But I think the current situation is close enough. Maybe the cars are ‘easy’ to drive, but if you see these guys in other cars (karts in the snow, race of champions, fastest lap at Top Gear, and even in a Rallycar), there’s just no denying that all these boys and men are truly the best drivers in the world.

    And teams, well, if you just look at what the teams actually achieve within the rules they have, it’s really amazing (Fduct, double diffuser, push rod suspension etc).

    Some say intellect is the ability to adapt yourself to new situations. From that point of view all the rule changes are fine with me.

    And from good ideas ‘roadcar relevance’ automatically follows. Just look at the Williams / Porsche-roadcar KERS deal.

    So, don’t make that mandatory. And yes, keep changing (bits) of the rules!

  20. While we go about improving overtaking and making F1 as exciting as NASCAR, lets get more goals in soccer too. Cause nobody likes watching boring soccer anymore, it should be more like American football or basketball.

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