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. A massive amount of comments, but George and VXR nailed on page 1. George combined the first two points of Keith’s list, and those are the core of what Grand Prix racing has been since the automobile Grand Prix in 1906: “F1 only really needs to be two things: 1. The fastest cars in the world [and] 2. The best drivers in the world”. However, VXR added a crucial bit, namely that “F1 is a sport that is run to a set of regulations.”

    1. But aren’t those two things mutually exclusive?

      Build the fastest car in the world and it will be bristling with technologies that reduce the importance of the drivers’ input because, ultimately, a computer can do better. Se we have traction control and stability control and all the rest.

      1. “But aren’t those two things mutually exclusive?”

        They appear to be, indeed, but still Grand Prix racing and Formula One have been exactly that combination since the early 1930s, when Mercedes-Benz and Auto Union built the best cars of the time and employed the best drivers, e.g. Caracciola and Nuvolari.

        It is very well possible, though, that every now and then a constructor gets its car right to such a degree, and has the best drivers available at a given time, that you get a situation like 1988, 1992, 2002 or 2004. Perhaps not always the best racing in the world, but Grand Prix racing nonetheless.

  2. One way to find the “best driver” is to push the boundaries of the car’s performance past the boundaries of the drivers in them, then the driver that can push themselves that 1% more than the next guy will prevail.

    People talk about how they are reaching 4 & 5Gs in various corners as the drivers don’t have to lift off. Now what if the cars were capable of reaching 10Gs? If a driver could withstand 8Gs then he will be faster than a driver than can only withstand 5Gs. Someone lifting off through Eau Rouge will be eaten up in the following straight by someone not lifting.

    1. “Now what if the cars were capable of reaching 10Gs?”

      It’s possible that a car could reach those limits, but not the driver.

      There was a CART race at the Texas speedway I believe, where drivers were going dizzy because they could not handle the sustained G-forces on the banked circuit.

      The limits of the car would always exceed those of the driver if downforce and horsepower went on unchecked.

    2. this would then make f1 all about physical tollerance to g force and eliminate driver skill

    3. Having the cars being able to handle more Gs than a driver won’t slow them down. They’ll still drive on the limit and then just pass out and crash, so it will become a safety issue and the Gs will get wound back…

  3. It should be about great racing in historic tracks, mainly in Europe and North America.

    Car development should be limited, so as to give new/smaller teams a chance.Cars should be shorter, to properly fit on the existing historic tracks. With smaller brakes, it would be easier to overtake

    Trying to make F1 “green” is absurd : the most ungreen thing is to fly the teams all over the world to remote places, and then building those Tilkedromes with huge empty infrastructures, to be used once a year with empty grandstands.

    1. Why just Europe and North America? There’s great and historic tracks in Central/South America and Africa.

      1. I agree, I forgot about Kyalami, Australia, Brazil … in any case racing in places where there is history and tradition of motor racing.

    2. Even historic tracks were new once so why deny new tracks the chance to make some history now? That the new tracks could be something else than they are at this moment is a wholly separate issue.

  4. I don’t know if anyone thought of this already but I always fantasised about seeing drivers switching through all the teams in a season. I know that such a change would be highly confusing but it would also bring a whole lot more action, even without any change in technical regulations.
    I also know that sponsorship would be a problem, or the teams might not be so friendly to thier pre-designated driver.
    But, just imagine the sort of discussions we would have here: Who’s the better driver – Hamilton for winning in a Force India, Alonso for comming second in a Sauber, or Chandhok third for Red Bull, or perhaps Vettel for being 9th in a HRT?

    1. Maybe once a year they could have a kind of “race of champions” with everyone in the same open- wheeled car. It could be for charity, and on a historic track such as Brands Hatch.If it is always done in England, everyone has the occasion to visit their race factories.
      The race could be divided in three parts.

    2. Max Mosley suggested that once. :)

  5. The Dutch Bear
    25th April 2010, 17:15

    F1 is about the world’s best racing drivers in the world’s fastest cars on the best racing tracks in the world. I think the drivers are more important, but the technical side of F1 should be there. Technical competition is one part of F1 being the pinnacle of motorsport. The automotive industry should to be allowed to do innovation in F1. We, the consumers, will get better cars in the future because of this. I think F1 shouldn’t be deadly. I mean a track should punish you when you make a mistake. I don’t want tarmac run off areas as big as huge car parks. But a track shouldn’t kill you. On the point that F1 is a European party, I say that Europe has a race (F1) culture where other countries in for example Asia don’t. I think if when there is no local racing, there is no way that drivers can come in F1. I think F1 will become more international in the future, we just need time for that to happen.

  6. how about turning it into f1 rallycross, the suspension setup would be a nightmare, but just imagin the cars surfing across a mud bath :D

  7. Two words: Reduce traction!!! Every modern race where the outcome was in doubt, the passing was spectacular and the driver skill was rewarded has been in the RAIN! We call it the great equalizer for a good reason. Spec tires and reduced aero downforce would force the drivers to drive. Braking distances would be increased creating opportunities. Reduced cornering speed would leave room for small errors without catastrophic results. Less wing would mean less “dirty” air wake which would increase stability for the following or (hopefully) passing car. Increased track(width) would make up for some stability loss. Reduced aero would reduce the costs some too.
    More: Green turbo DI, small displacement (1.2l or so)engines would likely be peaky and hard to control at the traction limit. Lets see 5 squirrely screamers hammering into Eau Rouge or 3 wide in the Parabolica!

  8. I think a combination of “A contest to find the best racing car constructor in the world” and “A worldwide motor racing competition”.
    For several reasons:
    -It should be a contest to find the best racing car constructor in thee world because that is the whole principle on which Formula 1 is based, its not about direct competition between the drivers, I myself watch it more for the cars than the drivers. Brining standard parts would remove the main part I find interesting as there would be no competition between companies, suppliers or manufacturers.
    -A worldwide motor racing competition, well it is’nt called a World Championship for nothing, perhaps expanding the Championship is a good idea, but to fit in these races more careful planning by the FIA and FOM regarding the order of races (Canada mid-season and then Brazil at the End is just pointless, moving them together would be easier surely?

  9. I completely agree with the sentiments of The Dutch Bear; F1 has become stagnant – the constant pushing an innovation of the teams of the ’70s and ’80s is gone, replaced by an obsession with cost-cutting. I know F1 is expensive, and that we would have a significantly reduced grid if cost-cutting measures hadn’t been enacted, but at the same time, the sport is beginning to suffer for the lack of innovation and dynamism which now pervades the paddock.

    Re: death and danger, yes F1 should be dangerous, but there should never be anymore deaths in F1. The technology is there to stop them, and so to renege on the implementation of HANS devices and the like would be somewhat akin to replacing football with gladiatorial bouts, just so people can satisfy their bloodlust. I happened to be watching a Youtube montage of F1’s fatal crashes the night that comment was posted, and it just made me sick to think that someone could say such a thing about the loss of a human life, particularly human lives which bring so much joy and excitement, as well as so many other things, to so many people’s lives. F1 drivers are not normal people, and allowing them to be killed would be akin to murdering a great artist or statesman.

  10. That always makes me nervous when drivers and news hounds claim that F1 is too safe. They said the same in the early 1990’s, until Imola 1994 and then changed their tune for obvious reasons. When people start taking safety for granted, that is when people get killed. Just because we havn’t lost somebody for years and years, doesn’t mean we are going to not lose somebody.
    If Felipe Massa’s 2009 Hungarian crash had one positive effect on F1, it was to dispell the myth that the sport is 100% safe. We had gone fourteen years since the last, near fatal crash, which was Mika Hakkinen’s in 1995. That statistic owes alot to increased safety and car design, but alot to luck also.
    To make F1 better I think we must do the simple, basic stuff good first. By that I mean F1 must embrace its roots first and have as many grands prix in Europe as possible. This is not an afront to the newer venues, I love what the majority have brought to the table, but it upsets me that we lost the likes of the A1 Ring, Magny Cours, Imola, Paul Riccard, and Brands Hatch from the F1 calender.
    Also, and I am walking a well trodden path here, but I think it is vital that F1 has some pressence in the United States. Afterall, this is supposed to be a world championship and America has contributed alot to motorsports over the years. Also, I believe F1 deserves a bigger presence in South America, I think the fanbase exists in large enough numbers in other nations besides Brazil. Argentina and Mexico would be my two biggest choices, and I think the atmosphere would match that which we see year after year at Interlagos.

    1. That always makes me nervous when drivers and news hounds claim that F1 is too safe. They said the same in the early 1990’s, until Imola 1994 and then changed their tune for obvious reasons. When people start taking safety for granted, that is when people get killed. Just because we havn’t lost somebody for years and years, doesn’t mean we are going to not lose somebody.

      I agree.

  11. Blake Merriam (Pengo)
    26th April 2010, 3:54

    F1 is an expression of the relationship between Man and the conquest of his environment; of man and machine. It celebrates a deep ethos of mans engagement of the world around him. Of the car designers ingenuity of the constraints placed upon them, of the drivers battle of the elements, mastery of their vehicle, and of their fellow opponents. It is, and should always been, all of these things.

    That and a few cute grid girls….

    1. Nutritional
      26th April 2010, 6:12

      I completely agree with you and admire your eloquence.

      Grid girls :)

  12. Just bring back refuelling..

    1. How would that help seeing the best drivers fighting it out in the best cars?

      You want a battle between the best pit teams with coach/strategist fighting it out off the track?

  13. F1 should be bloody hard! It needs to look like the drivers are superhuman and doing something mere mortals couldn’t do.

    It definitely should not look like a Playstation game.

    I think part of the blame is the onboard cameras which no longer vibrate and show the violent forces on an F1 car. Compare modern footage with early 90s footage (when the cameras were good but the mountings weren’t) to see the difference.

  14. They need to open up engine regs again.

    Instead of limiting spending on engine development, it has shifted to aerodynamics.
    F1 cars should be immensely powerful and sound ferocious.
    There should be more power than the cars can easily handle. At the moment the cars can easily take a lot of sections flat…which doesn’t promote overtaking, as they can all take certain sections easily.
    If there were cases where drivers lifted for corners, but the guy behind had the balls and didn’t, or a guy loses traction on the exit of a corner…an overtake will result.

  15. ‘A contest to find the best racing driver in the world’:
    I would still disagree strongly with this, as most of the Championships include one or two drivers which could equally counted as the ‘best racing driver in the world’, although they might not be interested in an F1 seat (Loeb for example).
    At the moment in F1, I don’t see anybody who could really claim to be ‘the best’. There the drivers who can keep their tyres better, the drivers who can overtake better, the drivers who are better in the wet, etc, but nobody shines out as able to do it all.
    So ultimately ‘the best’ driver will be the one with the most points at the end, but since every fan will have an opinion as to whether all those points are deserved, there is no way any driver could really be seen as ‘the best’ overall.

  16. Something i thought off after seeing the pictures of Webber in Naples.
    Let us not forget to have some better entertainment around the races. Cars doing more of this to promote GP or just promote their team partners all over the world.

    Let all teams do some more of this. It is great to improve their following and promote the brands they have as partners.

  17. Here comes a wild suggestion;

    1) Divide the car into components (like engines, gearboxes, KERS, suspensions, chassis, etc.)and define standard interface and communication protocols for them.
    2) The teams and specialized companies will be free to develop the components, but they will be obliged to sell them to any other team.

    The biggest advantage will be that teams like McLaren, Ferrari, Mercedes and RB, will still spend fortunes to develop their cars, but, it would be much easier for teams like Williams, Force India, Renault etc. to build a competitive car.

    Your computer has this kind of multiple component standard communication and interface protocols scheme. And they are getting better and cheaper each year. And if needed, protocols and interface can also be upgraded from time to time.

    Of course, some of parts, like aerodynamics, will be let for the teams. The last thing I want to see is a f1 where all cars look the same.

    1. Nutritional
      27th April 2010, 7:53

      I find you ideas to be by far some of the saner and more realistic ideas I’ve heard so far. They have a nice compromise of commonality and innovation, and independence and uniqueness. Those are great starting points.

    2. I think that some concept like this is the way to go with technological innovation in the sport.

      I would add, that the team should present their gimmicks firs in the paddock for GP visitors say 3-4 races after introducing it and have them present it on TV/internet as well so interested fans get closer to the technology.
      Very good for getting people interested in technology – another real world off set.

  18. …interesting article a couple of months ago on James Allen:


    where Frank Dernie gives his view on how improving the “show” doesn’t necessarily come down to changing the aero of the cars.

    His basic arguments were that:

    1. In the past drivers lost places when they missed a gear because manual boxes and real clutches made the cars more difficult to drive.

    2. In the past the tyres were a lot less grippy. Also making the cars a lot more difficult to drive.

    The point is also made that in 1983, when ground effects were banned, the cars lost 80% of their downforce, yet there was no more or less overtaking than the previous year. So according to him the overtaking issue has little to do with aero.

    So, back to the question – what should F1 be? Entertainment. If that means hobbling the cars then so be it. But be clever about it. Lets not go back to single element wings (far too seventies) or grooved tyres (far too nineties), but there are some clever things that can be done to make the drivers work harder, make more mistakes and promote some entertaining racing, while still retaining innovation.

    Keep the aero as it is but I want to see more power (turbocharging, basically) and harder tyres (even more than the current ones) with only one compound available and no pitstop restrictions. Engines and tyres don’t need to be developed any further. They work just fine, after about a century of improvement, so lets tailor them to suit our preferred form of entertainment, rather than let the companies involved sanitise our sport by making everything too easy and reliable. The cars will then be much more of a handful.

    We all know that manual boxes will never come back (just not relavent any more) but the re-introduction of KERS in a more powerful form would have much the same effect, don’t you think?

    The change in the characteristics of the car under braking, from circuit to circuit and around individual circuits too, may have much the same effect as a missed gear. Get your braking point just a little bit wrong and the car lurches as the recharge kicks in and you’re punted wide, allowing your opponent to take advantage.

  19. 1] F1 or GP racing has never been about the best drivers. If anything the most successful champions were more professional racers not necessarily the best drivers on the grid or in the world.

    2] The best Formula racecar constructor, not best car constructor.

    3]The most entertaining form of motor racing … really, LMAO.
    GP/F1 GP racing traditionally has been less entertaining then voiturettes/F2/F3000/GP2, not to mention touring cars, motos and such.

    4] Most dangerous, yes in the 1920s till they banned the racing mechanics. But later Indycars were more dangerous, Le Mans was more dangerous (mid 50s), Group B rally cars, motorcycle road racing.

    5] Test bed, well it was true once, till about and including 1993. Hopefully those days will return as that’s how sport started in 1906.

    6] A worldwide motor racing competition, or even a european one like when the sport started.
    That would be nice as I’m sick of the Ferrari + british “gargistes” formula that’s been here since the late 50s.

    1. To AMVM:

      Your points:

      1] & 2] Thank-you for clarifying terminology, but when people have said “best driver” or “best car constructor” in this forum they’ve generally meant “best racer” and definitely meant “best formula constructor” if you want to be that technical in terms.

      3] – No.1 – Take your “LMAO” somewhere else. That isn’t an argument nor does it prove any point you’re trying to make. It’s just inflamatory. We don’t need that in this forum. Please keep your input to factually backed points or counter points and politely expressed opinions.

      No.2 – Touring cars, GP2, etc. are definitely entertaining races, but they don’t have F1 cars, F1 drivers or do they have the World Championship. Actually comparing them to F1 is like comparing the English Premier League to the English Football League One or Two. Sure, they’re fun to watch, but they aren’t the English Premier League. They don’t have that key prestige factor of being the best of the best, just like Formula One is the best of the best. And I think TV viewing and international interest would speak to that point. In addition, Touring Cars and GP2 tend to very entertaining, in terms of overpassing and bashing about because a lot of the drivers ( or racers if you prefer) aren’t as good at their craft as drivers on F1 teams and they make more mistakes, facilitating the passing and crashing. Granted of course that’s not all the drivers. Some of the GP2 drivers will forge successful careers in F1. Also, European Touring Cars and DTM have had some great talents. Again, of course, those great talents have usually dominated races and championships just like we see in F1.

      4] & 5] I mostly agree with you.

      6] Interesting.

      1. 1] Why I said it’s not the best in the world, it wasn’t just because of the professional racer/champion vs. driver.
        It’s also because of the ladder system.
        When the italians (teams/cars) dominated, italian drivers were “the best drivers in the world”, when the french (teams/cars) dominated then french drivers were “the best drivers in the world”, when the german (teams/cars) dominated the german drivers were “the best drivers in the world”, then in the 60s it was the british.
        It’s always been about the ladder system and until every country in the world has a very good ladder system to filter the talent and push it towards F1, it will NOT be a series witch has “the best drivers in the world”. Just the best of what’s available.
        “The best drivers in the world” has always been nothing more then marketing hype, and to see that all you need is a little logic.
        3] In terms of on-track racing/action and even close championships there were always better racing series. I started watching F1 because of the cars, their performance and the technology, the development race in an era when F1 (kind of) really was the pinnacle of motorsport.
        But I never believed it was the most entertaining racing series, appealing yes.

        1. 1] Aren’t you talking a bit too much in the theoretical and potential? I don’t think that because there are potentially better drivers in other countries without ladder systems you can’t therefore say that F1 doesn’t have the best drivers in the world. These potential drivers only have potential talent and not yet actual measurable talent. In addition, seeing that we’ve had champions from South Africa, Brazil, Argentina, the United States, Canada and Europe I think it wouldn’t be too much of a slight on the world to say F1 “has had” if not does have the best drivers in the world. Also, I’d like to point out that Japan seems to me to have a very strong motor racing culture, and either did or still has a Japanese F3000 championship, and has yet to produce a world champion, or race winner. So the ladder system isn’t the strictest rule. The British ladder system has also helped Senna as well as many of the Northern European drivers without digging through books to find specific names. So at least its accessible to people from outside of Britain.

          3] I think I’ll just agree to disagree with you on the entertaining part. For me, motor racing other than F1 just personally never gets me as excited.

  20. In my opinion most of the current F1 drivers are good drivers. In saying that they drive to the limit of their car. ie they had a good car they drive well. when their car is not 100% they don’t drive so well. The thing that attracted me to F1 was when a driver {lets say Senna} had an average car you could see him drive beyond what the car had to offer. Drivers like Vettel and Hamilton have shown this quality where they can drive agreesive and push the car beyond it’s comfort zone.
    The biggest whinge I hear from Formula One Drivers all the time is back markers whether it’s in Qualifying or in the race. And these days there are no team orders as the Blue flag almost reders them pointless.

    So here are some radical ideas : possibly already suggested
    -In qualifying send out cars 1 time only to give cars 3-4 clear Laps to get their best possible lap. that’s it.
    -Burn the blue flag. allow backmarkers to get in the way of front runners. Make the guys earn their victory. Allow weaving, alow all on the road tactics that have made it advantageous for the front runners. Let the drivers drive.
    This will create agressive driving where it’s more focused on the driver than the strength of his car and we’ll see more action on the race track

    radical : yes. Will it be implemented: I seriusly doubt it.

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