Improving F1 means solving a three-dimensional problem (Making F1 better)

Containing costs to allow new teams in is vital for F1

Containing costs to allow new teams in is vital for F1

Cost, Safety and The Show. If you want to get anything changed in F1, these are the three criteria you’ve got to satisfy.

So how do our ideas for making F1 better measure up?

The Show

Ordinarily I avoid using the phrase ‘Improving the show’ but I use it here to make a point: however much the powers-that-be in F1 talk about improving the show, the reality is they can’t do it by compromising costs and safety.


F1 has been preoccupied with cuttings costs for years. But the onset of the credit crunch inspired a new urgency in efforts to make F1 cheaper as the teams faced dwindling sponsorship revenues – which the blank bodywork on the Sauber and HRT cars makes painfully clear.

If costs get out of hand teams will drop out, leaving F1 races with dwindling grids.


Formula 1 has gone 16 years without a driver fatality and it’s nine years since the last death due to an F1 race.

But it will not prevent further fatal accidents by resting on its laurels – and the governing body understands that. Felipe Massa’s escape from a shocking accident at the Hungaroring last year was thanks to recently introduced advances in crash helmet safety.

But what about…

There are other important factors – but none as decisive as these three.

For example, there is a growing recognition of F1’s need to support the car industry in its efforts to reduce emissions and waste. But the teams’ collective decision to abandon KERS this year to save money shows that other priorities – containing costs – trumps that need.

What the 3D problem tells us

There’s been a lot of criticism of the number of small changes made to the F1 rules each year. This season we’ve had a new points system and a rule forcing drivers who qualify within the top ten to start the race on the same tyres they qualified on.

These can be seen as attempts to solve one part of the three-dimensional problem – improving the show – while not making the other two problems worse.

But even if these changes have helped in some small way I doubt anyone would say they’ve cracked the problem of improving the quality of racing in F1.

I suspect real progress will only be made when someone makes the call to sacrifice one of the three parts to improve the other. But that will not be an easy decision to make.

For example, in January Adrian Sutil claimed part of the reason F1 had become less exciting was because of track like Yas Island which are “too safe”.

Can F1 afford to give track designers more freedom to create exciting circuits, with faster corners and less run-off, and improve the show – potentially at the expense of safety? Sebastien Buemi and Natacha Gachnang’s accidents two weekends ago are powerful arguments against relaxing safety standards at F1 tracks.

Over to you

We’ve all got ideas for how we would make F1 better – hundreds of them have been shared here in this series the past few days.

But are they all realistic? Can they pass the three-dimensional test? Pick an idea that you think would make F1 better and see if it does.

Are there any changes F1 can make that would improve the show without pushing up costs or risking safety? Are there some changes that are so important that accepting compromises on costs or safety are necessary? Have your say in the comments.ta

This article 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

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111 comments on Improving F1 means solving a three-dimensional problem (Making F1 better)

  1. -A- said on 27th April 2010, 0:30

    Regarding Adrian Sutil’s argument: I think it’s far too simple to see the shortcomings of some of the more recent circuits to be a direct result of “too much” improved track safety.

    In my opinion, if a circuit is not exciting, interesting or challenging enough, lessening the safety features won’t help solve the problem, because it doesn’t address the issue that slow corners, chicanes and a few straights to connect them aren’t the only kind of challenge a race track could or should offer.

    There’s an intent behind this, obviously, as many of these segments are supposed to help make overtaking possible with the wake-turbulenced Grand Prix cars. The effect of that I see is that track architects have to design circuits in a way that helps skirt around the cars’ aerodynamical deficiencies.

    The priority, thus, should be to find ways to lessen the severity of these turbulence problems. Making significant progress on that would mean circuit design would no longer be, essentially, painted into a corner because of what requirements are in place. Instead of that, it would be possible to encourage track designers to be more creative, in the interest of providing a more diverse challenge for teams and drivers.

  2. inc0mmunicado said on 27th April 2010, 0:38

    Ban windtunnels, CFD, 4-post rigs, driving simulators, custom engine maps in the ECU, and complicated steering wheels. These add to the cost, reduce safety (because they make cars faster), and don’t improve the show. More pitlane girls and fewer engineers! Limit real time data acquisition to a certain amount of bandwidth! Also, if F1 is going to “cost less” for the teams then my ticket to see a race should cost less too!

  3. gpfan said on 27th April 2010, 1:25

    My weekly rant.

    Aeros extraneous of the wheelbase should
    be spec.

    This way, we have sponsor area, and low
    aeros. The front and rear wings will basically
    become billboards. They may also be designed
    to be so high on drag and turbulance as to
    make chassis body-work in-effective.

    Problem solved, Now, we are on to mechanical
    grip, and passing chances and slip-streaming.

    Also, my photo should be on the side-pods of
    all cars. And, maybe, my number. And a message
    that I am single?

    Oh, and any sponsors that want this space?
    I get the dosh.

    Am I reaching?

  4. Marc Bauer said on 27th April 2010, 3:21

    It seems that F1 teams competed for a long time on much less money with greater technical freedom than they have now… Along that line of reasoning I reject the notion that technical freedom should be equated with greater cost.

    I propose vast technical freedom with the following guidelines and limitations:
    • severely limit the race fuel allowed but open power plant and KERS technology
    • severely limit aerodynamic forces by restricting wing span and cord lengths (or by any of the other methods suggested in this forum) but open tire competition and technology
    • open drivetrain technology and chassis configuration but limit them to open wheel/open cockpit

    Assuming safety and costs aren’t negatively impacted (certainly a large assumption) these changes would ensure:
    • cutting edge technology in the realm of fuel economy and reduced emissions
    • cutting edge technology in tires and mechanical grip
    • crossover possibilities with road cars
    • better overtaking
    • better competition via opportunities for innovation

    The lack of technical innovation is the achilles heal of F1 today. There is nothing cutting edge or interesting about engine freezes, tire monopolies or ‘push to pass’ buttons.

    • BasCB said on 27th April 2010, 7:20

      I also think freeing up a lot of the chassis, suspension, gearbox and engine parts and switching ressources away from aero development should be the way to go.

      to improve the show, the teams could then show of their developments during the season or at the end of the season and maybe supply some of it to their competitors or to 3rd parties to get back the cost for development.
      Like in football there are some teams bringing up new players and others just buying them.

  5. claudioff said on 27th April 2010, 3:22

    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.

  6. wasiF1 said on 27th April 2010, 4:38

    It’s a bad idea to ignore circuit safety because that’s the reason I think there hasn’t been any driver causalities in about 16 years but I think what they can do is to reduce cost & then improve the show.That doesn’t meant that they will put economical drive on Sunday but they needs to use technology like KERS if they are available at a low cost.

  7. J.Danzig said on 27th April 2010, 6:35

    Im pretty happy with the circuits, tighten up some of the new street circuits,more bumps,more walls,more like concrete canyons that punish errors.Safety is an interesting question,Im a little concerned that the more time go’s by without fatalilaty that the closer it gets.

  8. BasCB said on 27th April 2010, 7:27

    The show part can be improved immensely without a lot of extra cost by:
    1. improving TV coverage to show all the action.
    2. improve the accesibility of footage over the internet. Why not show all fastest qualifying laps and offer views from the cockpit of (for example) a specific driver etc. for download.
    3. Give fans the possibility to post their own pictures and video coverage from the race on internet. Maybe have them “legalize” it through the FIA or FOM first if it needs be.

    4. Support teams to do more actions like the Red Bull runs or the Renault road show. This is a great way to show what F1 offers.

    5. test lowering race tickets to get more people to the track, especially with tracks that lack visitors (most new tracks).
    6. Improve the show with more drivers etc. present and doing some presentation runs during the race weekend and have them do some fun tricks with the cars after the race.

  9. BasCB said on 27th April 2010, 7:30

    Oh and let the FOM / FOTA or who ever organize fan visits to team bases a lot more. Especially the smaller teams. Just make it part of some contest for registered fans or something.
    Their bases might not be as impressive as visiting Ferrari in Modena or the McLaren Tech Center, but i would love a chance to get into STR, Lotus, Virgin, Force India facilities and look at how they work.

  10. BasCB said on 27th April 2010, 7:37

    I think the rule making has to be more focussed on stability as well. This will save enormous amounts of money.
    Let the FIA / FOTA and FOM discuss an engine formula (best with more freedom to choose a configuration not a spec engine), tyre construction and size and aero limits/definition and some areas of development inside the defined framework for say 2012/2013.
    Do not change the technical rules until then so teams can make a car and only update it instead of building completely new cars each year.
    After bringing in the new rules, let them stand for 4 years and bring a rule update in only after that time has passed.
    No more knee jerk actions, but evolution after discussion with all involved.

  11. Gill said on 27th April 2010, 8:45

    There are 2 types of mistaked made in F1. 1 made by driver and other by the manufacturer( in making a car ).
    The drivers make mistake when they drive and the manufacturers make when they make the car. ( IT could be in terms of bad engine , bad aero or anything whihc is mechanical).
    What FIA should do is to penalise teams ( this includes everyone in that team) when there is a driver mistake (This could be done by reducing the run-off area so that if a driver makes a mistake , he cant come bak and race again) and to overlook when its a manufacturer mistake(like avoiding the engine , gearbox penalty). Give more freedom to these people.

  12. J.Danzig said on 27th April 2010, 8:49

    Get rid of hockemhiem,it use to be good,unless they they just race straight up to the stadium,cut out that stupid section between the hairpin and the stadium but its pretty much useless nowadays,just race at nurberg. They need to have a lot less Bahrain style of races,its pretty obvious that a lot people don,t like that sort of thing,where as the other races u could say to someone, HEY CHECK THIS OUT!u cant really do that with bahrain,a few bahrain,s are ok but

  13. Haggis Hunter said on 27th April 2010, 9:56

    why dont they give a bonus point or points to the person who qualifys 1st, then reverse the grid (or first half of the grid). to me that would certainly help

    • wasiF1 said on 27th April 2010, 12:17

      I think that won’t be a good idea for giving point to the guy who will be P1 on Saturday.

    • That’s not possible if it’s only a point for the pole setter. Then, say, Kubica, would know he can’t get pole, so he wouldn’t set a lap time and would be last, thus starting from pole.

  14. PeterG said on 27th April 2010, 10:34

    Let’s start with the basic improvements:
    F1 in HDTV (1080).
    Ban on in-race advertisements.
    Constant position overview on screen (on the far left so it won’t show on old fashion tv sets).
    Direct radio contact instead of FIA/FOM filtered a few minutes behind.

    You get the picture: Focus on TV broadcast quality. Hands off the racing until you get at least the basics right.

    • BeyondThePale said on 27th April 2010, 10:47

      Sure, we all hate the in-race ads, but is it realistic to ban them? I don’t think so, unless you are watching the race in pay-per-view.

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