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.

Costs

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.

Safety

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. The changes I would like to see which I think can pass the three-dimensional test are getting rid of the requirement to use both types of tyre during the race and hence the compulsory pit stop, make it so it is not so easy for the soft tyre to last so long and the old problem of making it so the cars can follow each other more closely.

    With regard to safety at the circuit, I don’t think the problem is that tracks are too safe but that mistakes are not punished.

    An example is that in recent years we have seen tarmac run-off replacing gravel traps. It used to be that if you went off track you lost a lot more time and there was more of a chance that the car would be damaged, now with tarmac run-off areas you will probably only loose a place if someone is following quite close behind.

  2. Mahir C said on 27th April 2010, 14:45

    I think there is a 4th dimension as well, which is the speed of F1 cars.

    Everyone will agree that we need longer braking distances, harder tyres and less downforce etc, but remember F1 has remain fastest(around a lap) form of motorsport as well.

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 27th April 2010, 14:46

      Again, I’d consider that part of the show, speed is essential to the spectacle of F1.

      • Marc Bauer said on 27th April 2010, 15:19

        I agree that speed is an essential part of the show, and a car that is incredibly quick around a track with little help from aero would still be really cool to see.

  3. iceshiel said on 27th April 2010, 15:32

    Is there a way to accurately measure the amount of turbulence left by an F1 car?

    The FIA could restrict the amount of turbulence generated at the back of the car and open up the technical restrictions.

    • if that were possible, i’m not sure if it is or not to a greater enough detail and accuracy to base rules off, then i would like to see something like this tried.

  4. down force cap, tested by the fia at a certain speed, wind tunnel…………..

  5. some extra points for fastest lap………..?

  6. Please, if there is anything we can see from the current season, it is that we do NOT have to improve the show. it is fine the way it is.

  7. Mack41 said on 28th April 2010, 0:07

    I have an idea that would work for all three problems (the show, cost, safety) but would be seen with some resistance. Standardization of some sort should be considered for certain parts. Maybe standardize the wings the teams use, cutting down on the reliance on aero, which would increase overtaking and allow for closer following. A standardized wing saves cost by being massed produced and solves safety as it allows the F1 governing body control over how much down-force it produces, making races potentially more exciting. Even if safety isn’t as much of an issue it will lead to closer racing and fewer double digit victory margins. And the wing is just an example of one way to go at it. I wouldn’t want teams to have their whole cars standardized (and the wing is just an example i’m using here, it could be anything) but by standardizing the wing, something that each team has pretty much maxed out, will allow spending to flow to new and revolutionary things like KERS.

  8. Ronman said on 28th April 2010, 10:38

    in temrs of my earlier comment about making engines smaller… FIA and Fota can agree to use existing engine block designs, and improving on them… they all have 4 pot engines made for production they can use… Ferrari has got Fiat’s latest decent 4 pot… Renault has got a lot of choice, same goes for Mercedes… and the rest can borrow from other manufacturers… or buy their engines from the the four manufacturers.

    such solutions will greatly improve the relativeness of the sport to production road cars without much affecting cost and safety… same goes for tyre design, brakes etc….

    F1 should always be the cutting edge of technology… but as we enter a new age, perhaps we should change our perceptions a bit.. F1 can still be at the cutting edge… but from a different angle…

    it can be the ultimate formula for already existing solutions…

    engines, use a standard 4-pot block, but the anciliaries and components be developed to produce the maximum amount of power possible with the least amount of fuel burned and emissions. brakes should be better more developed designs of what you might find on sports cars, even if they are very expensive sports cars…

    suspension components and safety solution should also find their way…

    and for those solution that do hinder costs, once they are made to be shared with a sports car, even if it is to be a limited production one, the costs would be brought down…

    As for aerodynamics, once the other variables are exploited towards performance, cost and fuel economy Aero will follow. and since too much aero is not good for efficiency, it shouldnt be a problem in terms of Cost to limit it, and the resulting less downforce will make cars more of a handful and spice up the show

  9. Ian said on 1st May 2010, 0:19

    And, on a different tack, why not allow the teams to nominate their own choice of rubber compound which they believe will work best on their car on a per-driver and per-race basis?
    That way no-one will know what rubber a team is using until they turn up at the track and the teams would have total responsibility for their cars’ performance instead of making the best of it with the tyre manufacturer’s nominated compound.

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