Making F1 better: series round-up

It's not just overtaking: we need better TV coverage and more varied circuits

It's not just overtaking: we need better TV coverage and more varied circuits

How can F1 become better? From reading the thousands of your comments posted in our series over the past week I think we’ve learned some important things about this debate.

The overtaking question is a crucial part of the debate – but it isn’t the whole story. Demands for more passing tend to overshadow other, equally important questions – and it presents the situation as being rather more dire than it really is.

And just as important, there is no one single fix, no silver bullet, that’s going to make things better. But I think the past week’s discussion has given us thought-provoking ideas.

It’s too complicated a debate for us to all agree on exactly what needs to be done. But I think we’ve generated some constructive ideas and gained a deeper understanding of the problem.

Here are a few comments from the discussion so far I especially enjoyed and some more thoughts of my own formed during the course of the debate.

Highlights from the discussion

Racing vs technology

I personally love the tech stuff but the sport can survive it going. I don’t think it can survive a lack of exciting races.

Can F1 protect its position at the forefront of motor racing technology while producing a better standard of racing in ‘normal’ conditions?

I think it can, but only if the teams can be persuaded to accept rules that force them to deploy resources in areas other an aerodynamics. As many people observed, that’s where they make the greatest gains at the moment but at a cost to the quality of racing as it becomes ever harder for one car to follow another.

A fuel limit?

Current F1 cars produce obscene amounts of downforce at the cost of equally obscene amounts of drag. In general terms, to add downforce you have to accept adding some drag too. This drag is compensated by powerful engines eating obscene amounts of fuel, much of which leaves the exhausts un-burnt.

My proposal is: limit the fuel to 100kg per race, probably of some standard fuel mix. Easy to police, before the race your car must be empty, and by the way, here is your fuel, see you at the finish line. In further years, why not reduce it to 90kg, or 80kg, or even 50kg!

Of course this would make all teams work in engine efficiency, a good thing per se, I guess, but the knock on effect on aero would be equally dramatic. If you want downforce, you?ll have to accept drag, and if you want to move a draggy car through 305km or race, well, good luck not using fuel for that!

This technical approach to the aerodynamic problem is an interesting one which I think deserves further discussion. F1 cars use less fuel in low-downforce set-ups like those seen at Monza.

Could this be a means of encouraging teams to use less downforce, with the added benefit of encouraging the teams to improve engine efficiency?

Better coverage

I think the best thing that F1 could do to improve racing and ??the show? (I hate that term as well), is to leave the sport alone. Try presenting and promoting an already incredible sport differently.

I?ve watched a NASCAR race on TV, there is no room for error, there are a thousand overtakes in a race and the tracks are almost all the same (from what I can tell), and I found it the most boring spectacle ever!

But they give their fans incredible race coverage, Internet coverage, the drivers and teams have personalities, and they appear on television broadcasts to try and promote the racing.

It’s important to keep in sight that there is more to be done than just creating overtaking opportunities. I agree strongly with Cacarella that there is much more FOM could do to improve the quality of its broadcasts and reflect the excitement and spectacle of live Formula 1 to fans watching on television.

My thoughts

The professionalism paradox

One thought I kept returning when reading your comments was that so much of what people find entertaining in F1 is the opposite of what teams are trying to achieve.

We want a close competition between the drivers; they are constantly looking for ways to improve their cars and increase the gap. We want to see cars catching slower cars and overtaking them; they want their cars running in clear air at their maximum potential speed. We want to see drivers winging quick laps out of tricky cars; they want to perfect their cars to make them as easy to use and as quick as possible.

Of course teams aren’t deliberately doing this to make racing less entertaining, they’re just trying to win. But can we find a way to channel their competitive efforts in a manner which also makes for more entertaining races?


Looking at how F1 has changed over a series of years, even decades, what strikes me most is a loss of variety in the sport in many ways.

Circuits are an obvious example. New tracks tend to be the same length, produce the same lap time, and have a similar mix of corners. We need more short tracks, long tracks and fast tracks. Taking the idea even further, F1’s beleaguered attempt to break into the American market would get a shot in the arm if they put on an oval race in the United States.

Lack of variety is a problem in more subtle ways. The tyre rules effectively force all the drivers to make a single pit stop per race, when we could be seeing a variety of strategies at work.

More power than grip

One area of the debate attracted more responses than any other: car design. So many different, detailed suggestions were put forward it got me wondering whether we could come up with a simple principle to shape F1’s technical rules in the future.

Here’s my first go at it: F1 cars should have more power than grip. What do you think?

Over to you

This particular series may have come to an end but the debate will continue.

In the coming weeks and months we’ll no doubt hear about future changes to the sport which will have further ramifications for the quality of racing. And it remains to be seen how well the rest of the season will go, and whether calls for radical changes to F1 racing will intensify.

So what should F1’s priorities be? Are there any quick fix solutions which can and should be introduced this year? And what are the most important things that should be changed for 2011?

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

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60 comments on Making F1 better: series round-up

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  1. A very interesting series indeed Keith. Well done again!

    • BasCB said on 1st May 2010, 7:24

      This discussion was a great idea. I learnt a lot about what i want from F1 and even more about ideas others have to make it better.

      Technical solutions can be implemented, but the easiest quick fix is for FOM to improve on the coverage – let them improve their show!

      • Gilles said on 1st May 2010, 16:18

        Indeed, great series – well done Keith !
        And my thanks as well to all the other guys who’ve contributed, I’ve learned a lot as well.
        I would propose a new series on the core issue: the wake turbulence. Where it originates from exactly and how it could be countered. We could investigate the proposals generated in this series a bit more in detail to check their value. I guess we would need an aero guy to make some great drawings though, to make it all understandable to the ‘non-techheads’ (of wich I’m part of btw).

    • Nik said on 4th May 2010, 5:39

      Erm Keith, what do we seek to achieve from this? Is it just beer talk or you are actually going to submit whatever the conclusion we reach later to the power that be?

  2. TyreWar Now said on 30th April 2010, 22:36

    An all-out tyre competition. Big fat slicks. And no silly tyre change rules. Change as many times as you please, or none at all.

    • tjof said on 1st May 2010, 5:12

      What about crew limits at the pit, this might have been said already, don’t keep up with all comments…
      Could be interesting to see pit stops where the crew don’t have a person for everything that needs to be changed and altered on the car before it rejoins the race, making stops more challengeing and important.

  3. George said on 30th April 2010, 22:37

    I think the power to grip ratio is already pretty tight, if they had much more power they would be impossible to drive in the wet, plus we just changed to slick tires to increase mechanical grip, which everyone thought was a good idea :P.

    Personally I think so long as the cars are designed so that they can follow each other more easily through high speed corners, everything else will take care of itself. As it is at the moment, you see a guy catching the car in front at a second per lap or whatever, but you know barring a mistake they will just get pinned in their dirty air until the end of the race.

    I dont think most F1 fanatics will mind if a driver takes pole then drives away in the race, that’s motor racing after all. Artificially engineering the race so that that person has a disadvantage (reverse grids, ballast, quali tire rule etc) undermines the sport, because it is a sport, not simply entertainment.

    • theRoswellite said on 1st May 2010, 15:03

      “…everything else will take care of itself.”

      I agree, this should be priority one!

  4. Hamish said on 30th April 2010, 22:50

    F1/FOTA could have saved themselves some serious time/money and just looked at the comments over the last few days on this topic on how to deal with the issues in F1.

    Good work guys. Some real relevant and constructive point of view coming across.

  5. bendy said on 30th April 2010, 23:02

    To be honest, I dont think overtaking on track is a massive issue per se, just this year the lack of overall position changing and change of race pace thanks to the banning of refuelling, i.e. everyone travelling at the same pace throughout the GP.
    Having said this, I do believe a mandatory 2 stops would be good for F1, and definitely developing engines to be more reliable and cheaper so that they dont have to pussy-foot around at low revs saving them! Perhaps reducing aero grip and increasing mechanical grip TO A CERTAIN EXTENT, will help the overtaking issue.

    Good series anyway, very interesting to read!

  6. Mike "the bike" Schumacher said on 30th April 2010, 23:19

    “More power than grip”

    Sounds great at first. I can imagine Hamilton and Schumi letting the cars dance around the corners while Button and Massa would be going backwards, (especially massa in the wet).
    However it doesn’t really sound like the pinnacle of motorsport does it?

  7. John M said on 30th April 2010, 23:40

    Keith said – “Looking at how F1 has changed over a series of years, even decades, what strikes me most is a loss of variety in the sport in many ways.”

    This, to me, is huge. Cost control is probably the biggest factor in limiting variety in technology. Unfortunately, I don’t have any magic answer that will allow more variety (for example, V-10s, V-12s, higher revs, etc.) while simultaneously controlling costs.

    In the meantime, however, I’d love to see aero limited as much as possible. I see aero as having very limited application to real-world car technology. It’s a racing technology. Reduce aero and let the manufacturers have more freedom to innovate with technology that has real-world application.

  8. vitaredux said on 30th April 2010, 23:41

    I’ve had a thought I haven’t seen discussed yet in terms of solving the three sided problem.

    Obviously in order to have a full grid the FIA needs some measures to control almost unlimited spending by the big teams.

    But if we cap spending this prevents F1 from being on the technology cutting edge that I think many of us feel it should be.

    To answer this, what about having two series on grid at the same time? This would be like they run in Le Mans or as WRC used to do. I’m sure if my motorsport knowledge were greater I could come up with more examples.

    In F1 this would work as one series for those who impose on themselves some limited budget, the other would be for those who want no such budget. This might allow a full grid, but also allow F1 to be involved in researching more expensive technologies that might benefit our road cars in the future.

    The main risk I can see would be the speed difference between the classes when overtaking, but the drivers in Le Mans manage to handle this for 24 hours of overtaking in daylight, darkness or dusk.

    You could argue that we have this already without having acknowledged it with the likes of Ferrari/McLaren and HRT/Lotus.

    Very interested to hear what other people think.

    • Lachie said on 1st May 2010, 2:34

      This is almost word for word exactly what cause the breakaway series crisis last year. The teams wanted no part of a two-tiered system where those who went over the cap got penalised vs those that stuck to it. You make a good point tho that i’ve noticed too. They were raging against the two-tier system yet we now have these three new teams that are obvious on a lower tier to the rest. At least in this case tho those three teams may be able to rise to the occasion :)

    • BasCB said on 1st May 2010, 7:26

      I do not think this is a great idea. I even think it is one of the reasons sportscar racing lacks some entertainment if you do not follow “your team”.

      The cars on track are not really competing, they just happen to be on the same strech of track at one time.

    • Wificats said on 1st May 2010, 12:20

      The way you’ve phrased it, it makes it sound like a bad idea, for the reasons mentioned above, as it makes it too similar to Sports car racing, and too artificial.

      However, if the manufacturers were given a higher budget cap and more technical freedom in areas other than aero, whilst smaller teams had a lower budget cap but given more aero freedom it would mean that perhaps the two could compete properly (as was the case in the ground effect years, where the Cosworth teams could still compete with the turbo ones due to their mastery of ground effect) but the manufacturers would be more likely to get some real R&D knowledge from their participation. It would also hit the smaller teams less hard as they wouldn’t have to entirely restructure their operation around a technology other than aero.

      • vitaredux said on 1st May 2010, 13:02

        I suppose the question is whether to try to artificially make the two classes even so they can race together. I think this is the part of Bernie’s plan that met the most opposition. After all if you’ve spent more money you don’t want to be disadvantaged against teams that haven’t. I would propose two separate classes. It would also produce more overtaking.

  9. bazik said on 1st May 2010, 0:12

    Loved the idea of the fuel limit, quite smart, kudos for Hollus, this should really get in place! We would win on so many levels

    • Mark Hitchcock said on 1st May 2010, 1:37

      That never really occurred to me but it satisfies many of the criteria that F1 fans want to see. It could potentially increase overtaking because of the limited aero, it would push engine development to the limit in search of fuel efficiency which would keep F1 at the pinnacle of motor racing technology, and it would make F1 cars much more relevant to road cars.

      Someone tell that idea to the FIA!

    • Travis said on 1st May 2010, 2:14

      I too think that the fuel limit idea by Hollus is brilliant! It’s just so simple that it should work.

      Mind you, I’m sure the bigger budget teams will still work out a way to dominate.

      • wasiF1 said on 1st May 2010, 2:41

        Fuel limit will never be applied in F1 in about the next 5 years. That will usually force F1 teams to build a more efficient engine with less power.I think what the FIA/ FOTA can do is to reduce aerodynamics grip & increase mechanical grip which will help to lower the drag.

        • Kester said on 1st May 2010, 4:21

          More mechanical grip/less aero isn’t the the simple fix.

          Removing rev limits would help cars draft better on the straights as so often they hit their rev limits way before the tow has really effected the cars much.

          I too like the fuel limit idea though, and it’s something I’ve discussed with my friends before. It lets F1 stay at the pinacle of technology in the way of efficiency, and at the same time will probably improve racing as it allows a driver to really push hard to create a gap, or attempt an overtake, and the expense of speed somewhere else in the race.

          You could even have a situation where a driver really pushes to pass a driver, then has to defend hard for the next few laps to balance out the fuel so they can finish the race.

        • BasCB said on 1st May 2010, 7:28

          Make then all use F-ducts during the year, they reduce drag and improve the wake.
          Engines will probalby be more efficient but with equal power from 2013 onwards. If KERS is brought back the running will be more efficient next year.

    • Icthyes said on 1st May 2010, 5:28

      The problem with this idea is aero efficiency.

      It’s not just the amount of aero, but how good it is. So, instead of cutting downforce to cut down on drag and fuel consumption, the teams will just do what they’ve always been doing, and invest millions in making ever-more efficient aero.

      You probably would see a reduction in downforce even after taking this into account. But you’d still have the problem of the cars depending on aero for speed, and the issue of turbulent wakes won’t go away. Cut the amount of fuel, but you still have to cut aero to make it work for improving overtaking.

    • BasCB said on 1st May 2010, 7:20

      It might work. Allso it would spring a development of things like the F-duct, which is exactly doing that – reduce drag – by the way it seems to give a better wake for following cars.
      And maybe an element of possible driver mistake if the driver forgets to activate it or does it later or gets off earlier.

    • Daffid said on 1st May 2010, 11:07

      I’ve been banging on about the fuel limit idea for years, and I’d extend this as being the way to limit testing, rather than it being limited to ‘days’, so that teams that have a crash don’t lose mileage.

      An engine efficiency war is the war to have, and – to a degree – self-limits top speeds as well, whilst being a great ‘shop window’ for the manufacturers, and a good way to placate green politicians.

  10. claudioff said on 1st May 2010, 2:35

    “Current F1 cars produce obscene amounts of downforce at the cost of equally obscene amounts of drag.”
    That´s not necessarily true. A brick has a lot of drag and no downforce. The aeronautic industry spends lot of dolars each year designing wings which produces greater lift and lesser drag.
    If you impose a limit on how much fuel a car can carry during a race (an ideia which I personaly agree) the aerodynamics will still play the same important role, in other words, a lot of energy and money will be spent on it.

  11. GST said on 1st May 2010, 2:46

    What concerns me is that the persistent downgrading of F1 in 2013.

    Come on, we’ve alreasy been through the turbo era, and that’s something we don’t need to go back to, is it?

    Now that we have the 2.4 V8 engines, they should stay for a good long while yet. This will save money rather than spend an incredible amount of money to have 1.5 litre turbo engines. And they will be performing with more power and eventually using as much fuel as today’s V8’s within a few years. In essence, we’ll be back to where we are now. So I don’t think it’s worth it.

    Do we really want to see F1 with engines smaller than a Ford Fiesta?

    This is Formula 1 for goodness sake, not Ford, VW or Vauxhall one make series racing.

    • I think there is a dangerous combination looming here:
      – The idea of limiting fuel
      – The hint at a return to turbos in 2013

      This has all the ingredients to a return to the racing issues we had in the mid late 80s. Teams ran full blast in qualifying and used an incredibly lean fuel mixture in the races. Speeds were not limited by tyre wear or driver ability but by fuel consumption. We also saw ridiculous situations like Imola ’85 where all the front runners ran out of fuel in the closing laps.

      For many, F1 was reborn in 1989 with a return to single class racing and drivers managing rivals and tyre wear rather than just nursing a thirsty turbo home.

      • theRoswellite said on 1st May 2010, 16:03

        Unfortunately, as Piffles points out, when fuel consumption becomes a dominant issue in determining the outcome of the race many issues now absent return to the scene, and some important questions would need to be addressed.

        If the total fuel was severely restricted, in an effort to promote increased energy efficiency, would this result in “technology demonstrations” more than races?

        For me, I would prefer to see F1 technology directed at the interface of internal combustion and electric engines, while still maintaining at least the present levels of performance and speed.

        This would accomplish the joint goals of higher performance per quantity of traditional fuel and a reduction in emissions per mile traveled. F1 could certainly be a leader in this area without sacrificing “the show”.

        The entire world will soon be waiting for every new development in, say, battery technology. Why not have McLaren or Ferrari be an active contributor, making F1 more “relevant”. (I personally don’t feel it needs to be any more than what it is….sport, but my (our?) view may become “irrelevant” in the near future.)

        KERS was obviously an excellent start in this direction, but the FIA was seemingly afraid that it’s new technology, used in an unrestricted manner, might determine the outcome of the race…? So, they, in effect, chickened-out on their own idea.

        F1 needs to look to the future, and petroleum based transportation isn’t it.

  12. wasiF1 said on 1st May 2010, 2:49

    I do agree with the fact that the coverage needs to improve but don’t you people think that the ticket price needs to come down a bit. If not mistaken maximum people in this blog are aged between 18-25 who are still students & usually don’t earn too much by themselves to go in a Grand Prix even once a year.So that is one part the FOM or FOTA needs to work.

    Another thing on which I hardly noticed ant comment. Don’t you think the number of GP need to increase from 19 to somewhere between 22-25 in the near future? ( in about three years)

  13. Steve said on 1st May 2010, 3:35

    more horsepower, back to 900 or 1000hp

    the tires must be able to overpower the car and its aero easily…

    simplify front and rear wings, for most tracks down to single or two elements…. not 4-5 as we currently have.

    adjustable front wings, which a driver can use ALL the time, so when it comes up behind another car, he can just his front end to stay closer

    @GST – f1 has had smaller enginers before, but, with 60lbs of boost, the engines were producing 1300+HP in quali, and around 1000 in the race….

    if F1 goes down to 670 as suggested, that will put them over 200 to nascar and indycar, which is RIDICULOUS!

    i have emailed FOTA and told them please dont do it… we need more HP in F1, not less


  14. Scalextric said on 1st May 2010, 3:35

    Maybe it’s because I’m currently far from any GP track, so this doesn’t bother me as much, but are you losing interest in F1 with all these fly away races? There used to be 2 races in the UK, Germany and/or Italy, all convenient for Sunday afternoon watching. Plus occasional visits to Portugal or Lichtenstein. And France. Is the reduction of the European season having an effect in Europe? I wonder, because I’ve found the last 2+ years of F1 to be spectacular, and not in need of fixing, so what am I missing? Did everyone get bored without Schumi? I sincerely hope not. Did you not enjoy all the races this year that were not held in Bahrain? Was the rain (not seen in Bahrain) the only saviour of the sport for you?

    • Gilles said on 1st May 2010, 16:31

      Well,I’m a European but I actually don’t really care where they race if it produces an exciting race. It is simply a sign of the times. Personally I would like to see some great tracks introduced which historically tend to be more in Europe or the US, but if another country without a race history for that matter, builds a great track which provides a great race, who cares ?

  15. Steve said on 1st May 2010, 3:37

    the most powerful F1 motor in history,

    the 1300hp BMW 1.5 turbo engine, from the 80’s!!!

    look at those red exhausts go :)

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