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

  1. TeamOrders said on 1st May 2010, 4:07

    Dirty air is the problem. The solution is less obvious.

  2. SeminoleAJ said on 1st May 2010, 5:34

    Allow me to comment on the TV coverage discussion (which has barely been touched on).

    “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.”

    I agree with the parts about drivers promoting the races. One of the best things that F1 can learn from Nascar is to make the drivers more accessible.

    As for the television coverage itself, as a recovering Nascar fan, I’ve noticed is that the commentators appeal mainly to the lowest common denominator…kids and very casual fans. Cartoon animals for your innovative camera which is sunk in the track? Give me a break…

    What I like about watching a F1 race on the BBC is that the commentators don’t talk down to the fans. Their appeal is (and rightly so I might add) to the seasoned veteran fan who knows what the score is. I’d love it if SPEED could cut down on the commercials and devote a SOLID 30 minutes to pre-race show like Jake, DC and Jordan present.

    Oh…and HD broadcasts…but I’ll let a dead horse lie.

    • Gilles said on 1st May 2010, 16:35

      You have a point here. The BBC coverage did actually work wonders for my interest. Whenever they are covering it, I want to take in as much as possible !

  3. Daniel Zylberkan said on 1st May 2010, 5:47

    I think the answer can be quite simple, I know lots of people will disagree with me on this one. But the peak of F1 at its most competitive was in the 1970s, with the rise of the Cosworth DFV, small independent teams who did all alone, there was no huge teams backed up huge multinational auto manufacturers and the racing was awesome. More importantly than that was the amount of technical freedom to teams back in those days, allowing the most innovative teams to succeed, Lotus and Tyrrel come to mind. Also, the teams in the 70s had more power than grip and definitely were not dependent on exotic aerodynamic components (that is until Lotus invented ground effect aeroodynamics.) So to sum up what F1 needs to succeed is independent teams, cheap powerful engines, technical freedom and more power than grip and way less downforce.

    • Hairs said on 1st May 2010, 9:47

      That’s simply not going to work in the modern age because things are so fundamentally differenet in terms of who is competing. What you’re describing is exactly what’s happening at the back of the grid right now – Virgin with their innovative all-CFD approach, Lotus with their solid professional approach, and HRT with their bought-in car, all running spec cheap engines from the same supplier.

      Yet all these teams are miles off the pace, because at some point (when Ron Dennis took over McLaren) the “winning culture” changed completely – to win, to beat McLaren, you had to be professional top to bottom. No single part of the operation could be left to chance. Furthermore, developing a quick car became less about inventive engineering ideas and more about hard slogging scientific work.

      The reason things aren’t the same as they were in the 70’s is…. things aren’t the same any more.

      • theRoswellite said on 2nd May 2010, 15:40

        …less about inventive engineering ideas…?

        The guy at McLaren who came up with the F-duct concept just spilled his Starbucks…

        (I actually agree with what you are saying. Innovation…?… more a function of individualistic thinking, which is inversely related to the size and complexity of the organization.

        In my limited historical experience, the two most innovative “areas” in racing were Jim Hall’s drawing board and that stuff just under Mr. Chapman’s cap.)

  4. Moolander said on 1st May 2010, 8:11

    You know what heppens when you more on the show than the sport?

    • maciek said on 1st May 2010, 11:55

      True enough. Thing is that more often than not, when people talk about wanting the show to improve, it,s really synonymous with wanting the sport to improve – in the sense of excitement. I think it’s a good point, though, that if you concentrate on improving the sport you’re likely to go look for more fundamental, long-term solutions to do that, than if you’re thinking in terms of improving the show, which I think leads people to choose quick, superficial fixes to produce the illusion of excitement – the most recent case in point for me being the decision to force drivers to start the race on their qualifying tires.

  5. kowalsky said on 1st May 2010, 8:28

    the idea about reducing the fuel carried in the car to 100 litres or even less, just to encourage the teams to work on fuel efficiency, and to reduce the aero grip, to me is nonesense. I think we agree that f1 should be the pinnacle of motorsport, and going this route it would be the pinacle of an economy run. Down force it’s necessary, to give cars grip on the bends, otherwise they would be slow, and worse still, they would look slow. If the plan is to lower the power, and to reduce the down force. F1 would be like formula ford. A good feeding series, but not what 200 mill people want to see around the world.

  6. pitt layne said on 1st May 2010, 9:26

    I’ve said it before. Every brand has at least 3.5+ liters of something lying around the parts bins. Let the working internals be the decider. This would attract more brands to sign up for F1. Dropping two cylinders, and raising capacity would balance the cost, power, and efficiency question. This ties in the interest Citizen Joe would have in watching “his” engine compete at the highest level. We might not see Lambos powering any cars. But you would see Porsches, Nissans, Fords, and a whole host of brands that could run. On the aero front, just lessen the size of the wings. And finally, phase out the Tilke tracks and resurrect the Heritage courses. Smells like “breakaway”.

  7. Nutritional said on 1st May 2010, 9:43

    Does anybody know if the double diffuser creates a lot of dirty air interfering with the front wing of the trailing car?

    • Renzo said on 3rd May 2010, 8:49

      yes it does, double diffusers especially has a big impact in downwash/turbulent air

  8. Dan Escreet said on 1st May 2010, 13:34

    i think the solution is to ditch the boring tilke circuits like china, turkey or what ever the other boring ones are that i always switch off and start looking for more drivers circuits. bring some of the old classic circuits up to standard like the salzburgring or head to the fantastic circut in Argentina (Potrero de los Funes), or even imola with the tamburello and Villeneuve chicanes removed. There are some fantastic road racing circuits in the usa, take some of their ideas, i.e. lots of elevation change, like lime rock, road Atlanta. Then there are the awesome circuits of Elkhart lake, Sebring and mid ohio and even the relatively new barber sports complex in Alabama. the Indy car race there the other week was fantastic. Take inspiration from this, find a valley somewhere with public roads and create a new spa or Rouen for example. Real Drivers circuits, that’s what the drives want, that’s what I want. let the drivers show us they really are the best in the world and take on some real circuits like these.

  9. innim said on 1st May 2010, 13:52

    I don’t even mind a lack of overtaking, as f1 is so exiting in other ways. For example, this year when lewis hamilton was stuck behind sutil trying to get in front and last year at monza when hamilton was chasing button in the last lap (before the crash!!!) were both extremely exiting events, whereas china, where people were just cruising up to the back of the car in front and overtaking on the long straight within a lap, was so boring. If you want loads of overtaking, go watch NASCAR and stop complaining. This is F1 – i want to see drivers pushing both themselves and their cars to the limits to get an overtake. Overtaking isnt that exciting, its the build up to the overtake that i find exciting.

  10. Metallion said on 1st May 2010, 14:38

    I think more power would be great. The cars seem very easy to drive these days. I thought when they banned traction control that it’d make quite a big difference, but drivers are still able to go full on the throttle very early. I’d love to see them have for example 1000hp and wrestle the car out of the corners. I know it’d probably make things more difficult in the wet, but they could do it in the 80’s so why not now? They had wider rear tires then, but I’d like to think that tire development has come quite a bit further in 20-30 years.

  11. Jonesracing82 said on 1st May 2010, 14:51

    as a clue, the aussie “V8 Supercar” series, for this weekend has a new softer compound tyre, and the cars dont rely too heavily on downforce, and the racing has been much better than normal, the tyres have been designed to degrade at a certain rate, much better! cars have differant grip at differant times.
    it’s like Melb ’09 when the soft tyre fell apart (but not as dramatic a differance to the newer tyres) and there has been much better passing! F1 should do the same, and do away with downforce as much as possible!

  12. Tinakori Road said on 1st May 2010, 15:02

    A week or two ago, I believe, Keith mentioned changing the track to have very slow corners so passing could be accomplished. I think that is a good place to start and have more debate. How about making the track less smooth at corners, (regulation washboard?) so there has to be more/some compliance in the suspension, like on a real road. Design in potholes (with metal rims so the edges don’t break up) at corners so aero is disrupted. I believe the economic situation will get worse so start now and make a common engine formula like the DFV Cosworth and rule that the drivers work on their own cars, like A J Foyt Jr and Graham McRae did (although they did it by choice). I remember seeing Kimi Raikkonen working on his own go-cart before he drove F1. If the drivers had to also be mechanically competent, that might make for a better show because the drivers would be more entertaining and less like prima donnas. But there would be more DNS’s and DNF’s.

  13. I think FIA should let teams develop engines. When there was no engine freeze rule, teams put more eforts to make engines more powerful, than increasing downforce, because there was more performance gains in engine area. And I don’t think that engine development is more expensive than downforce. They spend the same amount of money to increase downforce.

  14. Jim N said on 1st May 2010, 15:07

    Hollus’s comment echoes the views of the late great Frank Costin, father of modern vehicle aerodynamics: Frank suggested that the most exciting and relevant racing formula should have only one rule, you can do anything you like but you may only use X gallons of petrol.

  15. Palle said on 1st May 2010, 22:46

    Technically a modern F1 Turbo engine would be much different to the past Turbo engines from the start of the 80’es.
    But I agree that the emphasis on aero-development is futile to the rest of the world.
    I understand that the wings are not allowed to flex, i.e. to self-adjust to the increased pressure when going full speed, because it is considered dangerous if the wing breaks. But we have seen accidents because of wings breaking of anyway.
    I think the aero-rules should be looked at – to lower the resources spend on aero and then open up for more engine development and KERS and other technologies to give us cars racing fast with less fuel consumption. I don’t like the idea of a hightech eco-race, as I think it will be too tactical, nurcing the fuelgauge, rather than pure racing.
    To improve the show it should be possible to follow F1 races worldwide on the internet, interactive so the viewer can chose which cars to follow, multiple screens etc. And in HD quality of course. And more in depth info about the teams, their developers, the people behind the cars and the pilots.
    But I think the races are very exiting. After the period with Ferrari/Schumi dominance it has become much more interesting. The worst is the long winterbreak..

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