Highlights from the FOTA F1 Fans Forum

McLaren’s Martin Whitmarsh, Ferrari’s Luca Colajanni, Lotus’s Tony Fernandes, Mercedes’ Jock Clear and Force India’s Paul di Resta faced question from 150 Formula 1 fans in London today.

The forum, hosted by James Allen, discussed topics including the quality of racing to green technologies in the sport and how F1 is presented on television.

F1 Fanatic was there – here’s a summary of what was said during the forum’s major talking points.

Real-time information

The panel agreed that more information needs to be shared with F1 fans – particularly while the races are going on. Jock Clear said:

There is a vast number of people out there who would really appreciate the kind of information I have available to me on the pit wall. When I watch a race I’ve got all that evolving in front of me.

I think people, if they want to, would value that information. If we could have that sort of information it would enhance their viewing.

I think it’s quite frustrating for people like my mum, who understands Formula 1 really well, but she can’t understand why Michael Schumacher is stuck waiting for a red light at the of the pits.
Jock Clear

Luca Colajanni said the teams “need to put more pressure on our friends upstairs” to provide things like completely open radio communications:

We need to understand that it’s not that the teams don’t want these things. We have to consider that there are agreements like the Concorde Agreement which put in place limits.

So even though we would love, for instance, to put the radio conversations on websites live we are limited. But this is something we need to look at for the future for 2013 when there will be a new Formula One.
Luca Colajanni

Tony Fernandes also argued in favour of more openness in the sport:

The more open we are the better because port is very accessible now, there’s a lot of competition out there and I think the days of holding everything secretive were destructive.

We need to do more to explain the sport better. To be honest, I still don’t understand the safety car rules!
Tony Fernandes

Getting the result right

Later the panel was asked whether it was detrimental to the fans’ experience that results can change after a race has finished, as happened at Valencia and Monaco this year. Jock Clear discussed this at length, saying:

I think it’s something we’ve got to get a hold of. There have been too many occasions recently where the fans have turned their television off only to read a newspaper the next day or seen on the news that someone isn’t in the position they thought they were.

I’ve heard it argued in the media that people, to a certain extent, that if we make this much information available it detracts from how exciting it is and how spontaneous it is.

From my point of view when I’ve got the level of analysis available to me each race weekend, when you watch what happens, for example in qualifying in Montreal, when the Red Bulls qualified on the hard tyre and McLaren qualified on the soft, the race was over. If anyone thought Red Bull were going to win that, I don’t know where they got that idea from.

So, from our point of view as engineers on the pit wall, you look at that race and you think, “well, McLaren are going to walk away with this, because Red Bull are on the wrong tyre, however much they claim they’re not.”

Now some people say that if you make that sort of analysis available then fans will just switch off. But I think fans like to have in-depth knowledge. Everyone likes to watch the football thinking they’re a football expert. You can’t do that in Formula 1 when things keep surprising you and you’re thinking “why did that happen?”

If you have that information available and are looking at that race and thinking “I don’t know how Red Bull are going to pull this off”, and then you’re proved right, you feel like you’re more involved with the sport. Because when you understand it, you’re engaged with it.
Jock Clear

Overtaking

Inevitably a popular subject was the quality of racing in Formula 1 and the difficulties drivers ahve overtaking.

Martin Whitmarsh explained why FOTA wanted to experiment with the controversial proximity wing:

In the first four racers our drivers made 39 competitive overtakes. But that was mainly because we’d made a hash of qualifying…

We are doing some things next year such as the adjustable rear wing which I think are interesting. I think the sporting regulations are critical. I don’t think we’ve put enough thought into this idea of being able to have a proximity-sensitive device where you can only deploy low-drag if you’re behind another car and trying to overtake.

I think we’ve got to try some of these things and be prepared to admit if they don’t work. That is not what Formula 1 originally did.

People want Formula 1 to be a meritocracy, they want to see the quickest driver-car combination win, and they want to see something unexpected happen. That’s happened this year, I think we’ve got a fantastic world championship. So maybe now’s not the time to change too much but I think we shouldn’t be complacent, we should try some new ideas and work out how to deploy them.
Martin Whitmarsh

Luca Colajanni described the adjustable rear wing as an “option” for next year. Paul di Resta explained drivers’ view on overtaking:

I think the drivers are equally very keen to be able to overtake. But they also want to race safely and they don’t want to see the kind of thing they have in America where every lap there’s someone slipstreaming past. They want to see individual battles throughout the whole Formula 1 grid.
Paul di Resta

He added that rules on what drivers can and can’t do to defend their position need to be clarified.

However Jock Clear pointed out that the general quality of driving in Formula 1 is part of the reason why there is not as much overtaking:

The level of driving in F1 is so good. Drivers make very few mistakes. It’s not about brakes or aerodynamics.
Jock Clear

Asked about the adjustable rear wing he added “We really need to think about these things so we understand the implications of what we’re doing. I don’t know whether that’s the solution.”

Testing

As discussed here earlier today, several panel members put the case for a limited re-introduction of in-season testing. Clear said:

I have no complaints about a lack of testing. Cars are more reliable than ever and do less testing.

But the situation where young drivers are not able to test cars is dreadful. New drivers don’t get enough time in cars.

Look at the trouble Michael’s had this year with all his experience. It’s hard for the Maldonados of the world.
Jock Clear

Luca Colajanni, who also reiterated Ferrari’s desire to allow new teams to run third cars for existing teams, agreed:

It’s time to re-think the situation. It’s an opportunity to bring F1 closer to you.
Luca Colajanni

Videos from the F1 fans forum

Thanks to FOTA for the invitation and hello to live blog moderator DJDaveyP who I met at the forum! You can read more of what was said during the fourm in my live Tweets from the event.

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49 comments on Highlights from the FOTA F1 Fans Forum

  1. CNSZU said on 1st July 2010, 17:55

    I have no problem with results being modified the next day. It adds another layer of intrigue, complexity and interest. After all, F1 is not football. I think the people who follow this sport are intelligent, and can appreciate that teams have the right to protest.

    • Jason said on 1st July 2010, 18:50

      I don’t know….I personally hate watching a race be finished and results posted hours later. I’m intelligent, I enjoy watching the racing because of the layers of intrigue and complexity. But positions should not be swapped around after a race is finished. If a driver needs to be penalized after the race, then a grid penalty at the next event is the way to go.

      • spanky the wonder monkey said on 5th July 2010, 9:06

        re grid penalty…..

        you could get the situation where a driver wins the WDC through a breach of the regulations, but because they drop places at the NEXT race, still walk away with the championship.
        how do you deal with the last race of the season?

    • PJA said on 1st July 2010, 19:00

      I dislike the result being changed after the race, but if it is for a good reason with all the evidence made public and most importantly that it seems fair I would accept it.

      For example for all the post race time penalties at the last race, I don’t believe the stewards released as much information to support their decisions as they could have.

      Also for the Schumacher penalty at Monaco I think it would have been better to just switch the places back to how they were under the safety car rather than give a time penalty, but I suppose it depends on what the rules allow.

      • thestig84 said on 1st July 2010, 21:25

        Ok CNSZU see if my experience changes you mind.

        Spa 2008, witness a dramatic, fantastic, fair race in which the team and driver I follow were victorious. I was overjoyed. I had to run to the other side of the spa circuit to hand back my kangaroo TV asap. We then got back to the campsite and took down the tent all in a rush to meet the earliest ferry as I had to drive back to the midlands for work the next day. Listening to mp3s all the way home, I got to sleep at 3ish and was up i at 8am for work.

        Now imagine my face when someone told me LH was relegated to 3rd and massa (who plodded round all weekend) won. The race seem so fair to me and Kimi crashing meant this had not even crossed my mind.

        Now do you still think it adds to the intrigue, complexity and interest? It sure didnt when I felt cheated after wasting so much time effort on money to only remember a sour memory of ridiculous result.

        • Jean said on 2nd July 2010, 8:13

          You (the stig84) saw it as a fair race while many others did not. With the incident happening on the penultimate lap , it left the Stewards very little time and impossible to issue a penalty during the race. Yet they had to do something – otherwise it would set a precedant that drivers can get away with cutting chicanes and doing whatever they can to win in the last lap. So these are complex issues. F1 is a complex and highly technological form of motorsport. Fans must understand that , and sometimes things like you mention will happen. As disappointing as it was for you as an individual (and problem millions of others) , it must nevertheless be understood that there are rules , to which F1 authorities cannot alter merely to pander to the expectations of some fans.

          • Ronman said on 2nd July 2010, 8:48

            time penalties to be applied on the next races qualifying times should be the way to go.

            so instead of adding 5 seconds and flipping the grid, add 5 seconds to his qualifying time next race. this will definetly put him at the back of the grid. but in a case where there is more than one driver to be penalized, like last week the spots at the back would be different and accoridng to those driver’s qualifying time. and starting 18th is better then 22nd.

            drive through and 10 second stop go penalties can be transferred to the next race (like a yellow card in football) and have to be carried out within the first 10 or 15 laps. this way when a driver commits a mistake, even if he has a time cushion like Hami had last week, a drive through in Silverstone will definitely nullify the advantage he had in Valencia…in terms of championship points…

            also if penalized drivers are sent to the back instead of just given time penalties after the race is run, it will provide a show element because they will definitely slice through the back-markers making the race a bit more entertaining…without faking it

          • BasCB (@bascb) said on 2nd July 2010, 8:54

            No it was not a fair race, Raikkonnen made use of quite a bit of tarmac to get to the front in the first place, if the rules would have been applied fairly, he might have been at least been investigated for that.

            Also very bad, that this new explanation of the rules came out only after a penalty was given. For most people i know (in person) Lewis was seen to get off, than handed the place back to Kimi as he had to and afterwards made a new go and made it.
            Great racing, i am glad Stewarding is now more relaxed and such a “incident” would have hardly made any investigation, let alone a penalty nessicary.

    • Matt said on 4th July 2010, 2:41

      Living in Australia, the European races start at 10pm Sunday night for us, so by the time the post-race interviews are done its well and truly bedtime. Knowing that there are still things to be investigated and the results could change by the time I get to work Monday morning annoys me. When the information is there during the race (eg the list of drivers that didn’t slow slow down enough at Valencia) – act on it then, not 20 laps later, not post-race.

      The only I find it acceptable to change results post-race is when information affecting the outcomes comes to light after the race has finished.

  2. Scribe (@scribe) said on 1st July 2010, 18:11

    I was there Keith! I was writting about my experiance for the Forum, should I post it here?

  3. Ray said on 1st July 2010, 18:19

    One way to increase overtaking is by reducing the front wing’s efficiency. There will be more mechanical grip and less reliant on the aero grips. Of course the disadvantage would be that it’ll be more dangerous with the reduced grip level. However, cars would be able to follow more closely without being interrupted by the turbulence too much.

  4. Jason said on 1st July 2010, 18:57

    In my own response to the article, I must say awesome job Keith. I think these are the main points that we, as fans, want to hear about and want to know what the actual teams think in a more candid environment.

    My thoughts on overtaking: If F1 wants to become more road relevant and a greener sport, then I fail to see the relation in allowing a movable rear wing. The comment about us wanting to see the ‘quickest driver-car combination’ is spot on, but they can do it with other avenues. Bring back KERS and allow development on it, that’s at least road relevant and give the car a quicker pace. I know its expensive with budget caps and all that, but there have to be other ways of increasing performance without artificially inducing overtaking.

    • Mike said on 5th July 2010, 7:08

      I agree, Nothing better than hearing Ross Brawn explain a piece of the car, or have a Williams engineer explain how the aerodynamics work on the car.

      Although, I think the road relevant stuff isn’t so great. I think it’s driven by Ferrari and Mercedes wanting to sell more road cars, and to be honest, That shouldn’t be what the sport is about. I wonder weather HRT or Sauber want it more “Road relevant”

      Also, F1 cars haven’t been road relevant at all since the 60’s. I think they should leave road relevant to the touring cars and leave F1 to continue more into the jet fighter territory.

      Road relevant is good, and I think KERS, could be very good for the sport. But, I don’t think we need to have a panic about it.

  5. aandrewaa said on 1st July 2010, 20:04

    I would like so much if Alonso, at the next gp with a safety car, would pass it and all the drivers following the safety car. He would surely win the gp with only a drive-through for penality….

    • aandrewaa said on 1st July 2010, 20:12

      refering to the same FOTA meeting but to a different topic, because they also spoke about FIA decisions in Valencia

  6. djdaveyp said on 1st July 2010, 20:07

    Just on thge train home now! What an awesome awesome day! I shook Martin Whitmarshes hand, had a lovely chat with James Allen (what a guy!), Jonathan Legard (I know he isn’t the best commentator, but he knows alot!), and of course the most famous of all Keith Collantine, the writer of the f1 bible (who I was expecting to be really really tall for some reason!)

    I really feel that us as F1 fans have had both an insight and impact on the sport today.

  7. Matt G (lotus fan) said on 1st July 2010, 20:44

    There is a typo in Tony Fernandes quote I assume it should say sport not port. Now to go and read what was said. Always good to see what the people at the top of F1 think about the rules and direction of the sport.

  8. matt90 said on 1st July 2010, 21:28

    A bit off topic, but on the topgear website there’s a story about Briatore saying Hamilton should have been black-flagged just for overtaking the safety car. Irony anybody?

  9. Charlie said on 1st July 2010, 21:53

    What the hell is a Maldonado?

  10. HounslowBusGarage said on 1st July 2010, 22:17

    What a fantastic day you all had!
    I was most interested to read the comments of Jock Clear, but I didn’t really understand this bit
    “for example in qualifying in Montreal, when the Red Bulls qualified on the hard tyre and McLaren qualified on the soft, the race was over. If anyone thought Red Bull were going to win that, I don’t know where they got that idea from.”
    Could anyone explain that? I appreciate that it committed the RB’s to start on the hards, but how did that mean the race was a foregone conclusion?

    Incidentally, I did some work for a US company called RB once. Or rather Arby’s, Roast Beef Sandwich Bars. Hey, US readers! Are Arby’s still going?

    • BasCB (@bascb) said on 2nd July 2010, 8:20

      He was alluding to the information the teams have at their disposal, so probably hinting at info on tyre degradation the teams already had available after quallifying.

      Had me a bit startled as well, i did not think it was that clear a choice (Kubica did the same)

  11. Icthyes (@icthyes) said on 1st July 2010, 22:23

    Is it me, or did Jock Clear not actually answer the question of results changing after the race?

  12. Andy said on 1st July 2010, 22:43

    The FIA should have a presence on Youtube. Not just get rid of everybody elses videos and not give people a proper alternative… Who else would like to see how Mark Webber went all the way back to 9th at the start using the onboard camera? It’s possible for them to do this for the fans but the FIA don’t seem to want to embrace the internet…

    • spanky the wonder monkey said on 5th July 2010, 9:11

      thought it was FOM / bernie that owns the copyright on the video? FIA are the governing body

  13. Jock Clear said on 2nd July 2010, 0:15

    I did answer the question of results changing after the race, however whom ever is summarising above has started with my reply to that question and then continued to quote my answer to the previous question about data available to the fans.

    • themark said on 2nd July 2010, 5:55

      Jock, how fortunate we are to have you taking an active interest in what interests us. Very seldom do we have access to someone as highly placed in F1 as you are. I hope you will continue to contribute here, as I feel that this site has a fan body with great interest in the actual workings of F1, I know I do, and your input would be fantastic

    • BasCB (@bascb) said on 2nd July 2010, 8:25

      Thanks for clearing that, after seeing the Youtube video of the event it seems the quote is really giving part of the answer to 2 questions.

      What do you think about the radio messages? Is it FOM that wants to have first coice of radio communications. Withmarsh hinted of something like that when he said the juicy remarks are only posted after the race (probably hinting to the FOM Turkey race edit).

  14. mr. t said on 2nd July 2010, 2:11

    Cool, this is something I would have loved to attend. Very jealous of all who made it.

    Some constructive criticism however — can we have some more info on this blog on other fan events as and when they arise please? We had an article on the FOTA fan survey in Feb but I’m left feeling slightly disappointed there wasn’t a similar article highlighting that this event was open to the public and encouraging us readers to apply for a place!

  15. Gilles said on 2nd July 2010, 9:20

    Relating to overtaking and the previous blogs on the issue, it seems to me that nobody asked some key questions:
    – what about wake turbulence reduction ? How to allow cars to follow each other more closely ?
    – how about making the front wing and not the back one adjustable ? (to cater for wake turbulence)
    – can’t we have driver input on circuit tweaks to increase overtaking chances ? (ie Bahrain)
    The ‘push-to-pass’ idea is just plain silly. I hope the fans present made that clear to them.
    Great initiative from FOTA, I hope they do this regularly from now on.

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