At least the racing is (slightly) better

Posted on Author Keith Collantine

F1 Fanatic race ratings 2008-2009 (click to enlarge)
F1 Fanatic race ratings 2008-2009 (click to enlarge)

The political deadlock dominates the F1 headlines but on the hunch that many of you are as sick of it as I am I thought it would be a good time to write about something a bit more positive.

We’ve had many discussions about whether the new technical rules for 2010 would improve the quality of racing in F1 and the early indication is positive. Looking at the result of the post-Grand Prix “rate the race” polls shows consistent, albeit minor, improvement over last year.

The only exception is the Malaysian Grand Prix, which was abandoned at half distance as its late starting time meant it was not possible to complete the event after a rain shower hit the circuit.

Although rain helped make the Chinese Grand Prix much more exciting than last year’s procession, the stronger result for the dry Bahrain Grand Prix is encouraging.

There may be other explanations for why the ratings have gone up: perhaps the shake-up in the competitive order has been well-received. On the whole i think we have seen some improvements this year, but there is more to be done. I’m optimistic that the banning of refuelling next year will make the competition even more interesting and entertaining.

If there is any racing in 2010, that is, but we’ll leave that discussion for elsewhere.

Do you think the quality of racing has improved this year? And is having slightly better races worth having such strange-looking F1 cars?

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43 comments on “At least the racing is (slightly) better”

  1. I’m not sick of the politics at all, it’s part of the sport and always has been, and in fact I think it’s about time there was a shake up at the FIA, which will hopefully be the result.

    And I have to say, as I and many others predicted, I don’t find the cars strange to look at anymore, I’ve got quite used to them already.

    As for the racing, I don’t really think it has changed that much this year [Spain was still a little on the dull side despite the new aero regs], I just think that different people are winning, which makes it seem refreshing.

  2. Do you mean to say 2009 in the second paragraph?
    i must say, bein a webber fan i definately enjoy the racing more now!!! it is good to have a shake up and i think the racing in general is a bit closer now than last year. in some ways i actually like the look of the new cars more and its strange that some cars look really out of proportion (like the red bulls) but others don’t (like brawn or williams).

  3. I suspect that it is Jenson and Brawn that are winning might have something to do with the improved results as well.

  4. I`m not sure there`s been much improvement so far. I think the buzz for people seems to be coming from having different cars up at the front.

    Being a relative newcomer here I`m not sure how the ratings work, sorry.
    Is it done on actual racing or just enjoyment of the “show”?
    I ask because I`m a bit surprised to see Monaco up there among the top runners when, much as I enjoy the spectacle, it`s not really been possible for the cars to race there for about as long as I can remember. (Raymond Baxter in his trench coat with enormous microphone days)

  5. Race ratings are largely meaningless as people will vote based on whether or not their favourite team/driver does well.

  6. i think what happens is that people like to see teams and drivers not used to be up there beating the cherries of the field (Fezza, BMW, Macca… even Renault)

    that’s why it was so lovely to see a Toro Rosso fighting agains the big boys last year and Fernando Alonso trying to catch the big three at the last part of the year

    now we have Brawn, Red Bull and Toyota beating them and Ferrari/Mclaren/BMW struggling a lot… that’s interesting and that’s why people rate the races that high

    that’s my point of view, obviously. I like that things. Like Udinese beating Inter, or Chelsea veing beaten by Man City…

    1. Just Chelsea being beaten is good enough, don’t care who it is beating them :-)

  7. I think it’s still too early to tell, the novelty of the mixed order of the teams has added a lot of interest but the novelty will soon wear off.

    China was a wet race and this is normally a great way to improve the show as you actually get to see the skill of the drivers, it’s hard to know what effect the rules had on the racing there.

    I was hoping the changes would have made a big improvement at the Circuit de Catalunya but unfortunately it turned out to be another dull race with only a handful of incidents mixed in with long spells of boredom.

    I know the track is partly to blame but there are several tracks on the calender that are equally dull and if those races aren’t improved much either then I think the rule changes will need to go further, especially mainly in the reduction of aerodynamics.

    I’m looking forward to the end of refuelling too, especially as it means we’ll get real qualifying back & drivers will be less inclined to overtake in the pit-stops.

    As for the look of the cars, with the exception of the shockingly ugly BMW, I thought the new cars were ok, it was only the rear wing that makes most of them look odd but once they start up the engine and start racing the look doesn’t matter that much to me.

  8. Too much politics going on in Formula 1 this year, due to so many rule changes.

  9. Oh there’ll be racing next year. You may have to change your site name to something like “World Grand Prix Fanatic”, but there’ll be racing!

  10. But how many will be watching?

  11. Jonesracing82
    17th May 2009, 3:19

    i think overall it’s better but the “racing” still has room for improvement, i didnt find Bahrain or Spain that exciting, Sepang was good until it was halted etc,i know politics is all part of the sport but the politics is overshadowing the racing, thats when we have problems!

  12. I think I agree with the one that said, thought the races end with different people in front, the racing itself is only slightly better. To be honest, the start of Spain watched like a typical Turn One in GP2.

    How is every race single race won pole to flag by Brawn any more interesting than every race won pole to flag by Ferrari?

    Aside from that, I couldn’t be happier to see a relatively sponsorless team dominating.

  13. theRoswellite
    17th May 2009, 4:56

    For me the racing experience this year is more interesting with the change at the front of the grid. Pathologically pulling for the underdog may endow one with a bit of self righteousness, but it more often simply results in a dependable disappointment. So this year has been the “year of years”, with no equivalent experience coming to mind. If anyone can think of a bigger one year reversal of fortune, please bring it to my attention.

    Monaco should be good fun, with numerous candidates for a possible first win……my Super-Underdog choice… A. Sutil, and you can probably guess why.

  14. God bless Max Mosley. His rule changes are helping F1, Hopefully it will be even more exciting in next races!!

    1. Dirk Gently
      17th May 2009, 11:50

      “God bless Max Mosley” is a phrase you don’t hear ’round these parts too often.

  15. I find the racing closer, but there’s not necessarily more passing. Still, it’s an improvement, slight though it may be.

    It’s funny you post this now Keith.

    After a long and fruitless search, I’ve recently discovered a wonderful archive of races from years past. Since I know that you conduct polls after each race, I’ve been looking on your site to try and find a summary of these race ratings over the years – so i know which races to get and which to avoid.

    Do you have a race ratings page going back further than 08? (the above graph will do the trick for now, thanks).

    Also, noticed that the image link goes directly to the image now – thanks for that!

  16. Martin Bell
    17th May 2009, 7:28

    @chunter, I wouldn’t call BGP “relatively sponsorless”, it’s Hondas money that’s making them one of the best financed teams on the grid! Many of us armchair experts have droned on for the last ten years about how a return to slicks was the solution to all F1’s problems, but can anyone see how they have actually improved the racing?

  17. The best 4 races last year included rain,

  18. Airborne Williams Cap
    17th May 2009, 9:28

    I think the racing has improved although not by as much as we’d been led to believe / hoped.

    I’ve been to the Spanish GP for the last 4 years and this year’s race was definitely the best. In previous years once the race has got into a rhythm, the field spreads and nothing much of interest happens from then on.

    This year, we saw a number of moves into the first corner after the two cars had been separated by a cigarette paper down the main straight. And of course there was the Webber/Alonso duel.

    I think this year’s regulations are a good first step but (once the dust has settled) it would be good for them to be refined further so that that racing improves further and moves the focus back onto what the show should be about.

  19. I too am sick of all the politics in F1 and wish all the headlines were about the racing.

    I think overall the racing is better but agree that more could still be done. The safety cars and rain have defiantly helped increase the ratings for this year, for me the best races last year were all affected by rain.

    If the team dominating this year had been Ferrari or McLaren instead of Brawn the ratings would probably not have increased on last year though.

  20. i think this season has only proved some changes in the position of the teams but there isn’t any good fight in the front….last year atleast we had four to five drivers having chances to win a grand prix this time its only brawn……..and may be red bull catching them….

  21. Do you think the quality of racing has improved this year?

    No doubt about it!

    And is having slightly better races worth having such strange-looking F1 cars?

    Strange looking cars? What?
    Keith, you must’ve confused something.
    These were the strange-looking cars!
    Which is the weird one? K’mon!

    1. Great examples Damon :)

    2. Everything’s subjective :-) I think the front and rear wings on this year’s cars are out of proportion and look unsightly – front-on and in profile.

      The (mostly) smooth-edged side pods we have now look nice, but I never had big with the aesthetics of the previous cars.

      Not that F1 cars have always been attractive, of course – there were some real mingers in the ’70s.

  22. Why is it that noone has sponsored BRAWN yet does anybody out there have any idea why

    1. There’s been about $5trillion wiped off the value of the worlds stock markets in the last year or so as well as the collapse in the international banking system.

      In short, very few companies have any spare cash and certainly not enough to be giving upwards of $10million to an F1 team, no matter how successful they are at the moment.

      Brawn are suffering so much because Honda didn’t have any sponsors to begin with so they’re having to find totally new sponsors.

      They also got a fair amount of cash from Honda as part of the buy out deal (allegedly) as well as getting cash from Bernie & some preferential deals to allow them to keep running so they can probably survive without the sponsors at the moment and are waiting till they can find a few big sponsorship deals rather than signing loads of smaller ones.

  23. Well done Keith, back to racing.
    Brawn and Button have told us several times in efect that they dont think their car is a sure fire race winner. They have had to maximise everything the team knows to get as far as they have.

    Monaco should rock the boat. We will know more when Bridgestone tells us more about the tyre choice.

    As for winning drivers, Rubens may see this as his chance to come back at JB. Vettel must put the hammer down to justify our view of him. Felipe so nearly overcame the problems last time. Kimi may decide that it is his day to drive quickly, or not. Fernando may believe this circuit gives him his best chance. Sutil, yes him too. McL should know how to give Lewis a fast enough car here. It may be their day for other drivers.It’s all very exciting and – big bonus- Thursday is so near.

    As for the changes, I have a lurking suspicion that the shaping of the sidepods is a bigger factor this year. How good to see the shape of the almost bare Brawn without the dazzle camouflage of adverts.

  24. StrFerrari4Ever
    17th May 2009, 12:58

    I agree with Fer no.65 because last year having an underdog at the top would leave the fan more satisfyied like Toro Rosso and this year with the order shaken up people are watching with much more interest.
    Regarding Monaco there’s no telling whose going to be fast I hope the diffuser for Red Bull works and if it does you’ll be amazed by what Newey has done again:D I expect Brawn not to be on the first row

  25. Bigbadderboom
    17th May 2009, 13:03

    I can see how people may be getting bored with the politics, personally I enjoy it (especially when i think i’m seeing a revolution in F1) but hey each man to himself.
    Has the racing improved this year? I think so, I think the neutrility of Brawn has something to do with it, at the moment they are nobodies enemy team, so even though Ferrari and Mclaren are fighting mid field nobody begrudges Brawn or Red Bull their time up front.

    I think there needs to be a period of settlement as the teams convert their understanding of the new regs into race pace. As the rules settle the racing will become closer and the second half of the season will see some fantastic races (I hope!) But so far so good considering the changes it’s been a good season so far for me.

  26. I wouldn’t say the racing so far this season is any better than before, just different.
    I’m sure if the likes of Red Bull can challenge for wins more and Toyota come forward more then maybe we can say it’s better.
    Are we to guage how good the racing is when the two top teams of recent past are stuck struggling so they can’t pose a challenge. maybe if they can start challenging too then we’ll end up with a stonking good season. I’m not saying we need Mclaren or Ferrari to win the championship again this year. But i’d like to see BrawnGp pushed a bit more. We don’t want another 2002/2004

  27. chaostheory
    17th May 2009, 17:23

    I myself am a little bit confused by reversed grid in F1, it’s almost shocking to me (not so old F1 fan), thats why I don’t rate this year races much higher than last years, but I can see improvement when it comes to overtaking; so seems its going in right direction.
    Was it worth to have strange looking cars>? Yes. But they’re looking sooo heavy and slow although they are faster than last years cars :) I hope they (whoever will do rules in 2010…) will do something to those front wings.

  28. I am still unconvinced that the grands prix we have so far witnessed this year have been that great an improvement. As others have already mentioned, the absence of such huge marks as Ferrari and McLaren from the sharp end of the championship has been a welcome sight.
    The totally unexpected turnaround in fortunes for Jenson Button and the former Honda team, now in the guise of Brawn Gp, has been a newspaper editor’s dream.
    However, there have been disappointments. The other teams it would seem, not including Red Bull and Toyota, are obviously too far off the Brawn cars to challenge for this years championship.
    With all the good will in the world, the sport would have benefitted no end to see a team like Renault or BMW Sauber return to the fore, or even Williams.
    Looking back over the past couple of seasons, we have been treated to some really wonderfull showdowns. 2007 mainly being the heated scrap at McLaren between Alonso and Hamilton, with Raikkonen, Prost like stealing it from both of them at the death.
    Then who could forget 2008, and the title being decided on the last corner, with the defending champion not even in the title battle proper, but his team mate.
    At the moment, Button has the world at his feet much like Nigel Mansell did seventeen years ago in a Williams so superior to its rivals that the title was over by the Hungarian round of the championship.
    And for this, the teams have gone to such huge expenses to ‘cut’ costs. Radically different cars, huge shifts in the rules, a total ban on in season testing, getting used to running back on slick rubber, and ofcourse, KERS.
    Only three years since banning traction control, in an effort to put more control in the drivers hands, along comes KERS. A device that, in my opinion, in more of a cheat than traction control. Am I not alone, whilst
    celebrating Webber’s recent tangle with Alonso, wondering how much KERS played a part in the outcome?
    Years ago, when Mika Hakkinen nailed Michael Schumacher at Spa, infront of a bemused Ricardo Zonta, we were under no doubt how much raw skill had played its part.
    I would much rather watch a race with three or four genuine moments of balls and skill than fifty moments of a button being pressed. As far as I concerned, the turbo boost buttons belong in Knightrider, not in Formula One.

  29. Saw that lola has officially signed up saying the advantage they get under the new rules [two tier system]will make them competitive against big budget teams.Then I saw an interview on BBC with bernie saying there would be no two tier system all teams will be racing under the same rules.Have they been shafted all ready welcome to F1 and remember that foul taste in your mouth last the whole time you are here.

  30. most of the improvement came as a result of rain, the targeted improvement of overtaking is no better, take away lap one and them it’s fast forward to see where Lewis came.

  31. It’s been Excellent so far i think, the sideshow hasn’t helped much but the shake up i believe is the main culprit in making the racing more interesting.

    as for the strangeness of the cars, i kind of got used to them. they are getting to look normal to me as each race goes by….

    I’m really pumped up for Monaco, to see how the new leaders are going to deal with it…

  32. HounslowBusGarage
    17th May 2009, 22:32

    I’ve read a lot of the post so far and I agree with a many of them in that it’s far more entertaining to see an underdog team (ie not Ferrari, MacLaren or Renault) winning.
    But, being an armchair anarchist, I’m growing bored of Brawn domination already and I long for the utter chaos of a St. Devote first lap that could bring Force India to the fore.
    The racing has been better this year – and I think we have seen more overtaking – but if Brawn continue with wins and points beyond Silverstone I will be supporting BMW!
    The politics are another matter; I love the chaos and uncertaintly they bring. At the moment we have a four sided argument with two parties roughly allied alongside each other (Frreri and FOTA versus Bernie and FIA), and it’s wonderful entertainment to see these four leviathans tussle their way through these problems. But it wouldn’t take much for FOTA to turn against Ferrari or for Max to sue Bernie. Very exciting!

    1. I have to agree with you Hounslow, its been interesting so far having the most unlikely leaders at the front of the pack instead of the usual dudes, but I have noticed that after the first couple of laps it all becomes the same old routine unless a Red Bull or a Torro Rosso is able to pass a slower car or two in the mid-field.
      The cars do appear to be racing closer together, but could someone who has been trackside confirm this is the case and not just a perspective thing you get from the TV? Surely if the cars are still finding it difficult to overtake, somebody should be talking to the OWG about it?

  33. does anyone still think they are strange looking f1 cars? i thought most everyone got over that before the season started. if not, take a look at that 6 wheel monster that raced in the ’70’s and get back to me.

    this has been a better season. whoever is dominating, at least it’s a change from the old guard and there are more noses up tailpipes than i recall seeing in quite awhile. maybe i’m just feeling smug because after—er, um, more than a decade—- REFUELING IS BANNED! as in no more,nada mas,rien and nicht refueling, nonono refueling, it is an EX regulation. now who can complain about that?

  34. Definitely getting used to the new-look cars very quickly. I think it’s a touch odd that the front wings are wider than the front wheels; but the rest is great… at least partly because slicks look so much nicer.

  35. Ah well, Jenson is winning isn’t he? And apart from Australia, it pretty much coincides with a low spell from LH in 2008….I like Jenson, much more than I could ever like the stab-on-the-back-your-mecenas-and-your-racemanager-who-supported-you kid. But this season is a bit of a put off so far. Ugly cars, low level of competition…it just looks weird.

  36. So what does everyone think of the quality of the F1 grid at the moment?

    I personally think it is is pretty low and here is how i have greaded each driver.

    1. Jensen Button: a fair driver in a good car, but nothing special.
    2. Rubens barrichello: also a fair driver in a good car (just as he was at Ferrari) the odd bright star at times.
    3. Sebastian Vettel: very good driver with a bright future.
    4. Mark Webber: lower quality, gets a lot of bad luck (much like Johnny Herbert used to) Not my favourite driver but nice guy.
    5. Jarno Trulli: A bit of a has been. I’ve never really rated him. He should have done better with his potential.
    6. Timo Glock: Has potential to be a good driver with multiple wins.
    7. Nick Heidfeld: Not really shown what he can do, should have won by now, wither in the williams or the BMW. Don’t really rate him.
    8. Robert Kubica: A good driver and a possible champion. I like him.
    9. Fernando alonso: Overrated, Lucky to win 2 championships in my opinion. Nvere liked him (hate blakmailers).
    10. Nelson Piquet jnr: Need i say anything?
    11. Sebastien Bourdais: A poor racing driver who dominated in a reacing series where he had a totally dominating car (like a ferrari in gp2). Not going to be here long.
    12.Sebastien Buemi: Yet to show true potential. Not decided on him yet.
    13. Nico Rosberg: Really does show good speed and consistency, just needs a good car, whether in a Williams or a new team maybe hamilton’s new teammmate Or at Renault.
    14. Kazuki Nakajima: Too erratic, only at Williams because of engine deal. Not impressed.
    15. Adrian Sutil: should not be in F1.
    16. Giancarlo Fisichella: Woulda Coulda Shoulda. Never rated him.
    17. Felipe Massa: Although he took championship to the wire i don’t rate him, in the right car at the right time. maybe he will impress if he can win in Monaco from down the grid. Usually only wins from Pole.
    18. Kimi Raikonnen: Does he really care about F1?????
    19. Lewis Hamilton: Proved over and over he is a great driver. Not the best though. A battler like Mansell.
    20. Heikki Kovalainen: A middling type of driver, not good- not bad needs a chance to prove he could be a champion. Will he get that with hamilton as teammate? Likable guy.

    Comapred to previous generations of grids i think this one is poor. We nned more drivers who are willing to go for gaps and passes that most would back off from.
    Scumacher/Mansell/Senna/Montoya and Hamilton are in that category in my opinion. Of course at the moment the drivers are being penalised for trying too hard to pass. This needs to change.

  37. Keith,
    I would love to see an update of this post with the latest races in the mix.
    Maybe the resurgent McLarens, Renaults and Ferraris have something else to show?

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