I’m 41, and I’ve been watching F1 since I was a small boy. A lot has changed in that time and there have been good seasons and not so good seasons, but I am of the belief that F1 is now dangerously close to being broken forever. All at the hands of investment bankers and managers only interested in money, and designers and engineers only interested in beautiful solutions that fans cannot see or appreciate.
F1 is broken, and here’s why.
- Cars are too quiet
- Cars are less powerful
- Tyres are designed to wear out so drivers cannot push
- Fuel is limited so cars are often in fuel saving mode
- Aero means cars cannot follow or pass easily, and risk tyre wear and overheating
- DRS is too artificial
- The allocation of money to teams is bizarre, and often very unfair. Ferrari, for instance, get an extra £70m a year, simply because they’ve been in F1 since the 50s.
In short, racing now is often processional, with little to no overtaking, and no spectacle of noise and power. Due to the limitations put in place by the formula, cars that are smooth and economical will ultimately be the fastest as their tyres and fuel will last longest. They will also be the most boring to watch. F1 is a massive business and the established teams are on the board of directors. Turkeys do not vote for Christmas.
How to fix F1
We need to stop pretending that F1 is a testing ground for the car technology of the future. F1 is about racing. Current F1 allows for greater investment by factory teams and sponsors, as hybrid cars can represent both marketing AND development budget spend, but more money put in does not equal more entertainment being created.
With can manufacturers and governements in the UK and Europe now agreeing to phase out the production of petrol and diesel cars over the next few years, all that’s left is electric. As there’s already a Formula E, where will F1 go if it insists on being somehow representative of real-world developments? It can’t go anywhere.
People often hark back to the “glory days” of the 80s, but let’s get one thing straight. We can’t undo the progresses in knowledge, technology and understanding that have been made in the last 30 years. CFD means that car design is now a much more exact and predictable science – not the crapshoot is was back then. There is no way that more regulation will even the playing field – the teams with the most money and resources will always come out on top. The days of smaller teams like Brabham “accidentally” discovering large performance leaps are gone. No more David and Goliath stories.
To create the level playing field there will need to be some standardization of chassis, engines, aero and tyres across the board. This is the case in Indycar, and F2, to name but 2 examples. Purists will not want to hear this, but what’s the alternative? Those hanging onto F1 as the ultimate multi-manufacturer formula are going to have to accept the fact that it isn’t producing racing exciting enough to sustain viewing figures, revenue streams, and ultimately, itself.
Here’s my suggestions:
Design a standard engine that all of the teams can use, and make it fucking awesome. 6 Litre V12 twin turbo – massive noise, 1500bhp+ power and 15k+ revs. Make it brutally powerful and quite simply awesome sounding. Sure, all teams will be using the same engine instead of the three or four suppliers in F1, but if it’s better than all of those put together, who cares? Design an engine that breathes fire and sounds like the apocalypse. Eats lightning. Craps thunder. The most powerful engine that has ever existed in motorsport.
I’ve had enough of tyre strategy being one of the more interesting aspects of F1. When you get to that stage, you know you’re in trouble. Tyres join the engine to the tarmac and are not really meant to provide a large chunk of the potential entertainment. We need fat, grippy, long lasting tyres like we had in the 80s, only better still. Sure, worn tyres will be a little slower, but they won’t “fall off a cliff” as they wear, and one set could be made to last all day. Provide soft, medium, hard, inter and wet compounds and call it a day.
Allow Plenty Fuel
Increase in fuel allowance and allow re-fuelling as an option
Removal of all electric motors and energy recovery systems
Manual gearbox and clutch
No power steering
Limitations on aero to reduce dirty air effect. A maximum downforce limit could be set, and cars tested in wind tunnels, or, the front and rear wings could be supplied to all teams.
In short, make the cars brutally, savagely powerful yet less sophisticated. Make them reliant on sheer horsepower and mechanical grip, rather than finesse, computers, driver aids and aerodynamics. Make them hard to drive, yet retain safety,