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Tuesday, April 14, 2015

If I want to watch car, tyre and engine management I can film myself driving to work!

So far this season I have to admit that once again I am not enamoured by the way F1 is going.  To me the races seem very static and immensely boring and, unfortunately it was the same again in China.

You can always forgive Melbourne, because that's where the cars, drivers and engines get their first taste of racing and the cracks tend to show up - as they did again this year.

But when the only excitement - other than DRS enabled overtaking - is Jenson battling his way through the corners with numerous better cars, in a phenomenally bad McLaren Honda, for 14th position then you know that there is something seriously wrong.

One thing that certainly felt, and sounded, wrong was Nico's call to the pits around Lap 20 regarding a slowing Lewis Hamilton up ahead.  The real story for me was not the complaint that Lewis was slowing but rather that Rosberg started complaining that if he couldn't stay 2.5 seconds behind he would get into the dirty air and wreck his tyres!

Nico, leave the management of the car to the team and just go racing!
Photo courtesy of Mercedes AMG Petronas

Instead of complaining about his slowing team-mate why didn't Rosberg take the opportunity to attack and try to overtake? Isn't that what racing is all about? Have I lost something in translation?

And this is exactly what is wrong with F1.  Nico is meant to be a racing driver, not his team-mate's shadow and not a manager.  He's supposed to be trying to win the race ON THE TRACK, not on tyre strategy, not by the dreaded "undercut" but actually on the track.

The excitement of a Grand Prix is watching wheel-to-wheel battles on the track, sparks flying from the undercarriage of the cars as two racing drivers speed downhill into the corner each wondering who will be the last of the late brakers.

If I want to watch car, tyre and engine management I'll film myself driving to work and look at it later!

Formula 1 is meant to be the pinnacle of motorsport, not just the pinnacle of engineering.  It is meant to be a sport. The drivers must compete against each other on the track as well as in the expensive shacks out in the paddock.  It is their responsibility to provid us with an on-track spectacle, the sight of the worlds best drivers battling for position, fighting to achieve everything that can be achieved.

The best of these guys are paid very handsomely by the teams to wring the most out of the cars and we should be seeing that happen every racing weekend.  Instead we are being shortchanged.

We are being treated to the sight of drivers in "fuel-saving mode", drivers "harnessing Energy Recovery", and drivers "managing tyres". We have drivers unable to drive flat out because they have to manage their engines due to the fact they have been limited to 4 engines per season.  

What has any of this got to do with racing? Nothing

Do we remember the furore a couple of years ago that the engine manufacturers were going to quit F1 unless it was made more relevant to their road car business? Well this is the result.  F1 is now becoming nothing more than a test bed for road cars, rather than a motor-racing series.  They got relevance and we lost racing.

I hate to go all Jeremy Clarkson on it but motor-racing is supposed to be fun isn't it? It's not supposed to be about boring, everyday concerns like fuel saving, tyre conservation, or engine management.

I want drivers to drive to the limit. I want the cars to be set free from the artificially imposed shackles of a maximum fuel allowance. I want the teams to design cars that will set an unfettered fastest lap and I want drivers to be encouraged to beat that lap-time. I want Formula 1 to organise its race schedule to reduce its carbon footprint in a realistic way rather than impose pathetic power units on the cars as a public but ultimately pointless sop to the green brigade.

Let's face it, 18-24 cars doing 56 laps flat out around a circuit is having minimal impact on the environment when compared with 12 teams, numerous TV stations, etc, carting their staff and equipment from Billy to Jack by air without considering how they could do it better.

Take of the shackles, release the drivers and the cars and bring me some adrenalin-pumping, petrol-burning, ear-splitting, high-octane car racing.

How would I do it? Simple -

  • Keep the 1.6 turbo - get rid of the batteries!
  • Forget tyre compounds - one dry tyre, one intermediate and one wet.  The slick should be capable of lasting the entire race.
  • Bring back refueling and the option of not having to refuel. Choice is the essence of strategy.
  • Get rid of KERS and keep DRS.
  • Measure the wake of an F1 car at top speed and enable DRS once the following car is within that wake. Let the driver decide whether to open it or not.
  • Penalties must be taken on Raceday they do not carry over to the next race.  Penalties that are not taken on the track are punished financially.  The team pays for penalties relating to the car, the driver pays for driver error, and finally
  • Ban racing on most Tilke tracks - they are too wide, too boring, and do not seem to encourage good racing.

We can only hope that Europe saves F1 again this season, though with F1 failing to save Europe's best, historic racing tracks the days of F1 might well be numbered.