A brief four wheeled excursion off topic…
A little know fact that often surprises my friends is that I am an Formula 1 fan. Next to space craft and fighter jets its a pinnacle of engineering technology. I’ve been a fan since Damon Hill was in a Williams, when my sister was supporting a Schumacher in a Benetton.
This week the Grand Prix Drivers Association launched a survey to solicit opinions on the how to improve F1 for in the hope of combating dwindling TV and race weekend audiences.
Before I cover what I think would improve it. A comment on recent improvements to the Formula.
I *REALLY* love the new engines. A lot of people have commented on how they are too quiet and how that is detracting from their enjoyment of the races. I have to disagree. You can hear the tyres squeal. You can hear the crowd cheer. It’s no longer a cat strangling squeal of pain and anguish orbiting a strip of tarmac. It sounds awesome. I sometimes wonder if I am the lone F1 fan that thinks the new engines are an improvement but hey. I was on the verge of giving up on F1 as too formulaic when they announced the new engines. They’ve kept me interested.
So what could be improved in F1?
In the 2015 calender, 9 out of the 19 tracks have either been designed, or modified by the same designer. I don’t want to devalue the work and achievement of a guy who is obviously a great engineer – Hermann Tilke. But when you have one artist producing a body of work, you will see their handwriting, their style in all of it, and so you do with Tilke’s F1 tracks. This is compounded by the fact that many of the tracks lack the personality of the traditional tracks. You could pick up the tracks from Abu Dhabi, USA, and Bahrain, shuffle them and redeposit. You wouldn’t notice, they are just interchangeable strips of tarmac. You can’t say the same about Spa, or Silverstone, or Monaco, or Monsa. These are races with personality, with passion. They are the races we want to watch.
Pirrelli were given a brief to make F1 more exciting. These tyres aren’t doing it. If you try to follow another driver closely so you can overtake, you sacrifice the rest of your race. Overtaking is what stops the race being processional, it’s what gets you on the edge of the seat screaming at the tele. Sure the pit stops give you a 2.3 second window of possible passing. But if the only way to explain an overtake as happening involves words like “undercut” and “track position”, you’ve missed a trick. The tyres need to allow overtaking, simple.
I watched F1 in the days when Schumacher won every race and every championship. I enjoyed watching F1 during that period. I rejoiced watching him jump on the podium, conducting the fans during the Italian national anthem. He is a racer with charisma and personality. Ferrari pulled off a dominance of the sport without trying to own it. Sure there were jokes about how the FIA was Ferrari International Assistance, but F1 was fun to watch. The same can’t be said for Redbull. For starters, two teams? Two identical teams? Guys you’re taking the piss. Sure one is called Redbull Racing, and one is called Torro Rosso, but when they fly by at 200mph the only way to tell them apart is one has a gold nose tip and one is yellow. Redbull comes across as if they don’t want to take part in F1, but own it, as a means to sell their drinks. Clarkson was right when he introduced Webber as working for a soft drinks marketing company. I can’t begrudge Newey his brilliance, the guy is an amazing engineer, and a lot of RBR’s dominance can be put on his skill (tho not all, it’s a team game afterall). But 4 years of Vettel running round 30 seconds up the track from the other cars, is boring. It’s not helped by his arrogance off track.
Some will say “But isn’t Merc just doing what Redbull did?”. Honest answer – No. For starters, Rosberg and Hamilton are actually having a battle out in front. They are trying to pass. They also aren’t always at the front. Especially this year with Vettel playing in the middle. It’s giving some on track action that is fun to watch. They don’t have an arrogance about them. The previous 4 years you got the feeling that the only time a Redbull over took, a blue flag was involved…
Redbull have threatened to leave the sport if they don’t get their way on engines. Good. Perhaps we can have a team that’s in it for the racing, not just to sell their drinks.
This is a tiny minor niggle, but it would be nice if the car numbers could be bigger. Trying to work out if that is Vettel of Kimi zooming down the straight would be easier if you could actually read the number, these days they are so small it’s hard to read, the space is given over to sponsors. Bigger driver numbers please.
In the UK, F1 has moved from BBC to Sky. If it wasn’t for the introduction of the new engines around the same time, I would have given up on F1 entirely at this. If you want people to watch it, Public broadcasters are the way forward. I don’t want to pay for sky just for the F1. I am not interested in football or cricket. The only sport I really follow is the F1. Make it simple.
I sincerely hope this post does not come across as a rant. I’ve wanted to get this off my chest for a while. Perhaps, with the GPDA asking for feedback F1 will improve and we’ll be able to enjoy watching the racing together. Sorry if this seems a bit off topic, but I’ll be doing more biking, backpacking and beer drinking if it doesn’t work out, especially on Sundays…