Formula none

Sadly for the first time in my life I’m simply not excited at all at the prospect of Formula 1 2016. The entertatainment value of the sport has always waxed and waned as technology, teams, drivers and rules have evolved over the years and for me the most competitive period of F1 (2010 – 2013) has been followed by the least competitive and dullest. Now with the new qualifying format for 2016 I think it barely qualifies as a sport at all.

The fundamental requirement for a race of any form is that competitors compete on equal terms. In the past tweaks to rules and regulations have generally been an effort to improve the competition, but in the last few years the primary reason for changes seems to be mostly for ‘entertainment’. Now, of course, close competitive racing is the bit I think most fans find entertaining. I found a quote from Williams’ team principal Claire William’s published on the bbc interesting “I think it’s really important to remember the whole purpose of looking at qualifying was to try and shake up the grid to go into the race and make races a little bit more exciting.” To me making the races a litte bit more exciting would involve trying to ensure that the cars have the closest possible performance characteristics not introducing artifical hurdles in the hope that some misfortune in qualifying leads to the most competitive cars being behind teams who realistically have no chance of winning without a miraculous set of circumstances removing most of the rest of the competitors.

When I look back to just 4 years ago I find it incredible that at that time I looked forward to every race, I would get up in the middle of the night to watch races from the other side of the world. Most races would result in a flurry of e-mails or phone conversations with family and friends. Holidays and social events were arranged around the F1 calendar and now just 4 years later, I’m not even thinking of watching any races except out of curiosity. Last year I barely talked about F1 to anyone and none of my previously fanatical friends brought the subject up either. It is like half my life disappeared!

That’s not something that’s a result of the latest qualifying changes but as a result of multiple events…

Pay TV

1/2 the races going to pay TV. Let’s face it every single surface of every vehicle, overall, wall, car, floor, boarding, building, flag etc… is utterly covered in advertising. Can someone tell me again why I should pay for the privilege of being advertised to?

When it first went to sky I was keen enough that I would have been willing to reluctantly pay £5 a race to watch it on the internet – but sky didn’t offer that. They did eventually offer no contract internet viewing but at a very expensive price.

This year they are finally offering 24 hours sky sports access for £6.99 which is more reasonable. I would probably have had to reluctantly pay that to watch races from the 2011 – 2013 season. However the current broken competition isn’t exciting me even at a price of free.

Technical changes and Homologation

Moving to the 1.6 litre Turbo engines was controversial but in itself wasn’t too much of an issue for me (although they do sound horrible) it was the lack of foresight by the regulators as to how they might re-balance the competition in the (highly likely) event that one team would be able to produce a design that would eclipse all competition. Introducing such massive changes to the technical regulations, whilst severely restricting a teams ability to improve their car for the future meant there was always going to be a chance that one team might dominate. This has resulted in the exceedingly dull two car race we’ve had for the last two years and although Ferarri are looking a bit stronger, I doubt that Mercedes will be troubled by much competition this year either.

Fixing the sport

Most motor racing series are constrained by teams having to use essentially equal equipment. Formula 1 has always been different in that the team competition is a technological race between engineering teams and designers. It is that engineering race which makes Formula 1 what it is, but over the years the constraints on designs and engineering have constantly increased to the point where engineering greats like Adrian Newey have left because there is little room for design in the regulations any more.

The other issue is financial. The monetary rewards of the sport don’t seem to be distributed on an equal basis. If they want competitive teams then they need to share the bounty more evenly and reduce returns to shareholders, increasing the return to the teams themselves.

For the technical regulations I think they need to throw away the rule book and start again from scratch.

The should define something along the lines of…

  • Open Cockpit
  • Open Wheel
  • Max Engineering Budget
  • Chassis width, height, length
  • Max BHP
  • Max Top Speed
  • Max Torque
  • Minimum Drag
  • Minimum Weight – excluding driver
  • ground-clearance
  • Fuel Allocation
  • Tyre Allocation

Get designing and we’ll meet at Spa in 2018 for the start of 18-20 200km motor races.

My ideas may or may not be sensible, but one thing we do know; they won’t happen either. Formula 1 has become a contractually constrained financial behemoth and has very little to do with sport these days. So for the forseeable future I’ll follow the news and I might catch a race on (free) telly occasionally as a curiosity but I can no longer call myself a fan 🙁

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