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An F1 Manifesto

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After the disappointment of the 2010 Bahrain GP, I wrote a long entry on the direction I think F1 should take in the future. It was the result of much thought on the subject of the quality and sustainability of F1, and a starting point for the formation of a consistent set of principles on what it should be. Over the last few months, I have thought about it further, developing my ideas, and have decided to write this – my own “F1 manifesto”, covering all aspects of the championship as if I was running for the office of F1 Commissioner.

1) Introduction

a) Background
First and foremost, it is important to state that we are in a golden era of Formula 1 motor racing. The last few championships, since the end of the years of domination by Ferrari, have been stellar and will be remembered as some of the greatest in the history of the sport. Before I begin my criticism, it is important to acknowledge this – it is largely constructive criticism, not a long-winded rant about how awful it is.

However, this does not justify the status quo. Nothing is perfect, and there is always the need to keep improving the finished product for the fans. There is room for further expansion, and there are some significant flaws. While F1 is no longer in a particularly unhealthy state, this has little correlation to what we have seen on-track – the sequence of manufacturer withdrawals (Honda, BMW, Toyota and effectively Renault) came during, in my opinion, two of the best seasons in F1 history. F1 still lacks investment – Hispania and Sauber barely had any sponsorship this year, Williams are about to lose many sponsors in one go, and there are only three manufacturers supplying engines in the sport (as well as independents Cosworth). Thus, there is a need to attract more companies to invest in F1, particularly manufacturers and multinational corporations to make large-scale investments.

The most frequent complaint about F1 is the quality of the racing. Before I begin, I must make it clear that overtaking is inherently difficult at the highest level and I would not want to make it “easy”. However, on numerous occasions in 2010, it was visibly very difficult to pass the car in front, leading to uninteresting, processional races. Such occurrences are an inevitability in F1, but that is not to say efforts should not be made to try and limit the number of races that end up being boring. The changes made in the last 12 years to try and facilitate more overtaking have not worked, though I will not to fall into a trap of comparing to the past.

I do not want to compare to the past because what is important is whether F1 is entertaining now or not, and whether it would improve if a particular change(s) is made. F1 has a long and proud history but how “good” it was in the past should be an irrelevance. There is a lot of rose-tinting among F1 fans, but we must accept that the sport has moved on, for better or worse – implementing ideas from the past solely because they supposedly made the racing better should be avoided unless there is good reason to do so. I am looking to create an F1 for the 21st century, not recreate the F1 of the 20th century.

Though I see a great need for stability in F1, as opposed to the constant annual rule changes at present, I believe changes are needed to improve the show, and I will set out what changes I believe are needed, though obviously I am just an armchair spectator, so I don’t think of my word as the gospel truth.

b) Aims
My proposals will be set around and all relate to a number of key aims that are central to my vision of what F1 should be:

– F1 should focus on the fans, as they are the most important thing in the whole of the sport, therefore the show should be the most important element of the sport

– F1 must be financially justifiable and sustainable in order to attract further investment

– A combination of both of these mean the ultimate aim is for F1 to be better value for money

– F1 must remain F1

2) Principles
It is absolutely vital that F1 shall remain F1. It must remain true to its original defining principles, those that make F1 unique and attractive to the massive audiences it attracts every year. If these principles are eroded, F1 will cease to be F1, so in that sense, it must remain pure.

However, there are also some misconceptions. F1 is often seen as the “pinnacle of motorsport”, which is a twisted view of motorsport hierarchy. F1 is indeed the pinnacle of single seater racing, especially since the decline of IndyCar. But not every driver begins their racing career with the ultimate aim of reaching F1. While not as large, sportscars, GTs and touring cars have their own pinnacle series with a separate pyramid to the single seater world, and on the other side of the Atlantic, NASCAR is a much greater influence than F1 and could probably justify being the pinnacle of North American motorsport as a whole.

But despite this, F1 must remain the pinnacle of global single seater racing. It must have the fastest, most challenging open wheel cars in the world in order to maintain its place and its popularity.

F1 must also remain a multi-chassis formula, as this is what sets it apart from the majority of other single seater series at present. While other series have had multiple chassis in the past, economic circumstances have dictated that it wasn’t viable, but F1, as the pinnacle, can justify this. However, that is far as it should go. Some may go further and suggest that every team must build a different car, and that all the cars must be significantly different. But this was never part of the foundations of F1 – the formula of Formula 1 was primarily an engine formula, and there were certainly no restrictions against customer cars until the 1980s, so I do not see it as necessary to keep this as it is, as I shall explain later.

F1 cars must also be aesthetically pleasing. Over the years, the development of the F1 car has changed what they look like greatly, but this has gradually stabilised with various rules restrictions, and thus an image of what an F1 car should look like has formed. F1 cars should thus still fit this basic template – a slicks and wings racer. You will not find any proposals from me suggesting wings should be banned, because I don’t believe it would fit what F1 is all about in the year 2010, nor do I believe it would make any difference to the racing. Aesthetics also includes how the cars look on-track – they must look spectacular and not effectively drive “on rails” – and sound. These must be taken into considerations when defining the technical rules, as they are as important as the quality of the racing itself – no one wants to watch ugly cars.

F1 races should also stay roughly the same length – about 305 km (apart from Monaco). This makes it considerably longer than its feeder series, and not too long that viewers become bored and without straying into endurance racing territory. F1 was initially an endurance racing formula, though a pure endurance format would not be attractive enough to the public or broadcasters.

3) Proposed technical regulation changes

a) Overview
In accordance with the initial aims, my primary objective is for a technical rules package that will create better racing, will appeal to the fans, and make F1 more cost-effective. The general overview of this is to improve racing by shifting the emphasis within F1 development from aerodynamics to engines, as it is aero development that stifles racing and engine differentiation will improve it, and a move to far less expensive, less complex internal components, in particular the electronics but also focusing on gearboxes and brakes.

My primary inspiration was the Grand Am Sports Car Series of North America, and their Daytona Prototypes. The series, which is part of the NASCAR family, has a basic principle of severely limiting the external development of cars but leaving enough space to make the cars visibly unique, and having a main focus on the engines – in fact, with the names of their cars, they reverse the traditional format (traditionally it is Chassis-Engine, e.g. McLaren-Mercedes) and give precedence to the manufacturer (Engine-Chassis, e.g. BMW-Riley). The engines themselves are based on blocks from road car engines. As a result, it is a very competitive series with many close, exciting races.

I believe a system based on the Daytona Prototype system would work because it would be very cost-effective and allow close racing, but not stray from F1’s principles. It would mean greater restrictions in some areas than at present, but these would only be brought in as an improvement, and the reduction in cost would allow greater freedoms in other areas. This is a similar direction as taken by the IRL for IndyCar. The name of their plan is ICONIC – “Innovative, Competitive, Open-Wheel, New, Industry-Relevant, Cost-Effective”. F1 would do well by adopting a similar line with future rules development.

The new IndyCar rules themselves are similarly a factor. While it is officially a single chassis formula, the chassis is just that – a basic chassis – with companies developing separate aero kits based around this chassis. This is a very cost-effective approach while allowing competition to go ahead. Engines are also small (V6, 2.4L) and cheap, but they are also turbo-charged and will be nearing F1 engines in power. There are currently 3 aero kit manufacturers and 3 engine manufacturers signed up for 2012, the first season utilising the new rules.

b) Aerodynamics and Bodywork
As I have already said, I believe the emphasis in F1 development should move away from aerodynamics. It should be heavily restricted. There are three very good reasons for this:

– Liberal aero development is a considerable factor in the difficulty of overtaking in F1

– It is very expensive, requiring features such as CFD supercomputers and windtunnels to develop

– It is much less relevant to the road car industry than other areas of F1 development

I propose that this restriction of aero goes as far as some areas of standardisation. This will not be popular with some elements of the F1 fan base but I believe allowing some areas of the car to be developed continually is at odds with their demand for better racing.

In particular, what I propose to be standardised are the front and rear wings, and the area around the rear of the car, i.e. around the diffuser. Taking each individually, it is evident that considerable development has gone into front wings – the Red Bull RB6’s front wing, with its highly developed sections and tendency to flex at high speed, is a good example of this. This would be better restricted, or rather outlawed completely, in order to limit costs – front wing development is in no way relevant to the automotive industry as a whole.

The rear wing and rear end should also be standardised for this reason, but also, and primarily so, because they are the biggest producer of “dirty air”, the whipping up of air from the rear of the car which makes following another car very difficult for the car behind, a major factor in restricting overtaking. Diffusers, one of the great problem areas for this, should be banned completely. This will mean a lot less grip at the rear of the cars, which should not only make them easier to follow, but also more challenging to drive and more spectacular to watch.

However, it is only these key areas that should be standardised. Each car must be different and that must be noticeable. Most areas of the car should remain free for development as long as they do not have much of an impact on the racing, though as I am not an aerodynamicist, I will leave the exact details for the professionals – specifically to a committee of independent designers, not those employed by the teams, which would be created to manage these affairs.

In terms of the rough dimensions of the car, this will be dictated by aesthetics. I am not a fan of the current generation of cars’ wing sizes – I don’t find them particularly attractive, and they didn’t achieve their aim of making it easier for the car behind to follow. I recommend more traditional-looking wing proportions in order to appeal to the fans. Cars would be roughly the same size as they are now but would look simpler – in terms of this, and the scale of the cars’ features, I would personally like to see a scaled-up version of the GP3 car, as show below being tested by Mark Webber – note the simpler wings and suspension layout:

Mark Webber, GP3 DallaraMark Webber, GP3 Dallara
Images published in the spirit of fair use

c) Engines
With the emphasis moving away from aero, it will go back to engines. Engine development is far more relevant to the automotive industry than aero, and I believe a shift in emphasis would attract manufacturers back into F1 if made cost-effective enough. For one, this will mean the end of restrictions on them, such as the freeze on development and the rev limit, the latter in particular being another factor limiting overtaking.

But totally free engine regulations would inevitably lead to highly developed and expensive prototype engines, which would not necessarily be very good for the sport as a whole. So, in order to maintain cost-effectiveness, and to attract vital manufacturer support into F1, I propose a shift to road car-based engines.

Initially, I follow the Daytona Prototype principle of having a road car engine block, with some parts allowed to be modified and approval of the engines required before being used in F1. However, the DP engines are highly restricted and equalised, and they are also very big – up to 5.0L. The former is not the direction I wish F1 to go in, while the latter is not the direction manufacturers want would F1 to go in – the car industry today is moving towards smaller engines with turbos, as shown by the change of Super 2000 regulations from 2.0L to 1.6L engines.

I am not going to recommend an exact size for F1 engines as I am not an expert in this field, but I would suggest engine sizes of somewhere around 1.5-2.5L, as this is the most common engine size and would be cheap to produce, but allowing tuning and the fitting of turbochargers – it is important that F1 engines have these in order to maintain similar power outputs to the current generation of engines, due to the attraction of speed and power. F1 would not be F1 with weak engines.

In terms of size, this is actually close to what is thought to have been proposed by the FIA for the next generation of F1 engines. However, the key difference is the road car engine base – the development of these instead of prototype engines would greatly reduce the costs. The aim is to get as many manufacturers as possible producing engines for F1, from the giants of the industry such as Toyota, Honda, BMW and VW, to smaller manufacturers such as Hyundai, Mitsubishi and Proton, in order to provide a range of different engines of different formats – both in terms of layout (use whatever configuration you like, as long as it’s from a road car) and also with the use of alternative fuels – diesels, LPG, biofuels, hydrogen; you name it. Innovation, variation and environmental justification – that is the core.

d) Gearboxes, brakes, electronics
The need for cost reduction and road relevance continues to other areas of the car. Gearboxes are a key area and a lot of development has gone into the seamless shift semi-automatic breed of ‘boxes in the last few seasons. However, they are very expensive – the FIA now have restrictions on how many can be used, with grid penalties in place for changing them. For a start, this will be abolished, as I hope the costs will come down enough for this to not be necessary.

This will come from reverting to “traditional”, more manual gearboxes, perhaps road car-based. And as well as costing less and having more road relevance for most of the manufacturers this new rules package is aimed at, there is another major positive – it is far more challenging to use. It would add an extra variable for the drivers, with up- or down-shifting mistakes leading to the vastly increased potential for overtaking.

I take a similar line on brakes. Modern F1 carbon brakes are phenomenally good, which again has a detrimental affect on the racing as it is far more difficult to out-brake the car in front. While steel brakes are often suggesting, they are as good as carbon brakes, and so a straight switch would not necessarily work. But there should certainly be a switch to less efficient brakes, perhaps again based on road car brakes, so that if there is development, it filters down to the public.

The electronics of F1 cars should be much simpler. There has again been a lot of development in this area recently, a lot of which serves little relevance in the “real” world. Simplification of the electronics, including the banning of features such as pits-to-car and car-to-pits telemetry, the adjustment of fuel mixes from the cockpit and many of the launch systems, would be far more cost-effective. The indicator of this would be the steering wheel. Current F1 steering wheels are crammed with buttons and switches – the target would be wheels more like those of the late 1990s.

To demonstrate, on the left is the wheel of a 1997 McLaren, while on the right is the current wheel used by the same team – the target is a wheel like that on the left:

McLaren wheels: 1997 (L) and 2009 (R)
Images published in the spirit of fair use

I should also not forget KERS, which is to be reintroduced to F1 next year. I am supportive of this from the perspective that it has perceived environmental benefits and is innovation that will trickle down to road car users. This is again a positive as far as the manufacturers are concerned – indeed, BMW cited “sustainability and environmental compatibility” in their departure statement in July 2009.

e) Tyres
Again, I am not an expert on tyres but the aim is for them to be more cost-effective. Michelin suggested the introduction of the tyres they produce for Le Mans Prototypes, but I am not convinced this would be the right move.

The key thing, though, is for competition between manufacturers, something cheaper tyres would allow. A tyre war between two or more manufacturers would provide another variable that could potentially lead to more exciting races. It is not as if there are no manufacturers interested in F1 – we have a new one for 2011, Pirelli, with Michelin, Cooper Avon, Hankook and Continental revealed by Bernie Ecclestone to have shown an interest in becoming the F1 tyre supplier. No doubt you could also add Goodyear, Dunlop, a returning Bridgestone, Yokohama, Kumho and others to a list of potential suppliers in a tyre war as well – just look at the number of manufacturers in the free-for-all sportscar and GT series.

And although it is a sporting regulation, I am also not a huge fan of the requirement to use two sets of tyres during a race. I would prefer a system of a large gap between compounds, with each driver picking a particular compound at the start of a weekend, which would not be distinguishable from the other compound. More variation in tyres, i.e. more than two compounds, would be a positive move as well, perhaps with the reintroduction of special qualifying tyres, but this would depend on cost-effectiveness.

4) Proposed sporting changes

a) Format and calendar
The F1 World Championship format and calendar as it is now is fine and does not need to be changed. However, I have my own personal views about the ideal format the sport should take, and it does not include a championship as we know it. This is the idea I have christened the F1 Tour.

I believe that in its purest form, F1 should take a format similar to tennis and golf – no coherent championship but a series of many events over the course of the year linked by a rankings system, with the ultimate goal being, in the case of F1, to be number 1 driver or team. A championship is effectively an artificial construct that proves little – the champion is rarely the driver who has performed best throughout the year. Removing the championship would not be against F1’s principles because F1 is a formula – Formula 1 itself existed before the creation of the World Championship for Drivers in 1950.

Therefore, the emphasis should shift towards individual events – winning races. The rankings would be a sideshow – if Rafael Nadal should go out to win Wimbledon just for the sake of winning Wimbledon, then Fernando Alonso should go out to win the Monaco GP to win the event. This would remove pressures at the end of a season for protecting points leads, and would also limit the need for teams to use team orders.

Prize money would be allocated according to each event, as in NASCAR, rather than on the constructors’ championship at the end, while points for the rankings would vary according to the “grade” of the event, the most prestigious races being over a higher grade and thus worth more points. The points system would be on a far greater scale than present, and not just ranked on finishing position – there would be points on offer for pole position, the fastest lap, leading a lap, leading the most laps and maybe others. It would be more representative of performance than at present, as it would be a ranking system rather than a championship. There would also be two rankings – a continuous ranking overlapping into the next season, and a start-to-finish ranking within a year, perhaps also with the addition of mini-rankings for events of a certain grade or continent.

Next year’s F1 calendar will take place over 38 weeks, and so I think it would be perfectly possible, financial and human cost aside, to have over 30 races in a season over the same period. The NASCAR Sprint Cup has 36 championship events and 2 non-championship races over a slightly longer time span within the year (it starts earlier than F1), so it shows it can be done as long as costs are kept down. The human cost should also be taken into account with less restrictions for entry lists (see below) and the option for rotating the driver line-up. One other way of doing it on a larger scale would be for each team to have two race teams, but then this would drive up the cost considerably.

The races themselves, in addition to the current venues, would ideally include many traditional F1 heartlands and classic venues, countries such as France, the Netherlands, Mexico and South Africa. But also there is a need to embrace new markets. The expansion of the calendar would hopefully mean less of a need for grand, expansive facilities, as the calendar would inevitably have to include circuits that don’t have such facilities.

b) Entry lists and customer cars
As mentioned above, entry lists would have less restrictions with the F1 Tour. Entry would be on an event-by-event basis, rather than fixed at the start of the year, allowing the teams to enter as many races as they want and change the driver line-up as much as they want.

In order to prevent too much of a human cost, drivers themselves would be restricted to about 20 races a year, meaning the top teams, who would inevitably enter more than that number of races to gain more prize money (the system would be geared towards this being the case, even with the “lesser” races), would have to use different drivers. Suddenly you have a lot more opportunities for young drivers, especially with competitive machinery.

Added to this, there would be no limit on the number of entries per race. With the vast decrease in the budget needed to be competitive in F1, this would hopefully mean a lot more teams will be able to enter F1 races, particularly encouraging one-off entries such as leading American teams in the North American events. This would be possible via the introduction of customer cars.

As I said in the introduction, customer cars are not against F1’s defining principles, as they have been present for the majority of its existence, and only disappeared with the recent drive for increased professionalism among the teams – likewise, the possibility of entering only 1 car into a race was removed, something that would also be allowed once again. With the decreased costs, it would be very affordable to “buy” an F1 car – what would be best is a system whereby the constructor loans the customer the car(s) for a testing session or race weekend, allowing constructors to supply many teams without building too many chassis to be profitable. A customer team would not be at much of an advantage as they still have to set the car up correctly, but the cars would also be more basic and thus easier to manage.

Customer cars are something I would like to see introduced outside of F1 Tour as well. Issues surrounding prize money would have to be resolved elsewhere but there would likely be a split of the money between the team and the constructor (whereas a constructor entrant would get the prize money for both, thus maintaining the benefit of being a constructor), without making it unprofitable for either party, and there would also be the introduction of a teams’ championship alongside the constructors’ championship.

c) Testing
There would be less restrictions on testing under the F1 Tour, but arrangements would be more complex, as the rules would be engineered to allow the irregular entrants more testing during the season so that they can get up to speed.

However, as a rule (and this should be in place in general, not just F1 Tour), testing at F1 venues would be banned, as it is another hindrance to the quality of the racing due to the teams working out an ideal setup before arriving for the race weekend.

d) Weekend format
Aside from F1 Tour, the weekend format should still be tweaked, with a general principle of less practice time. Hispania’s experiences at Bahrain this year showed the impact practice has – it was quite a challenge to drive the car not just because of the little testing they had but also because they had not dialled the car into the circuit. A perfect setup means the car is easier for the drivers to drive, less spectacular for the viewers, and hinders the racing – take away the time they have to set up the car and it becomes more challenging.

Therefore, I propose cutting practice itself to just 1 hour on a Friday morning. However, this is not as considerable as it looks, as I propose a move back to the traditional qualifying format of a free-for-all hour on a Friday afternoon and Saturday afternoon – the reason for this is that I am not a fan of the current format, as while it is exciting, I find it too regimented and restrictive, and I’d rather see all cars get the maximum opportunity. The excuse for not having such a format – that teams never went out for most of the session – is removed by the fact that they’d have to be out there developing their car setup due to the lack of practice time.

The irregular entrants and smaller teams would also have the benefit of an extra hour of pre-qualifying on a Thursday – this would remain in place even if there were 28 or less entrants. Pre-qualifying would now be more sustainable due to the decreased budgets and the fact that F1 TV coverage has moved on since the previous days of pre-quali – this session (and Friday quali) could now be broadcast live on the internet or, in the case of the BBC, on the red button. 28 cars would advance to qualifying (including those that would not be present for pre-quali) with a further 2 dropping out after the end of Saturday qualifying.

A pre-qualifying race between the smaller teams could also be arranged for significant events with many entries, again giving extra publicity. This would be especially needed at Monaco, likely to have many entries but limited space in the paddock. Maybe this could take place a week in advance of the main event in what would be a rest weekend for other teams.

5) The fans
The fans are the centre of F1. Without them, there would be no point to F1 – investment from corporations comes because they want to sell their product or work to someone, and without that investment, F1 would be dead. So it is within F1’s own interest to please the fans, although despite a few fan surveys, they’ve not always remembered this.

And so the main focus should be keeping them happy by maintaining and improving the show here and now. As I said, we should forget notions of trying to make it what it once was, because you cannot turn the clock back. While there are many types of F1 fan who find various aspects of the sport particularly interesting, they are all united by one common desire – for exciting racing and races. Therefore, that is the priority. This should overrule the desire of many fans for a “pure” F1 (albeit what many want isn’t actually that “pure” anyway), something that clashes with the desire for better racing – you cannot have free aero regulations and good racing in such a competitive, cut-throat sport in 2010. And so precedence must be given to the show.

That is the primary justification for my proposals. I am aware that not everyone will agree, as some will think I’m removing too much from F1’s core. But as I’ve explained, I don’t believe I am doing that, as it stays true to the defining principles of F1 over the years – most of what I’ve suggested should be removed comes from later additions, and in some ways I am going back to a purer form of F1 with the emphasis on engines, and making the cars more challenging to drive and hopefully putting more back in his hands.

But beyond this, there are other things that can be done to improve the experience of the fans, concerned with the presentation of the sport to the public. In terms of race attendance, ticket prices are very expensive – they should be decreased, and hopefully cost decreases across the board will make this possible. In TV, FOM needs to continue making innovations – HD is a must, and is looking likely for 2011 anyway.

It is in the field of licensing and merchandise, though, that requires the greatest attention. FOM has quite a draconian reputation in this area for their requesting of YouTube videos containing classic F1 footage to be removed, and yet they provide no alternative other than the season reviews. Why not produce more online content around classic footage as the BBC have successfully implemented? Why not sell DVDs of full classic races? These would be very popular.

Further to that, the F1 license for video games is an exclusive one, currently held by Codemasters. But this was never the case in the past – back in 2001, Europress released Grand Prix 4 as a parallel to EA Sports’ F1 2001, acting as a more advanced game for experienced gamers. So why not this? Why not offer the license out for an F1 team management game? Football is a great example of how this can work – while the Premiership do take down videos as frequently as FOM, they are a lot more flexible with their licensing in other areas. The management game paralleling the more official FIFA games is a good example of this.

FOM don’t do enough in these areas and it would be great if they could make more of a push in this direction and generally be more fan-friendly. The fans would appreciate it and it could make them money, not just directly but indirectly by encouraging more new fans.

6) Overview
In conclusion, I believe I have created a model that, if initiated, would make F1 a much stronger series. With a great reduction in the cost of building cars, teams will have a much greater chance of making a profit. An emphasis on engines, in a cost-effective manner, will encourage investment from manufacturers, who are key to the growth and continued success of the sport. And with a much more fan-centric approach, prioritising racing, aesthetics and the quality of the show as a whole, I hope it would strengthen F1’s fan base.

In response to my aims:

F1 should focus on the fans, as they are the most important thing in the whole of the sport, therefore the show should be the most important element of the sport
New technical regulations in order to try and encourage more exciting racing, a greater number of races on the calendar, and improved accessibility and presentation of the sport are all part of my proposal. And importantly, I have not strayed too far from F1’s guiding principles, so I hope many fans would not feel betrayed by this.

F1 must be financially justifiable and sustainable in order to attract further investment
The important thing is not necessarily cost reduction but cost effectiveness. I have proposed the removal of some expensive features of F1 cars that have little relevance to the automotive industry as a whole, and other changes consider road car technology, so that even if there is considerable investment in development of these elements, there will be a trickle-down effect to the normal road car user. The inclusion of KERS and the potential for alternative fuels also adds perceived environmental benefits. This makes F1 sustainable and justifiable to the manufacturers, and would hopefully encourage more to join or rejoin F1.

A combination of both of these mean the ultimate aim is for F1 to be better value for money
An improved sport and show with a decreased cost and increased cost-effectiveness and sustainability is certainly better value for money, and would secure its future long-term.

F1 must remain F1
While some may argue that I have taken away too much, I believe I have stayed within F1’s principles – the cars would still be very fast, spectacular, and aesthetically pleasing; it would remain a multi-chassis formula (even with the introduction of customer cars); and the races would still be the same. Indeed, the shift of emphasis from aero to engine would move F1 back towards its core, as it was primarily an engine formula, and the simplification of the electronics would make it more of a drivers’ sport once again.

Is this taking F1 backwards? In a technological sense, yes, but I see that as for the progress of the sport as a whole – it is as “purist” as the current rules, with their multitude of restrictions on how many engines and gearboxes each driver is allowed. It is purist from a driving perspective – and the fans care more about the drivers and their driving than the teams and their development of technological advancements. But it still does allow for some innovation, particularly in the engine department.

What I am proposing is not something buried in the past. This is F1 for the future. While the manufacturers ended up with too great a role in the sport and left it for dead when they wanted out, their support is crucial – F1 cannot survive as a solely independent sport in the 21st century. It is a business as well as a sport, and thus it needs to be justifiable from a business perspective – happily, the fans do fit into this, as they are needed. But also, F1 has to be made more financially sustainable. There is so much waste in F1. Too much unnecessary spending on items of little relevance to the rest of the world has sent budgets through the roof. They are coming down, thanks to the Resource Restriction Agreement, but they could go further.

They could also go further to improve the racing – each time they make a change, they only look at part of the problem, instead of tackling it totally head on. To improve racing, F1 needs radical change instead bit-part solutions every year, skirting around the problem. A clean sheet of paper is needed and largely that is what I have proposed, while staying within the confines of what an F1 car should look like in the eyes of the majority of fans.

But the most important thing is stability. Every year, there are rule changes – this year saw the refuelling ban, last year saw a overhaul of aero rules (that didn’t go far enough), and next year sees the reintroduction of KERS. The goalposts are constantly moving; the teams and drivers constantly have to adapt to change. What needs to happen is a set of rules to be drawn up which cover all areas, like my proposals, and then need to be stuck to for a number of years without significant change. That way, you will keep the development costs down, and the racing will improve – and that should be F1’s Holy Grail.

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Written by James Bennett

November 27, 2010 at 00:04

Posted in F1

One Response

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  1. I see you’ve come around to the idea of not having a championship per se……

    steve turnbull

    November 27, 2010 at 10:37


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