Formula 1 needs fixing

For quite some time now, the sport has been struggling to find its balance, a balance between the level of tech versus the level of entertainment. The sport needs more overtaking? Done – we will remove all aerodynamic bits and pieces (2009) from the cars which will reduce drag and minimize the distance between the cars. It didn’t do much. Critics often suggested (suggesting is always the easy part) adopting a NASCAR style format or something along the lines of IndyCar, where all chassis’ would remain identical. That would possibly solve the lack of overtaking seen in F1, yes, but we wouldn’t be moving forward. We’d be taking an immediate left turn into IndyCar or NASCAR. F1 needs to change for F1 and I think that we’re getting close.

The Start - Abu Dhabi 2010 © The Cahier Archive

It was no secret that, despite last year’s season having been one of the best overall, there were some dead boring races that had to be endured and it has been hurting F1’s largest viewer: the Sunday viewers.

Sunday viewers are the category of fans who take an interest to Formula 1, just enough so to want to know how the race turns out. Nothing else. Qualifying isn’t much of an interest, and Friday practice sessions are just a waste of time. Early morning and late night races, as well, might tempt the fan to choose sleep over F1 at times, and this is where boring races come in.

Why is F1 boring at times? Mainly because of the sports lack of overtaking. Boring races are characterized by a tight field on opening lap. Several laps later that tight field slowly start to spread out and drive, what seems to be, one man races. Even I can’t help but fall asleep at times.

Over the course of four years, this is how the FIA attempted to rectify the problem and improve the sport:

2007 Season Rule Changes

  1. Sole tire supplier: Bridgestone
  2. Use of both tire compounds during the race
  3. Engine homologination (frozen from any alterations)
  4. Pitting under SC only permitted when field is grouped up behind the SC
  5. Testing limited to 30,000kms
  6. Team’s second car runs yellow rollbar (instead of black)

2008 Season

  1. Traction control + launch control banned
  2. Lifespan of gearbox extended to four races
  3. Use of spare car banned
  4. Q1 length shortened to 20mins | Q3 shortened to 10mins
  5. Five drivers eliminated from Q1 (instead of six)

2009 Season

  1. Slick tires introduced | Soft tires to display green band | Wet tires renamed ‘intermediate’ and extreme weather tires renamed ‘wets’
  2. Wing dimensions altered | Bodywork regulated | Additional components (barge boards, winglets and turning valves) removed
  3. Adjustable flaps at the front wing allowed – driver allowed to move flap a maximum of six degrees two times per lap
  4. Kinetic Energy Recovery System added
  5. In-season testing banned
  6. Drivers limited to eight engine changes per season
  7. Pitlane speed limit increased

2010 Season

  1. Refueling banned during races
  2. 26 cars eligible to take part in races (instead of 24)
  3. Teams to homologate driver’s survival cell, roll structures, impact structures and front and rear wheels
  4. Minimum car weight increased from 605kgs to 620kgs
  5. Teams abandoned KERS due to it being slightly underdeveloped
  6. Qualifying tweaked: 7 cars eliminated during Q1, 7 cars from Q1 and 10 cars battle for pole in Q3
  7. New points system added

That makes 25 rule changes in four seasons. Not to mention the mid-season rule changes to add to that, it’s a handful of information for the occasional viewer. All that changing and we still were where we were: F1 has boring races.

“I strongly believe that Formula 1 changes too often,” Trulli said. “My opinion is clear: there should be a discussion with all involved parties for one year, or even two if necessary, and then introduce a set of regulations that may well be revolutionary, but with many years of stability.

2011 Season

  1. Races will be broadcast in High Definition.
  2. The 107% qualifying rule has been applied: In Q3, any driver that fails to set a lap time 107% of the fastest lap will not be eligible to participate in the race.
  3. Teams/drivers can now be fined up to $250,000 for disobeying the rules (Ferrari were fined $100,000 last year for disregarding the ban on Team Orders).
  4. F-ducts will be banned.
  5. As the f-ducts substitute, a movable rear wing will be added. Adjusting the wing will only be permitted when the driver is within 1 second from the driver in front of him (excluding usage within the first two laps). The wing will only be used at specific areas on the track, which will be decided by Charlie Whiting at a later date. The areas will most likely be before a U-turn which leads onto a straight (ie: Malaysia), which will be highlighted on the road in a special marking.
  6. Aerodynamic wheel spokes, flexible front splitters, and modifications to the monocoque will be banned.
  7. KERS is now optional.
  8. Diffuser sizes will change.
  9. Gearboxes now need to last five races instead of four.
  10. Team personnel are banned from the circuit between 12am and 6am.

Another ten changes.

Drivers - Abu Dhabi 2010 © The Cahier Archive

Teams are having their doubts, which is understandable, specifically towards the movable rear wing. It’s going to be a process of trial and error, tweaking the tech throughout the season. They might get it right from the start and witness immediate results and improvements on overtaking. They also might see nothing.

“Are we sure there will be more overtaking, as many people say? I’d wait for the first races to really understand how everything works.

“I have no opinion yet simply because I haven’t had the chance to test it all in race conditions yet. Let’s wait for the first race, then we’ll see whether it’s a positive new thing, or if it’s something we could have done without,” Trulli continued.

2011 aside, I really think F1 will properly solve the excitement problem they have been having occasionally in 2013. The 2.4 liter V8 engines will be replaced by 4-cylinder 1.6 liter TURBO engines, delivering a 35% reduction in fuel consumption. Rev limits will be reduced from 18,000 to a maximum of 12,000 rpm and drivers are only allowed five engines per season.

BMW - Austria 1986 © The Cahier Archive

It will also see the return of ground-effect aerodynamics, allowing designers to maintain current cornering speeds while reducing the turbulent wake which develops behind a car. This should make it easier for a car to maintain small distances between them and the car in front.

Put all that together and you get an environmentally-friendly car, cutting costs while maintaining the same level of performance.

Hopefully, come 2013, these will be the last large-scale changes that need to be made to the sport, keeping it stable for several years. Until then, enjoy the sport and know that change – good change – is hopefully just around corner.

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