Formula 1 bosses are facing up to the reality that the sport is less spectacular than it was – and than it needs to be.
Bernie Ecclestone has long argued that the changes to the F1 rules have made the cars progressively less spectacular to watch for a TV viewer or at the trackside and the quieter sound of the hybrid 2014 turbo engines is just the latest stage of that.
A study group is looking into whether something can be done to make the sound more interesting, but there are also discussions about whether other cosmetic changes can be made to improve the visual spectacle, such as bringing back the sparks that used to fly off the floor of the cars in the Mansell/Senna/Prost era. These ended with the arrival of skid block floors to prevent cars being run too low, but they gave the impression of speed which is so important to the sport.
Viewers and fans at trackside want F1 to be fast, spectacular and dramatic. The cars are the pinnacle of technology and the drivers are the best in the world. The show needs to reflect this.
This site is strongly supportive of the move to 1.6-litre, hybrid turbos as a change that needed to be made to set a course for the future of F1 technology. However at the moment it also agrees with Ecclestone that there are too many rules now and the sport has been sanitised somewhat by the cleverness of the engineers and the cat and mouse game with the regulators, as well as by the way that teams have modelled themselves along corporate behaviour lines as they seek to emulate the practices of the massive corporations who sponsor them. It makes for a more ‘arm’s length’, less visceral experience.
Team bosses say that when they are close to sealing a deal with a sponsor, the best thing is to bring them into the garage when the car is being fired up and the palpable energy, mixed with shock, usually does the trick.
Sound, speed and spectacle are just as important to F1 as dollars, new markets and new media.
As Bernie Ecclestone sits in court in Munich and everyone wonders what the outcome of his trial will be and what kind of F1 will emerge in future, it is good to hear that the F1 Strategy Group is thinking more long-term about how F1 should present itself and what kind of show it wants to be.
Bahrain was a great race, showing that it is possible to put on a great show with these cars.
But the whole thing needs to be made more spectacular generally and hopefully that will come out of this process.