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Posted By: James Allen  |  23 Aug 2014   |  9:54 am GMT  |  91 comments

The announcement of Max Verstappen coming into F1 next year at 17 years of age continues to prompt reflection and analysis on modern day F1 cars and there have been some interesting points raised over the past two days by drivers and senior figures alike.

Most drivers seem to have taken Verstappen’s presence on the grid with an open-mind; clearly he is a talented driver, goes the reasoning, he’s likely to make rookie mistakes, but Toro Rosso has a track record for developing young talents and they know what they are doing.

This site raised the wider concern last week that should the public see a 17-year-old jump into an F1, it could lead to a damaging perception that F1 is easy.

This line of thinking has resonated this weekend in Spa; 1997 world champion Jacques Villeneuve has very strong views on the matter, seeing it as a lose-lose for the sport, “It is the worst thing ever for Formula One because it will have two effects,” he said. “It will either destroy him or, even if he is successful right away, then F1 will be meaningless.

“What will F1 be? It will be nothing. It doesn’t do any good for anyone.”

Adrian Newey

Red Bull’s technical boss Adrian Newey had to pick his words carefully when responding to questions about Verstappen this weekend, for obvious reasons. However he too expressed concern that the public perception of F1 as being made easier is not positive for the sport,

“I think the fact that young drivers – no disrespect to them at all – can jump in and instantly be at the front, or competitive certainly, is an interesting one, he said.”

“The critical thing is the cars should look fast,” added Newey, “And, if you’re sitting there watching television that it should be ‘Wow, those guys are superheroes, I couldn’t do that.’ If I’m honest I don’t think the current cars really do that.

“I think If you watch MotoGP then you certainly have that feeling, that those guys are superheroes, whereas the current crop of cars, their power-to-weight is not fantastic. Going back to the 1300hp in qualifying Formula One cars that were quite a bit lighter than they are now. Then those things, you had to bolt on some fairly special appendages to drive them in qualifying.

“I don’t think there’s an easy answer but I think it would be good to make the cars a bit more difficult to drive in truth.”

Ferrari technical director James Allison had a slightly different view; albeit agreeing with Newey’s point that it’s important that the cars look fast and exciting,

“I think what we have at the moment is fast. I think it looks dramatic, I think it requires skill from the drivers and I think it’s producing fairly good races. So I don’t really see any big problems in that regard,” he said.

Nico Rosberg, Felipe Massa

Earlier in the weekend several drivers had aired similar concerns to Newey about the difficulty level of driving the current generation of cars, as highlighted by the ease with which very young drivers are able to jump in and perform.

Felipe Massa and Nico Rosberg (below in 2005), who tested an F1 car at 17, both said that the cars of 10 years ago were more physically challenging to drive, especially as refuelling meant that the races were a series of sprints, with faster lap times and higher physical loads. They both called for the cars to be more challenging physically, which would have the knock-on effect of making it harder for young drivers to cope physically.

Nico Rsoberg tests an F1 car age 19

Romain Grosjean gave a slightly different view, however.

“Don’t get us wrong, the cars are not easy to drive. They’re still performing very well. Yes, physically they are easy, but there are other challenges” he said.

“I think it’s still a tough job. I remember my time in 2009, and already then the cars were physically harder to drive. I would like more: the quicker it goes the more we enjoy it. We are racing drivers. If you give us 200 more horsepower and more grip, we will take it – but what we want is to really have good races.”

It’s an interesting discussion, which will continue no doubt. It’s part of the wider discussion on what the stakeholders want the sport to be for the future.

Part of the reasoning behind having a 17-year-old racing is that this will help to open up interest among the younger generation who do not relate to F1 and don’t watch it.

This may happen to some extent, but this site maintains that in the risk/reward balance on this topic, the wider negative for the sport of perceived as being ‘child’s play’ outweighs the positives of a few more teenagers watching the sport.

What do you think? Have your say in the comments section below

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91 Comments
  1. Sven Örup says:

    Villeneuve is absolutely right. This can only be bad for the sport and is at risk of being found out as not being particularly difficult at all for the drivers. Which it of course it is not, compared to 20 years ago and before that when racing an F1 car required both skill, experience and bravery.

    1. aveli says:

      villenurve doesn’t know what he’s talking about. i enjoyed watching him drive with his baggy overall’s swagger and vivid description of his accidents but i have to go with the truth here. we all witnessed the media and drivers telling us that the cars would be difficult to drive every time the rules modified. we listened to them when traction control was banned, again when double diffuser was banned, again when the wing sizes were decreased. all of a sudden they are telling us that the cars are too easy to drive? so what if they are too easy to drive? isn’t it a lot easier now for kids to play tennis now than in the past where they used the same size rackets as adults? have we ever heard any tennis player saying tennis is too easy to play now than it was in the past? what a load of rubbish? nor matter how easy the cars are to drive, it is a competition and some of the drivers are bricking the thought that a 17 year old could step in and make them look silly. i enjoyed the thought of a player as young as boris becker stepped into the greatest tennis tournament and beat all the seasoned professionals.
      how difficult do they want the cars to be to drive? do they want drivers to die in crashes to show how difficult the cars are to drive? it is a realistic competition in which the best will be exposed in the midst of poorer drivers. i now want to see max verstappen drive in f1 more than ever.

      1. Voodoopunk says:

        “villenurve doesn’t know what he’s talking about.”

        …and of course being an ex F1 driver you do?

      2. aveli says:

        being an ex f1 driver doesn’t mean he knows what he’s talking about.

    2. JB says:

      Villeneuve usually talks rubbish, but this time I think he has a valid point.
      I think that younger drivers should belong to the lower formulae.

      F1 should be perceived as the unreachable, the holy grail of motor racing, not only to the fans but to upcoming young racers as well.
      When interviewed, all F1 drivers always said they would never think of being able to drive an F1 car and those legends of F1 drivers are seemingly out of reach in their younger years.

      Anyway, Lets wait and see.

      1. aveli says:

        i don’t know much about max verstappen but have have watched a few videos of his drives and hey look good. it is up to the decision makers to decide who is fit for f1 and who’s not ready for f1. there are 12 year olds with phds and max verstappen has being signed up to f1 in 2015 because he is max verstappen not because he is a 16year old just like schumacher returning to f1 while he was over 40 years old simply because he is schumacher and nothing to do with him being too old.

  2. Adam Burns says:

    Hi James,

    I was just pondering the recent comments over cars being a less physical challenge to drive of late yet we only hear about this being discussed qualitatively. Is it time for a quantitative analysis of G-loadings in both cornering, braking (including distances required to brake) and acceleration? Combining this with heart-rate & weight loss over a GP and, if applicable, quanitifiable fitness metrics for current vs old F1 drivers (bleep-test). I suspect drivers are as fit as ever but from wathing a few videos of 2002 Schumi at Spa, the way the car reacts around the course looks noticeably sharper…..indeed, it could be said it appears savage!

    I’m not after an article berating the current breed of cars but for an average punter like me who is likely never to be a passenger, let alone drive a car with down-force, it’d be an interesting read. Perhaps a couple of side-by-side video comparisons would help too?

    Many thanks and great to see the website back on full-steam after the summer break.

    Adam

    1. James Allen says:

      I agree that would be interesting. I’ll look into that

      1. Adam Burns says:

        Love this site, you really give it your all.

      2. chris green says:

        is it true that one of the concerns with the ground effect era was that the g forces were so high through the corners that drivers may black out and would eventually need a pressure suit like fighter pilots ?

        i think alan jones was the master of the ground effect era and he was certainly physically strong.

        surely a 540kg brabham bt52 with 700hp (quali) would accelerate faster than the current cars.

    2. Sebee says:

      I wondered a while back why the G-force meter graphic is gone. Have you noticed that it’s gone?

      As we know the aero is gone, so the forces that drivers carry into turns are significantly lower. For some reason I remember Schumi around Malaysia and he would look like it was 2x speed playback through some turns. That rapid change of direction must have been brutal for 60 laps or so.

      Bet you current cars are good at acceleration and braking – likely on par with last V8 car but will lose out huge on anything involving change of direction. They seem to make up lap time with top speed due to lower drag.

      1. Adam Burns says:

        I thought exactly that, I had to count along with the lap timer to believe it!

      2. aveli says:

        if the cars were easier to driver schumacher would have driven his car a lot faster than rosberg could manage. i’d love to see max verstappen given the chance to test that red bull and compare his times with the resident drivers.

      3. Sebee says:

        Yes, Schumi forgot how to drive too, along with Vettel, Kimi, Button…any other WDCs we can say are rubbish? What has Alonso done last 5 years? Lose WDCs, guess he’s cooked too.

        Some cars don’t match to drivers. Schumi had no reason at all to rip his guts out with a non contending car. His 3 years were a goodbye tour. His 7 WDCs were enough. I wonder if Vettel can best it with 4 under his belt alresdy.

    3. Thompson says:

      Drivers today are considerably fitter and better conditioned than they were 20 years ago plus.

      This generation of driver have personnel trainers diatishons etc now and prepare themselves.

      The days of drivers falling out of their car at the end of a race dehydrated and exhausted are long gone.

      To drive an F1 car was never any harder than driving any other vehicle to its limits. Be it rally, IndyCar, DTM…… All crashes over 100mph hurt.

      17 probably is a bit premature but not for that reason with most driving aids removed to drive today’s cars on the edge still requires all the bravery and skill of the past.

      I was actually perplexed by Newey, that’s the 2nd time I’ve heard him say ‘strange’ things.

      1. eric morman says:

        the reason Newey is complaining is because he has been made redundant because of the new rules,
        it is nothing about the cars are easier to drive at all, for they slip and slide now more than ever which as far as i am concerned is the best thing that has happened…

  3. I think it’s a good point that it might make Formula One look easy. Newey gives the great example of MotoGP. Every time I watch them I’m amazed at the skill level of so many riders.

    MotoGP has built a great system where riders come through Moto3 and Moto2 and then to MotoGP, most riders come through all of them. I know of some riders, like Ben Spies for example, who joined MotoGP from World Superbikes. What’s more, if you ever hear people refer to a rider’s world championships, they will include the lower category titles too. If you win the Moto3 Championship and the Moto2 Championship, you enter MotoGP as a two-time world champion!

    Formula One is a long way from achieving something like that obviously. You could say that a 17 year old will make more teenagers watch F1, but we have young drivers anyway; 19 is still young.

    1. BigHaydo says:

      Absolutely agree. The new drivers to the sport seem to come in from the blue and not many people have heard of them… Verstappen is a bit different being a second generation F1 driver, but I remember when I first started watching F1 20yrs ago, the best of the new drivers needed no introduction because you’d already heard of them, or seen them racing in another series, or heard how they set the world alight in the junior formulae – we were already asking “why is this guy not an F1 driver?”. In order to make it into the sport, they usually had to unseat a driver that was already established or incredibly unlucky to find themselves sitting on the bench. What MotoGP has is a tiered structure where anyone jumping a category is a very rare thing, but they would have done an amazing job in the world spotlight before heading to the top class. If someone has to Google who a new F1 driver is, are they ready for the big time? Villeneuve is absolutely right: if an unknown (or someone bankrolled by a third party) can waltz into the sport and succeed, it is an indictment of the skill required versus the fiscal intentions of their backers. Ultimately if he is fast enough he is good enough, but where is the value if ‘fast enough’ isn’t that high a benchmark?

    2. aveli says:

      people ride those motto gp bikes on the road with ease. what are you guys talking about?

    3. aveli says:

      i have seen motogp bikes being ridden on public roads with ease and yet to see an f1 car being driven on a public road. i have however seen nonprofessional drivers attempt to drive f1 cars with drastic consequences. i prefer to be described as a truth fanatic!

      1. Brad says:

        Mate you have rocks in your head if you think anything you see on the road is half of what a MotoGP bike. Don’t be confused by the stickers my friend

  4. madmax says:

    Schumacher and Alonso make interesting points on the change of cars through the last 20+ years with Schumi and 10+ years Alonso.

    Auto Motor und Sport – Schumacher; “In my early days, there was always the chance to be quicker than another driver not just by a couple of tenths, but a full second.

    “Why? Because the cars aerodynamically were not so balanced and were therefore very sharp to drive. As a driver, you then had many more possibilities yourself. Today, the cars are aerodynamically stable and well balanced; the window in which you work is not as big.”

    Talking about how things have changed since earlier in his career battling with Schumacher, Alonso in Spanish newspaper Macra. Alonso; “He’s the one who pushed me the most and whom I most admired, whom I tried to copy when I watched him live or saw footage of his races. Things are different now: it’s more about how each car performs on every turn and not so much about who’s behind the wheel”

    How can Raikkonen and Grosjean in the Lotus look great last year, then look no good this year. Bottas and Riccardo be completely under the radar last year now look sensational. Perez look great in the Sauber one year then not in the McLaren.

    Car’s shouldn’t be all the same but a driver has to be able to make more of a difference.

    1. Torchwood Five says:

      This ties in with Doctor Marko telling Vettel that he needed to change his own style to match the car.

  5. Martin Sørensen says:

    Completely agree that F1 cars should be harder to drive. Not because it would enhance perception (which seems to be the be-all and end-all for F1 these days) but because it would put more weight on driver skill and help differentiate the great from the merely good.

    The fact that Max is just 17 years old is not important to me, but I find it sad that drivers are able to step up straight from F3 to F1 and from karting to F1 in a year. For a sport that should be about the best of the best, that seems ludicrous.

    I’m not saying it should be impossible, but when it happens it should be a legendary moment. Is Verstappen good? He seems to be. Does he strike me as someone whose skill people whisper about in awe? Nope. It just seems that the jump is small enough that it makes sense to get people onboard asap to avoid wasting more money on talent development than necessary.

    1300 hp? Certainly, but maybe look at getting rid of some of the driver aids… not traction control or anything like that, but the ridiculous level of telemetry, adjustability and coaching via radio. I’d love for cars to be completely non-adjustable outside of the pits and complete radio silence except for safety issues.
    Car not handling well? Set it up properly or drive around the issue.
    Not sure where the opposition is in their pit stop strategy? Well, better make up your mind if you think it’s better to push or spare resources.

    If things like that were done, I think it would make it a lot harder for young drivers to step up, but it wouldn’t be an artificial barrier. Experience would just be valuable again.

  6. Mitchw says:

    I should think it’s been long evident to fans of the sport that the cars are neither hard to drive, nor dangerous to crash, or even so fragile that a delicate touch with the equipment made a difference in success. (OK, one’s had to nurse the Pirellis) If young master Verstappen can bring his classmates into F1 then let’s hurry up and get Simona DeSylvestro to start building the female audience.

  7. Ric Zito says:

    No disrespect intended James, but I think that anyone who thinks that teenagers will suddenly open up and get interested in F1 because there’s a 17 year old driver on the grid, is sadly naïve. The only way you’ll get youth involved is to find the right ambassadors and use the right language : social networking, viral campaigns, Youtube etc. It’ll have to be young, savvy, cool, irreverent people doing the communicating, too. From where I’m standing, there are no candidates for it today. F1 has zero cool factor. I have two teenagers, and neither of them has ever been remotely interested in this “old man’s sport” despite being exposed to it for years. Let’s be frank : Max Verstappen is the “wrong” kind of 17 year old. Not rock and roll at all. Too cleancut, too nerdy. As long as F1 is ruled over by senile oligarchs, decadent corporations and their tame characterless automaton drivers, it doesn’t stand a snowflake in hell’s chance of attracting youth. Parachuting in an ancient Flavio as a Simon Cowell-esque Svengali figure is a terrible idea. It’s got to be done from the bottom up, not the top down. Free up the communication channels, understand and master the “new” media (not “new” for anyone else, but I digress), push the corporations into the background a bit more and let the drivers be proper, rock and roll heroes. Let them be controversial. Properly controversial – not lame Kimi “taking a sh*t” ooh snigger snigger controversial…

    1. AndyC22 says:

      I agree with Ric Zito completely. This is a great summary of the state of modern F1. If F1 is not completely bankrupt as a sport, then the decision makers are working very hard indeed to make it so. When someone as thoughtful as Adrian Newey is making mildly negative comments, you have read between the lines, and really start worrying. The cars are ugly, quiet, and non-threatening, the drivers are boring and petulant, and finally, while we’ve seen some exciting duels this season, we all know the racing is rather contrived and far too tyre-dependent. But never mind all that, the fact is that young people couldn’t care less about F1 because it’s irrelevant. Barbara Broccoli reinvented James Bond in 2006; I mostly hate the new James Bond, presumably because I’m old; but now James Bond is relevant again, and the same is needed for F1. Who’s going to do it? Bernie? Ha!

      1. Thompson says:

        Andyc22….. After what Roger Moore did to James bond, he needed reinventing.

        It’s a pity the Daniel Craig films are so dull though.

    2. Sebee says:

      I’m starting to think accountants and insurance companies are running this sport.

  8. Alastair Isherwood says:

    I agree with the Newey. Putting aside that only Ricciardo seems to have a personality we want gladiators driving these cars and putting a 17 year old in the car just makes it look to everyone like we could all have a good crack at it. We need to separate the men from the boys and the current cars are too gen-Y = soft

  9. To be fair, Max is not a noraml 17 year old kid, you are talking about 1 of the best talents in karting not just now, but possibly ever, his F3 form proves just that.
    change the story from ‘a 17 year old kid’ to a super natural freak, then positive interest is generated.

  10. Dai Dactic says:

    With the cars plastered in sensors . . .
    and two-way radio + back-room computing power . . .
    They are now ‘team-driven’ at race time.

    Naturally they are easier to handle.

  11. PaulL says:

    Whatever may be said about the racing itself, the drivers seem contained in their enthusiasm; they’re holding back their full exertion and so a race is less hard-fought and won. Mark Webber said as much after Monaco last year.

    We need to return to F1 as an Olympic-like sport.

  12. kenneth chapman says:

    i somehow think the entire question needs to be evaluated in a reasoned and objective manner. the signing of verstappen seems to have created a tipping point whereby lots of varied and at times strongly expressed opinions have been voiced.

    lewis hamiltion earlier on stated that he found the cars and the racing to be ‘too easy’ and rosberg echoed similar sentiments. there is no doubt that the general opinion seems to be that the cars are ‘too easy’ to drive. surely though if that was the case then why are we seeing so many established drivers being put to the test? they may well be physically easier than the beasts of old but that is more to do with the relentless drive towards a high degree of design homogeneity and engineering finesse.

    if we now factor in the declining level of age, related to the drivers, it becomes marginally clearer. easier cars to drive therefore younger drivers are not taxed quite so heavily with the demands of the past. if you add into that mix the younger persons ability to cope with the 21st century level of ‘ understanding of systems and their innate ability to operate at an assimilation level far higher than older drivers’ you will see that it is possible for very young people to come into F1 and be successful.

    another variable that seems to have bypassed the shrill condemnation coming from some quarters is that it would appear that verstappen is not simply just some kid with a reasonably well known name getting the drive for no reason at all. verstappen has been chosen because some teams have glimpsed a rare talent that could be honed into a possible future champion.

    there are a number of ready talents with quite a high levels of experience out there ready and willing to drive if they had the opportunity. none of them were chosen. why? because they didn’t ‘appear’ to have the latent abilities spotted in vertappen. this is quite evident as mercedes were also ready to sign him. i also believe that apart from these two top teams there were other teams interested as well.

    i guess no one really knows the outcome may be but there is a lot riding on this choice. red bull are really testing the waters and it remains to be seen whether it was an inspired decision or a massive fail. what i believe is that there needs to be some fundamental changes made to F1 and they have been aired over and over again. the fact is that no where are we actually seeing those changes being put into place.if the concern is that the public think that if kids can drive an F1 car then is it really the ‘pinnacle’ then that may well be true, but whose fault is that?

    1. Sebee says:

      Remember the message drivers sent D.C. to report few months back? F1 driving experience circa 2014 is not pure, not on the limit. They don’t like it.

    2. Andrew S says:

      Perhaps an old-fashioned manual gear shift + clutch could do the trick :)

    3. Sebee says:

      Kenneth, drivers that like to brake hard and late don’t like this braking system.

      1. kenneth chapman says:

        @ seebee….que?

      2. Sebee says:

        Don’t really know. It made sense at the time. Probably something in relation to your point that they are easy to drive, mostly because they are slower so not at edge or “pure” and aggressive braking is a challenge apparently.

  13. Simmo says:

    I find it ironic that before this season everybody was saying how much harder it would be this year, and how people will spin all the time, etc.

    Evidently people were wrong.

    1. Richard says:

      There is a diffrence between physically less difficult to drive, whilst it would (probably, never driven an F1 car…) take a lot more focus making them mentally more difficult to drive.

  14. J N H says:

    He’ll either do well or he won’t, but the reasoning that he will help connect to a ‘younger audience’ is total rubbish. The younger audience still doesn’t have 600 euros to burn to watch racing on the telly, this won’t persuade them from all the other things they can watch for free in the slightest. If he goes well then good on him, if he doesn’t, then it’s just another silly gimmick from the F1 brass avoiding the real issue.

  15. DC says:

    Good for Adrian Newey – he put it very well. F1 simply doesn’t look difficult any longer, and even the drivers are now openly commenting on how it’s easier than it used to be.

    Of course anyone can’t just jump in and do it, but the ease with which drivers from the more junior formulae can do so makes a little bit of a mockery of the sport. What’s the point of GP2 when you can get all the grounding you need in F3 (though having said that, maybe the point now of GP2 is to still have a pure racing category that’s very nearly as fast as F1 and not a championship that’s largely decided by a quick bank account comparison before the season starts). Drivers today don’t even have the luxury of testing, and yet can still just arrive and go fast.

    Also makes for an interesting review of the accepted wisdom that the class of late 90′s/early 00′s drivers (aside from Schu, Mika etc) weren’t anything special…

    1. Dr T says:

      I think the perception that it doesn’t look difficult is wrong. I drive a car to and from various places. I also used to do half marathons despite tipping the scales at over 100kg. The fact that I can do these two things doesn’t then equate to “driving F1 looks easy” or “geez, I could win olympic gold in the marathon”.

      These guys are still superfit, of above average intelligence and incredibly dedicated to what they do. I buy that Max is a bit of a freak of nature from the appearances of his karting and FP3 performances, but I think it’s been made harder for him by the surname (harder now that he’s arriving that is)

  16. Sebee says:

    It’s what I tried to say in my wave of comments of FP results. Nice that some in the paddock see what I see in general with the state of current F1. Some hungry fans will eat anything put in front of them on an F1 plate without thinking. Some think about what it is they are being fed. Maybe they took my “look at Spa in 2002″ and said…well, that looked absolutely right. As I said, looking back opened wounds for me. I do appreciate their honesty – it is from people that know better than anyone.

  17. Karen says:

    I wonder if it’s the safety of the cars nowadays that means its fine for less experienced drivers to jump straight to f1.
    Rather than hone their skills elsewhere it’s ok to make rookie mistakes as drivers usually walk away from quite major shunts. Fortunately major injuries or death is rare, if it wasn’t teams would be erring on the side of caution as to whether a driver was ready for f1 and experience would be more valued.
    I’m not suggesting the improved safety is wrong, it’s fantastic but just that this is the flip side

  18. Simon Rrrr says:

    I believe in order to obtain an F1 super Licence, the driver must have completed at least one full season of an open wheel feeder series. There should be 5 or 6 categories listed by the FIA that count towards obtaining a super Licence after completing one of them. However this structure should only be in place for drivers under a certain age – 21 for example. This ruling leaves f1 open to the possibility of drivers successful in other top line categories like Indycar to make a switch as they would almost certainly be over 21.

    I think 17 is not too young, but too inexperienced. Credit to Max, he must be talented. He may well prove super fast in testing too, but as soon as he fronts up in Melbourne for race day, he may find that wheel to wheel in an F1 car is nothing like karting

  19. Sebee says:

    As for your point James, well made, I know it’s not as articulately as you but I made it before. I used to look at this sport and say…wow, these are men of steel. I wish I had what it takes to do that. I swear to you I had a dream once that Schumi couldn’t drive and they called me in for Monza. And I couldn’t do it. I did what every Ferrari substitute has done…ended up P14. Even in my dreams my brain knew that F1 was tough.

    Now that we are older, it is harder to look at these guys as men, as they get younger and younger it is also hard to “look up” to them.

    I know one thing. When I got hooked onto F1 I was looking up to these men as individuals with skill and guts. It is hard to look up to a teenager. Wonder if teenagers want to look up to one. You may watch in amusement but they can’t make you aspire because many of us are past that age and will more likely feel bad about the fact that we couldn’t or didn’t do that at that age perhaps. I wonder if teens need one of their own or if they want men to look up to doing things they wish they could as they watch?

  20. martin says:

    Imagine Verstappen doing very well and winning a GP. Will he get a rose water at the top of podium? Will his mom drive him home because he has no driving license?
    Seriously, superLICENSE should be given only to adults and that effectively sets the bar how young a racer in F1 can be.
    The wider problem if the cars are too easy to drive is certainly true – see how Merc teammates are coached through radio where other is gaining. This means that learning curve can be reduced significantly and only physical constraints remain. As the drivers say that F1 is easier physically too then there is actually nothing one can do. One could ban team radio but that would just mean that coaching is done before and after the race. If you’d ban telemetry too then it would become once more drivers sport but i guess that would never happen.

  21. jeffrey says:

    I guess the whole ladder of singleseater racing should be looked at critically, as obviously it does not work as intended when the champions from GP2 don’t get a seat, whereas people like Kvyat and now Verstappen come from lower formula right into F1.

    My problem with F1 now is not the engines, the sound or the racing, which are all pretty good, or getting better. My problem is the lack of creative freedom within the rules, aerodinamically but also things like the flow-speed thing. Make a very clean and quite simple technical rulebook, which gives the teams more space to find their own interpretation, and a very clear cost measuring system, so spending does not go through the roof. A simular view was voiced by Pat Symonds and I fully agree.

    I think it should be possible for teams to turn up the engine for qualifying to get like 1200 bhp, and see how the engines and the drivers cope with it. If the engines still are limited to 5 a season they have to really weigh the consequences, which I think would be way more interesting.

    As for Verstappen: As a dutchman I really hope he is all the driver he is supposed to be, and will be succesfull. I think Villeneuves opinion is simplistic though to say 17 year olds devalue the sport: I think it is a trend for sportmen to become younger, especially when they are as well prepared as Verstappen. In the 50s most drivers were in their 40s, now most of them are in their 20s/30s and some in their teens, but does this make the current drivers any less?? I don’t think so as the sport has become way more professional and there are simply better ways for youngsters to prepare at a younger age.

  22. RacingFanatic says:

    Formula 1 in it’s current state is simply too restrictive, in every aspect. Oh how I long for the cars of old (anything before late in the last decade basically) V10/V12/V8/Turbos… why not let teams build their own engines and use what they find most effective? Things liket this, look at all the cool stuff we saw in the past when it wasn’t so restricted.

  23. Dave B says:

    I think part of the reason the cars might be “easy to drive” is that they are not allowed to drive flat out. They are more like commuters than F1 racers. Constantly looking after their tires and fuel. The cars revs should be allowed to be turned up and not have to worry about the flow meter which would help with the sound also. Part of the problem with F1 is that the drivers are not driving on the edge anymore. I (and probably alot more fans) am sick of the constant tweaking of the sport and talk of cost saving. THIS IS FORMULA ONE, the top of motor sport and they need to go back to being that. Presently it is fast becoming just another race and not special anymore.

    1. kenneth chapman says:

      @ dave B ……drivers not performing on the very edge. those words are almost identical to what mark webber said so many times. he has also stated that whilst LMP1 cars are not quite as fast as an F1 car, he can at least, drive to the very limit each and every lap and not have to worry about tyres et al to the same degree. that is a very big part of what helped webber make the decision to leave.

  24. AlexD says:

    Hard to debate as I do not have a personal experience to say how it is NOW vs THEN. I have to agree, though that Moto GP is giving me the feeling that riders are not mere mortals whereas I do not get this feeling from F1 anymore.

    1. And yet MotoGP is dominated by Marquez, who won the title at 20-years-old. So did that devalue MotoGP?

      1. Richard says:

        Aged 20 or 17, that is three years of age diffrence, three years isn’t alot when you’re about 50, but when you are 20, those three years are a long time. I can tell because I am 20 at the moment, and if I compare myself when I was three years younger, I see a diffrent person. So no, that didn’t devaluate MotoGP.

        I also would like to mention that Marquez was a bit luckt too last year. (Multiple crashes, most of them during FP, no injuries), both Lorenzo and Pedrosa had two with which affected their performances. Has to be said Marquez is an exceptional talent.

      2. eduard says:

        Exactly what i thought. A guy who comes in at 20 years and totally dominates motogp. Those rossi, pedrosa and lorenzos were really lousy drivers. And that motogpbike is probably as easy to drive as a Vespa.

        Offcourse all nonsense.

        I think the downforce/torque ratio is much better at the moment then it was. I believe the perception of ‘slow’ comes from the noise of the engine. The scream of the high revs was much better.

      3. zombie says:

        Circa 2001 when Motogp moved from the “evil 500s” 2-stroke to 1000cc 4 strokes, a lot of riders and former champs said the same thing that it would be “too easy” to master on 4 strokes than on 2 strokes, and they were right. Guys like Doohan, Rainey, Gardner, Lawson etc spilled their brains trying to just stay on 500s during 70s-90s, where as relative new comers from 250s could just hop on 4 strokes and win races. The thing is, Motogp is still spectacularly fast and dangerous even if it is much easier to win. Imagine doing 345 kmph on a 2 wheeler with no protection other than your helmet and leathers..thats what fascinates people about motogp. There is also a fierce “i’ll give no quarter and ask for none” mentality among racers that fans appreciate. F1 has more drama off track than on track these days with drivers constantly complaining about one thing or another.

        The topic being discussed is the same question i asked after Susie Wolff’s test. Has F1 become too simple and easy to master ? Looks like i am not the only one who feels that way.

      4. kenneth chapman says:

        @ dave B ……drivers not performing on the very edge. those words are almost identical to what mark webber said so many times. he has also stated that whilst LMP1 cars are not quite as fast as an F1 car, he can at least, drive to the very limit each and every lap and not have to worry about tyres et al to the same degree. that is a very big part of what helped webber make the decision to leave.

  25. So these cars are easy to drive… Has anybody watched how much more difficult driving has become in 2014?
    The superstars of F1 all have a handful with the new rules (less grip and more torque). No more Red Bulls that have so much grip that they look as if they’re on rails, nowadays you can see drivers drifting and sliding again.

    Because of the new rules for 2014, everybody had to learn how to drive these new cars. So highly-talented rookies like Magnussen or Kvyat didn’t start the season with as much of a disadvantage as rookies usually have. (So young Max will have a bit of a disadvantage compared to them.)

    You know what cars were “easy”? When Jos Verstappen did his first 7 laps ever in an F1 on Estoril, he already improved on the time that Suzuki had qualified that same Footwork with 2 days before. I talked to Jos about it then, and he told me “I knew the track from my Opel- Lotus days, and that car was so easy to drive with its active suspension and traction control…”

    1. Mitchw says:

      But it’s the algorithms controlling the acceleration and braking. Not much for the driver can do if the software engineers can’t fix the car.

    2. FormulaEDiary (Anil Parmar) says:

      The cars have more torque which is fantastic but the engines do not produce enough power given how heavy the cars are nowadays. It also doesn’t help that the cars don’t produce loads of grip from the tyres as they are pretty narrow.

  26. jpinx says:

    Looks like the general consensus is that F1 is not realy the pinnacle anymore, but it’s hard to roll back the years to >1200bhp and aero that was only semi-stable. We are bound to move forward, so lets take a look at what’s available. The ERS powertrains have shown massive torque, making the cars a bit of a handful sometimes, so lets emphasis that by encouraging more energy recovery and useage without artificial restrictions. It’s fair to say the the DRS is totally artificial and can be dispensed with to encourage “real” overtaking. Get onto big rims to lessen the effect of tyres in the equation, maybe making it possible for more than one tyre manufacturer with costs governed by FIA saying all trye suppliers must give their customer teams X number of tyres at a price of not more than €Y Let the teams decide which compounds they want to use, in consultation with their supplier. Sort out the aero packages by insisting on certain width, chord and thickness dimension limits for front and rear wings. All elements together must fit within that dimension specification. End plates must be flat, within specified dimensions and unperforated. There’s lots more – obviously – and cost saving will also come as a result.

  27. Jim :) says:

    I agree with Newey to a point, but he is being a bit of a hypocrite, most of his cars had huge amounts of downforce, and things like the exhaust blowing with the Red Bull, and the tech monsters of the Williams fw14b and the 15, all these things by there nature make the cars easier to drive.

  28. EiEi says:

    F1 cars are too easy to drive. Just ask Pastor.

  29. Mike D. says:

    I’ve read all of the comments to this point and agree with some, disagree with others. I do like Newey’s comments about MotoGP. Absolutely on point! As a former professional road racer (from the Kenny Roberts, Gary Nixon days), I absolutely love MotoGP and go into severe depression when the season ends. That being said, I have three teenagers at home, 2 boys and a girl. My kids have zero interest in F1. However, when it comes to MotoGP, they know the players, including the lower classes, and each have their own rider to watch. Marc Marquez is the hero to each of them, although my 13 year old daughter still hopes for a Casey Stoner comeback just to see the battle with Marquez.

    Why do they not care for Formula 1. My daughter said it best. “You can’t see the driver. Who knows if the guy getting into or out of the car is the same one that they show standing on the sidelines?” She’s right. MotoGP riders are gladiators. Watch Marquez dragging his elbows on the tarmac and within a couple of races, Pedrosa, Rossi, Lorenzo, and the rest are doing the same. That’s what it takes to keep up. Watch the 2500 frame per second replays of the corner exits. Look at the black tire marks being left by these riders powering through the corners, in some cases, completely sideways. Do you see this in F1? No way.

    You want to bring audiences to F1. Make it entertaining. Who gives a damn about Hamilton’s wannabe rock star life? Who cares that Sebastian’s girlfriend just had a child? Emphasize the cars. Let us see the drivers work. Lower the sides a bit so you can see the drivers in action. Camera views of the footwork, manual gearchanges, no radios, pitboards, refueling, in-season testing, etc.

    Look at other forms of motor racing and compare Formula 1. Look again at MotoGP. Great, recognizable, paint schemes. Riders in loud, identifiable, leathers. Remember Benetton’s great paint jobs? Remember the 7-Up Jordan? Those cars could be spotted a mile away. I’m telling you guys, entertainment is where the future lies with Formula One.

  30. glennb says:

    I say, take away the pit to car radios. Bring back the pitboard for all comms. Theres way too much info and direction provided to the drivers throughout the weekend. Ok, maybe keep the radios for free practice but thats it. Also get rid of the ridiculous fuel flow rules and bring back refuelling. Raise the weight limit so drivers dont have to look like supermodels.

    1. kenneth chapman says:

      @ glennb…….drivers are mere puppets most of the time. they do what the pit wall tells them. yes, there are digressions, being hamilton and vettel but that was all about team orders. the most significant and telling conversation was a short time back when button asked his engineer the question’ who am i racing’? pathetic really. can’t possibly imagine mansell asking something like that.

  31. Stephen Taylor says:

    2014 f1 cars easy to drive not for Kimi they’re not.

  32. Liam Connolly says:

    James,
    Regarding the new cars, obviously new regulations means less downforce in the corners but has the new brake by wire system decreased the force under braking? Or is that just due to the sound the cars now make under braking making the force seem smaller?

    1. James Allen says:

      Not that I’ve heard the forces are still high from what we see of the data get

      Cars weigh a little more and have to slow from higher speeds, yet we’re talking less than 100m for Les Combes at the end of the Kemmel Straight

    2. Sebee says:

      I wonder this too. Any on-board comparisons 2013 to 2014? Obviously much bias is set to front, but as you pointed out heavier car. And drivers do say they are not confident in brakes vs. last year. Has to contribute to when they brake as well.

  33. Rich C says:

    Totally losing touch with reality.
    Pretty soon it’ll be like ladies gymnastics: dominated by jockey-sized children.

  34. Casey C. says:

    Comparing Max Verstappen to the average 17-year old racing driver is just plain stupid. What Max has achieved at his age is unprecedented. No one, i repeat no one has done what he has so far. In Karting and his transition to F3. He has always raced ppl 2-3 years older than him, and has 13 years of experience under his belt. Granted, not in F1, but you have to start somewhere. ;)

    Villeneuve clearly doesn’t know what he is talking about, like many doom mongers and nay-sayers here…they don’t know Max and haven’t clearly followed him…

  35. Rich C says:

    On the other hand, having a 17 yr old kid driving at 200 mph certainly fits in nicely with the FIA “road-relevant” idea.
    And what better way to promote road safety?

  36. Ben Miller says:

    Best season for years and still they moan. Interesting that Newey cites MotoGP as the way to do it (again), a sport in which a 21-year-old has come in, won 10 races on the bounce and pretty much humiliated every other rider in the class.

    1. Mike D. says:

      Ben, how do you figure it’s the “best season for years”? Only two cars are capable of winning on a consistent basis. Unless mechanical woes set in, which is the only reason DR has been able to get a couple of wins. I work for one of the major sponsors of Formula One and within the company, this has become known as the “asterisk” season for the simple reason that only Mercedes is truly capable of winning and, with that, only two drivers capable of the WDC. Pity

      1. Ben Miller says:

        Pity indeed if that’s how people are thinking about it, and I guess I can see why, but the truth is I’m finding it really compelling, and certainly better as a spectator than the blown-floor years. It should be an AMG steamroller, and at some races it has been, but there have been some incredible on-track battles all season – the last few laps at Spa today, for example. I just think it’s a shame that there are constant calls from inside(-ish) the sport for yet more rule changes. Grand slam tennis and the Premier league manage to leave the rulebook alone, more or less, for years.

    2. kenneth chapman says:

      exactement mon ami. those moto guys are streets ahead of anything F1 can conjure up.

  37. Fausta says:

    I think all the telemetry takes a lot away from the. drivers. I was driving my Fiat the other day on the hwy and started to feel something odd, perhaps a tire going low. I had to make a decision based on my experience and feel to either pull over and check or continue. Now of course this is just an easy call to make but if these types of situations had to be called by the driver’s feel and not some engineer reading streaming data it would add a lot more to the racing and make experience count for something. Even using only spotters would be better then what they have now.
    This is just a small example of an area I feel that could be changed for the better of the sport.

  38. Sidecar says:

    I’ve been banging on about this for ages. The cars are too easy to drive, way to easy. I could get in one and drive it very fast. Anyone who has been competive in a racing discipline could. Can you say the same about Moto gp or a F1sidecar? Even a super kart? The actual performance is not as important as the perception. No 17 year old lad could manhandle a GP car from the 80′s. that’s the part that makes it boring. The guys would rather get on the radio and cry to the put wall rather than sort it on the track. Its the whole mentality from start to finish. They lack guys.

  39. peter mitchell says:

    Reduce the amount of power steering allowable. That will bring a more physical aspect into play immediately

  40. Gord says:

    I can’t help but feel like people just want to put down the new ambitious youngster, by attemtping to write off any potential achievements Verstappen makes as F1 being easy.

  41. Kristiane Cyrus says:

    Best cars that look aesthetically pleasing while being challenging to drive were ones from late 80s’ to early 90s’. Just go back to those cars, with today’s technology in safety such as higher side protection and chassis and body construction, roll hoop and the lot, instantly the cars would be great.

    Add to that, ban data sharing to show who’re the naturally talented vs averages ones, then we can see the best of the best duke it out at the front while the average ones fight for mid positions and let them figure out for themselves how the heck did the fast ones drive so fast.

  42. goonerf1 says:

    From a design perspective, I think we should return to the days of the MP4-17 and F2002. The kind of designs where front wings were narrow and rear wings were short. This makes the cars look sleek, which therefore makes them look faster.

    I’d also revert to their downforce set-ups. 3 elements spanning the entire width of the front wing, make adjustable, and that’s your lot. Do the same with the rear wing elements. Keep the coke bottle area nice and neat, as they are now.

    Patrick Head said at the Monaco GP you could make 800hp for 2 million euro’s a year. I’d stick one of these engines in the back and leave it at that. Surely plenty of engine manufacturers would be interested in F1 for 2 million a year? That’s got to be spare change to the likes of Toyota, BMW, Audi etc.

    F1 cars do not have to be complicated. Indeed, it’s by keeping things simple that we get great racing and the “superhero” outlook on the drivers, because they don’t have the technology to help them/hide behind. The HUMAN element is put to the fore.

    Keep the cars simple! That’d go a long way to solving a lot of the problems F1 has atm.

  43. CW says:

    I simply don’t buy the argument that young drivers undermine the ‘profession’ of F1 driving. If there’s one thing that undermines F1 driving and insults the fans who (nowadays) pay to watch it on TV, it’s pay drivers.

    As long as a driver is in the car on merit fans couldn’t care less about age or gender. We want to see the world’s best drivers racing wheel to wheel, not some overprivileged halfwits ruining races.

    Those calling for “superhero” drivers seem to have forgotten: superheroes come in an astonishing range of shapes and sizes. However I don’t recall ‘parental wealth’ ever being a celebrated superpower.

    This website’s commentary on F1 and it’s vision for the industry is mostly flawless. It’s position on young talent is out of character and disappointing.

  44. PxB says:

    Those who talk about “hard to drive” must say whether they’re talking about the physical demands, or about skill. Otherwise they’re saying precious little of any value.

    Given that it’s being related to age, and to the 2014 changes, it’s probably mostly about the physical side. Surely the answer to that is things like banning power steering or increasing mechanical grip via e.g. wider tyres? No matter how much some might like to beef up the downforce, we know that hurts the racing.

    If it’s about skill, then those complaining must come up with some evidence before we can have a meaningful debate.

    I accept the MotoGP/superheroes point but it’s mostly just because MotoGP’s more dangerous. Unless there’s a way to change F1 so that drifting is the fastest way through a corner? After all, how much downforce does a MotoGP bike have?

  45. Ron W says:

    No one whinged that Tennis was too easy when Boris Becker won Wimbledon at 17.
    Sochi Olympics Julia Lipnitskaia, 15, wins figure skating gold.
    Marc Marquez is the best Moto GP rider and he’s 21.

    Kids have no fear.

  46. Arcturis says:

    As a 50 something the incessant media push for teenagers( and ever younger teenagers at that) in all sport – swimming, athletics, golf, football and now f1 is I have to say putting me off. I dont want to watch child prodigies pushed into the limelight by parents, agents and sports teams. i want to watch sport – the clash of technique, experience, sportsmen and women at their peak. The younger the teams become the less interest i have and the less I shall be watching. Goodluck with that teenage audience.

  47. Martin says:

    The two arguments that I hear:

    1) The cars are too easy to drive, the driver does not make the biggest difference:

    Interesting that people here are saying that F1 is too easy and that it is nothing like the “old days”. I heard exactly the same sentiments 20+ years ago. Do some people long for the times of Nigel Mansell in his “electronic” FW15? In these times the car was definitely a bigger factor than the driver.

    2) Very young drivers make F1 seem bad as it seems too easy:

    Do people long for drivers like Giovanni Lavaggi/Phillippe Adams/Paul Belmondo/Jean-Denis Deletraz/Taki Inoue/Alex Yoong etc? THESE guys made F1 look bad! They had absolutely no business of being in F1. Lets not even compare them to a driver like Max Verstappen, who is supremely talented and will get into F1 because of his skill.

  48. Mark R says:

    If Verstappen is competitive next year it will make a mockery of the supposed race craft and skills needed to succeed in Formula One, and if that is the case, there’s a lot of over-paid “fat cats” in F1 bilking us ticket buyers because how can you truly claim F1 is the top echelon of motor sport now!

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