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Paul Ricard 2018
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Alonso wins, show is criticised, but there is an answer
Alonso wins, show is criticised, but there is an answer
Posted By: James Allen  |  14 Mar 2010   |  5:01 pm GMT  |  384 comments

Fernando Alonso won the first Grand Prix of the season at Bahrain today, leading a Ferrari one two ahead of Felipe Massa with Lewis Hamilton third for McLaren. Pole sitter Sebastian Vettel led for most of the race, but ended up fourth after an exhaust problem on his Red Bull.

After the race Alonso said that the races this year are likely to be dull because the result will always be decided by qualifying and the first lap.

And as the front runners are always likely to choose the soft tyre for qualifying and then make an early stop to the hard, there is a risk that all the races will follow the same pattern as today and become very dull.

The reaction of many fans today has been disappointment that this season which promised so much with the most competitive field for a generation, was largely processional due to the limitations of the new rules banning refueling.

This is something that Formula 1 was well aware of when it made the rule changes. The risks of processional races were discussed at length over the winter and the idea of a compulsory second pit stop was considered at length before being voted against.

Tonight many team principals are talking about it again and FOTA is looking at it, but the problem will be that it requires 100% approval to be voted in for this season. It also makes the sport look a little silly, if it makes changes so soon because it miscalculated its own rule changes.

Would it get 100% agreement? Possibly, but there is always the risk that one of the smaller teams might hold out, wanting some concessions from the others in another area. And some of the teams on the fringes of the top ten might vote against because they might feel that having the option of starting on the harder tyre might give them a competitive advantage.

Take Adrian Sutil, for example. If he had not tagged Robert Kubica at the start of the race today, he would have finished 5th for Force India. From 10th place on the grid that might not have been so easy with two compulsory pits stops.

With the system as it is there is always a chance for teams who qualify around P9-P13 to get ahead of the established front runners, so they might not want to change the system.

My proposal would be more simple than that and would not require unanimous agreement. It is for Bridgestone to bring tyres which are closer together in performance, rather than two steps apart as at present. This was done last season and it improved things, but now they have gone back to bringing super soft and medium to the first race. Because the soft is so much faster, around 6/10ths and degrades more quickly, it will always be the qualifying tyre, which then leads to an early first pit stop for the medium, which is the better race tyre.

With tyres that are closer together, the performance difference is less and so are the wear rates and it is more attractive to try a different tactic. I’ve asked quite a few engineers tonight and they agree that it would be a step in the right direction without disadvantaging anyone.

“It would be bad if we don’t react, ” said Mercedes CEO Nick Fry. “We need to look at what we can do on the technical side and the sporting side. The most important people to consider are the fans and the customers who pay to come .”

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Hi James,

Sadly there is no incentive for F1’s designers to even contemplate making their cars easier to overtake due to the total focus on aero-grip and the inherent desire to win for their teams, sponsors et al!

Only the FIA can do something about this, let’s face it, the cars are designed to THEIR regulations!!

Maybe the FIA should bring in a set of mandatory wings, then and ONLY then will we see F1 designers focussing on upping their mechanical grip if the wings are 100% the same!

Would level the playing field in one fell swoop.

I can see many teams not liking this idea, but at least it would give the drivers a chance to prove their racing abilities and the designers a chance to show us what they can do on the mechanical-grip side as aero development (front/rear wings)would no longer be the prime area for improvement!!

Costs for the teams would surely drop dramatically at the same time, achieving something that is necessary for many teams.

Racing and over-taking would come to the fore and the fans would be happy, as would the drivers and sponsors if the sport pulls in more viewers both at circuits and tv etc.

Anyone think this has any merit, James?


It’s been discussed. Problem is the engineers are so clever they will find new ways to create downforce and make the cars hard to follow again – eg double diffuser


Hi James,

Thank you for your reply.

I take your point for sure, but isn’t it the FIA’s job to police this through Charlie Whiting and Co?

Yes the engineers are already finding ways around the regs, however surely this way would help on the racing front; the core element of RACING surely not?!

I’m advocating the DD be removed anyway.

Got to be better than the current situation?


It now becomes apparent that regulations to promote overtaking does not work. How do we end up discussing ideas of medals and changing the points system to promote overtaking instead of promoting mechanical grip is a mystery to me.

If I were an F1 driver, I would almost feel insulted that I could not do my job properly.

I have no doubt that Button can make a move at turn 1 in Bahrain as he showed us last year, or Webber being aggressive enough (Nurburgring anyone?).

Let’s get rid of these fanciful ideas and lets regulate for safety’s sake – not to promote silly rules.


Rain, safety car and pitting are all examples of factors that can have a transformative effect on a race. Imagine if F1 decided to only host races in the desert where it hardly ever rains? Answer: we would never have witnessed the final 10 minutes of the 2008 Brazilian Grand Prix. Reducing factors that can have a transformative affect on a race will only serve to promote races that have a more predictable outcome. As we saw this weekend, less pitting will by definition produce less exciting races.

With cars becoming more reliable, there are now even less variables at work on race day. There’s nothing better for a Grand Prix than a dose of chaos at the wrong moment. It serves to bring out both the genius of the driver and the team and ultimately means that David can indeed slay Goliath.

When interviewed after the race, Button declared that the race was not taxing as he was focused on tyre conservation and wasn’t driving on the edge as a consequence. That seems like another negative outcome of the current formula.

Bring back refueling next season and bring back KERS while you’re at it.


I’ve had another idea! In addition to banning telemetric communication from pit to car, why not have the same tyres available but have NO IDENTIFICATION ON THEM so drivers and teams won’t know what they’re running!!

That way you’ll get a random set of soft compound tyres just when you needed hards; or one soft front right and all the others hard! Unfortunately I worry the FIA may think I’m being serious! Thanks God they don’t listen to fans, who seem to be an amorphous blob to them and not made up of managers, engineers, communicators, scientists and so on. Why would we have any idea?

I’ve followed F1 since I was a small boy looking at pictures of weird and wonderful race cars in boys books. I’ve seen some great seasons but I’ve basically had the *!$$ taken out of me for twenty years. Twenty years!!

I will not allow this to happen again. I’ll still follow well-written and well-argued blogs (James) and F1 websites. James Allen, Joe Saward and Dr Mike Lawrence are always worth listening to.

But maybe it’s time to start sneering at F1 the way F1 has sneered at me for all this time?

F1 cars are not unfettered beasts. So if you’re going to hobble them, hobble the aero. Or televise the GP Drivers Kart race they have for charity each year (why have we never seen footage?). I bet that’s worth watching!!


It is not very often that an article gets so many comments.

I think this shows how dull the first race was. I think it’s too early to completely write-off this season but if Australia is also a procession I think I’ll cancel my plans to go to Monza. Fancy getting me a pit pass James? 😉


James – I’ve been a lifelong fan of F1 and was looking forward to this season with great anticipatation. However, after yesterday’s parade, I’m in a state of shock.

It seems that the FIA have managed to take EVERYTHING out of the sport that has made it so compelling over the last few years – i.e. the great tactical aspect of varying fuel loads, pitstops, tyres etc which mixed up the grid and order througout the race. Yesterday’s race reminded me of some of the dull races of the late 1980s early 1990s(supposedly F1’s golden era).

I cannot see an instance this year whereby a car will be out of sink with the opposition due to tactics- the teams will simply all pit together once one blinks due to the advantage of new rubber. The supposed great tactical battle this year was going to be managing tyre wear, but Bridgestone have made tyres that are so durable that drivers who are smooth (Button, Schumacher) are at no advantage over more aggressive drivers (Kubica, Alonso, Hamilton). I also feel the lack of KERS is a real own goal by the teams – this would have given more tactical element and boosting the opportunities for overtaking etc.

It seems that the FIA continually have to mess with the rules as if they don’t have anything better to do. If the second and third races is as bad as the first, the casual fans will simply disappear.


This race was PATHETIC!!! the extra unknown without the fuel stops and quick “short schumacher sprints” made the F1 seem like a test session! BRING BACK REFUELING! AND IT NEEDS TO BE DONE NOW! james allen what are you talking about “give it time” before we know it, itl be too late! all the fia have done for the past10 years is destroy the sport!

FOTA should go there own way


The problem is…. at the moment the optimum tyre strategy for all teams is to either 0 stop or 1 stop. Of course the teams are not allowed to 0 stop so everyone is going for a 1 stop. With the tyres being so durable 2 stops just isnt viable.

To fix this, either:

a) get rid of the silly 2 compound rule, therefore allowing 0 stops.


b) force Bridgestone to make the tyres more marginal, which in turn will switch the optimum tyre strategy to 2 stops (with 1 stop or 3 stop both viable options depending on circuit).



What is Bernie saying about the race and any changes that could be made?




What is Bernie saying about the race and any changes that could be made? Thanks


Dull Dull Dull.

After last year when even my two teenage daughters became avid f1 followers this race was a huge let down.

One more race like Bahrain this year and they won’t come back. Neither will I. There are plenty of other things I can be doing. I have followed F1 for 30 years including visits to Kyalami to watch Nigel Mansell. I sat through some of the dullest years of F1 and I wont do it again. Mandatory pit stops will at least force the travelling road blocks to come in and let others pass, but that is a band-aid over this sport. There has to be some randomness – mistakes, failures. There has to be some racing on the track – let the drivers race and make their own on-the-fly decisions not just follow a strategy based on tyre compounds decided weeks before. It is too perfect, too predictable and not worth watching

Administrators – don’t even think that you have a season to fix this. You one race left then you will start to lose the audience.


The problem is not with the tyre, its with the tracks !!


Dull, dull and duller. Like many comments I looked forward to this season immensely despite my favourite driver being absent but what an anti-climax. Let’s hope the track did play a big part but I’m not holding my breath. Wonder who will win at Monaco this year……let’s pray for rain! LOL!

As far as this year, let’s get rid of two compounds. Stick to one for all. Each driver gets 4 sets of tyres to last qualifying and the race. Some can go the race distance without pitting if they’re good on their tyres, others may sacrifice a set in quali and be further down the grid and pit on race day. Take out the need for pitting and at least you won’t get the pendulum affect of well they’ve pitted so we’d better. No mandatory pit stops, limit the tyre sets for the weekend further and let’s really see who can look after their tyres – otherwise I’m afraid if could be a very dull year.

As a final note, with the points scoring this year, if Alonso does a Button and wins the first 6 races it’ll be all over and everyone can start working on next years single diffuser cars in May!

Rant over.


The bottom line is the current generation of F1 car is just too dependant on downforce. It now seems harder than ever to overake in F1, as the cars have more downforce than ever, and less mechanical grip. I couldn’t believe how spread out the cars were in Bahrain due to the difficulty in getting close to the car in front. The overtaking situation is now so bad that we saw Nico Rosberg unable to overtake an ailing Red Bull car because he just couldn’t follow it through the corners without losing downforce. Narrowing the front tyres this year was a big mistake, as was not banning the double diffusers in time for this year, rather than next year. It amazes me that despite all the clever designers in F1 that they are so inept at coming up with solutions to the overtaking problem, especially when most other single seater series don’t have these problems. Get rid of the diffusers, shrink the wings, and make the tyres much wider and softer, and increase braking distances by bringing back steel brakes. Then we might get some racing!


Taking away refueling was as much a mistake this time as it was the last time it was tried. The ban didn’t last long then, and for good reason. Pitstops and refueling are exciting.

Unfortunately, bringing refueling back for this season is not the right answer, given the logistics and car designs. But I think we need to see more races on different circuits anyway before changes are made.

I strongly disagree with Martin Whitmarsh and others who suggest that more delicate tires are the answer. Formula One needs to be about racing, not about who can best nurse a fragile car to the end of a long race, getting the best fuel economy, nursing their engines, and so on.

They need to stop introducing rules that give the drivers and teams reasons not to push and overtake, because we saw rather enough of that in this one race. And they need to bring back refueling.


How about introducing points for fastest lap…

– they can only be given to classified finishers so as to avoid anybody filling up with 3 laps of fuel.

– anybody who pits within the last 10 laps becomes ineligible.. this is to spare teams outside the points from pitting for a fresh set of softs with 3 laps to go.



James, looking ahead to – let’s say – 2013, when team sizes are supposed to be reduced substantially and the new engine formula will be introduced – how radical is it to suggest going back to a wingless car shape and/or a solution that bans any aerodynamic underfloor sculpting? Are there any safety issues attached to that?

What F1 has in abundance these days is downforce and cornering speed, what it lacks lacks is mechanical grip and slipstreaming. There must be a way of readdressing this without taking the challenge out of designing a race car, even though it may call for an automotive rather than an aeronautical bias on the side of the engineers.


Well, it has pretty much all been said, but I’d like to use this opportunity to cast a vote in favour of bringing the double diffuser ban forward and enforce it with immediate effect. If you can’t get close to the car ahead due to aero issues, any changes in regards to tires are meaningless.

I’m aware this is a bit of a pain as all the cars were designed with a double diffuser in mind, but – as we heard 12 months ago – removing a double diffuser is a smaller job than adding one. As such it must be possible to get rid of it considering the majority of the field managed to fit one last season.

Last but not least, this solution would most likely hurt the rich teams more than the less well off (in opposition to the proposal of adding a further compulsory pit stop, which is more likely to benefit top teams). Hence it should produce a closer field and better racing as a result – at least temporarily.


Snooze fest… very very underwhelming and disappointing start to the season, compounded that this has been touted as one of the most anticipated seasons in years… talk about a dud.

The cars are too aero sensitive, without going to spec cars, making them less so is one hell of a challenge.


How about looking at the pit stops and trying to regulate them or irregulate them so that there is more of a margin for error. At each pit stop there must be upwards of 15-20 people involved. Why not control this number so that there are three people doing two tyres ie both on one side. At least this way the pit stops will take longer.

Adding another pit stop is only another point of interest but as all the teams came in together it would be just a matter of the same again.


Where have you lot been?

Bad aero has affected F1 for 15 years now. Banning refuelling has simply just exposed it for what it is.

The fans, the drivers, the commentators, the media, the teams – they have all ignored it for far too long.

Now, all of a sudden, F1 could die a terrible death in less than one year. Look at the lack of sponsors on the cars already. This could be the final nail in the coffin.

But who knows – one wacky race and Bernie et al and most of the “fans” will think that everything has been fixed.

In fact, I think this is why everyone is so shocked. Usually the first race delivers thrills and spills _despite_ the bad aero. This time, there was nothing to hide behind.

R.I.P. F1


What if they went the other way and made the tyres even more different along with removing the rule of using both in the race? Wouldn’t you then see teams trying different strategies? Going on the soft tyre and pitting a few times, or trying to go the whole race on one set.

I also think banning computers to calculate strategies would be a good step. This would increase the chances of strategy variation as a computer will always find the optimum strategy.


Formula 1 racing is supposed to be the pinnacle of Motorsport, but the increasingly strict regulations are reducing it to little more than a procession of carbon fibre.

Teams are tirelessly tweaking the same designs in an effort to gain a tenth here & a few hundredths there. All the cars look largely the same & with the emphasis so heavily on aero the drivers can’t get close enough to the back of the car in front to even attempt an overtake.

I would suggest we throw away the F1 rule book and start again maybe with the following:

– Each car’s external dimensions must not exceed 80% of the width of the narrowest pit lane on the calendar & 80% of the height of the lowest overhang / bridge on the calendar.

– Cars must be able to withstand crash tests at 120% of the cars top speed.

– The same car must be used for all practice sessions, qualifying & the race.

– The driver must have full control over the acceleration (+&-), steering & gearbox. i.e. driver aids limited to power steering & servo assisted breaks.

– Driver weight normalised. i.e. lighter drivers carry weight attached to the drivers seat.

Other than that, build whatever you like. Turbos, V6, V8, V10, V12, Gas turbines, wankels, Ground Effect, fan cars, more wheels, enormous wings, varying wheel bases, movable Aero, active suspension, CVT, KERS, the possibilities are endless – that’s my point.

I do appreciate that the better funded teams will be able to develop in more different areas & so money may dictate the grid positions. However, it will give everyone on the grid the chance to develop something completely new & maybe get the jump on the rest of the field. We would see true innovation coming back to F1, the cars would be radically different & as a result hopefully we’d see more overtaking.


This thread is your next book perhaps. There is enough content here.

1) Reduce the pit crew size by at least 50%

2) No mandatory tire changes

3) Only use one compound for the entire race

4) 50% of the races you must run the option

5) Keep the refueling ban. I like my drivers and pit crew rare, not well done.

That would keep it interesting.


I shall be praying for rain before and during every race from now on…

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