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Press put the boot into new look F1
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Press put the boot into new look F1
Posted By: James Allen  |  15 Mar 2010   |  10:47 pm GMT  |  435 comments

Returning to the UK from Bahrain, it is clear from a scan through the newspapers that the new style post refuelling F1 has met with almost unanimous disapproval.

Judging from the 300+ comments we have had on Sunday’s story about the lack of show, around 98% of JA on F1 readers agree with the journos on this.


It’s a great shame for the orgamisers in Bahrain, as they put on as good a show as any race I’ve been to. The display of 17 world champions and their cars was breathtaking, something so audacious only a ruler who wanted to make his event stand out from local rivals Abu Dhabi could have dreamed of. And the paddock atmosphere was second to none.

It’s a shame that they added that dull new section to the track as it created a negative which wasn’t necessary and in the race it contributed to the spreading out of the field, which caused the race to be fairly processional.

I don’t think that this race was as bad as people are making out, but what was depressing even for someone as passionate about F1 as me, was the inescapable conclusion that all the races are likely to follow the same monotonous pattern.

And then we have the endless soul searching to find better ways of spicing up the show, like Bernie Ecclestone’s idea of short cuts, which is more at home in a video game. No sport rips itself apart like F1 at a time like this, with team bosses jumping on the bandwagon and calling for change.

There has already been too much change.

The press all seem to agree that the new look F1 is not a winning formula. Richard Williams in the Guardian said, “A sweeping one-two victory for the Ferraris of Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa in the Bahrain grand prix could not obscure the overall dullness of a contest in which, for the first time since 1993, the drivers were not allowed to refuel their cars.

“Even the new lightning-fast pit stops to change tyres failed to add to the excitement, partly because they were too brief to provoke much in the way of incident.”


And Kevin Eason in The Times said, “Far be it for us to worry you, but it might be wise to dig around in the garden shed and find that old tin of Dulux and splash a bit of it on the living-room wall around the start of the next grand prix in Australia in case you need something to watch if the racing is as dull as it was here in Bahrain.

“Well, perhaps that assessment of the first grand prix of the 2010 season is a bit grim, but it was difficult not to imagine the click of millions of remote controls around the globe as viewers started scouring the channels for an alternative sporting event a little more exciting, such as international conkers from Rutland or celebrity cheeserolling from Amsterdam.”

Oliver Holt, chief sports writer for the Mirror said, “Like everyone else involved with the Bahrain Grand Prix who doesn’t live in Italy or support Ferrari, Button was fighting a sense of anti-climax. The new rules banning refuelling that some had expected would improve the spectacle seemed to have made it worse. The race, frankly, had been a bore, a tedious procession largely devoid of overtaking.”

Meanwhile Jonathan McEvoy in the Mail wrote, “Jenson Button told us that now we would see if he was good enough to win his personal duel against Lewis Hamilton.

“Then again, we thought the Bahrain Grand Prix would provide a blockbuster start to this season of the ages.

“But neither the world champion nor Sunday’s race – if that description does not breach the trade descriptions’ act – lived up to the billing.”

Many of the papers had their number one sports writers out there this weekend because the event had such extraordinary billing, with the comeback of Schumacher and the pairing of Button and Hamilton at McLaren and Massa and Alonso at Ferrari. They felt cheated by what was served up and it doesn’t take much to create a herd mentality.

Ecclestone has spoken to PA Sport today and defended the show, calling for fans and insders to give the new format four races to prove itself,

“I don’t think it (the Bahrain GP) was much different to some of the other races we had last year to be quite honest with you,” he said.

“It wasn’t the sort of race that would excite most people I would suppose.

“But I think we ought to judge these things a little later on. It’s a bit early. We ought to wait until we come back from China.”

Meanwhile the Gazzetta dello Sport in Italy, made a reference to the fact that the race lacked spectacle but went into raptures about the result. The paper eulogises Alonso as “the Messiah”, talks of the “Alonso era” at the team and describes him as the driver who has allowed Ferrari to finally “cut the umbelical cord that tied Ferrari to the Schumacher era. ”

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1
Graeme of Arabia

Olivier makes some good points. Forcing the drivers to change tyres is a very good way of making them actually race rather than join ina procession. I would also reduce the downforce generated by the cars and remove driving aids, such as the auto gearbox.

2

*not that audiences want Hamilton to hit a wall, I’m purely using an example when someone was persistently pushing “on the edge” of course no-one wants to see crashes*

3

What really struck me as the problem afterwards is that the DRIVERS seemed bored by the race. They should limp from their cars, tired and worn down by the intensity of the race. Not spend their afternoon nursing rubber for a couple of hotlaps.

The refuelling ban has changed the role of the driver from aggressor to protector and whilst they may interest some, it will generally bore most audiences as the dramatic element has become pre-planned tyre strategy rather then seeing which drivers can consistently be “on the edge”.

Think back to Monza 09, Hamilton was putting in a series of unreal lap times to chase down Button, on the limit. And he eventually pushed it too far and slammed into the wall after the 2nd Lesmo…this kinda thing is unlikely to happen with the rules as they now stand, but its exactly what audiences want.

4

here’s a quick fix to save 2010:

make three pit stops mandatory and increase the number of tires/weekend from the next race onwards.

This way drivers will be more inclined to not look after their tires and to race each other.

5

Boremula 1. I was so looking forward to this season with the return of Schu and the Button/Hamilton partnership etc etc. Sunday’s race was absolute crap! No excitement at all, no overtaking and 3 or 4 second pit stops..

Bernie says give it 4 races…I think the rest of the season is doomed and the TV stats will show it as many switch channels after the start.

Also, Martin Brundle’s grid walk on sunday was too short and hardly worth it. Who is the bright spark that had the idea to ban the drivers physios from the grid? What a complete load of muppets!

Boring race, boring pit stops, boring track and boring result…

6

the race wasnt as bad as people make out. the pit stops were pretty immense. mclaren did a very good job with their speed. and the new section to the track was okay. e specially turn 6, but surely it didnt need to be almost 1km longer? couldnt they have just added on a small seection to the end of the back straight? if the new section was faster then lots of people wouldnt be complaining.

7

F1 cars would have oil slick buttons and flame throwers if Bernie had his way…

8

Boring, boring, boring! How about a loud siren through the TV speakers every 30 minutes to wake me up?

More adjustment (and a different spec) for the front wings might allow closer following through the corners.

9

Kevin Eason for The Times is notorious for complaining about the spectacle rather then actually reporting.

He’s been doing it for years, and reading his reports I could be forgiven for thinking it was 2002 or 2003.

10

How about “stop going to tracks where overtaking is more difficult”? Except Monaco, of course.

11

James, maybe i’m missing something. How would the shortcut solution work in places like Monaco?

Plus, none of the above would be fair for teams that have built cars that work fantastically according to the 2010 regs. This might hand the advantage to other teams whose cars work better with lower fuel.

12

Dunno, I’m not for short cuts. My kids do that kind of thing on Mario Kart on the Wii. It’s not F1 to me

13

Unless they change the rules this season is going to be ridiculous! No one wants to watch cars going round in a procession, saving tyres and not going flat out. How did the FIA think one pit stop would improve overtaking???? I do agree though, it is only the first race and Bahrain is not known for excitment but if things don’t improve at Australia…….

14

What else could they say? I think this was the most boring season openser since I don’t know when. Bernie is in a very difficult position. He can’t slame the changes nor is there a good workable one for the next 2 seasons. All he can advise is patience.

15

James, I might have missed this somewhere, but why don’t they just lift the engine freeze?

Let them boost the power to whatever they can and then at least we have an engine war to create a differential this year.

What’s the downside to the manufacturers and teams?

16

Cost

17

I don’t see banning refuelling as the problem as all it has hidden over the recent past is just how difficult to pass it really is.

To me the solutions are simple:-
* tyres which can be nursed to a 1 stop if very careful (therefore allowing some 1 stop strategies) but where the majority take two stops with quicker lap times.
* ban double diffusers
* lower downforce wings
* increase mechanical grip
* track amendments (a driver working group to gain concensus on what needs to be changed to increase overtaking opportunities)

There is no way all of these could not be changed for 2011 but the formula would have to be communicated with 2 months before people start looking at next yrs cars.

All of these great aero developments are killing racing in my view.

James,
any thoughts?

18

Dear James,

One of the options in your pole was to re-introduce refueling.

Surely the teams would want to redesign their cars. not just get a smaller fuel tank. But the whole concept of weight distribution and suspension geometry might need looking into.

How realistic is this option in your opinion?

Regards

19

Why re-design it?

Leave the big tank alone… that means some teams could choose to fuel for the whole race and just take a four second pit stop for tyres.

That’s going to give more overtaking than we ever had under the fuelling rules before because of the different weights.

20

Why would a team want to keep a sub-optimal car design for the rules applied??

Bigger tanks = longer cars = heavier cars = slower cars

The cars are so much slower with a full 160 Litre tank that it wouldn’t make sense to race this strategy.

21

We’re talking about what they can do this year to fix the perceived/immediate problem.

A wholesale re-design of the car is crack-pot. Cutting a hole in the tank isn’t.

22

Bring back the off-season circus!

23

James

The problem here is not whether the cars are refuelled or not, it’s the cars themselves. They are too efficient. As soon as the sport realizes that you can’t fix a problem that has built up over two decades with a simple rule change, the quicker we will be back to exciting racing.

Take a look at the IndyCar opener in Sao Paulo. There were several passes for the lead and mistakes by front runners because the cars do not have the same efficiency nor the upsetting effect on the air behind them as an F1 car. Unllike F1, an IndyCar driver can put huge pressure a foe to force a mistake AND be right on his tail to capitalize when happens.

All the F1 expert journalists notwithstanding, a ban on refuelling is not going to change the fact that an F1 driver cannot get close enough to a rival to pass due to the huge amount of turbulent air created by the leading car. That’s the problem.

In my humble opinion, the FIA needs to write rules that force F1 teams to design cars that allow close quarter racing and then we will see something change. This will also mean that the cars will work their tires more than they do today. This will bring more skill and strategy to racing hard and still getting to the finish line in the quickest possible manner. And that too will create opportunities for overtaking.

Bottom line: If the sole solution to F1’s troubles is only having passing happen when the cars are stationary in the pitlane, then the sport is in really serious trouble.

Jeff

24

Hi James,

Do you not think mandating two pit stops is slightly artificial? We’re in danger of becoming an expensive GP2 here it seems. Where is the sense in making cars pit if the tyres are ok? I don’t believe this will improve the racing because all the leader has to do is immediately follow his rival into the pits to cover any fresh rubber advantage.

The idea of picking only one tyre may not work either, particularly if one tyre is the clear choice – they’ll all be on the same most durable tyre.

The simplest solution would be for Bridgstone to supply tyres at the softer end of the scale, to ensure they degrade. Even this has its problems – a) Bridgstone will want to protect their brand image and b) if running in turbulent air still causes the tyres to overheat, the drivers will just back off to conserve them.

What do think of introducing tyre rules as per Moto GP, whereby the teams can use different compounds front and rear? It could still be compulsary to use both compounds, just not all at once. Is that plausable?

25

What do we want from overtaking? And is on track overtaking actually that exciting? What tends to happen is that car 1 comes up behind car 2 and passes it, usually with ease, either on a long straight or under heavy braking into a corner. Then car 1 pulls away. When was the last time we saw car 2 being able to fight back or bang wheels etc? Is that exciting? The days of Arnoux / Villeneuve are long gone. So we have to look elsewhere for the overtaking and that comes from pit stops. At least then you have the prospect of a driver completing a few banzai laps to jump his opponent in the pits or racing him to the first corner from the pit exit on the edge of cold(er) tyres, as we have seen many times. A stop just for tyres (3 secs?) is not long enough. A 6/7 second stop for fuel and tyres gives a team the opportunity to save a second and might just give their driver the edge. Tyre technology will always follow the regulations and the manufacturers will not want the bad publicity that ‘marginal’ tyres bring, so they will be relatively conservative. Refuelling has to be the answer.

26

Agree with some of the commentators that

(a) expectations are too high – and nothing inherently “wrong” with a marathon like race vs a spring race. Its like one-day cricket vs Test cricket – different disciplines, but each has its own merits (and viewing attractions).

(b) that the key problem is the dirty wake – and not solving this for 30yrs is the main issue.

If you look at F1 in the “modern” era – ie after Bernie took it over in the early 80s and “fixed” it – alot of the stuff Bernie did to make F1 so exciting for viewers – a simple points system; simple rules etc have been diluted since the mid-90s.

And the reasons for the dilution, I think, stem from 2 main incidents:

(1) Senna’s death – led to a massive increase in safety. Whilst obviously hugely beneficial from a driver viewpoint – alot of these changes also compromised the purity of the racing car (and, there is also a debate about whether making the cars safer is just leading to poorer driving because drivers have no incentive to be careful).

2) Schumacher/Ferrari dominance – the period from 2000-2005 saw a huge number of debates, controversies and rule changes – mostly due to the fact the Schuey/Todt/Brawn/Ferrari combo were the best combo out there – and in order to eliminate this ‘boringness’ alot of ridiculous rule changes were brought in to try and slow Schuey down (including by Bernie). Its like if Wimbledon changed the rules to make it less likely that Federer wins.

The main point here is not that these changes should not have taken place (some should, some should not have) – but that these changes were done in a ad-hoc, haphazard fashion – with each succuessive change compounding on top of the other (part of the problem is the team politics in action – like in all systems where you need some form of majority voting, the solution that gets adopted is the “least worst” lowest-common-denominator one).

And these changed did not address the fundamental issues –

(a) lack of real overtaking opportunities;

(b) what does it mean to be a F1 race driver – where is the line where robotics/technology (auto clutches, speed limiters, paddleshift,etc) ends and “pure” driving takes over? – and where on the spectrum does F1 want to sit?

(c) the link between F1 and commercial road vehicles (should F1’s main technical objective be pushing road technology R&D envelope?) Without commercial relevance, then manufacturer link is severed, which means long-term financing issues for the sport.

27

Formula 1 cars are designed to run perfectly in clear air, so they cannot follow each other.

As it is now, ideally the fastest car will win every race – the designers design a car that is fastest in clear air to get pole position, then can lead the entire race in clear air. This is what all teams are currently striving to achieve, as this is what the regulations demand.

Teams do not use any wind tunnel time to improve how their car works in dirty air as it takes away recourses from creating the fastest car in clean air.

Therefore, the long term solution should be to scrap qualifying and have the grid as the reverse championship order (i.e the driver leading the championship stats last)

This will force teams to design a ‘racing car’ rather than just a ‘fast car’, as to win the championship a car will have to come through the field at most races.

28

What’s the point of that? Eh? Go watch superbike, they have more overtaking. They all seem to forget that the most important thing is the F1 itself. And it goes further and further away from itself by adding all this stupid artificial rules.

29

More marginal tyres or a single (softer) compound would do great things for the show.

About the pitstops spetacle: why did FOM not show the cronometer instantly??? Commentators from TV looked rather stupid: “lets see how quick the red bull changes the tyres… well, was that quick? Lets wait for FOM to show the times AFTER THE CAR LEFT THE PITLANE.” By that time most people would have already changed channels!

30
Michael Prestia

The race was a typical F1 race. Most of the races are processions. The first 6 races last year were a cake walk for Jenson and Brawn. Didn’t hear a single British paper calling for a radical rule change or a ban on double diffusers. It is one race and there are 4 teams with the ability to win any given race unlike last year where Brawn dominminated the first half and red bull the second half. So give it a chance. It is a long season with some races that will be processional and some races where attrition is high and there are more opportunities to attack.

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