F1 Winter Break
Schumacher’s race sums up F1’s problem
Schumacher’s race sums up F1’s problem
Posted By: James Allen  |  16 Mar 2010   |  1:30 pm GMT  |  176 comments

After the enormous build up, Michael Schumacher’s comeback drive didn’t yield a pole or a podium, he finished sixth two places lower than on his last race in Brazil 2006. And this is probably more or less what he expected. The Mercedes didn’t look as fast as the Red Bull and Ferrari in pre season testing and it more or less matched the McLaren for pace all weekend, showing what a good result third was for Lewis Hamilton.

Analysing Schumacher’s performance is worthwhile for two reasons; it shows what kind of shape the great champion is in, on his return after three years off and it sheds some interesting light on the problems F1 faces with the new rules,

Having overshadowed his new team mate Rosberg in the run up to the event, Schumacher was forced to slot in behind him on track, which only happend very occasionally in the past. But he will have seen enough to know that he is going to be able to compete over a season. While he looked rather tense in the early part of the weekend, by the end of it he looked quite calm and that means he knows he can go up several gears from here.

Schumacher was around four tenths of a second slower than Rosberg in headline lap time throughout the practice sessions, but managed to get closer in qualifying, bringing the margin down to just three tenths of a second.

After qualifying he said, “”I certainly feel a little bit rusty, certainly on the one-lap issue I can do better. On long runs and consistent runs things are pretty good, I’m quite happy. I will just use the rest of the weekend in order to tweak out the little bits.

“It’s not a problem. It’s just that for one lap I saw that Nico was four-tenths up and that is a bit too much for my standards. I’ve got to raise my game a bit and I’m sure I’m able to.”

Schumacher hadn’t mastered the first lap on the new tyre, especially when the track got hotter in the decisive Q3 session. What happened then was that he overheated the tyre in the middle sector, which featured the twisty new section. And because of the way he had the Mercedes set up, the tyres did not cool down on the straight which followed, so he wasn’t quick through the final sector. Everyone was faced with the same problem and the big margins between cars on the grid are as a result of this. It’s something that Vettel and the Ferrari drivers got right.

“(The front tyres) are very small and narrow for my style of driving and so I cannot get the car into the corners the way I like to,” he said after the race on his website.

Schumacher’s race was very straight forward and is hard to analyse in any depth because he was always following other cars, maintaining a gap so as not to overheat his tyres or engine.

Starting seventh on the grid, he got a reasonable start, but not as good as Rosberg. Nico managed to squeeze past Hamilton who made a mistake in Turn Four and got himself on a bad line. Schumacher wasn’t able to follow and stayed behind Hamilton and Rosberg for the opening stint, three seconds off Hamilton’s tail.

He pitted on lap 15, the same time as Hamilton. When Rosberg pitted a lap later, he had lost the initiative to Hamilton, who made good use of the new tyre on his out lap and so Hamilton now led Rosberg with Schumacher behind. The gap was two seconds initially, but went out to four seconds and stayed that way to the finish.

“Overtaking was basically impossible unless somebody made a mistake,” Schumacher said “That is the action we are going to have with this kind of environment of race strategy.”

Schumacher’s race symbolised the problem with the new rules in that there were no other possible game changing moments for Schumacher to take advantage of. There were no more pit stops, Rosberg didn’t make any mistakes, they both dealt with the traffic pretty well and so there were no opportunities to change the game.

Refuelling stops break up that kind of pattern because they provide the possibility of a slow in or out lap, a mistake by the pit crew.

The crucial difference between now and the early 1990s, the last time we had no refuelling, is that the cars are so much more reliable now, thanks to the quality control processes imported from industry. The tyres are too also too good, as are the aerodynamics, so no-one uses up tyres significantly more than anyone else, making them vulnerable.

Of the retirements, four were new teams, who have yet to master reliability . Both Saubers went out with a hydraulic problem, which shows them in a poor light, given that all the other established teams got to the finish no problem.

In the opening race of 1993 in South Africa, a race I remember well as it was my only visit to that country to date, only seven cars were classified at the finish and to of them didn’t actually cross the line. Schumacher was in that race for Benetton and collided with Ayrton Senna on lap 39.

Of the 26 cars which started the race, 10 retired due to technical failure and seven either spun out or crashed. Even in the last race of the pre-refuelling era in Australia that year, six cars had technical failures and five had accidents. The top three finishers that day were the same as the top three in qualifying, showing that it has never been easy to pass in F1.

At least we had a significant pass for position between Alonso and Massa on Sunday.

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At least we had a significant pass for position?

Ridiculous. He just made a better start.

It is boring without the chance for position changes that refuelling stops and different fuel loads allow.

Can someone tell us why the geniuses banned refuelling in the first place?


100% agree, I kinda had an idea what was going to happen when these changes were announced. I mean when the fans understand these things pretty well, then why does the federation always comes up with ridiculous ideas changes things upside down all the time. Just look at '07 and '08 seasons, what was wrong in there and why did they change it in the first place???


I think one of the reasons was to cut costs - you need less memebers of the pitcrew on the track an also you don't need to ship the rather big and heavy refuelling equipment.

Second reason was I think rather stupid "green" idea - let's "save the planet". The engineers are motivated to cut the fuel consumption once you can't refuel the car.

That might be the reasons, but I might be completeley wrong...


That's about it I think, this cost cutting is having something of an undesired effect I think.

The tires have to be hard wearing as they only bring 13 sets iirc to a weekend, if they went off after 15-20 laps there wouldn't be enough for practice and quali, and additional pit stops during the race.

Also as James alluded to, the engine regs (to save money) mean that rather than hassle the guy in front the Ferraris had to hang back and get out of the slipstream, so as not to damage the engine for the next two races.

I understand the teams have to save money, and I know the tires and engines cost a lot, but if it ruins the racing they'll be losing money anyway.

The main problem as I see it is the aero though, the FIA made a step forward last year when they reintroduced slicks and nerfed the aero, but it's obvious they need to go further. I'm not an aerodynamicist(by a long shot) but didn't the ground effects cars of the early 80s create a lot less turbulence?


You seem to be forgetting that just because they don't refuel during the race... doesn't mean they don't refuel. You would have a hard time getting through 3x practice sessions, qualifying and race all on one tank 😉

They still have all the fueling equipment and the pit crew there.


I think the big saving here is that they don't need to ship around the big refueling rigs that squeeze 40 litres of fuel into the car in 6 seconds (really, they could buy a hand pump for 50 dollars at any hardware/automotive shop if they wanted to but then it wouldn't have any high tech, aerodynamic carbon fibre team logo on it), nor do they need the extra crew to operate it during the race.

Still, it seems a modest savings compared the cost of boring races people lose interest in attending.


Alonso passing Massa was at the start of the race though, in other words, not as significant or as exciting as Alonso closing the gap to Massa over several laps then forcing his way through (like at the Nurburgring in 2007).


Alonso passing Massa was at the start of the race though, in other words, not as significant or as exciting as Alonso closing the gap to Massa over several laps then forcing his way through (like at the Nurburgring in 2007).

That was done in very different weather conditions, so you can't compare that race to Bahrain 2010.


Shumacher has been in F1 before and he has, once more, got to the point.

F1 bosses and Bernie will listen to him and other senior drivers to make F1 more appealing but I think teams will need to have more aggressive strategies in roder to win races.

Definately we will need a more marginal super soft tyres from Bridgestone in roder to achieve that.

Overall MS has performed as expected and I am sure he will improve very quickly during the season, maybe asking Ross Brown to tweak the car in a different way to allow him to shine once again.


"F1 bosses and Bernie will listen to him and other senior drivers to make F1 more appealing"

That time has gone, he must win in big way for that to come back...and for the first time in his F1 life...he has WAY more competition.


Bloomberg tv (US) sheds a slightly different light on Schumacher's comeback:

"Mercedes Bets ‘Old Man’ Image Ends With Schumacher in Formula 1"


As I stated his time has come and gone....he needs to work on NEW view from the world of F1!


Thanks James, another balanced article...it makes a change from the sensationalism that is common place in the national press.

From my point of view, even though I wanted to see a Ferrari 1-2, there was a bit of me that wanted to see Schuey pull off a shock result on his return. His past achievements made this a possibility, but he, the team, and some commentators were quick to play this down - for a reason.

Testing is incredibly limited, the cars are very different to 3 seasons ago, the Mercedes is a bit off the pace and he is up against a very good driver with several b2b years of racing experience in F1. In the same way that people were wrong to write off Rosberg before he'd driven a lap in anger, it is completely daft to write off Schuey after a single race. Schuey lost several races to team mates, he did win the vast majority however, but given the time to set up the car how he requires, and to gain confidence - I am sure he will be a match for Rosberg and many of the leading drivers over the course of the season.

Regarding the sensationalised articles, how helpful are they? Probably about as helpful as those ones which we will have leading up to this years WC. One minute we are on the eve of the most exciting season in over a decade, and the next minute people are seemingly not tuning into another race again. Of course there are some issues to address for the FIA, but we have all complained about knee-jerk reactions in the past so why should we demand them now - as James and a few others have said give it a few races and then decide. Personally I think it would be wrong, Ferrari appear to have designed a car which is softer on the tyre than others and wrote off half of last season designing it to current regulations. Why should they be punished because of a lack of foresight from the FIA (the inability to overtake was what a lot of people had predicted all along, and qualifying was always going to be crucial)...i'm surprised so many people are shocked by the outcome of this race.

There are definite issues to address but would we be having the same level of outcry if Lewis lead home Jenson to a Mclaren 1-2? Who knows, they didn't, but I wonder whether the sight of Ferrari streaking away brought home painful memories of Schuey in the early noughties? It makes me laugh that so many people disliked the guy, he comes back to F1 as a hero and then after the first race he's effectively rendered useless.

Everything needs time, Jenson needs to bed into his new team and will take time to match Lewis but he has the ability - over the course of the season I reckon he has the edge, but too early to consign him to the rubbish heap with MS, surely?

At the very same time, i am struggling not to get too excited after 1 race as it feels that after all these years Ferrari have finally got a driver that can fill MS' boots. Despite the negativity surrounding F1 already I still can't wait for some Alonso vs Schuey duels...I am convinced there is plenty of excitement to come.


I totally agree with you, we have to wait a few races in this format and see, although it would not be serious to change again any of the rules in the middle of the season.

I'm also doubting he we'd have the same negative reaction on the British press if Lewis had won the race in such a “boring” style.


Why do you think drivers like Mark Webber and others are making statements such as this?

"I was pretty shocked by how hard it was to overtake and it doesn't bode well for any of the one-stop races on the calendar, when everyone is going to be following pretty much the same strategy."


I'm not disputing that it was hard to overtake but it wasn't exactly easy last year. With such little testing this year, and most of it done in the cold and wet, Bahrain was essentially a learning exercise. In the searing heat teams were collecting new data all weekend and up until the final lap there were still unknowns.

Consistency will be crucial this year and it was important that points were scored rather than risking all for a banzai move. Once teams understand tyre wear better, in all weather conditions, and when following closely behind other cars then they will feel more comfortable pushing.

With all these cost cutting programs employed by the FIA, reducing the number of engines, limiting testing and tyres etc then its only natural that teams will hold back in certain situations to safeguard points, or be forced to learn what they would do in testing, in race weekends.

The FIA have felt these regulations necessary largely due to economic pressures - which is probably right to safeguard the sport, but this will have a knock on effect with the quality of racing early doors. I do think it will get better as the season progresses, and we've got to remember that boring races (occasionally) have been a fixture of F1 seasons for decades. Surely its best to judge after a few races at least?


I'm surprised with people's focus on Schumi and Ferraris, while only to bad luck Vettel wasn't a winner. I recon we have to wait for next one or two races to start quantify teams into peck order. The same adheres to no-refueling as a factor of the show.


Ferrari took a commanding 1-2 finish, so yes the focus is on them. We've already seen the pecking order. It's Ferrari, Red Bull, then McLaren and Mercedes. For all those who want to say Vettel didn't win because of bad luck, maybe his engine sufferred a failure because he had to continue to push for all of those 35 laps as Fernando was around 2 seconds behind him. Fernando immediately went faster once he was around Vettel and his gap to Massa grew to 15 seconds. It would have been difficult for Fernando to pass Vettel without the failure but I do believe he would have had a go at him in the closing laps.


You are so right and spot on as usual James. I know everybody is talking about changing the rules now, but wouldn't that be unfair and in any case, isn't there a rule that prevents such major changes from happening in the middle of the season?


I believe mid-season rule-changes require unanimous support, whereas off-season changes only require 70%. Someone correct me if I am wrong. 🙂


Schumi did well enough. He beat the current WDC and was within a few tenths of Britney, who has spent the last 3 seasons racing rather than being in retirement. If anything, Britney is the driver who comparatively under-performed over the weekend.

I really think we need reverse grids (in groups of 5 or 10 cars) and we need to create 2 racing lines so there is space on the track.

This is SUCH A SIMPLE thing to do . . . laneing the cars on the grid and as they come out of the pitlane, has always been exciting, so we just need to do that in a few places at each track and we'll get a much better show.


Who's Britney?


Mark Webber's nickname for Nico Rosberg.


A fan posed the question to Marc on the red bull racing site:

What is the story is behind you calling Nico Rosberg 'Britney'? I'm dead curious. K.K.

Marc: "He was always playing with his hair and making sure he was looking half decent so the boys at Willies just used to call him Britney."


i have a favorite driver for now on.


It shows what a joke F1 has become when people look back with fondness to drivers stopping for fuel! I think because the 2008 championship was so close,it masked the fact that most of the races were painfuly boring to watch and a lot of them made Sundays race look like an edge of the seat nail biter by comparison!

Look on the bright side, not long to wait until the start of the MotoGp season starts and then we can have some proper motor racing!


Yep I agree as well


Couldn't agree more Steve. The problem is that the thinking isn't joined up. The whole package of aero, tyres and circuits needs to be considered so the cars can follow each other without performance dropping away and there is room on the tracks for overtaking moves to be taken. It is ridiculous to have a situation where one car is clearly faster than another, yet cannot overtake it. This happens is no other motor sport.


totally agree, it's a joke that people are looking back to a "golden age" of pit-stop overtaking.


Hi James, I don't think making 2 pit stops mandatory is the answer to the overtaking problem at all. More pit stops don't equal more overtaking. I think a better solution would be for F1 to scrap the rule meaning that each car has to run both the soft tyre and the hard tyre during the race. This would allow for teams to adopt more varied strategies, such as some teams trying to do the entire distance on one set of tyres doing a conservative pace and then other teams will be more aggressive by doing soft tyre stints and pushing flat out for lap time. This kind of wide variation should help the racing. A car pushing hard on soft tyre stints has got a much better chance of overtaking a car lapping conservatively than two cars who are just making 2 identical pitstops during the race.

More pit stops are just creating more chance to shuffle the order, it's not creating more chances for on track overtaking!

This is just a short term solution to the problem as changes to the technical regs will have to wait for another year. This idea should help, but FIA and FOTA need to hurry up and sort out the real problem which is the technical regulations not the ban on refueling!


I agree with Jasper. The number of pit stops should be irrelevent. The root problem is that cars are unable to pass each other, racing on the track!

Only when cars can fight each other for position on track will things become exciting.


I agree that dropping the 'both types of tyre' rule would really help the racing!

And it's racing we want to see!

Also dropping the 'you've got to start on your qualifying tyre' rule would also help promote different strategies.


Then you'd have to adapt a rule that people would have to stop once, or we would see no-stoppers on the hard tyre.

Then you have the problem with overtaking being horrible, and q3 winner would be race winner. again:(


Short-term solutions to make the races more unpredictable, and to encourage different racing-strategies:

1. Give the teams permission to use any type of all the Bridgestone types of tires.

2. Allow the teams to use as many types of tires as they want during a race.

3. Refuelling should only be permitted ahead of qualifying. No refuelling during the qualifying session, and no refuelling between qualifying and the start of the race.


I agree with the first two. I disagree with the third because I like to see low-fuel qualifying runs, and I don't think running qualifying on full fuel loads would change much.



Who had the fastest single lap time during the race, Rosberg or Schumi?


2.00'204 Schumacher - lap 45

2.00'236 Rosberg - same lap - 45


MS will be fine - no worries.


Seems pretty obvious what the problem with this year is... refueling..or lack thereof.

Also agree with James, the tires are too good. Can you blame bridgestone? Of course they are going to lean towards more durable rather than less.


...because there were never any boring races with refuelling.

Do you remember what a Trulli train is?

Do you remember Martin Brundle saying "(driver x) is going to want to smoke a pack of Marlboros after staring at the rear wing of that Ferrari all day"?

Please get your season review DVDs out and have a proper look at races over the past few years. Refuelling or not, there were some absolute dogs of races, even in years with competitive racing.


Considering where Schumi was coming from it was respectable but not special. The more worry is this no refuelling, there was a interview with Button where he said for most of the race he was just crusin and not flat out, that is a very worrying comment for the rest of the season. I tell you Monaco is going to be one hell of a boring race this year, if over taking is difficult in Bahrain, its next to impossible, the only thing that might happen in a multiple crash pile up into the first corner! As James pointed out, the reason why things were diffrent when there was no refueling before, was realiabilty of the cars back then was no where near the level now. This two pit stop rule being mooted is not the answer either. I understand the need to cost cut but it would seem like refueling was one cost that should not of been cut!


Hi James,

Do you expect a similiar race to Bahrain in Australia? and will Mercedes and McLaren be quicker in Oz?


Factor in weather conditions, Remember 2006 season when F1 visited Melbourne later to avoid clash with common-wealth games. The track was cold and teams struggled to get the tyres works. Lots of incidents and lots of "Spectacle"....


yes and schuey BURRIED it in the wall!!


It's harder to pass in Melbourne than it is in Bahrain!


I disagree with you because in last year's Australian GP, Lewis Hamilton in one of the worst cars McLaren has ever produced overtook many cars, finishing 4th on the track, before the stewards took it away from him and his team after lying to them to try and gain 3rd place.


Oh nuts...


• Great reading James.

I would just dare "moderate" (sorry it might not be the correct english word) your sentense: "The top three finishers that day were the same as the top three in qualifying, showing that it has never been easy to pass in F1."

Which I suppose so was Adelaide's finish. You're right, but if you remember, Alain Prost already won the championship before that race, he also already announced before that race that he would retire after Adelaide, and Ayrton already announced his move to Williams. So this last 1993 race was also a kind of victory lap, without real challenge, without real hard fight (I can't remember about Ayrton, but I do about Alain who was not pushing), championships already decided, Alain and Ayrton celebrating peace back also. This might also explain that, at least a bit.

• As predicted, Rosberg should be afraid for the rest of the season... When Schumacher will have come to his cruise control speed, that's not gonna be nice to see...


you should read Joe Ramirez's article in F1 racing magazine, about Adelaide, he says prost and senna were AT IT! they both wanted that win badly as it was their last race together.

a bit different to what you are saying.


If im remembering correctly there was position changes in the top 3 that day. Damon Hill had overtaken Prost for 2nd but had spun at the hairpin & dropped back to 3rd.

From 4th back that day nobody had finished where they started.

I think too many people only look at the top spots & ignore passes & other close racing thats often seen further back.

Still don't get the 'bring back refueling' BS. Is passing done in the pits really more intresting than seeing it done on track? Personally I always hated it when overtaking was done via fuel stops.

Remember Imola 2005, schumacher from 11th to 2nd by passing 10 cars in the pits.

I never want to go back to that. Fix the cars don't go back to refueling.


You know there's an issue when you long for the exciting days of passing in the pits...


Hi James,

Do you expect a similar race to Bahrain in Australia? and do you think Mercedes and McLaren will be quicker in Oz?


A possible solution James? Make all the teams cars use a predetermined amount of fuel during the race or face disqualification, but use it how they like. Like the old refueling yes, but in this way, at some point, there's a spell of carrying a lug of petrol and at other times they can run light. None stop cars can run right right through losing say, 5 sec's a lap to the lighter cars, but would be lighter at the end having saved time in none pitting and the lighter cars will be carrying the required fuel at the end. It could make the whole thing exciting and unpredictable and still they would have to take care of their tyres no matter what.


As a long time fan of the sport, the most worrying this is that passing now seems impossible.

Overtaking has always been difficult over the years, but you always got the sense that a faster car could have a real go at getting past a slower one.

The situation now is that overtaking is now impossible, and drivers are discouraged from even making an attempt!

The fact that drivers are now saying that the races are 'easy' also disappoints me. I want to see the best drivers in the world being pushed to the limit- something the lack of refueling is restricting.


Thanks for the analysis. More of the same please.

However, can you explain the following comment a bit more please: The Mercedes didn’t look as fast as the Red Bull and Ferrari in pre season testing and it more or less matched the McLaren for pace all weekend, showing what a good result third was for Lewis Hamilton.

If we look at Lewis vs Nico, Lewis out-qualified him and was a second a lap faster on the harder tire - and slightly faster than SV's Red Bull even before his engine problem. When Lewis was stuck behind Nico, he always very close - pretty much 0.7-0.8s behind the whole stint. Lewis said he was being held up "big time" on the radio and after the race. Looking at the data, I can well believe it.

I'm not aware of Nico having any problems, so it looks to me like Lewis was marginally faster in qualifying and a second a lap faster during the race as a whole.


hi James,

these are my 2 cents to spice up the show:

1. drivers may only be allowed to chose 1 tire compound which he will use for the entire race meet. Selection must be made after the first practice on friday but before the second practice on friday.

2. Those who elected to choose the softer tyres must at least stop twice, while those who selected the harder tire need not stop at all, if he chooses to do so.

3. the green band marking the prime and the option tyre should be removed so that rival teams will not know the strategy of the other rival teams.


Correct me if I'm wrong here James, but didn't Schumacher start third that day in Kyalami?

I think Mark Blundell grabbed the final podium slot. Could be mistaken. I remember it quite clearly as it was Hill's F1 debut.


Didn't Hill start a race or two in 1992? I do remmeber him in practice sessions at Silverstone.


Correct if memory serves. Think he replaced F1's last female driver Amati at the time.

To clarify, I had meant full F1 championship debut as distinct to race debut.


Yes, that is correct - a great day for Mark


You are right in what you are saying here James. Your predecessor Murray Walker was concerned about the banning of refueling. 1991 springs to mind and the start of the season when Senna was so dominant. He used to pull out a lead of 30/40 seconds with ease and then towards the end slow down so that the final gap was less than 20 seconds. The races were so boring. And after waiting years for Nigel Mansell to win the championship (1992) there was a feeling of anti-climax because his car was so dominant and the races by and large a bore.

1993 featured some classic races because Senna won in a car that was generally vastly inferior than the Williams. Those drives stand out more than any other to me since 1980 whereby a competitor in an inferior car against quality opposition was able to win.


Don't know about those reasons. Nico seemed to have Schumi's measure for Bahrain.


yes in quali, less so during the race. He is dead meat in a few races.


Hi, i just want to ask everyones opinion especially James.

What does everyone think of mandatory 3 stops and making the tyres so they have a lot more mechanical grip and more fragile.

The race will effectively be 4 sprints, will that not encourage the drivers to try harder as they know they will only have a short number of laps on each set of tyres, and i'm not sure if increasing the grip/fragility will make cars easier to follow but should make the driving more interesting.

Seeing that the cars will have to go in and out of the pits three times will make scope for more "movement"

I know its probably going against the idea of reducing expenses but a balance needs to be struck because you want to attract viewers not scare them away.

Also how much of an impact will drastically reducing the dimensions of the rear wing, or doing away with it altogether do? thats maybe something to think about?

The fact that the drivers are not on the limit on for most of the race is disgraceful in my opinion.



The point that i was trying to make was, if there were 3 mandatory stops, hence 4 sprints, maybe that would encourage drivers to push to the limit on all sets of tyres, that might even be interesting on a high fuel load.


24 cars x 4 tyres x 3 changes = 288 bridgestone tyres per race

Plus the ones used on practices and qualy.

I dont think this makes sense. They are trying to cut costs.


My understanding teams do NOT pay for tires


They could stop taking away tyres from after the practice sessions (i think they take back 3 sets). Plus if they introduce mandatory 2 stops, then its only an extra 24 sets of tyres in comparison.

My point was, it might be worth the extra cost if the races are made more exciting.

You can only reduce costs so much before the term 'pinnacle of motorsport' becomes silly.



Ok i see your point, i'm just saying that for Bridgestone to bring that amount of extra tyres could be a little expensive. The whole sport is moving towards eco-friendly and cost cutting measures.

Anyway, mandatory pit stops seems too artificial for my taste.


Plus wet tyres in case of raining, however in Bahrain they saved it 😉


"'Overtaking was basically impossible unless somebody made a mistake,' Schumacher said."

Bringing back refuelling or introducing mandatory stops would not fix things. The cars themselves need to be fixed, as Schumacher clearly points out.

One thing that could greatly improve the show is limiting the wings to single element, front and rear, and limiting the diffuser greatly. That would reduce the vortices shed from the crazy wings and double diffusers, and would then allow the following car to get much closer.

A study could be done to assess which current design trends create the most vortices and turbulence, and then rewrite the rules to inhibit that.

Also, the most obvious move is to make the tires wider, not narrower! The tires should be the same dimensions as 1992...


Like all F1 fans I felt a little let-down by what I saw (or didn't see) on Sunday. I think before anyone starts panicking that the season is going to be awful, they just need to be a little patient. This was the first race with a slew of new rules, new tires, new strategies and all in not-yet-driven-in hot temperatures. My guess is that the established teams were all fairly conservative in their strategies in order to get to the end of this first race, so have an idea on how to act at the next race. Despite all the predictions, no one really knew how things were going to shake-out (especially tire-wise). I bet as we move forward the racing will get more exciting as teams start to push the limits of their cars, tires, and strategies.


One Race dose not make a Summer.


Thank you James for the excellent read.

I have a few questions:

What specific skill does it take to get the tyres to work at their peak over a single lap?

Does his driving style have anything to do with it?

Is this issue he’s having similar to the one Kimi, Alonso, Kubica had in 2007? I remember that all of them had to tweak their driving style to get the 2007 Bridgestones to work better.

Also, are Nico’s and Michael’s driving styles similar or are they fundamentally different?


"Overtaking was basically impossible unless somebody made a mistake" - what else do you need to know?

The points made about the difference between now and the early 90's were very interesting. Aerodynamics has been affecting overtaking for decades but unreliability and artificial stops have masked this. Now it's been made very clear.

We need rules that allow cars to follow as close as they like without loss of performance, that means it's all about the aero. So:

No wings to get affected by turbulence and no diffusers either.

A maximum width for the bodywork forward of the steering wheel.

No bodywork at all behind the front edge of the rear wheels.

All suspension and steering struts to be of round section.

A flat floor over the whole of the underside of the bodywork area.

No aerodynamic bodywork protrusions.

All you can have a simple wedge.


Unfortunately, while it would yield close racing, the cars would be far slower than almost all forms of motorsport (F2, F3, GP2, GP3, LMP, Indy, etc). That's not what F1 is about, in my opinion.

There needs to be a balance between downforce and aerodynamic wake, and that's what the Technical Working Group needs to focus on (they still exist, right?).


So, what Aerial Atom's all round then? 😉

We all know that the aero and turbulence caused by it are (and have been for ages) the real issue in relation to over-taking (it's why (pre-race) I was hopeful for Macca's f-slot giving them some extra pace on the straights to pull off some moves)... but as I've posted elsewhere the designers in F1 are in their own "race" against other designers, as the pit crews are for pit-stops and the drivers are out on the track. And when we had Michelin involved we had tyre wars too.

You can't take anyway the technological innovations, because it ceases to be F1 then.


People also seem to forget there did not use to be a pit lane speed limit. This meant you could bang on the softs and only loose 10 or so seconds. Now its 20+ as they have to trundle down thus removing possibility of a late Mansell style charge


With the rate he is catching up on rosberg he will be a minute a lap faster than him come Abu Dhabi..:P

John MacMicking

This paints a pretty poor picture and I can't see it getting better unless they dumb down the aero. I got a much better motor racing fix later in the day from the IndyCar event in Brazil. I'm sure that's not going to be a popular comment here and a comparison with Monaco would be more accurate than Shakir. But there was loads of passing, great action, drama and FULL stands.


They have to nurse their tyres, and for too long. Get at least 2 pit stops in there, and see where we're at.


Its true theres allways been boring f1 races! and we are told all sorts about how the cars and tracks effect that. With that in mind thinking back to irl in the days of paul tracy zanardi Gil de Ferran that lot ( about 1997, 8? ) on some of those narrow street circuits how come there was so much overtaking? cars? rules? drivers more willing to take risks? my imagination?

Zami from Melbourne, Australia

Spot on analysis James. Definitely the cars and tyres are extremely reliable in modern era. That’s what makes the rules very significant in terms of competitive race.

In the pre season we heard two words the most, “close” & “exciting”. I read your pre season review in ITV website where you labelled 2010 season as the most exciting season since the age of Senna, Prost, Mansell & Piquet. Well we all learned the hard way that those two most used words went missing completely from Bahrain this year. Managing the tyres under the new rules is the key to this season’s races. Therefore, the drivers who are capable of going much faster weren’t even pushing hard enough. Yes passing has never been easy in F1, but now it is virtually impossible. I couldn’t believe the gap between the top 10 in qualifying. Fernando Alonso’s comments about bringing 7/10ths to the team were a widely discussed issue. The gap between the top teams that we have witnessed so far suggests that bringing 7/10ths to the team is not going be able to show any difference while the drivers have to be extremely cautious about the tyres.

Schumacher is experienced and have enough knowledge to get back to the speed. Returning to the sport after 3 years at the age of 41 is really the toughest challenge for any driver especially in the modern cars with modern tyres and of course ridiculously modern rules. However, he looked in amazing shape. I can mention at least 6-8 drivers from current grid that don’t look as fit as him. He is most likely getting more miles under his belt at this stage than anything else. He is like a new talented driver that doesn’t have enough miles to understand everything just yet. But he is Michael Schumacher; therefore, he will get the hang of it soon for sure. You mentioned in your ITV article James, Rosberg is the only top 8 driver you don’t see as a race winner. Even though he was ahead of Schumacher at all time over the Bahrain weekend I still believe it is just a matter of time that Schumacher not only goes ahead of Rosberg but also once he gets there he will stay ahead at all time. So, I agree with you 100%. If anybody thinks that Schumacher didn’t do a good job in Bahrain, they must do their homework a bit better or just stop expressing one track minded opinions. The race was over after the first lap and that was the result except of course Vettel’s problems.

He was also looking at the McLaren cars very closely after the race. I’m surprised that no journalists bothered to ask him what exactly he was looking at/for and what other cars he kept eyes on so closely. Do you know anything about that James?


On German TV Schumi said he was checking out "the device" that had Bern Talkes about a lot prior to the Race. He reffered to the airflow through the car thing.


"Having overshadowed his new team mate Rosberg in the run up to the event,"

Sorry at what point did Schumacher overshadow Rosberg?? Is overshadow a new word for "trail behind"? Only in the media frenzy was Schumacher out of Rosberg's shadow!

We knew Schumacher was struggling when he started talking about sharing data, something he never does when he is ahead.

Re the difference between the early 90's and now:

Reliability yes, but remember how long the engines and gearboxes have to last now. Back then we had unlimited quali engines and tyres.

No, the biggest change and problem is the aero development, the total allowable wing surface needs to be halved. The tyre/aero grip ratio has to be moved back to 50:50.


"We knew Schumacher was struggling when he started talking about sharing data, something he never does when he is ahead."

Do you know what you are talking about?! go and ask barrichello about sharing data!

check your facts before u speak!


Ok give me Rubens number and I'll ask him.


Tried that, but it diverted to Massa! Then Rob came on the line and asked Michael who? 😉


Not sure what it is this year, but I think his number used to be 2.

Zami from Melbourne, Australia

Oh I forgot to mention & I don’t recall you mentioning this anywhere either James that "Schumacher doesn’t like understeered cars"


H Zami,

With understeering cars it is difficult to brake and turn into a corner. The braking force reduces the tyres ability to turn, and with an understeering car the front end is already grip limited. This reduces driver's ability to improvise. The line becomes one of turn in early and come off the brakes otherwise the apex is missed.


No racers like understeer; it is a lot harder to control. But anyway, with different set-ups; it is possible to dial this out.



I think you are a lot slower if you hit straight into the barrier instead of going round the corner.

Enough Said.


Uh, understeer is far easier to control. Oversteer is far harder, but it's better than understeer because you can correct the slide and post a faster lap time. Hence why all racing cars oversteer to some extent compared to road cars, which are designed to understeer and be as safe as possible.


Ah, the old saying "sideways is slow!" as was drummed into countless racing students.

Consistency is the thing at all speeds, if you know it will understeer, you aim not for the apex but at a line a foot or so inside it, then you will still hit the apex. However this is still much slower than having the car neutral and not sliding. Sliding is the tyre breaking static contact with the track and thus is slower than rolling over it. Having to correct oversteer is slow as well.


David, are you serious...... "it’s better than understeer because you can correct the slide and post a faster lap time.", you must be joking.

You can't post a faster time if your car understeer, trust me. I am not saying a oversteering car is better. A car tends to oversteer is nearly always better than having a car tends to understeer. But this is personal preference.

A road car tends to understeer is due to the fact that most road car are FWD. And FWD car has a tendency to understeer when driven on or near their limit.

It is safer, as you said, is because is it simpler to correct. (i.e. lift off the accelerator). This reduces the speed your are travelling. But, (this is a big BUT) you are carrying less speed through the corner, you come off the racing line and more often than not, you miss the apex.

Also, if you are on or near the limit; this will have the tendency to oversteer the car (lift-off oversteer). Depending on the set up.

Lift-off oversteer is actually harder to correct in a FWD car. This is, by design, the driving wheels are in the front; but when you are oversteering the car you need to be on the power to carry the momentum through. However, you are at that point in time, you are actually off power.

An example of understeer is LH overcooked (I can't remember, turn 3 or 4 in the first lap; Bahrain Grand Prix 2010); his car actually was understeering and miss the apex allowing NR to nip pass.


"At least we had a significant pass for position between Alonso and Massa on Sunday."

Has it come to this? Please, no!


JA, I think your lobby for the comeback of refuelling is wrong, we dont want to see people overtaking on the pits. The problem is that people are not passing on track.

Tyres should not last 2/3 of the race, because if they do, drivers will just nurse their cars around.

Or maybe we should get rid of the rule that requires to use both compounds. That would create tyre strategy differences and overtaking on track.


If they bring back re-fuelling this year it would be different (and better) than before - because the cars already have tanks big enough to last the whole race.

If you keep qualifying on fumes and add the race fuel in parc ferme AND don't release what the fuel loads are, we could get cars on vastly different strategies - with some on full tanks and others on fumes. That would potentially give overtaking on track.

Of course, nothing will really change until someone tackles the two areas of aero and track, but at least re-fuelling would spice up this year.


I think if you really want to shake the grid up, this is prolly the best interim solution to save this years championship from descending further into the drab affair we witnessed in Barhain


i really like your quali/race fuel idea! excellent. thats the best suggestion ive read so far, it really would create overtaking.


I agree, who wants to see the only overtaking in the pits? Not me for 1.


I watched the F1 Forum on the red button of BBC - and they showed some very good incar footage of Hamiltons first few corners of the race. He had an exciting dice with Massa - with Massa pushing Hamiltons Maclaren wide - arguably slightly OTT. BUT it made good racing, and Hamilton was very 'ok' with it.

Maybe more needs to be made of little incidents like this. I dont remember this particular sequence being shown during the race footage.

Incidentally, there was mention of Webber starting aprox 1 meter over his starting box. Did this in fact happen? As much as I like and respect Webber, if it did - how come it was not investigated / punished? If this had been a later race in the season, and.or between championship competitors, then surly a stewards investigation would have followed.

I appreciate its early in the season, and we dont really want punishments interfering just yet, preferring the pure racing, but what kind of precedent does this set? What if all drivers at the next race deliberately started 1m over their starting box?

Especially in view of the new FIA regime of fairer stewards decisions and involving more common sense with ex drivers inputs....


By the way, making 2 pit stops complusory would do no better, because everyone would go for the same tyres / strategies and therefore race at the same pace anyway.


They should just do it like wacky races - The only rules being the car has to be wheel driven, and at least 4 wheels must remain on the ground for 99% of the lap. Apart from that, turn up in what you want, powered by what you want, looking like what you want and let's see who's fastest over 200 miles.

Now that would be racing. No more or less stupid than all the other rule changes they keep doing.


So much for the Overtaking Working Group...


Anything except the return of KERS.

KERS : Krazy Economy Ruining System

Remeber what a nightmare it was for everyone concerned.

Remove snowploughs, smaller steel brakes, no aero, cars 1,5 meters shorter and narrower and enjoy !


Give Shumi a chance, 1st race back and he still beat the current world champ in a similar paced car. Red Bull and Ferraris were to fast so 6th is not bad on his 1st race back. He will no doubt find the sweet spot of the car and help improve its pace. Race was so boring, overtaking, yeah right. Im sure different tracks will help and it needs to.


I am sorry Mr Allen but I have to take issue on something you have written here which is clearly wrong!

You state 'Nico managed to squeeze past Hamilton who made a mistake in Turn Four and got himself on a bad line'

It was clear to everyone who saw the onboard footage after the race whilst Hamilton was being interviewed by the BBC that Hamilton had managed to get ahead of Massa's Ferrari by some margin going around him on the outside where, once Massa had seen what Hamilton was doing he eased him off the track onto the dirty stuff causing a slight loss on momentum in his car and thus allowing Rosberg through.

How you can make the statement that Hamilton made a mistake when the above is what happened and is backed up by the onboard and overhead TV cameras I don't know? I believe your mate Martin Brundle commented on how aggressive Massa was and how surprised he was the Lewis took it (doesn't this show how mature Lewis is becoming or was it a case of it being Massa's first race back which made Hamilton yield)?

Please, have a look at the footage where I am sure you will have a change of opinion. Lewis Hamilton drive an impeccable race and had he not have been pushed out as he was would have finished 2nd.


@Free Speech, I couldn't agree with you more. By and large James is a fair commentator on what happened on the grid on any given F1 Sunday but such comments like Lewis made a mistake and the only overtaking of significance that took place was Alonso jumping Massa at the start dont sit too well with me especially when Lewis clearly overtook Rubens for position after his stop. I might be wrong but I never saw no other driver did that and I think they were following closely behind. looks like the objective commentators are now scared to even praise Lewis even when he's clearly drove a fantastic race, I just dont know.


It's easy:

- ban double diffusers

- freedom in election of tyres so they can push hard


Yeah, that's why you run a very successful motor racing series with tonnes of overtaking.


“Overtaking was basically impossible unless somebody made a mistake,” Schumacher said ....

Nothing new. After last years inability to pass u would think they could have fixed it. MotoGP is a lot more exciting and i've read that a couple F1 drivers mention that a couple years ago. FIA needs to fix their mess.



Why don't the F1 engineers design their cars be more like the GP2 cars in terms of aerodynamics (the bottom & rear in particular)? This would allow cars to run nose-to-tail which would induce more on track passing attempts, the biggest problem in my mind for the last 7+ years.


I am against rule changes so early in the season, let a few races complete and see how things settle down and the teams/drivers handle the current rules.

But, a simple solution to the procession of cars driving slowly to conserve fuel is to force them to use more fuel by driving quicker.

For each race all cars must be filled with a minimum fuel level – calculated to ensure that there will still be plenty of fuel left at the end of the race even after the driver has driven flat out every lap.

Who gains – those who drive quicker and burn more fuel, as they do this their car will become lighter.

I know this goes against the grain of making cars more fuel efficient and green – but it may make the races more interesting.


James, disagree with you regarding the Mercedes pace being similar to McLaren's. Lewis Hamilton out qualified both Mercs and his fastest race lap was 1.59.560 (4th fastest) whereas Michael Schumacher 2:00.204 (11th fastest) and Nico Rosberg 2:00.236 (13th fastest). Additionally, Rosberg couldn't even catch and pass Vettel (being 2 secs behind at the end of the race). Nico also had the opportunity to run in clear air while catching Vettel with lighter fuel and still didn't beat Lewis' fastest lap. Therefore McLaren is quite significantly faster than Mercedes in Quali and the race.


Yes, I also think MCLaren are clearly faster than Merc. Particularly on the straights.


Agreed, they may not be faster than Merc if they didn't have their f-vent setup but hopefully by the time everyone else has their own version, McLaren will have improved their downforce for low speed tracks/track sections.


What about Merc outpacing Mclaren during practice. Lewis was faster than Nice by less than a tenth of a second. As James said Merc had some tyre overheating issues during the race.


Free practice is not a reflection of true pace. Who knows what fuel loads and tyres Merc and McLaren were running in practice. The only true barometer is during the race when Merc and McLaren were on the same tyres and fuel load and in Quali when they were on the same fuel and tyres. Hence McLaren comprehensively out-paced Merc, no question about it.


Been a while since I commented, as I got a bit fed up of posts never appearing and the various other site problems I've seen reported by others too. I'm still here and reading though.

I'd disagree that the tires are "too good", James. Rather, they're too conservative - and that's symptomatic of having a single tire manufacturer. Bridgestone has no opportunity for a PR win from the race leader using their tires, because so is every other car on the grid. They can still experience a PR loss if their tires are associated with failure though, and so it's in Bridgestone's self interest to offer only conservative choices that will last the distance. It's not Bridgestone's fault - that was always going to be the case with a single supplier that was able to make the final decision on the products it supplied.

What we should have had in a single supplier situation is not the tire supplier or its customer teams making the decision, but rather the FIA deciding which tire specifications would be brought to each event. Of course, the FIA can pretty much always be relied on to make the worst possible decisions, and it did so once again.

The best possible outcome for the future would be a return to the tire war, which would mean more aggressive tires. That would bring both an increase in the ratio of mechanical to aerodynamic grip (increasing the chance of overtaking), and a simultaneous increase in tire changes needed (because aggressive tires are going to yield better lap times at the expense of the tire's usable life).

Failing that though, we at least need to take the decision making on tires away from the supplier and its customer teams, and place it in the hands of the FIA. Take Bridgestone and the teams' input on what's safe, but make the final decision on which tires to bring based on the widest possible spread between options within that safe envelope.


I cannot believe people are looking at more pit-stops as a solution. it makes me so sad. If the way to get more excitement is to return to pit stop overtaking, well than it means tha F1really is dead, finished, buried.

There is a way out, and its not so complex.

1. Freedom to use just one tyre and make no stops. Some ill go for that, others will choose softies and more stops. result: out of sync racing.

2. Even better, wings made of one plane and one plane only. No winglets and NO SLITS. Reduce wing areas. Mandatory thickness to the wings, make them thick, they will work less well.

3. Incapacitate in some way Mr Tilke. That man must be stopped, at all costs. Seriously, no more Tilke circuits, and change existing ones copying bits from Spa, Monza, Montreal, Silverstone. Put a 2km straight, a 90deg turn at the end of it and lots of run off area. Something will happen. Too dangerous? Well if these guys wanna be accountants let them. I think people like Alonso and Lewis would cherish such a set up.

4. free up engines, let engineers back into car racing and push the airplane designers out. let them design jets, leave our cars alone! we want to see cars roaring past, not slither away from the opposition.

lots of people have said this before. How can it be so difficult to implement?

Must say after 40yrs of F1 support, I am close to the end. Will I see mansell closing his eyes at the end of a straight and taking Senna again? Is it so much to ask, to see actual on track racing, at a car racing event????

End of rant.


Gotta agree with you Alex. I've been following F1 since about 1983 but my interest in it is coming to an end. I've no interest in watching a pitstop competition, there are far better things to do on a Sunday afternoon. Motogp is far better than what F1 has become, proper motor racing on proper motor racing circuits. I don't need F1 anymore. I think one of the main differences between F1 and MotoGp is that Bernie and Max haven't been involved in MotoGp!


I agree with the point that making the front tyres narrower was a stupid thing to do. Right up there with the stupidity of putting grooves in them - if something really needed to be done to balance the handling of the heavy cars they should have just widened the rears!


In truth passing is hard and the only way it is going to be made better than is under no refuelling is to bring back refuelling.

Let us consider what a driver has to consider in each race.

1. Engine should last 3 GP's (this prevents pushing but rather a conservative drive as what you do to your engine in this race may affect you 2 races later)

2. Fuel(With no refuelling cars will have to go into a conservative drive simply to make it to the end as Massa did, he could not challenge Alonso because he did not have the Fuel to do so) this prevents Drivers from attacking the track as we would all like to see.

3 Tyres(With everyone stopping once tyres must last because of you finish the ones you have off strategy then you are in big trouble) Jenson admitted to being too conservative as to the reason for not attacking Michael Schumacher.

4. Points (get as many points as you can get the only thing in this list of factors that encourages pushing/overtaking simultaneously discouraging it as you need to finish to score the points).

Also, refuelling ban exacerbates the overtaking problem because with all cars on the same tyre, stage of tyre degradation and fuel loads the main speed advantage you have is simply down to car superiority. We need cars on different tyres, stages of tyre degradation and fuel loads to have any sort of speed advantage usable to make passing realistic.

That is the first step. Another drastic step; listening to the drivers who all seem to argue that an opponent has to make a mistake to create a passing opportunity suggests the cars have become too easy to drive. We could ban double diffusers or any form of them and other significant down force tricks they use, return to grooved tyres further reducing grip and make tyres less durable and make breaking distance longer by reducing the breaking power of cars breaks. This improves the prospects of more mistakes / over breaking and better racing.

Also reintroduce refuelling so that cars are on different fuel loads during races and also takes out the need to drive conservatively to save fuel.

The qualifying format used last season should also be returned allowing for aggressive strategies that way, not always the fastest car starts on pole.

These are my proposals. You should take them to the FIA.


What do you know...Schumi gets a taste of his own medicine.


I've been giving things a lot of thought and I've come up with something I think is worth considering.

I remember some of my favourite moments from F1 history involving 1 car with a sizable lead forced to limp around the track carefully whilst another, in much better shape, attempts to haul that lead back in and overtake. I can't really remember any specific examples to cite but I do recall there being a major one involving Mansell choosing not to stop for fresh rubber.

So to this end; keep 2 type compounds and make sure that the softer is ALWAYS quicker but remove any requirements to use both or to even stop at all. Second, force teams to reduce the size of their pit crew. This will reduce the operating costs (fewer chaps to pay wages to) and increase the duration of stopping for rubber, hopefully back up to the sort of time taken for a 2009 refuel or more. (Sorry to anyone who'd lose their job from this).

Hopefully this should make the decision of if/when to stop for rubber more fascinating. Perhaps a car which is very friendly to its tyres could go a full race distance without stopping whilst a rival does a quick burst on softs to get ahead, loses a lot of time (depends on length of pitlane really) switching to fresh rubber and then attempts to close in in the defecit (or some variation of that).

I think it's a more organic way to do what the two-tyre-compound-mandatory-pit-stop rule is trying to acheive and failing.


They need to get rid of double diffusers and some of the aero elements. They destroy slipstreams and make overtaking even more difficult...


Hi James, A few suggestions are going round to dramatically reduce tyre performance (not going to happen with bridgestone leaving) ,make them bring the softest tyres or have mandatory pitstops.

Are any of these likely to happen or have we got to wait a few races to let the team and drivers understand how to get the best out of these regs?


Great analysis James... you're so much more knowledgeable than anyone in the BBC TV team, it's actually embarrassing.


By the way, I noticed that Rosberg has always had a relatively good start of each new season in his career:

2006 - 7th and fastest lap

2007 - 7th

2008 - 3rd

2009 - 6th and fastest lap

2010 - 5th

These are also the only two fastest laps on his CV.

But in the final drivers standings...

2006 - 17th

2007 - 9th

2008 - 13th

2009 - 7th

But maybe it is just a coincidence and one should not draw any conclusions from these statistics...


its because williams doesnt develop the car that much in the middle of the season as they dont have the resources as the other teams.


They did a pretty good job last year


James,please,the Senna-Prost fight for the first place that we saw in the first half of the Soth African gp that year won't be see it this year due to the new rules.

I agree with you that the cars are more reliable now,and cars don't drop from 1st row to 5th one GP to the other anymore,but the show was better back in the days.


Hi James

Like most guys on the blog I've been reading quite a few different blogs (like Martin Brundles and PF1) and listened to Christian Horners and Martin Whitmarsh's comments about what can be done to fix this. mandatory two stops wouldn't; be passed anyway and Martin Brundle was spot on when he said there is no way Bridgestone is going to make their rubber "worse" to improve the show.

Other idea's like redesigning the cars or just waiting till next year re: double diffuser ban (planet F1) aren't viable.

We need a change and if Melbourne and Malaysia are like Bahrain then we need it very soon.

It occured to me today (and no doubt has occurred to many others) that there is a fantastic opportunity to give teams (for the first time I can remember a genuine choice re: strategy). The cars are all capable of going full race distance on one tank of fuel- great, if they want to let em. But why not simply re-introduce re-fuelling and ban the need to change tyres- i.e if someone thinks they can manage one set of prime tyres over a race then go for it.

I know the cars are longer and heavier but theirs still bound to be a massive lap time advantage on a car with 40-50 kilos of fuel running a 2/3 stop strategy over one tanked with 150 Kilo's.

Think about it- we'd have cars running a marathon coupled with cars running 3/4 sprints in the same race. SPECTACULAR results. Many Drivers would want to kill each other post race (let em- as long its televised and helmets are off).

The counter arguments here I think are 1. It was banned for a reason- i.e. safety, and 2. There have been too many changes already.

Fair enough there have been too many changes but we need to make one or two more to try and fix the "too many" that have been made. As for safety issues- I gotta be honest I just done;t buy it. I know many mechanics were hurt badly at Benetton when Jos' car became a fireball- that was horrendous- but, at the same time safety measure's have come one leaps and bounds since then and the crew may have been rusty as I think it was the first year refuelling was back. Sure there have been the odd incident (oddly, mainly with Ferrari now I think of it) but on the whole no one has actually been really hurt since the Benetton incident- in fact there have been more incidents by way of drivers running over mechanic's feet, and the only way to stop that to ban all pit stops!

No new equipment would be need as they have the refuelling apparatus anyway for qualifying and practice etc.

To further spice it up the top ten would have to do Q3 on race fuel and the last 14 would get to put whatever they want in after Q2.

It would be great trying to work out how all the different strategies were going to pan out.

Now I know there will be plenty of people saying "we shouldn't get excited over strategy, we should be watching them race wheel to wheel instead of worrying about air flow etc". And you are right. But in modern F1 has evolved into a heavily weighed towards a strategic sport rather than pure out and out speed- and we have to accept that. In fact I think we are missing the cerebral/strategic part of the show, and that's a huge part of the current problem. Well, that and all the bloody wings and diffusers!

Imagine- complete freedom re: strategy- potentially 24 different strategies going into a GP!!! After Bahrain I'd settle for that

Just a thought- opinions welcome, even critical ones!!


If refuelling was allowed you wouldn't get a single team triyng to do the whole race on a full tank, it would just be too slow. If fulls tanks compared to say three stints on 1/3 tanks was quicker, the engineers would have designed the fuel tank in previous years' cars to cater for it.

But you are right in suggesting creating greater freedom in the rules. And letting the teams use any tyres and no forced stops would help to achieve this. Then you would get a driver going the distance on a set of hards and another doing two or three stints on softs. Mixed strategy is important to F1 as it in turn sets up circumstances conducive to overtaking, and it need not be artificial.


I've been touting this same idea on the blog too. The zero stop vs three stop strategy would give us on-track overtaking that the previous re-fuelling era never did.

I know I'm like a stuck record, but until I read someone's explanation why they can't reintroduce re-fuelling this year I'll keep asking. I don't buy the "too expensive/too difficult" argument - if they could add double diffusers last year they can add a fuel slot this year.


'Imagine- complete freedom re: strategy- potentially 24 different strategies going into a GP!!! After Bahrain I’d settle for that'

How about we let the teams, engineers & designers do as they want by removing their FIA shackles.

There isn't a designer in F1 who doesn't know how they could make their car 1 second or more faster if thy were given a free hand.

The solution to F1's woes is not messing with the rules, it's the bloody rules that are destroying F1, what's needed are less rules!

If somebody would only listen to what I a advocating, if the designers and engineers had a free hand I'd suggest they would probably spend less and gain more instead of spending huge sums chasing tiny improvements with the FIA rule book.


Martin isn't the only one saying that Bridgestone won't make the tyres more marginal. I've been saying it since Sunday


Current F1 has to be the most boring sporting TV event of all time, almost to the point of sonamulent paralysis. It is more excitng watching cars go down the high street especially if there are traffic lights. All the clever technology and undoubted driver skills are just not coming through. There needs to be a wholesale scrapping of aero almost back to wheeled boxes to get the cars back to being driven rather than piloted.


Agreed but what is even more exciting than watching cars go down the street is when they stop at the petrol station and fill up!


The near impossibility of passing - and therefore racing - in F1 goes a long way to explaining why Schumacher quit F1 and immediately took up motorcycle racing as a passtime. Simply put, bikes can race and pass each other and F1 cars can't and Schumacher has always lived for the competition.

Regrettably we are seeing MotoGP technology to an increasing degree emulating F1 technology with all its hitech electronics - and there has recently been a decrease in dicing in MotoGP with more processional races. Fortunately bikes are saved by the fact that they have a small footprint on the track and aerodynamically any advances that give a bike more speed are small and do not detract from it's ability to produce low pressure ie. "draft" behind it, which another rider can capitalize on.

In F1 the new no-refuelling formula has resulted in even bigger cars to hold all the fuel. And the aero enhancements each utilizes result in a blast of high temperature violently turbulent air immediately following the car - a no entry zone for a following vehicle (which from a designer perspective is exactly what you want to create to safeguard your car from attack). This phenomenum effectively further increases the size of the car. With their incredibly powerful brakes and high cornering speeds, the result is that the actual window of time necessary to identify and execute a pass has become so tiny as to make passing an actual physical impossiblity. Sadly, passing has literally become - by the laws of physics - all but an impossibility in Formula 1 between on the limit driven cars.

Every enhancement along the path to the ever faster more aerodynamically perfect car only exacerbates the problem. As the speed and efficiency of cars increase, the quality of the actual racing will further decline in inverse proportion.

The solution? How about halving the width of the tires front and back? Turn the cars into modern prewar Mercedes and Auto Unions with massive power and a micro contact patch. Bring back that glory of driving skill the power slide! And as another contributor suggested, maybe have the FIA issue a standard front/rear wing aero package - or employ any other combination of methods that expand the size of the passing window and helps control the effective physical size of the car. Will all the teams agree to such ideas? Absolutely not!

Schumacher is back in F1 because he realized he is too old and lacks the skill to survive and succeed racing on 2 wheels, and he wants more car under him than a Kart provides.

But for actual international "racing" fans thank heavens for Superbikes! Roll on the MotoGp season!


As usual, the F1 bosses have backed themselves into a corner and stabbed themselves with the very sword ie cost cutting that was meant to save them. NONE of the proposed changes will make one bit of difference because the changes available are NOT the root cause of the problem.

1. Tires - Bridgestone is exiting the series and has NO motivation to drive their costs up. Also, their tires were designed for the current cars and circuits. To design and deliver very different spec tires would require testing. When exactly was the FIA going to allow that to happen AND are they planning on paying the large additional costs that teams had not budgeted to make that happen? In a word, NO!

2. Additional pit stops - We get to see 2 2 second pit stops instead of 1. That will really spice up the show. The only reasons team stop at all is because of the switch in compound mandate. Given the very close nature of tire spec performance, teams could easily go race distances with no tire stops and negligible tire degrade in performance.

3. Invert the field - This is NOT BTCC. Such mickey mouse garbage needs to be kept away from the sport

Sadly... you want to fix the sport you need to do 2 very radical things...

1. Drastically eliminate the dependence on aerodynamics.

2. With the exception of about 4 circuits, a major redesign, along the the firing of Herman Tilke, of the race tracks.


F1 is a business and it is a very tough one. It has competitors, customers, etc. Competition is very tense and when CVC is going to see that their income and prospects are dropping rapidly, heads will roll and Bernie might be the one to lose his position.

It is so clear that business is almost out of control and if the next 2-3 races are going to be the same of even worse, some serious discussions are going to start and some critical interventions will take place.

I will not go to the Belgian GP as I planned this year and I will not watch anymore races until I hear that there is a sport where I can see a battle between best cars and drivers and rules are letting them fight every centimeter of the race track. I am not going to hope anymore - it was this year or never and I will need to be consistent with what I have said to myself.

F1 will lose my money this year and if other people will let Bernie know the same thing...and he will see that he is losing 50% of the planned income, he will be extremely motivated to bring back real F1 back.

Will not be fooled anymore....F1 needs to win my heart....again.


Nice piece Ben

Mildly related: But as long as Jenson is Lewis' team mate he won't beat Lewis, the very odd result excepting.

"Something broke on the car, it didn't feel right" - Jenson Button reasons why he was out qualified by his team mate in Bahrain 2010.

Can't wait for the next 18

Can't wait


Hello James,

It's a bit off, but despite the first race, do you see any chance that Nico can beat Michael throughout the season?


Hard to say at the moment. He drove well at the weekend. But Schumacher is Schumacher


I tried to do some technical research the last two days, and here's my hypothesis...

Everything problematic in F1 today boils down into two major issues.

1) Lack of front-end aerodynamic grip when following a lead car.

2) Issue of hot turbulent air directly behind lead car affecting engine cooling performance.

Now with an eye to the future, here's my two cents worth of science-fiction imagination, what a futuristic F1 might be, based on present scientific possibilities.

'Electric engines'

Now i know, electric engines are being designed right now, for use in F1 for 2013? The heat production from the engines are huge, but not as much as the current internal combustion engines. (..hold thought..)

'Jet Systems'

Jet engines, or jet exhausts, or jet intakes. F1 is largely designed based on aeronautical engineering. so its not something alien. the problem turbulent (and heated) airflow behind the lead car, and it isn't possible to passively channel enough of this air-stream in order to create effective downforce. so the logical solution..

'Active Thrust'

Based somewhat on the air-nozzles of the British Harrier jump-jet, if a technology was implemented whereby either a directed jet-flow was channeled through the front wings upwards (to create downward thrust), or else ..

'Exhaust Vectoring'

Where the release air from the engine, or the electric motor was driven through a relayed turbine and blown directly upwards // or sideways at an angle instead of directly behind at the following car.

'Plate Radiators'

This with reference to the coolant systems used by the Gemini spacecraft by NASA, whereby the entire surface of the spacecraft is made of heat radiating material, ideal for dissipating large amounts of heats. In F1, this will be something for the material engineers to come up with some new kind of carbon-fibre components that apart from its other characteristics, are also able to dissipate enough heat to cool the engines and gearbox, perhaps through the underside of the car to prevent super hot surfaces hampering track marshaling.

'Vacumm Technologies'

To research within electric engines, if it allows for all the components of the engine to function in a vacumm-state thus eliminating friction, and heat.

I had many more ideas, but i know you're so busy and it takes up a lot of space, sorry!! 😉 Although I know, everything radical always eventually ends up becoming F1 technology, and in a coffee shop somewhere some young engineer is busy drawing up all these ideas on this coffee napkin!



Who knows? I mean, half of them currently sound like someone's spiked your drink, but ikf you imagine how a 2010 Red Bull would have seemed to the guys who raced Bugatti Type 35s in the 1920s, you can see how in 80 years time most of them could be common in family hatchbacks, never mind racing cars...


But Michael only was beaten by five drivers. He supear others 17 drivers!!!


The biggest down side of watching Schumacher go round in the middle of the pack was total deflation. If Schumacher, Hamilton, Webber, Button etc etc could not inject any excitement, what chance is there? The only real plaudits go to Alonso for the one real move at the start, but if he thinks he could have got pass Vettel without the failure, he's in dreamland.


Hamilton passed Rubens for position! Thats the only real move i saw, not one at the start of the race. Hows that a move?


I know the FIA is on a cost cutting mission but for the sake of the show let teams have a choice of tyres as they did in the eighties. Let them have two 'super-softs' for qualifying. This would make an interesting dilemma for the teams. Do they hold a set back for Q3 and risk a lower team keeping them out of Q3 or use both sets in Q1 and Q2 and hope for the best in Q3? Interesting, don't you think? As for the race: Let them choose between a Soft, Medium and Hard compound tyre. They can use all three if they like (two stops) or try running the whole race on the Hard compound without stopping. It's up to the tyre manufacturer to get the right balance between the compounds to make the different strategies feasible - depending on each teams car characteristics. I believe this variety of tyre choice and tactics would give us the 'show' we all crave.

Pier Adolfo Rodelon

The race was an embarrassment. The suggestion that this is the pinnacle of motor racing is just silliness. There was no racing yesterday. All the suggestions for bringing back the racing seem to be resisted by the powers that be. Which must mean they are getting what they want out of this pathetic sham. I happened to watch an Indy Car race, and it was much more interesting and complicated that this F1 joke. I don't like Indy Cars, but there was no doubt the race was a real "race."

Please urge IMMEDIATE changes in the F1 program so that we don't have to watch another of these drab performances.


Another great article, thanks James.

With the improvements in aero, mechanics, tyres and reliability thus making passing so very difficult. Maybe Bernie's 'passing places' perhaps have some merit?

They could really spice up the show. Imagine Monaco with maybe three chances to pass on the run down after the tunnel? Could be neat.

... then we could pander to the playstation generation and have all kinds of devices to either slow the field or give a boost.


First I think everybody is over reacting because expectations were too high. Lot´s of champions on the grid are good for F1 revenues but they don’t make races more exciting. More often than not the best racing moments occur in the middle field and not in the front.

Anyhow I think it’s good that the best drivers are spread among the best teams and not in just one or two teams.

Basically there is always a big problem in F1, and I mean the grey areas of the rules.

Last year there was a big change in order to promote overtaking. Unfortunately some “average” teams bent the rules and came with the double diffusers. This was not serious at all. FIA, again, reacted in the wrong way, and came to rescue Brawn, and approved de DD.

Without double diffuser Brawn would have done nothing, Jenson and Rubens would have been in there regular places (middle field), and we could have a lot more overtaking. If they were approved for last year, they had to keep it for 2010 because they didn´t want to show that 2009 interpretation about that matter was a political one, just to rescue Brawn in 2009.

Now we have super double diffusers that are a terrible device and doesn´t help overtaking at all. It makes it impossible and causes a lot of problems.

Didn’t Mr Brawn thought about the consequences of having that silly DD approved? Is he interested in the overtaking matter ?

Of course not. And he is a member of the overtaking work group. Shame on you Mr Brawn.


I think things could be a lot simpler. Racing and qualifying was a LOT better until the late 90s, when 3 things happened.

1) The tyres were changed from slicks to grooves. Big mistake.

2) The qualifying sessions were inexplicably changed from a relative one hour free-for-all that almost always guaranteed last minute shootouts, as well as the true fans' spectacle of seeing the great drivers wind themselves up lap after lap til they delivered a banzai final one. Bigger mistake.

3) Aerodynamics became so complex and so overly 'perfect' that each individual car became its own unique weather system, operating perfectly efficiently independently, but throwing off such complicated vortices if churned air that they became literally repellent to approaching cars. In short, overtaking becomes impossible without a major performance differential. Biggest mistake.

F1 should be all about progress and technological genius, but people should accept that there is a finite level of aerodynamic efficiency - we cannot make cars like arrows - and that once attained, as I believe it has been, a technological plateau is reached in which miniscule developments are achieved but the racing still sucks.

And the fans, passionate and casual, don't really care how hyper-efficient a particular car might be in the wind tunnel.

So we need to revert to the 'classic' style of qualifying, go back to slicks, ie mechanical grip, even if it means curtailing horsepower now and again should speeds become too dangerous, and we absolutely need to reduce aerodynamic efficiency, or else mandate some style regs that take us back to an earlier level of progress and set everyone off in a slightly different direction.

In short, let's wind the clock back to a time when endless meddling with the rules wasn't needed, when the cars were wilder and less like jet fighters, and when the public and drivers alike could thrill to the prospect of cars sliding about and outfoxing each other on track.


If we are forced to have pit-stops let the drivers do it themselves....

Halfords can supply/sponsor the trolley jacks.....

The fittest fastest drivers will have the shortest stoppage times and if they lose a wheel they can only blame themselves....

Would make pit-stops exciting and definitely stir up the pack..

Then again perhaps a not so well thought out idea......., so the FIA are bound to run with it!!! Haha


Just in case anyone was confused by this my tongue was firmly welded to my cheek...


Yes you have- you're both right! Apologies


I have a feeling the new regulations saved Schumacher's blushes. As qualifying and practive showed he isn't up to his old level (yet) however during the race they weren't driving to the limit of the car but to conserve the tyres which enabled him finish closer to Rosberg than would've been the case with a full-chat sprint refueling race.

I hope Schumacher can improve, I wasn't a fan first time round (i'm now though), it's sad to see the great champion to finish an anonymous sixth.


Hi James,

Great analysis as usual.

Your mention of Schumcher's accident with Senna in Sth Africa back in '93 made me wonder whether the processional nature of th last race will force drivers to rethink their allowable levels of risk and be more willing to force a move on another driver even at the risk of potentially hurting their tyres?

In other words, if someone is in 4th on the grid and is likely to stay there the whole race, do you think that the driver will be more likely to make aggressive moves early in the race, even if it means potentially doing a little damage to their tyres in order to make up a couple of places?

It seems so hard to overtake at the moment that, with a little bit of defensive driving, perhaps a driver could nurse a slightly flatspotted set of tyres to the next stop and still get away with it because it is so hard to overtake (as Mark Webber would attest to having had potentially the fastest car on the day but couldn't do anything with it).

What are your thoughts on the likelihood of seeing more banzai attempts to get past other drivers?


I wonder if losing spectators and therefore money is worth the "cost savings" rules (i.e., no refueling, less tires per weekend, etc) they have this yr?


James, I believe your friend, Martin Brundle said something like 'Oh look, Schumacher isn't performing well' which I find it extremely biased.

I mean he came back from 3 years break and was beating the so called 'deserving' world champion and Mark Weber in a slower car.

I think it's insanely unprofessional and really bad for the sport.

Even my English friends were not impressed by that.


Can somebody explain the reasoning behind using a narrower front tyre this year?


Better natural car balance. Look it up on the official f1 site.


Hi all

Great site James.

The thing that has made me wince for the last 10 years in F1 is the constant manipulation of techical/sporting regulations to manufacture action in the sport.

Being a motorsport purist, hollywood type action (created by things like qualifying with race fuel, mandatory pit stops, reverse grids etc.) is all nonsense and any excitement caused by them is illegitimate.

Make F1 pure again (just leave the rules alone, as they are) and allow teams to build competitiveness and real overtaking/racing, not this 'what rule can we create to spice things up'.

If Fernando Alonso has the car to win every race this year, then he should win every race this year, end of story. He, and no other car, should be thrown bullshit curve balls and hoops to jump through all in the name of 'excitement.

My case in point, the WRC. Seen any overtaking in that sport'of late?


thanks for the theory on the spread of the qualifying times James. I was wondering that myself as there was 1 second between pole and 4th.

I asked the BBC F1 Forum but they seemed to want to concentrate on the driver stories.


I don't understand how Lewis cained his "hard" tyres in practice after four laps, yet made one stop in the race???


"The car has mechanical issues with the suspension that are hurting tyre management and losing the drivers lap time.

Rosberg can handle the resulting understeer, but Schumacher is further compromising the car's set-up as he tries to tailor the car to the way he likes it, with immense front-end grip.

This team is going to take a bit of time to settle in. Trouble is, the championship might have a couple of runaway leaders by then."

- Ted Kravitz


Yes it's basically a weight distribution thing


When the whole world has been asking for more mechanical and less aero... what do the FIA do?

They enforce NARROW front tires, and give the green light to double diffusers...

This is why F1 no longer has any racing elements left - the drivers are irrelevant to the event...

MotoGP is a fine demonstration of why mechanical grip is king of racing, and aero should be kept to a minimum...

When was the last time, we saw one driver tuck in tight behind another, follow for a couple of corners, and then take the draft speed advantage to overtake the guy infront?


I haven't seen the timing so I don't know how fast Hami's out-lap was, but I did notice that when Nico was ready to leave from his pitstop, he was held up due to incoming pitlane traffic, and that's the reason why (in my humble opinion [yes, I typed it out]) Hamilton got past Nico in the pits.

Again, Hamilton did seem to get around nicely on his out-lap, but I'm positive if Nico hadn't been help up those 2-3 seconds, he would have gotten out ahead of Hamilton.


...hadn't been held* up...


I've just read James Allen's article on itv-f1.com about passing problems, hoping to see someone say that it was probably just the track! Bahrain has never been an exciting track anyway so no wonder that the first race was a bore! I don't think that it is possible to judge this new season on one race. Let's wait for Melbourne- that should be much more eventful.

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