F1 racing 2011 style: Can you have too much of a good thing?
F1 racing 2011 style: Can you have too much of a good thing?
Posted By: James Allen  |  11 Apr 2011   |  1:17 pm GMT  |  381 comments

There has been an interesting response from fans to the racing we saw yesterday in the Malaysian Grand Prix.

Jenson Button, who finished second having started fourth, described the race as “confusing” with 55 pit stops to take in plus countless overtakes to try to evaluate.

All action in Sepang (McLaren)

I said yesterday that it’s a bit like going into a sweet shop and eating half the stock, when you’ve only been used to getting a packet of Polos at best. Many fans consider this to be artificial racing, F1 on steroids in other words and didn’t find it entertaining.

Sometimes you can have too much of a good thing, their thinking goes, but on balance I think that the new style of racing worked quite well and was genuinely entertaining.

First we need to accept that F1 has gone through many changes over the years; we had tyres that had to last throughout qualifying and the whole race in 2005, for example. It made for some fun races, but seemed unnatural.

There has been too much tinkering with the rules over the years, ostensibly with the goal of more overtaking, that much is clear. But taking an overview, you would have to say that the outcomes of the championships since 2004 have largely been unpredictable (except 2009) and that many fans would accept that there were some really good seasons, like 2007, 2008 and 2010. In detail however, many would argue that the actual racing during those years was lacking.

That part of the equation has been addressed by what we have now. The races are eventful and the action will appeal to new viewers and casual fans, even if the talk of DRS/KERS/degradation seems like goobledygook.

The tyres do no last long, so the drivers must either a) look after them or b) make more pit stops. Kamui Kobayashi did the former but still managed some stunning overtakes which quickened the blood.

It’s very important to recognise that the passes we saw yesterday were mainly due to the difference in the age and condition of the tyres on the cars. Of course we saw the DRS wing helping one driver to get alongside to attempt a pass and that is what it is intended to do.

And we also saw the difference between a car with KERS and one without in many of the overtakes, for example Webber being passed by Massa on lap 22. But Webber pitted at the end of that lap as his tyres were gone, whereas Massa’s had another five laps of life in them.

Another example was Hamilton’s pass on Petrov on lap 26, shortly after his second pit stop. This was an important pass in terms of not losing touch with Vettel. But Petrov’s tyres were 11 laps old. Would we rather that pass hadn’t happened or do we accept that the varying patterns of tyre stops will make such passes commonplace?

There are three drivers of more overtaking in other words and arguably we could do away with KERS and DRS and just have the short-life tyres and still have a great show.

It was unfortunate and rather contradictory in thee midst of all of this, that the great battle between Hamilton and Alonso ended up with both getting stewards’ penalties and even more unfortunate that the result was that Hamilton lost a place and Alonso didn’t, which doesn’t seem fair given the circumstances. It won’t stop them racing like that in future, because they are both racers, but it sends out a rather odd signal given that drivers seem to have been given a green light to pass by the rules.

One thing I’ve learned after a lifetime in motorsport and 22 years in F1 is that the cream will always rise to the top, whatever rules or conditions you run the events to. Surely it is better to have the emphasis on drivers using skill and judgement to manage their tyres and pounce on rivals when able to, while the team strategists have to think on their feet, rather than succumb to the dominance of aerodynamics over everything?

F1 is a hype driven sport, we see it all the time and we saw it in the other direction after last year’s awful race in Bahrain, for example. This year, like last year will settle into a pattern and we will have some thrilling races.

Pirelli’s Paul Hembery took a rather defensive line after the race yesterday, in the face of some hyped up reaction to the orgy of overtaking and pitstops. He said that this was the blueprint they were asked to design tyres to and that if F1 doesn’t like it he can supply rock hard tyres which will do one stop races.

I think he and Pirelli are more confident now about their products than they were during Barcelona testing, when things were looking rather dicey at times. They have weathered the first two races and know two things; that with the harder tyre they trialled in practice and other potential compounds back at base, they can pretty much give F1 whatever it feels it wants and also that the teams are getting better at managing tyre wear and this will improve further as the season goes on.

“People don’t want to go back to a procession,” said Hembery after the race, “We have been asked to do something and we have tried to do it. I thought it was good for the show, but if people think it’s not right, we will change it. It’s hard for us, we are in the middle. Everyone needs to decide.

‘If I am going to be criticised for making the races more exciting, I don’t know what to say.”

A final note on this; ironically although we have all this action going on during the races, it looks like we could have a runaway world champion, so effectively it could well turn out to be the opposite of what we’ve had in recent years, which was great competitive seasons with average races.

Watch out for my full analysis of the Malaysian race strategy, with a deep dive into the key decisions which decided the outcome – The Strategy Report, brought to you by UBS, coming soon

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Bloody hell, one of the best pieces I’ve ever read. Great job.


I think all these people whinging about the new regulations are to be ignored. The race was not confusing for me at all, I found it easier to keep track of because changes were happening so frequently whereas in the past so little happened that if you started talking to the wife mid race you’d miss the race changing incidents.

It was so busy that I was glued to the screen as was my wife who normally goes to Skype her mum when the racing is on. Yes it required some concentration but I personally think that’s a good thing! It’s more involving when your own mental workout is akin to that of the people on the pit wall. If you get your lap top out and keep the driver tracker and FIA live timing up on the screen whilst the TV is showing the race it is perfectly possible to follow the action, you just have to make the effort. Don’t be lazy, get under the skin of the sport and bask in the glory of appreciating the most complex sporting event known to man.


If Lewis gets a penalty for weaving, shouldn’t the stewards review the first 10 seconds of the race which saw Vettel sway 2-3 times to stay in front at the start? no one is going to penalize that little guy now, are they… Love your work James… keep it up..



Why is it unfortunate that Hamilton lost a place and not Alonso? May I remind everyone of Valencia last year when Hamilton overtook the safety car and effectively received no punishment! Hamilton would do well to remember that as well.


It doesn’t seem right that both are penalised but only one of them loses a place, doesn’t matter which personality it is, it’s the principle. Same in Valencia last year, yes


James, great blog, thank you very much for it! I have been reading it for a while but this is my first comment.

I’d like to defend the stewards :). At the beginning of the season you and others commented that one of the changes for the season was to tighten the rule of no change of direction on straights. Hamilton changed of direction both to defend from Alonso and later to defend from Heidfeld. In both cases the aim was clearly to break the tow moving slowly sideways, not to block the other driver, but the reason doesn’t matter. Heidfeld was able to overtake thanks to the DRS, Alonso couldn’t. Honestly I cannot see why Hamilton’s penalty was unfair. Of course nobody likes penalties, much less after the races, but you have to put limits because drivers always push for them. Or you allow changes of direction in some circumstances or you don’t, but if you don’t, penalties shouldn’t be a surprise. In fact this was a very good moment for a penalty, minor damage (no important positions at stake) and message sent for the future.


Thanks for your encouragement and for your comment. A very interesting point of view


Watching the race live at the venue is quite different again.

The cars didn’t have the raw speed of an F1 car in my opinion. I do remember the rush when cars went through turn 11, 12 and 13 during 2009 and 2010. One could really feel the speed then, and they were slower than the 2000-2006 seasons.

Well, I guess it’s better for tv and lots of overtaking. Too much of that can make it artificial which I felt it was. Also the race felt rather too busy for no real reasons which created confusion too. A bit wacky for my liking.

What a pity Alonso and Lewis were hit with 20 seconds penalty which was totally uncalled for. They’re racers aren’t they? I’m sure many will agree with the daft stewarding.

Am hoping for better races forthcoming.


Ditto – this isn’t F1, I don’t like it and when we get the new engines it’ll be dumbed down even more!!!!!!!!



given the comments about confusion (from the drivers) and also to a certain extent from the commentators (both of whom are v knowledgable) shouldn’t F1 be looking to be a lot smarter about how it presents data to the fan? This would have a massive effect on the perception of the quality of the race I feel.

Over the weekend I noted that many of the graphics were clearly still set up for old style 4:3 displays (Qually order etc).

If you look at NASCAR – they have a neat way of attaching a ‘flag’ to each car with the name of the driver etc on it, that moves with the car and the camera. F1 could do great thing here as the car comes over the Start/finish line.

There are many virtual reality type effects that we see in other sports (1st and 10 in American Football etc). Breaking zones? DRS zones? Sectors as seen from the in car view?

Is F1 looking at this? I can think of all sorts of things that can be done to improve the information coming to the viewer.

Last year we were supposed to see ‘Ghost’ lines and positions relative to virtual cars etc – I recall seeing it once, for about 5 mins I think.

Can you talk to anyone about this? Might be a neat article.


I wonder if the tyres, KERS, DRS would have been even considered if the cars wouldn’t have their nowadays savety.

Wonder what will be said if the first nasty accidents will happen: Wing not going back, unpredictable KERS reloading because of a power shortage, dramatically changing brake balance, …

Wouldn’t it have been saver to allow 500 more rounds per minute if a driver is in a 1 second gap?

My daughter said: the new rules are like being forced to watch wrestling when you paid for boxing. Surely wrestling has it fans, but not in my family.

As with wrestling, i think there is too much forced action in F1 now.


Racing seem to have improved a bit . But it is still not entertaining. Unfortunately the FIA made F1 safe and that makes the sport a bit boring . Things like you can move only one direction to defend your line is stupid. How are you suppose to defend overtaking moves if you can’t change your position more than once. Scraps of the past was so entertaining because the guy in front defended a lot more than today . FIA should change that rule . On the overtaking issue , if the cars are spread out like they are in todays races there wont be overtaking at all. the top 10 gets spread out so much that the 1st position sometimes laps the 10th position they need to make the cars get closer to each other. I would suggest that the DRS be used not just for when the person is with in striking distance. The driver should be able to use it on each lap to get closer to the guy infront. the guy infront can only use it when someone is behind him , this means that when someone catches up to you he can’t just blast past you. 15 years back the safety car was out 2- 3 times in a race that bunched up the cars and shuffled everythng around.. that was interesting. stop making F1 TOO safe


Good to see strong opinions from fans, shows there is still interest in our beloved sport.

If the media removed all mention of KERs and DRS there would be less skepticism. We love the overtaking and this doesn’t detract from the driver skills needed to control an F1 car at racing speed.

Biggest potential downside of the new tyres was keeping track of all the pit stops. Let’s hope this stabilizes to between 2 and 3 for the remaining races.

As I said before, if the season comes down to another 3-4 way battle I think we can all be satisfied.


The problem with F1 is the constant tinkering with the rules, year on year. That’s why fans complain, because every year we’re having to come to terms with new rules again. Diffusers, wings, tyres, KERS etc. I don’t think there’s much worng with the current system. Fans didn’t seem to mind last year’s F duct, so I think we should get rid of KERS and leave the rest alone. Let’s give the engineers a few years to really see what boundaries they can push. Moving the goalposts every year simply encourages investment to be top dog and not engineering innovation.


I found it rather false. Too many fake changes of position that didn’t really mean anything. Worst race since Bahrain 2010 for me.


Vettel should of be penalised for weaving (three times) off the start if anyone believes that.

No penality for either HAM or ALO, silly decision


At first I thought that your comment is a biased one. But I took a look at the start once again and have to admit you’re right: Vettel changed his line twice, thus Hamilton couldn’t overtake him before entering the first corner. It reminded me that scaring other drivers off with that kind of weaving was used by Vettel last season too.


I have several concerns over these penalties being handed out to Alonso and Hamilton.

Firstly, there is no consistency between the decisions of the stewards even within the same race. Alonso was attempting an overtake which he misjudged and he damaged his front wing, that was his penalty for this racing incident. An additional penalty was not needed. We saw several cars coming together and losing body parts throughout the race without drive-through penalties being applied or time penalties given after the race.

I think that Hamilton’s penalty for weaving was justified but Vettel did a similar amount of weaving at the start of the race. Hamilton’s penalty was raised by Ferrari, is it down to the McLaren to raise the weaving of Vettel in order for it to be investigated? My opinion is this is what race control should be looking out for.

I also find the situation of a team raising an issue after the race (as it looks as Ferrari did here) really confusing, is there a maximum amount of time after a race that an issue can be raised? This incident was something like 6 or 7 laps from the end which is plenty of time for a team to raise it.

Another area that seems a little unclear to me is the actual time penalty itself, why 20 seconds? Does the time penalty vary from race to race? Is it down to the stewards to decide on a time up to a maximum or is a penalty at race x, z seconds? If stewards can pick any amount of time up to a maximum then they are opening themselves up to a lot of race fixing claims if they continue to apply penalties after a race.

English football has been destroyed by a complete lack respect for officials and complaints about consistency. Every match seems to be discussions about the referee rather than the game, please don’t let the same thing happen to F1.


Hi James I think the formula is almost perfect but I would like to see KERS go and keep the tyres exactly the same. Currently drivers have to manage the tyres to extracted the performance and the required strategy. Ultimately I would like to see a reduction in downforce to enable real passing opportunities, however DRS seems to be working.


Lots of rule changes etc but still one driver appears to be dominant. I found the racing exciting but i hadnt got a clue what was going on strategy wise.

I like the action on the track but there are so many pit stops that the story of the race is extremely difficult to follow.


I haven’t seen a single overtake this season that was as artificial as Lewis Hamilton (or others) overtakes in 2009 when he had KERS, and the other cars didn’t.

There might have been one like Massa or Koba on Webber but that was cause his KERS had broken. Otherwise the regs seem to have worked as they should.

If they brought back 2006-like regulations with unlimited revs, custom tyres, refuelling and all these other things.. it would be more pure.. but that isn’t possible in modern F1.

So these things sort of compensate for that. And they’ve done a reasonably good job. Rare for the rules changes to actually have such a possible effect. I even like the marbles (maybe Sepang was a touch overboard but they are a part of racing).

I think marbles doesn’t affect overtaking as much as slack weaving rules does. So if they tighten up the weaving and keep the marbles the same, they are already on the right track.

As it is, I haven’t enjoyed the racing so much since 2006. It means even if my driver crashes out I have a reason to watch. And even if he has a bad race, I can still be happy that I watched something worth my time.

One thing I noticed about F1 fans is that they will whinge about anything. There was alot of talk and whinging before the first race.

These first two races have been good.. if the rest are in some middle point between the two.. we have ourselves a great season ahead.

One where I can say that I can enjoy even without a “favourite” driver or team. To many people in F1 (both in the paddock, and also the fans) care too much about their own interests and not enough for the sport as a whole.

Pirelli should be given a trophy! They have done what most others are incapable.. put others interests first.


For me the ridiculous penalties handed to Hamilton and Alonso completely ruined what little was left of what F1 should be about.

We had the two best current drivers racing as only they can, one defending (fairly in my view and the view of the BBC commentators) and the other doing his utmost to overtake, the FIA maybe need reminding that that’s what racing at the highest level is all about.

What on earth would Senna say to the decisions of those penalties?

Not only that but in Hamilton’s case in particular if the rules are going to be that strict then why wasn’t Vettel penalised in both races so far?????? Can anyone else smell anything!!!???


F1 with poorly designed cars that need DRS to mimmick the effect of old school drafting and slip-streaming is nothing buy cheapskate fixed wrestling.

The whole thing looked completely contrived.

Modern F1 makes the driver irrelevant, and is more boring then ever.

The level of stewarding, headed by Charlie Whiting is of the lowest standard in contrast to most well regulated sports.

Even insurance companies don’t blame the driver infront of a collision – the following driver is expected to have some skill and judgement.

Any sport that makes someone like Button look good, is fail. The FIA may have done enough damage to the sport to permanently turn people away.


Well that was fun. I’ve been watching F1 for a long time and I have no problem with shaking things up a bit. I have to say I have never seen so many marbles on a track before! It looked like a chicken coop at the end.

To those Ebenezer Scrooges who proclaim “Bah, humbug!” to the “artificialness” of the changes, need you be reminded that there is very little about F1 racing that IS “real”? That bridge was crossed a LONG time ago.


We cant have it both ways folks!!

enough people whined it was too boring, too processional. Malasyia was a very entertaining race. The cream always rises to the top in this sport regardless of the sporting rules.

was very fun to see some real oovertaking. And it was. It prved DRS desnt make it too easy, but actually gives some semblance f chance for a faster car to overtake.

For me, the DRS is spot on. It will be different on other circuit types, but no one is happy 100% of the time.

well… maybe Vettel!!

Tom from Adelaide

On Torro Rosso


(sorry Jo, couldn’t help myself)

What is this team trying to be?

If the answer is ‘mediocre’ then they are achieving very well.

I originally interpreted this team to be a well funded “balls to the wall, nothing to lose” team with a focus on discovering new talent. The “teenager” of the field for want of a better expression.

Instead we have two drivers who seem so preoccupied with beating each other that they are failing to develop that intangible quality known as ‘race craft’. Buemi is I guess what you would call solid but unspectacular. Alguersuari is usually a few tenths behind and seems to make a meal of most encounters with other vehicles. Both of them always seem to end up as a sum of their parts. They don’t suck in the way that Bordais did, but you can certainly go through a whole race without noticing them. Compare that to Mr Kobayashi.

I would suggest that Torro Rosso needs to adopt a 1 year revolving door strategy. After all, how many years does it take to realise that Buemi and Alguersuari are “also rans” and hardly representative of the “extreme” Red Bull brand.

There are a lot of very talented and marketable drivers out there. Chuck one of them in the seat. If he’s rubbish, get him out. The best drivers will make it happen no matter what they are thrown into. Obviously Ricciardo is the first cab off the rank. And in the other seat, why not throw in Bruno Senna. Does anyone really think he wouldn’t be able to match Buemi?

In my opinion, Torro Rosso should be so much more than they currently are.


I like the DRS system. I think David Coulthard put it best in the BBC commentary when he observed that in most cases the DRS allows the attacking driver to get a wheel alongside. It is then a battle in the braking zone. What it has done in most cases is partially nullified the adverse effects of the aero wash from the lead car. OK there were a couple of overtakes which did seem too easy perhaps, but most were ok in my book.

I think there was also more overtaking on other parts of the track, which is probably down to tyres being at different stages. It was nice to see people battling at lots of different points on the track.

I think that the penalties handed out to Alonso and Hamilton were a bit harsh. Alonso made an error, but I don’t think he was driving particularly dangerously. Looking at the footage Hamilton did move more than once, but he seemed to be moving in the same direction. Taking the rule to the letter, he deserved the penalty, but I do think that I have seen other drivers move more this season and not be penalised.

Overall I am really enjoying this season so far. I suppose the real test will be if there is any overtaking at Monaco!


Thank goodness for Pirelli, as far as I am concerned they have bought something great to

the sport. I am much more keen on seeing every

minute of every race, no longer can the winner or places be confirmed in the run to the first corner.

Looks like a great season to me…:)


Just venturing a fraction off-topic : here’s an idea for a rule-change which (imho) would create masses of positives without the need for any “artificialness” or additional gadgets :

Get rid of Saturday Quali and have cars start the race in order of fastest laps from previous race. It’d upset the grid-order (a bit) and any cars that DNF in prior race would possibly have to start down the order = increased need for increased overtaking. Would also mean that drivers keep pushing during the race as their lap times are important for next race.

THEN, replace Saturday Quali with an additional race so we have two races per weekend instead of just one.


One of Flavio’s old ideas I think. And how about Le Mans style starts?

Add Bernie’s random sprinklers and we would be in for an entertaining afternoon…

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