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Guest Blog: How F1 has changed, by Ed Gorman
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Posted By: James Allen  |  07 Nov 2013   |  2:22 pm GMT  |  179 comments

Ed Gorman is a writer I respect a lot. He came into F1 at the same time as Lewis Hamilton’s debut and saw F1 from the inside, during a particularly volatile period, with Spygate, the FOTA breakaway threat, Max Mosley and so on, as correspondent for the Times newspaper until 2010.

He ran a successful F1 blog on the Times website (pre paywall) which some of you may have followed.

When he left F1, to take up a prestigious post on the Times Foreign Desk, he had certain expectations about what would become of the sport he had covered so closely for several years and the characters who populate it.

Now, in the first of a series of guest posts for JA on F1, he looks at those expectations and compares them to what has actually happened in the intervening four years. We hope you enjoy it and find it food for thought.

Ed Gorman writes: “For almost four years until the beginning of March 2010 Formula One – its machinations, thrills and scandals – were my lifeblood in my role as Motor Racing Correspondent for The Times.

Then I moved to other roles in the paper and the sport quickly returned to the background as it always had been. Of course I was probably more interested than many in what was going on in and out of the paddock but my day job left little time to watch races or read the coverage in the papers or on the web.

For me it was a clean break from the sport. Now, having left the paper and with some spare time on my hands for the first time in a while I feel like I have come back after being on a desert island for three years. What on earth has been going in that soap opera I used to love so much? That business that masqueraded as a sport run by that wily old fox Bernard Charles Ecclestone – a stand-up comedian I used to speak to almost every other day.

When I left the paddock the following things were happening. (I accept it may seem like an ice age ago to many of you). Toyota had just shocked everyone by walking away and there was much concern about the future in time of recession. Lewis Hamilton had just split with his dad(arguably a very significant moment). Mercedes had just got hold of Brawn GP, Michael Schumacher was about to step back into a car and was even talking about winning more championships and the newly-crowned world champion Jenson Button was about to begin his career at McLaren. (I predicted it would be a disaster and he would be crushed by the weight of Hamilton’s brilliance. I’m not sure if I was quite right about that).


In those days there was no DRS, most of the drivers were still ink-free(though Kimi may have just got that plant motif on his arm), and Jean Todt had barely got his feet under the table at the FIA. At that time, don’t forget, Formula One was as much a story about scandal on and off the track – think anything you like about Max Mosley or the outrage of Flavio Briatore’s scheme to have Nelson Piquet Jnr crash on purpose in Singapore – as it was about racing.

When I left I had some expectations about what might happen but I have also been surprised. To start with the action has returned fairly and squarely to the track. It is so clear to see now, in retrospect, that Mosley was just whipping up one controversy after another to keep his name in the papers at any cost. In his place Todt has operated on the principle of “not responding to news stories.” This is good isn’t it? The focus is back where it belongs on the racing but something has been lost too. After all, the racing can be pretty tedious at times and Max and Bernie always had something else up their sleeve to keep us interested.


So here are a few thoughts from someone who has been watching only out of the corner of an eye. What on earth has been going on at McLaren? This season they are rubbish and they have not been a fighting force by their high standards for the last couple of years. The last championship was, erm, back in 2008 when Lewis just scraped over the line at that incredible final race in Brazil. That was a long time ago. If it was football – and we’re talking Premier League which McLaren aspires to – Martin Whitmarsh may well have been shown the door by now (think Chelsea or Man City for example). He is one of the nicest guys in the sport but you always wonder whether he is tough enough to drive his people to the heights of championship-winning performance. You don’t have to be a bastard – Christian Horner has shown that – but in another field Steve Jobs demonstrated that it helps.

I guess the same questions should be asked of Ferrari. Under the genial and charming leadership of Stefano Domenicali the Scuderia have not managed to win a title since Kimi’s fortuitous victory in ’07. I may be being tough here but when you are not really concentrating you only notice the winners. The old adage about second being the first loser is never more true than in Formula One. Ferrari have the best driver – or possibly the equal best in Fernando – but they never quite have the machinery. Who’s ultimate responsibility is that?


The flip side of all this is the supremacy of Red Bull, a phenomenon which has been the dominant feature in my time away and which now seems to be boring everyone to death. Even other teams and drivers have been complaining. My view is fair play to the Milton Keynes-based squad. Horner, Adrian Newey and Sebastian Vettel have mastered the challenge set for everyone better than the others four years in a row and the rest should be asking themselves some tough questions about why they have failed rather than complaining.

On the driver side Vettel’s mastery has come with some attitude which seems to have driven Mark Webber out of the sport, Ferrari have taken ages to realize that Felipe is no longer the driver he once was, McLaren look to have made the wrong choice for a replacement for Hamilton and Lewis seems to have turned into the paddock’s answer to Zsa Zsa Gabor with his pet dog in tow and lots of other superstar nonsense but no sign of another title. Nico has failed to train on as they say and you wonder whether Jenson has enough fight in his belly to go for another title if he had the car under him capable of delivering it. On the positive side, it is frankly amazing to see Kimi back in full flow – paid or not – and offering his unique style in cockpit voice entertainment. He might be one of the things Ferrari need next year with a real knuckle fight for honours between their drivers in prospect.

Other elements to note include the reasonably positive impact of the changes at Silverstone, the consistently dull qualifying format – especially the interminable first session – and the continuing sterility of many of the new races out East. Bernie did those deals for money. Did he ever expect the locals to start turning up and for the public in those countries to start building a tradition of following the sport? Has he or anyone else made any effort to help that come about? I don’t know but those races look awful on TV. I still love it when we get to a heartland contest. Give me Suzuka or Interlagos any day but not South Korea, China or even Abu Dhabi.


And finally Ross Brawn about whom there is plenty of speculation just now. When I left Ross was a big prospect at Mercedes. He’d just won the title with the most expensive car ever developed – by Honda – and he had a glittering career at Maranello behind him. The view of many was that Brawn was then in a position to boss the sport but it has not happened. Again I don’t have the answers but it seems that his second coming, like that of Michael, has failed to reach the heights of his first.

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1

2013 – We realised that Webber really is a No.2 driver….

2

Certainly Webber Car’s reliability has been number 2 in 2013.

3

James, there’s not much said about 2014 I’ve noticed. I am really hoping we can talk more about 2014 and not too much dwelling of the past to keep F1 floating. I know history is important but new and fresh news is too. Thanks.

4

I’ m gonna be brutally honest towards this piece written by Gorman:

All the stuff is simply a very shallow brief. This is ok for an occasional newspaper reader. For a specialised blog it gives nothing. This would be ok for a guy who suddenly wakes up from a 4-year-long comma and put up to speed in 240 secs. And even then it’s still short on what has happened truly.

The headline is catchy but for us, JA on F1 frequent readers, not up to the level we are used to by James.

At the most it is a 3 over 10 on what has been going on around F1.

Up the writing mate!

5

It’s an intro piece

More to come

6

You’ve got me scared, officially.

I sincerely hope that this “more to come” is less polemic and higher quality.

7

I find the lack of criticism of F1, from all F1 journalists to be the most concerning problem.

There is no feedback loop to improve the sport.

It feels like F1 journalists are thrown too many sweeteners… just look at the way every article has been attempting to make Vettel appear a worthy champ… which driver needed that before? Non.

8

Always quality!

9

That was trite and superficial. Really, we need the FIA to have more scandals in order to create more of a soap opera in F1? Really, F1 is “boring” now .. unlike in some mythical “good old days”?

Let’s be honest here, Monaco, the Nürburgring, and the Hungaroring are as bad and as boring as as new track in the Far East and worse than many of them.

10

I remember your blog, Ed. You used to get hammered by Spanish visitors for perceived Hamilton bias during the 2007 season. This is, briefly, what has happened to The Times since the hey days of your blog. Rather than pursuing an ad-funded model to sustain its online presence, The Times decided to erect a pay wall, only allowing paying subscribers to view the online edition of the paper. In that time, the paper has disappeared as a daily source of news, discussion and debate. It’s voice is now mute. In contrast, The Guardian, who decided to stick with an ad funded model along with a strong investment in rigorous investigative journalism has seen its brand go global. One could argue that recent moves by Jeff Bezoz (Amazon) and Pierre Omidyar (eBay) into news is a direct result of the success of The Guardian’s financial model. So while Rusbridger gets all the headlines and plaudits for putting his paper at the heart of the global conversation, The Times sinks further into irrelevance.

11

Bring back aggregate timing for races that red flagged then restarted!

12
Valentino from montreal

I stopped taking this guy seriously after I read :

” Ferrari have the best driver ” …

13

Finally, a guy who gets it!!! Sorry James and all your supporters, Ed Gorman figured out this sport in 4 short years…just sayin’

14

OH SNAP!

You mean 2007 Ferrari WDC/WCC is ill gotten? Well twist me an ice cream cone and throw some prinkels on it!

>

Meanwhile, in another case of F1’s past being dredged up in 2013, former Ferrari team manager Nigel Stepney this week claimed the Italian team knowingly cheated in order to win the opening grand prix of 2007.

The Briton, who was a leading figure in that year’s infamous ‘spygate’ scandal, told Racecar Engineering that the car driven to victory by Kimi Raikkonen had an illegal moveable floor.

“I like to try to win on a fair basis but when I was there I disagreed with something that was going on within Ferrari,” revealed Stepney, who now runs the sports car team JRM Racing.

15

I beg to differ with a lot of commentators.

I think this article is just a usual rant and it seems the author has really lost his grip on Formula 1; what an appalling article that was.

Domenicali and Whitmarsh are too friendly to form a winning team? That is a rubbish theory and he should know better. Ross Brawn is said to be one of the nicest guys around and he certainly knows what it takes – he achieved it several times and his team is currently runner up in the championship, what does it mean, he “failed to reach the heights of his first”? What the hell is this guy smoking?

Felipe, the driver who is “no longer the driver who he was” has been outqualifying Alonso in the last races, now that he’s left off the hook – and hadn’t it been for some “problems” i.e. odd strategy decisions, he’d certainly scored better than he had.

Oh, and please spare me with this “dull qualifying format” nonsense, does this guy even remember how it was when it was the fuel load that determined the qualifying pace or when we had the Friday and Saturday qualifying and no one would be on the track for half an hour or even a whole rainy friday? Now we get the excitement who will be lose out in the first round (apart from the 4 obvious candidates), who will make it to the last round and who will take pole – and it’s now down to the car and the driver, not fuel strategy. Qualifying has never been better.

He says: “I don’t know but those races look awful on TV.” and this is something that I agree with, but it’s not only the race tracks fault, it’s also a result of the camera technology that stabilizes on board cameras to a point where it gets to look like a video game, instead of a rough ride on a cannonball.

It’s also result of cameras following cars with such a smooth zoom that you lose the feeling of how fast these cars are going. Remember the early 90, where TV cameras were operated with a pretty limited focal length, mounted at merely fixed points? Where you could see the cars storming towards and away from the camera?

And I do remember the refuelling days, where lap times, pit stop times and overtaking maneuvers were down to fuel strategy and you often could have switched off the TV without missing a lot, after the last pit stop, when positions were taken – now that was dull.

We are certainly living in an exciting area of Formula 1 and the only thing that spoils it sometimes is DRS-zones being too long once in a while and some tracks that look like a parking lot.

No, thanks, I don’t want to read this guy again.

16

Hey,

If a person representing a corporate entity like a Team, with authority to make legal commitments suddenly gets a personal signing bonuses for contracts they commit the team to – is that not a litttle conflict of interest? Would you dismiss such an individual from your company for accepting such a personal signing bonus?

http://www.planetf1.com/news/3213/9014167/Bernie-Paid-Bosses-To-Sign-Agreement

17

Personal signing bonus … must you be so verbose Sebee? It’s a KICKBACK!!!

Ok, a one-time kickback, but still a kickback.

The answers Bernie gave were so him, that’s for sure.

18

You say tomato, I say tomato…

It’s all semantics. Let’s not get all specific about it. 🙂

Lets say I don’t even care what you call it. It’s the clear conflict of interest that I care about. If you look at the names, Bernie was quick to choose bosses who owned teams. He didn’t admit to paying bosses who answered to corporations like Rahal or Pollock . Simply smaller ones that then forced the hand of the other ones. I guess Bernie’s negotiating magic is finally here for us to see. And here I was thinking he was a negotiations Jedi only to find out he simply buttered the bread.

Daddy always told me, if you want to enjoy hot dogs don’t ask how they are made.

19

With the sun failing on Bernie Ecclestones time in F1 . I’m hoping there is a real chance that new leadership will redress the balance of teams, rules and economic alignment into the sporting codes. Maybe Im being too optimistic but surely we cannot have Red Bull continue to dominate and effectively support 2 teams out of the 11.

When teams who had been in the sport 50 years are struggling for top 3.

It’s very easy to say Ferrari and Mclaren should do better – but when you can throw unlimited resources into a sport that preys/ or prays on it– well guess what– your a pretty safe bet at success when you can have a junior programme in your No2 team. You can buy the worlds best designer and say – here do what you want, you can throw 20 of the best engineers at designing something that will make you go faster.

Until we have a level playing field we can’t waste our time saying what a terrific job Red Bull are doing. We can only congratulate teams like FI, Lotus , Sauber for being even in The same ball park!. & We can only do that with new leadership driven by sporting equity and not by personal wealth and individual idealism, historic status.

20

You’re right of course, it is very easy to say Ferrari and Mclaren should do better, but you can’t dismiss it in such a cavalier manner. They have the 2 biggest budgets in the paddock for 2013 and yet they’ve been falling down stairs to one degree or another all season long. Money can level the playing field somewhat but it’s no substitute for the right people in the right positions. That’s been a major difference between RB and the others.

21

Reset the aero, mechanical grip and engine power ratio to pre 1990 levels, and the cars will be able to race effectively…

Great drivers will be able to push to the limit, and make weaker cars competitive…

It would be a world of fun.

Alas, driving to deltas works better for certain corporations.

22

When Lewis sacked his Dad something happened. For those who have read his biography and I don’t particularly recommend it, Mark Hughes makes it clear Lewis had the potential to be a tearaway but his Dad reined him in big time.

With his Dad gone, I believe those traits are now fully manifested. Devastatingly quick but very easily distracted by things

For non high performing sports men and just for want of a better word – common men and women, its okay to take time to grow up and become a rounded individual.

However, for Formula 1 drivers etc, the career span is so short that by the time you find yourself your career is finished or your chances are gone.

Anyway, I’m a big fan so I wish him the best.

If Benz deliver the car next year and he doesn’t do it then questions will really be asked.

My thoughts is all

23

Bring back Ed Gorman! Always reported the true story with insight and honesty and never worried about who he might be upsetting. A fascinating read and I just hope he shares a few more of his thoughts on this site or others.

24

He will, don’t worry, right here!

25

Just to point out, the last title Ferrari won, was in 2008, or the WCC doesn’t count as a title?

26

Unfortunately, this is what a typical casual F1 viewer seems to think these days.

Scandals, celebrities, bored to death in 30 minutes if there are no crashes or overtaking for the lead.

Sad, really.

27

Well said and put J.Danek. The link between RB and BE becomes even more suspicious.

28

Whatever Lewis Hamilton does in his free time to relax himself and enjoying it with his pets should be none of our concern. The funny thing here is Lewis chats with his fans, shares his life with his fans but people who don’t care about him always find a way to bring his name in the matter, into discussions or to grab attention.

Lewis this, lewis that. Why do you bother? You don’t think he won’t win again, then leave him alone and simply put don’t talk about him.

Wish we could have more insight in the life of Vettel instead. It’s the media who’s obsessed with Lewis.

29

typo: Read * you think he won’t win again…

30

“Ferrari have the best driver – or possibly the equal best in Fernando – but they never quite have the machinery.”

Worth reading just for this.

31

2010 and 2012 were lost at the last grands prix. The machinery was there then.

32

Only b/c it was dragged there, by the driver! Don’t get me wrong, both times the Ferrari wasn’t a dog of a car (2010 more of a decent challenger than 2012), but both times it was clearly the inferior car.

33

So we both agree that driver could just drag it more a bit further… Ferrari had a good car in 2012 as well, and they developed it well into early 2013. I think the drivers made the ultimate difference.

34

Through maximising machinery and taking advantage of others mistakes, particularly RB in 2010.

35

A tad too bitchy for me. Comparing a driver to Zsa Zsa Gabor is disrespectful, especially from a journalist whose main claim to F1 fame is that he covered the sport for “almost four years”. It makes me wonder about the culture of F1 journalists if this is seen as acceptable thinking, let alone writing.

With regards to quali, I disagree that it’s boring. For me it’s become the highlight of increasingly boring weekends. The drivers can thrash the cars in a way they can’t when they’re preserving tyres during the race. We get more surprises and thrills, even in Q1, than we do during races. Maybe if you watch quali ‘straight’, with no live timing and no tyre info and no understanding of how they’re placing the cars on the circuit, you’ll have little understanding of what’s happening and that may make it dull.

36

Some good notes. Cannot understand the Nico observation, as we have two, Rosberg and Hulkenberg, and I do not know which one you mean.

Interesting view on Max Mosley.

37

I think the biggest change since 2010 (and the real elephant in the room) is the complete aversion to being involved in F1 by the major car manufacturers. The business case just doesn’t stack up any more.

I think it comes down to the fact that mainstream manufactures have worked out that the best way to sell cars is not through racing. And while I’m a huge fan of F1, people my age (25) dont buy cars based on a car race.

When you look at the state of carsales here ín Aus(I know tiny compared to the rest of the world, but interesting still) Toyota and Mazda are pretty much killing everyone else, and Hyundai/Kia are rising quickly. These companies have no involvement in car racing, but sell cars based on good marketing and no nonsense reliability. The sad fact is that most people who are interested in cars want whitegoods on wheels and these companies are servicing that demand.

Meanwhile Honda – who have descended into a joke here in Aus (and I used to be a fanboy) are about to spend a shedload on F1 in an effort to sell more cars. HERE’S A TIP – Spend money developing cars people want to buy and you might not keep getting outsold by Kia!

38

Totally agree . Look at enstone , 3rd or 4th best constuctor at the moment and they carnt afford to pay there driver . Renault have got the right idea , got out and just supply engines to is it 4 teams ? Genius

39

Good review Ed.

I particularly agree about the focus now being on the racing. Jean Todt has not run around creating havoc for sheer fun of it, which I personally really like. You sometimes wonder who are the central figures behind successful setups. The Ferrari era may have been Jean Todt more than other likely culprits.

40

Great read and alot of what he says is true ! Just wish bernie would ask for my opinion how to improve the “show” . Id simply say stop messing around with these stupid tyres , get shot of the daft drs and kers and please for the love of god stop going to these tracks with massive runoffs , rubbish crowds and have no heritage whats so ever . And if i really could have my way id bring back refueling but perhaps im been a little greedy now

41

I agree this is a good read… but I totally disagree with your comments.

I get really fed up with people banging on and on about the tyres. It is reliability that has made F1 boring. It is reliability that has allowed the requirement to make engines and gearboxes last several races. It is this requirement that has made the drivers race to a lap delta time. It is paddle shift gear changes that have created the ability to be reliable. It is only because everything else is so reliable that we have little else to blame for boring races but the tyres. Refuelling only hid what was already happening with tyres.

If the cars were only a little less reliable vettel would not be celebrating 4 titles.

Before paddle shift gearboxes it only took one mistimed gearchange to rev an engine to oblivion. A mistimed gearchange made overtaking so much more likely.

42

Damn straight, longer braking distances and manual gear boxes, that used to sort out the drivers.

43

It carnt be because of paddle shift gear boxes , havent they had them since 92 , 93 ? And weve had a hell of alot good races since then . It just seems wrong that drives are having to drive to delta times so much and im sure that because of how sensitive the tyres are and not reliabilty. Hopefully its just a phrase were going threw , a meen its only a year and half ago since we had 7 different race winners at the start of the season.

44

Thanks, James!

“the continuing sterility of many of the new races out East. […] but those races look awful on TV”

I am with Ed Gorman on this one. I love F1 but it’s getting more and more boring, it tastes like a pint diluted with water.

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