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Cosmetic surgery to herald a return to more spectacular F1?
Posted By: James Allen  |  25 Apr 2014   |  1:05 pm GMT  |  401 comments

Formula 1 bosses are facing up to the reality that the sport is less spectacular than it was – and than it needs to be.

Bernie Ecclestone has long argued that the changes to the F1 rules have made the cars progressively less spectacular to watch for a TV viewer or at the trackside and the quieter sound of the hybrid 2014 turbo engines is just the latest stage of that.

A study group is looking into whether something can be done to make the sound more interesting, but there are also discussions about whether other cosmetic changes can be made to improve the visual spectacle, such as bringing back the sparks that used to fly off the floor of the cars in the Mansell/Senna/Prost era. These ended with the arrival of skid block floors to prevent cars being run too low, but they gave the impression of speed which is so important to the sport.

Viewers and fans at trackside want F1 to be fast, spectacular and dramatic. The cars are the pinnacle of technology and the drivers are the best in the world. The show needs to reflect this.

This site is strongly supportive of the move to 1.6-litre, hybrid turbos as a change that needed to be made to set a course for the future of F1 technology. However at the moment it also agrees with Ecclestone that there are too many rules now and the sport has been sanitised somewhat by the cleverness of the engineers and the cat and mouse game with the regulators, as well as by the way that teams have modelled themselves along corporate behaviour lines as they seek to emulate the practices of the massive corporations who sponsor them. It makes for a more ‘arm’s length’, less visceral experience.

Team bosses say that when they are close to sealing a deal with a sponsor, the best thing is to bring them into the garage when the car is being fired up and the palpable energy, mixed with shock, usually does the trick.

Sound, speed and spectacle are just as important to F1 as dollars, new markets and new media.

As Bernie Ecclestone sits in court in Munich and everyone wonders what the outcome of his trial will be and what kind of F1 will emerge in future, it is good to hear that the F1 Strategy Group is thinking more long-term about how F1 should present itself and what kind of show it wants to be.

Bahrain was a great race, showing that it is possible to put on a great show with these cars.

But the whole thing needs to be made more spectacular generally and hopefully that will come out of this process.

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Great, interesting article. F1 for the win.. 🙂

David Murdoch

How about allowing DRS to be activated at anytime rather than just in the allotted zones and when in the 1 second window? Or would this be deemed too dangerous?


James, slightly off topic but I can not find anywhere else to post this. In regards to the current cost cap debate, why doesn’t the FIA enforce a limit on employee numbers in an F1 team?

This would obviously reduce the cost somewhat, but it would surely even up the amount of development that each team could focus on during a season….hence bringing the midfield teams closer to the teams with infinite resources?


“Bahrain was a great race, showing that it is possible to put on a great show with these cars.”

I think a significant part of that was the fact it was a night race and the two gleaming silver arrows fighting it out!

It was like a world class demonstration race. felt…..surreal nearly. for night races bernie! 😀


more even..


I actually quite like the sound of the new v6 engines and do not believe that increasing the sound level will improve the spectacle. Only racing will improve the spectacle as we all saw during the recent Bahrain event during the closing stages, that was due to everybody having fuel (energy) after the safety car stint and could have a go at it. Therefore, i would like to see only 2 things change:

1: keep the total fuel limit (kg/race) and remove the fuel flow restrictions

2: let them recover all the energy they can and use it as they wish, why restrict the use to only 4 MJ per lap and the harvesting to 2 MJ per lap?

This will give “unlimited energy” only influenced by the efficiency of the PU and we will have a formula similar to previous years, but energy efficient.

My two cents


They seriously need to do something about the muffled engine exhaust note. The engine noise even from the onboard cam shots during the race is barely audible – a far cry from the high pitched note we have been used to. A flat-out qualifying lap just doesnt sound like it – a flat-out lap – anymore!


I would like to see more use of the helmet cams. I have seen them used once in a while quite often in practice but not much on the live race feed. The view is awesome, much better than the car attached views, as you get to see where the drivers are actually looking (to a point)



No pay drivers.

Sponsors that are not pre-occupied with a squeaky clean corporate image and dictating the sanitised show that are happy or even encourage a wild edgy image.

Cars with the looks of the brutish 80’s turbo cars i.e huge tyres, minimal aero and massive horsepower.

I know I know.

Not going to happen.


kenneth chapman

just as an additional point, i currently drive a 4cyl 2 litre turbo [TFSI] engine that puts out 225HP. because it is coupled to a multitronic gearbox the RPM very rarely exceed 2500. subsequently great acceleration but a very flat sound.

when i engage S mode the computer generated electronic engine maps mimic a sportronic [double clutch] gearbox allowing the engine to rev freely up to 5500 at times. the sound is great, reasonably loud, crisp with burble on each electronic shift. there is a vast difference which i put down to simply more revs.

kenneth chapman

@ W head…. i am not sure where you’re coming from. are you saying that the sound would alter considerably if the per/cyl capacity was identical to the previous iterations in 8cyl form?

my limited understanding of the technical issues are that firstly the turbo robs the ‘energy’ and the sound that is left is due to the reduced energy of the exhaust gas outflow and secondly, the reduced RPM of the ICE.

even if the turbo was left as per current installation the scrapping of the fuel flow meters and increased RPM would go a long way to restoring some semblance of aural desirability.


@ kenneth chapman…I am coming from the symmetry of the ml/cylinder and theorising with an increase in capacity an increase in sound would follow.

I am no mechanical engineering expert but a step further would be to have four of the cylinder exhausts go to the turbo whilst the other two cylinder exhausts exit next to or around the central exhaust they currently have.

On your additional point I imagine they would need to increase the fuel capacity to 110 – 120kg/race to sustain the higher revs and finish with fuel to spare.


Here is a simple idea.. go back in time to when races were exciting… when overtakes were breath taking… even look at exciting GP2 races…

Then roll back the rules to that level…

We want a formula that shows us the greatness of drivers… and not the ability of some fake WDC to push a button and drive to deltas…


Hi James

Do you know what the thinking was for the 1.6 V6s in respect to the capacity of the engine or specifically the cylinder. The 1.6 is approx. 267 ml per cylinder where as the 2.4 V8s and 3L V10s were 300 ml per cylinder. Where I am going is that a 1.8 V6 would sound better and keep in line with the previous ml/cylinder ratios.


Interesting point thanks


Look at lower categories. I like watching Aussie V8s (home series for me) and NASCAR too. These offer a greater on track fan experience. Watching a replay of Daytona the other day, rather than a driver’s parade behind the fence, the drivers walked down a catwalk and slapped hands with fans – real fans!! Some even carried their kids. I’m not always so keen about that, but what it says is that it’s more than just corporate responsibility at play. I also love the graphics that NASCAR in particular show on screen, especially live tags on dueling cars, that give the drivers’details as well as speed differentials, closing gaps etc. I suspect that oval tracks help, but still, it’s about delivering for fans. And another thing, which I’ve said before, is the burn out. Let then do it!!!!!!!! Just watch NASCAR; one lap post race everyone’s off track on by the finish line, the winner’s doing circle-work on the main straight. That’s entertainment! I think for me the problem is that the show is just what FOM are prepared to put out there, rather than design for the fans. There’s no reason a minimum package for each country’s promoter and telecaster to deliver – for the fans!!


Get rid of the rule that means drivers must use both compounds in a race. It’s a gimmick.

Sort out the circuits. It’s no coincidence that many of the best races happen at older tracks such as Spa, Montreal, Suzuka etc.. Most of the modern tracks are boring and featureless.

Ban team/driver radio outside of the pit lane. That would mean drivers have to use their pit board and make their own decisions, and most likely no team orders. The driver and team could still communicate via radio whilst in the pit lane.


Hi James,

Agree with your post; what’s going on with the FIA press conferences? The drivers look thoroughly depressed just going by their body language and responses (despite your best efforts at times). Not sure if this part of the “corporate behaviour” you’re referring to – but it is not a great image for any sport.

And add to this, in more recent times, some of the drivers are so disinterested they are carrying on conversations in the background whilst other drivers are trying to answer questions!

Most of the questions being asked by you and your peers are excellent, but even if they weren’t that’s no excuse.


The big problem is the engine sound since there’s no longer a real reason to go watch in person. It’s like going to a concert where the volume and bass has been turned down. It’s such a disappointment now.

Maybe if you’ve never seen the cars live you’ll still enjoy it, but they’re visibly slower and the quietness of the engines seems to amplify the slowness of the cars.

I thought they had it right over the last 5 years. I liked driver activated KERS, DRS, soft tyres (3 stops were enough), the V8s were effectively a control engine. Yes, the second half of 2013 was one-sided but that was more due to team committing resources to 2014 and cutting their losses on 2013. 2011 was dominated by Red Bull, but McLaren were still competitive and able to win races on merit. That’s the nature of F1. You will get one sided seasons every so often, but I thought F1 had done a pretty good job of ensuring parity at the front of the grid in recent years.

Then they throw all that out of the window by ditching the control engine and instead making the engine the biggest determinant of car performance.

F1 and the FIA got so focused on giving incentives to big manufacturers to stay in the sport that they forgot they are in the entertainment business as well. That’s not to say you focus on the entertainment factor to the detriment of the integrity of the sport, but it should be a major consideration when formulating the regulations.

I have also noticed that they don’t like showing how fast the cars are going in the on-board shots. I assume that’s because the cars are slower this year and they’re trying to hide the fact and not let people make comparisons.

Instead we’re constantly fed with data about how much fuel each driver is using, which is more or less useless information because no driver has been marginal with fuel.

kenneth chapman

james, i have a point to put forward. why is it that F1 poses as the pinnacle of motorsport when technology that improves the performance is routinely banned by the FIA.

to a very large extent F1 has been eviscerated by those who seek to dumb it down. the new engines are an obvious improvement regarding new tech but items like the blown diffuser and many many others are/were technical breakthroughs but as soon as they are introduced they are banned.

to truly be at the pinnacle, they, the FIA need to loosen the reins and let the creative spirits free. seriously, F1 is fastly becoming a spec series and that is the antithesis of what F1 should be. it would be better to revert to the ‘formulae libre’ nomenclature and then we would see teams really at the pinnacle and not just ‘wannabes’.


It’s harder to argue that point in a year like this one where variety in hybrid technology is so clear

kenneth chapman

@james….yes, i have acknowledged that very point but what i was really saying was that this, new ‘to F1’ technology, is masking a deeper underlying trend that we have witnessed over the preceding years.

homologation and blatant gimmickry have the robbed F1 of much of the pure essence of racing. just ask yourself this, were the tyres ever so proscribed? why have one supplier? brakes are manufactured by various suppliers as are engines and many other components have multiple manufacturers.

fuel flow metering is another item that should be freed up.the opponents of this say that the subsequent amount of unleashed power would be undesirable. why? twenty years ago teams/drivers were using, at times, well in excess of a reputed 1000HP. with todays cars they should be able to cope with this level with no trouble. LMP WEC racing cars compete with cars that have large variable power outputs!

james, there are many many more items that one could put up as being debatable. i am just disappointed that the FIA are even considering more fakery in an already ‘tricked up’ championship.


How about REDUCE the number of people allowed to service the car in the pit lane so the pit stops are not so predictable in speed.


Get rid of the mandatory use of both compounds during races. Many times as a viewer you loose the thrill because you know that the car in front HAS to pit. Let them choose between having slower stints or faster ones with more stops.

It is happening now, but to a lesser degree.

kenneth chapman

yes, cole…i do agree. making the use of two compounds compulsory is another useless invention to spice up the show.

the teams should be left to choose whatever tyres they want and to change them whenever they want. surely this would spice up the show as all teams would be using the compounds that made them individually fastest or at least fastest during the race. they may choose to run either both compounds or just one. does it matter at all?


Oh God, I have to shut up now!

This thread is more exciting than the races!


How about some of that active suspension like you see on the Mexican guys’ low riders??

Visualize the post race donuts with that!



Jonathan Powell

I have been an F1 fan since the mis 1980s and was gripped in that period by the sound and speed of the cars that was just something else.

In later years such as the late 19902 the cars looked incredible,were a work of art in terms of attention to detail and sounded amazing. However, the racing was not exciting,although when it was it wasnt artificial though it needed damp/wet conditions for this to eb the case.

Now it seems in recent years we’ve got better racing,albeit artificially at times, but with cars that are definitely not a work of art and do not sound amazing! They also have significantly less sponsorship on them.

Also fans are really being treated harshly. They have to pay an extortionate amount to attend a grand prix and in some countires now have to pay to watch every single race live.

In terms of the manufacturers they,apart from ferrari,have always come and gone so whilst I appreicate what they bring to the sport, they are not why I love it.


What about water sprinklers?!?

No, seriously. Let’s keep it pure racing.


I think we already had our fairly share of comestics devices with the indtroduction of the DRS and KERS. Enough with that.


To paraphrase Ross Brawn, F1 has become an exercise in watch making. The rules pin all fundamental engineering decisions down so all that is left is to find micro optimizations. Engine ECU – locked, Engine cylinder count -locked, Engine cylinder angle – locked, turbo size and count – locked, ERS storage size – locked, ERS power added – locked, etc ad nauseam.

About the only place where I see a lot of innovation is on the aero side. Which for me (and I spent 3 years in college studying aero engineering before switching to computer science) is boring. It makes the cars processional. And since the engines all have similar performance envelopes there are fewer “good track /bad tracks” for a team. Remember when we had v8s, v10’s and 12s all at the same time. Michael Schumacher was able to take his torky v8 stuck in 5th gear and nearly win the race, today he would have dropped through the field and maybe come home with a lonely point.

The stated reason for locking down the rules is to control costs – but the reality is that if a team has money they will spend it. We just see millions dumped into aero because that is where the cost benefit lies. If the rules were loosened, but teams were required to homologate parts for a certain number of races you would achieve the same cost savings. I.e if a small team stumbles into a performance advantage the big teams would not be able to dump millions into a frenzied week to replicate the part for the next race, they would still have to race their existing designs. The other small teams would have a better chance to keep up because the wouldn’t have short integration times for the new idea.

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