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Reflection on a past great a timely reminder for F1 of what makes the sport special
Reflection on a past great a timely reminder for F1 of what makes the sport special
Posted By: James Allen  |  02 May 2014   |  2:02 pm GMT  |  108 comments

The scenes at Imola in the last 24 hours and the expressions of passion and enthusiasm that the Senna memorial event has aroused, come at a useful moment for the sport of Formula 1 as it contemplates what it wants to be in the future.

In future years, this 2014 season will be characterised as one where the sport went through something of an identity crisis. The change to hybrid turbo engines is supported by many, but the FIA, the manufacturers and the supportive teams have not carried everyone with them on this project so far. And they have failed to get their message across about the amazing technology behind the new formula which promises so much for the wider society.

Granted there have been some teams and some powerful figures who have had an agenda to undermine the message and the changes, but the dissenting voices do have one common message; that F1 should be about hard racing, pushing to the limit and fighting.

This was what came out of Imola loud and clear; the symbol of Senna, the ultimate fighter, the man who pushed the limits harder than anyone else. That is what made him so popular. Also the true essence of what makes Formula 1 great is that it is the meeting point of technology and driver skill, neither one dominating the other to an excessive degree and, at is best, the two should be perfectly balanced.

Many would argue that this is not the case today.

The question for the F1 Strategy Group, which has been tasked with steering the course for the future, is how to ensure that the sport presents itself in this appealing way, rather than as a dry technical exercise as it currently appears to many today, while at the same time maintaining a strong technology story, which also wows the fans.

The F1 Strategy Group is tasked with looking into the future. But you don’t need a crystal ball to see that already there are problems with this approach.

The Group met yesterday, there was no communication of what was said nor what was decided. The primary aim of the meeting was to discuss cost control, after the top teams threw out plans to introduce any kind of cost cap last month. As the voting structure is split evenly between the FIA, Bernie Ecclestone’s company and six leading teams, it was fairly easy for the “anti” lobby to win the day and FIA president Jean Todt’s desire to see meaningful cost control was pushed back on this occasion.

It looks like the only way the big teams will agree anything on costs is for it to be written into the regulations, but this could end up a compromise, a piecemeal measure. The big beasts will not accept the kind of measures that the other teams feel are essential for their survival.

Not surprisingly the medium sized and small teams do not like this; they have always been opposed to the idea that the future should be decided by the monied elite and as the meetings take place and nothing comes out of them the frustration grows. There are a few teams which are close to the edge and the second half of this season will be very interesting. They have been asked to submit ideas for cost control and will no doubt do so, but they’ve been down this road before. Without buy-in from the big teams they cannot carry the day.

What everyone is waiting for now is to see whether this “disenfranchised” group will go for the nuclear option, which is to challenge the legality of the F1 Strategy Group under European law. They aren’t likely to do that as things stand. But as Ecclestone entered the court room again today in Munich on the second scheduled day of his bribery trial, the question being asked behind the scenes is whether a legal challenge to the F1 Strategy Group may arise later in the year should the judges find against Ecclestone.

Either way, Ecclestone has said that he sees himself working on strategy for the business of F1 and increasingly leaving the day to day running of the business to others.

What this week’s events in Imola and the powerful response around the world have shown is that F1 is hugely popular and capable of pulling in new young fans.

There is a strong future for the spirit of intense F1 competition which Senna embodied; provided that it is presented in the right way.

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Stick by your team through thick and thin, despite the wins and losses.

The different types of defensive football positions are:.

Among those that came out in the wish list is a better line play, addition of team entrances, and

crowd atmosphere.


This is 2014, we must not dwell on the past glory years for too long else we can become overly negative. Critics have hail that the cars will be faster with each race, I welcome that.

Changes has been too drastic that’s why all the ranting so let’s see what happens when the season ends.

But if FIA is still adamant and think they can fleece us, they will lose out big time as sponsors will run. When fans stop watching sponsorships will stop too.

Will this weekend race be like Bahrain? If not, murder eyes can help out by bringing out the SC for the last 15 laps?



Do you know that it is highly likely that there is a level of reverse engineering in F1?

Here is a theory on how rules and engines come to life.


We have a 2 hour time window to fill for a Grand Prix. Come to me with a regulation that will result in GP distance of 300km being covered in between 90 and 100 minutes.


I’m just happy that we have durable tyres again. Funny how that particular fact is brushed under the carpet. Without proper tyres, drivers cannnot truely race. Unlike the last three years, drivers can fight for points. I wonder if in ten years time, everyone will forget about the atrocities of 2011-2013 – the plastic years of F1.


The hybrid engine is a non-solution. The only clean engine is one that does not burn anything, i.e. an electric motor. Personally I would like to see and hear powerful petrol-engined racing cars and efficient, safe road cars and think the idea that they’re related is complete bunk.


Hei James. I do care about f1 and that is why i`m here. I`m looking for a info about f1. But sadly it comes through middlemen like you and other journalists. So, i have to except the info that`s presented here and find peaces that are more or less objective.

This is very sad day for f1 indeed if people have to go back 20 years to relive the excitement that thrills people about f1.

People are so enthusiastic and passionate about Imola events not because they are so excited about f1 but quite opposite- they are so disappointed!!!! And only Senna can heal their wounds.

Maybe i`m not well informed and there is a competition among journalists- who can pull a bigger rabbit out of a hat- then i understand this peace but if there is no competition… .

I can read personal opinions and accept different views, so i hope that my peace stand along yours.


“Granted there have been some teams and some powerful figures who have had an agenda to undermine the message and the changes”

Are you saying the pro-change teams did NOT have an agenda to push?

Renault press statement:” The new 1.6 hybrid turbo engine is called Energy, because it shares technology right down to the Energy engine in the Clio”

I did some research and found the ‘energy’ engine in the Clio has NOTHING in common with the F1 engine, other than being a turbo engine. Its not even hybrid. In fact, Renualt doesnt have a hybrid car in their WHOLE line up!

I called the local Renault dealership and they cannot even give me 1 example what technology is carried over from the F1 engine to their road cars.

And do you expect people that want to buy a family car, telling the salesman they want a car with F1 technology? And what ‘greener’ technology is inside AMG Mercedes models or heavy, gas guzzling ML class or G-class Mercedes SUVs?

No, the agenda is for F1 PR people to shove a story down my throat how F1 needs to be ‘road relevant’. Im done. Its over. Bye bye. That they treat us fans as stupid is perhaps to be expected, but I dont accept that story from JamesAllenonF1.


I was there when Ayrton crashed at Imola and watched the massive funeral in Brazil months later . Ayrton and Roland`s tragic death`s at Imola painted the way forward for safety first before risk in Formula 1 . Eternal rest … and let light shine upon them .. may they rest in peace Amen.

kenneth chapman

another point to contemplate is that of the FIA forever changing the R & R each and every year.

why is it necessary to have completely new cars every twelve months?

if the R & R remains static or even contain a few tweaks then cars could be continuously upgraded and only rebuilt/designed when they hit the wall, figuratively speaking.

imagine just how much could be saved given this scenario.

Liam in Sydney

Not very interesting though, no?

kenneth chapman

@ liam in sydney… true, but if the rats and mice really are struggling then this may save them some money.


“Many would argue that this is not the case today.” – James, we need to be honest. Who would argue that this is the case today? It is not the case at all and we just do not see this kind of racing, drivers are political because sponsors demand it. If there is passion and full commitment and it must be, it is not coming our clearly for fans because it is all about EFFICIENCY (fuel saving, car saving, tire saving, engine saving, everything saving). It is becoming normal that we hear team radio where one driver needs to let the other driver go. Can you imagine anything like this between Senna and Prost? Still…20 years later we are more emotional and attached to something that is a history than what we see today because there is nothing that attracts, nothing that makes F1 drivers real heroes, nothing that shows that they cross limits that are not know to normal human beings.

I think it is the sign of times – everything is becoming artificial and plastic today. Everything is McDonalds-like. You think about Senna or Lauda…and even 20 years from now you will remember Senna and Lauda and not Vettel or Hamilton or Alonso simply because of the format of F1. I think these guys are capable of being great, but they are not given a chance.

Alexander Supertramp

I think a lot of people will disagree with you. The current generation of top drivers has been hailed as one of the most -if not the most- competitive grids in F1 history.


What is the Formula for Formula 1 success??

Been thinking of this for quite a while.

Best car + Best driver = WDC

Best car + average driver = WDC

Worst car + best driver = Nothing

Its nearly always been the right guy in the right car at the right time.

F1 (to me) has always been shear amazement at how the rules try to slow the cars and they still get faster. The new turbos are quicker down the straights than the V8’s, and despite lopping wings off front and back only a second slower on average. AMAZING.

Are the drivers pushing 100% all of the time?

Have the drivers ever done that? real old school racers required mechanical sympathy, Coulthard drove an old 60’s car and said you couldn’t drive it 100% or it would break. Jacky Stewart scolded his Stewart GP driver for dumping the clutch after a pitstop and breaking a driveshaft. When has an F1 car ever been flogged from start to finish? How do we explain the calls for banzai fast in or out laps, is that when there driving 10/10ths, what does that say about the rest of the race?

Drivers have always had to drive and manage tyres fuel, gap to pesky teammate, twas ever thus, and sorry lets call it what it is manage fuel/tyres, not conserve,(fuel runs out and tyres wear out)

I hear what your saying, but fear we could be getting too reactive, There has been big change recently, and im all for it, Honda wouldn’t be coming back if the engine rules weren’t changed, and Honda has a long history in F1. What exactly is wrong with F1? Think long and hard about that before deciding anything, What are we trying to really fix?

kenneth chapman

in contemplation of the future of F1 and regarding a level playing field i have searched for an appropriate analogy and it seems as though the political/socialist/conservative line is appropriate.

‘you’ll never make the poor rich by making the rich poor’. could be transposed to read, ‘you’ll never make the slow fast by making the fast slow’?

the bottom four teams are not going anywhere really and they are the ones making all the noise. forget the acorn exercise as it won’t happen in F1 reality. they are not going to all of a sudden innovate their way to front of the grid.IMO of course.

surely three car teams are the way. either that or at least make customer cars available so that we can see the relative talents of the drivers.

i also believe that there was more talk of even greater homologation of componetry!! just how long before we have a total spec system? if this comes to pass then it just means that F1 is one step closer to becoming an inconspicuous spec on the dust pile of F1 innovation and discovery.


I took Physics in high school. Watching F1, it always amazes me the way the cars hug the track. They should not be able to corner & take the hills as they do. But they do! 🙂


…the hill in Turkey is high on the list.


watch the ‘in car’ video of senna at suzuka.(youtube)

then watch the ‘in car’ video of kimi at suzuka in 2013.

there is simply no comparison. the senna footage is a complete sensory assault. the video of kimi looks like he is out on a pleasant sunday drive.

if drivers can’t lean on the tyres then it can’t be called f1.


“And they have failed to get their message across about the amazing technology behind the new formula which promises so much for the wider society.” the point ive stopped watching F1 alltogether after 25 years of following F1 at each and every race, and am now turning to other sports that value the fans opinion a bit more.

Good luck with ‘getting the message across’.


I agree with James’ sentiment. Someone once said that opinion polls “take the poetry out of politics” (I think it might have been Enoch Powell, unfortunately, but anyway). I’m starting to feel that telemetry takes the poetry out of racing. F1 is still capable of providing the odd magical race, like Bahrain, but most of the time it can feel more like watching a NASA mission – very precise and impressive, but not exactly exciting. When drivers are told that they are 1% above fuel target or advised where to deploy ERS, the feeling of a driver being out there fighting on the edge is lost.

Moto GP doesn’t have team radio, even though I’m sure it is technically possible to have a radio in a rider’s helmet or on their leathers, and so when Lorenzo is holding the entire field up to try to back Marquez into the pack in the last race of the season, and then suddenly bolts off because he has lost interest in the tactic, the viewer knows it was his decision, the race was in his hands. In F1 the radio has become a key feature of the show so it shouldn’t be scrapped, but if they got rid of a lot of the telemetry the teams would have to rely on what the driver felt and reported back, restoring the idea that the driver is in control and bringing back some unpredictability. The predictability of most races is what kills the sport.

Other than that, superficially the camera work could be so much better in F1. On big wide tracks with big wide camera angles and foreshortened zoom lenses the cars don’t look like they’re going fast, and speed is supposed to be the main element. And watching some clips of Senna from these past few days, I do agree that sparks from the floor hitting the track look super cool. And the onboard cameras from those days were much more exciting because they were at driver eye level and weren’t stabilised at all, they were shaking around and it was hard to see, which is how it should be. The onboard cameras today are crystal clear and totally dull.

But most of all it should be about the team building and preparing a car to hand over to a driver who decides how to race it.


The comment about technology and driver skill is spot on. However, the issue that I (and I suspect many others) see with F1 today is:

What are the drivers using their skills for?

Tyre management, fuel conservation and strategy are all-important at the moment, and only when drivers are equal on all of these measures do they resort to trying to out-drive one another. I want to watch racing where the dominant strategy for victory is to produce 50 qualifying laps back to back, not some nonsense about ‘driving to a delta’.


“How to ensure that the sport presents itself in this appealing way, rather than as a dry technical exercise as it currently appears to many today, while at the same time maintaining a strong technology story, which also wows the fans.”

I don’t think the technology story wows the fans. Just look at all the complaints we had during 2001 to 2007. Cars full of technology, all kinds of electrical bells and whistles, complicated aerodynamics and whatnot. But the fans were yelling “there is no overtaking!”.

Today, we have tonnes of overtaking. Now in China, for a change we had “only” half a tonne of them and these message boards were filled up with “the most boring race I’ve ever seen, zzzzz” type of comments.

These days, people don’t even understand their roadcars, not to even mention race cars. If you look at the majority of car magazines, all we see is shiny photos and some wannabe jeremyclarksonish review with no technical content in it. And probably the most popular car TV show about cars(Top-G…) goes no further than the number of gears, 0-60mph or on a tough day, miles per gallon kind of talks.

This is where it comes from, all this DRS nonsense and desperate, desperate rule changes every year to keep people watching the races. As „Formula 1 contemplates what it wants to be in the future“, I would suggest directing F1 back to racing fans, for those who really want to understand the sport. You may try to attract every housewife to make her buy more goods advertised in F1, but you can’t beat „Game of Thrones“, it will always be more exciting than a motor race…


I say

Lets get the mad crazy looking cars back like

The 6 Wheel Tyrrell P34 Elf Car

Or the cars that were tested but never racedd like…

The MARCH 2-4-0





Less normalization. . . A few standard rules on car development but lets get back to sparks flying off the plates under the car. Crazy over taking moves. No to DRS & more adrenaline charged racing.

Only rule that must be formalized & uniformed is Racing Officials & their judgements on racing incidents. Seems to be a lucky dip from one Grand Prix to the next.


One of the things that made F1 so special in the past was fans who didn’t expect every race to be a thrill fest and constantly whinge if it was not. It was expected that often races were not that exciting, that it was a slow burn sort of thing, and that you paid for the moments of true greatness with a certain amount of not very much happening.

Now we have a deluge of moaning on social media the moment there is a less than stellar race. Big money gets frightened. Cue ill-thought-out ‘fixes’ for the ‘spectacle’. Cue what actually made F1 special in the first place being further diluted. Cue more and more grumpy fans. Cue the slow decline of a once great sport. Hey ho, nothing lasts for ever, but to be honest the fact that so many modern viewers have such seemingly insatiable need for constant stimulation is a big part of why the sport feels less gritty and real to many of us these days..


Very true. Well said!


To all you ppl always banging-on about aerodynamics, please tell me how you avoid the effects of the laws of physics on *anything that goes 200 mph.

I guess you could make the cars all identical like NASCAR or IndyCar and then ppl wouldn’t want to spend any money on it?


An idea on the cost capping issue: you set a cost cap per year and ask the teams to join. If they say no that is fine. However, those that do not join must give a proportion of the money they spend to the other teams who are in the cost cap. This way the big teams get to spend what they want and the smaller teams get their limit and a bit more


Great post and reflection, James. Thanks.

Anyway, I´m not sure that tecnology is in the core of F1´s identity crisis. What I truly think is that F1 drivers today lacks character.

And this lack of carachters let us to a F1 without sense of drama, with no rivalry, neither a narrative in F1.

My point is that in the last years, F1 PR machine is sanitizing any clue that we could be have about drivers personalities and their dislike for each other.

And that – his personality – was what made Senna the great and ultimate F1 hero: he was great enough to face and fight Balestre, and let be honest: can we see any driver today with this kind of bravery to face and fight the F1 politics in his own terms?

Drivers with strong personalities: thats what will make F1 more appealing to the average F1 fan.


What we watch now now is NOT F1.

Formula has ALWAYS BEEN a Drivers World Championship,even the italians go to the races to watch drivers driving the best cars in the world at maximum speed.

Nobody cares about the teams,nobody follows the Constructors Championship besides the sponsors.

Right now we have drivers that need to press a button to overtake and complaint when there is no run off area big enough,look how FIA have destroyed Monza.

F1 is not longer a sport,is a business more than ever.

And to top it off right now we have drivers that are marionettes.

I remember Gilles Villeuneve all he cared was to break Stewart’s 27 wins record,such a big deal was when Prost did it in 87.

Last race Hamilton did not even know he matched Clark and Lauda’s record.



I may be considered a yesterday Man,but in my book the yesteryear F1 was by far more innovating,exciting,regulation were not hamstrung which apply in today F1,competition was at its peak,the drivers drove regardless of how heavy the rain may be falling,in fact Senna first break in to F1 was in the rain drench Monaco F1 in a dog of a car,how time has changed, in current days that would strictly be a No,No, and it goes on and on.

One may ask why curtail the competition.


“the new formula which promises so much for the wider society.”

What a laugh.

Ask virtually ANY engineer in F1 now and he will tell you that F1 tech is extremely unlikely to have any relevance to vehicles which are used on the road.

KING Arthur 2 U

Guys guys why don’t we all take a chill pill.Yes f1 is going a bit green unfortunately we have got lost in the debate/arguement because of one small issue,I believe that it has gone green because we are not saying f1 will revolutionise the world but in its own carbon footprint taking into account the shipping,air cargo all the way down to the racing they have taken out that fraction by fuel reduction and number of engines used in a season which will not save the world by has reduced the f1 carbon footprint .it is also still early days they can only reduce it more with time (ie when they bring down fuel limit to maybe 90kg per race).So as an overall f1 carbon footprint has been reduced slightly and do not confuse f1 with formula E, but f1 has to do its own part to some level of responsibility.its the way of the future


owned by James Allen.


I disagree. I have spoken to many engineers and there are already items which are making their way into the automotive side from the ERS side.

Here is Mercedes’ Andy Cowell, for example, speaking at the start of the year to me

“In terms of technology from these F1 power units filtering down into road cars and mass transport, I think you’ll see electric turbo innovations, energy management systems will get transferred for sure. Also there will be huge gains in electrical conduction, high power switching devices, which are 90% efficient in F1 now. Lots of little improvements add up to something impressive

What we showcase in racing transferred to road cars will lead to a significant improvement in CO2 reductions.


I think the efficiency of these pu are great, that will go down to road cars. But I am not naive enough to believe the green propaganda. Any savings in gas is more than paid for by the high environmental cost of battery manufacture. Ask Bolivia how much they enjoy the green aspects of lithium batteries aside from the profits.


It would be interesting to see what percentage of cars have paddle shift gearboxes after 25 years service!!


Actually it just came to me.

F1 is going green by going to remote places where no fans attend because of cost. By having 20k or 30k fans instead of 120k or 130k they are making huge reductions in CO2 emissions. 😉


Hes right, its laughable.

Renault doesnt even have a hybrid engine in their road cars.

I also fail to see what relevance a 650 bhp, 1.5 million dollar costing engine has for relevance to road cars.

You want CO2 reduction, stop having babies.


Sorry, James, but that’s just a load of Mercedes’ PR-Speak.

Day-dreaming about the future does not mean it’s actually happening, much less “already.”


Turbo is to make a better buggy whip, when the next thing to happen is pure electric cars, which will render switching devices irrelevant. Understood that Formula E racing will represent the e-cars, and it will take a decades before most new cars are electric.


Borg-Warner has already made strides with electric turbos. They call it eBooster.



Then may ask for a few points?

1. Why is the pinnacle of Mercedes green effort in the market place a fully electric powered SLS?

2. Why is the simple logic of F1 weight efficiency not transferred into cars? They are overweight and as a result require larger amounts of fuel to move all that mass. I think F1 weight savings and safety systems have more to offer as point of linked technologies applicable in real life.

3. ERS has already been present for a decade on Hybrid efforts from various makers. Are we to believe that it required 10 years and a PU change in F1 to have Mercedes recognize the validity of hybrid cars and ERS? And now we must wait years for the future for this to filter into their road efforts? What exactly does this say about Mercedes raod car division R&D department?

4. The truth is that more effciency and relevance will come from new battery technology such as the M13 virus based MIT battery effort than from other places. I find it hard to believe that it took this PU change in F1 to improve Mercedes efficiency. I find it more likely that existing technology was adopted and miniaturized for size and weight to address F1 requirements. Basically, the wheel was not reinvented with this F1 PU.

Please James, forgive my challenge. I simply feel that if green is the goal, F1 is not the lab or R&D place for it. F1 is about performance and as I mention above performance and green are not likely to be aligned. Car makers and their marketing firms will have us belive that performance and green don’t have to be mutually exclusive. However, truth is that any push for performance comes at the cost of energy efficiency, and as such is always less green. We need to have a reference point like that new VW XL1 car for fuel efficiency. The goal for the industry should be to top the best newest most efficient technology. Not give us fake green numbers under lab conditions that compare efficiency agains some average fuel economy in 1988.

You want green? Here is a formula for it. Here is 1L of fuel. Who can go the furthest with this weight of car? But that’s not what F1 is about. We wouldn’t watch that on TV.



VW XL1 is derived from F1?

Tesla a direct F1 evolution?

Please, let’s not be insulting to non F1 participating companies who have innovated on green, while we stroke the only company to deliver V12s into the market because they are in F1.

As for cars and drivers, go ahead grab a latte and stand on an overpass of a motorway in rush hour and see how many occupants are in each car. Hopefully you won’t be shocked to learn 80% are single occupant. Oh…and how about I point out to you Elie that 40k people die in North America alone each year so that we can have the car.

There has to be a better way for mass transit. We just need to break the pattern.

F1…that’s just entertainment.

Can someone tell me the CO2 footprint of these F1 used batteries and how many each team uses?


1. Who said its the pinnacle & how many other hybrid cars do you think Mercedes makes & sells.. Honestly ridiculous

2. Road cars hold up to 5 passengers not 1. They are not designed to be the fastest racing cars on earth.

3. No it took several years for F1 to come to agreement to apply the bew rules. F1 will accelerate the development of road car initiated technologies and find new ways to implement yhrm to road cars.

4. No but what makes you think that F1 wont develop more effiecient & lighter batteries . I think these PU batteries are already far more efficient and powerful than those in road cars already!

Finally who is to say F1 cannot be more efficient and outright faster than before. & If ultimately Co2 emmissions are to be minimized then Zero is the target– But hang on thats what Formula E is for.


Agree James, I saw that Merc clip with Andy Cowall making thise comments. it is staggering to read some posts here from people who think engine manufacterers lobbyed F1 for years for this kind of a change then collectively spend 1/2 billion & not aim to gain some benefits along the way.

I dont think Mercedes would have stayed if this did not happen and Im certain we wouldnt have Honda starting next year also.


+1 Truly spot on.

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