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F1 race director Charlie Whiting: “Simplifying Formula One is unfeasible”
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Posted By:   |  04 Jul 2014   |  9:17 am GMT  |  72 comments

FIA Race Director Charlie Whiting has stated that simplifying Formula One to grasp a younger audience demographic is unfeasible, given how sophisticated the sport and the cars have become and the clarifications on rules that are constantly required.

Speaking to JA on F1 after his briefing in the Silverstone paddock yesterday, the sixty-two year old Briton who has acted as Race Director since 1997 believes that it is not possible to take Formula One back to a less technical time for the sake of allowing the casual fan to have a better understanding. There have been calls this year from figures like Bernie Ecclestone and Ferrari’s chairman Luca Montezemolo to make the sport more accessible, particularly as there is widespread evidence that its audience has an ageing demographic.

At last week’s FIA Sport Conference, attended by national federations of 109 countries, there was widespread agreement that the sport needs to simplify in order to remain accessible to new generations of fans.

“I don’t think it is very feasible to simplify Formula One, unfortunately,” said Whiting. “Unless we can dramatically simplify the cars, which I think would be the wrong thing to do then they will inevitably become more and more complex. Although, having seen this year’s cars it is hard to imagine how much more complex they could be but I’m sure they will find ways.”

F1 fans

By its nature, F1 is a fast evolving sport; regulation changes like the introduction of hybrid turbo power units have introduced many new parameters to the racing, complicating the narrative of what is going on.

Whiting believes this need to be adaptable to change makes for a high level of rigour, filtering through all levels of the engineering and operational side of teams and means that clarifications of rules are inevitable. This inevitably adds extra levels to the complication.

“The teams are demanding more accuracy with everything so it just filters down,” added Whiting.

“It becomes our operation, our humble checking operation is huge now compared with ten years ago, so that is just the way it is. I don’t think you can unwind time and say ‘let’s go back to the more simple times’. I think Formula One should be the pinnacle of technical innovation in motor sport and I believe that it sincerely is.”

Ahead of this weekend’s British Grand Prix, much of the discussion between drivers has been regarding a new rule put in place for 2015, in which standing restarts after a safety car will replace the rolling start that we currently have.

The reasoning behind this change is to provide a better spectacle for fans as the start is considered the most exciting part of the race. It increases the likelihood of position changes and can spice up a race.

Whiting said that the idea was suggested by one team and quickly reinforced by others.

“It was suggested by a team and was embraced by the rest of the teams, so we didn’t think of any reason why it should not be done. I think it will add excitement, drama and spectacle to Formula One so I think it is a good thing. “

Whiting spelled out that the standing restart would not involve a new grid procedure, rather the drivers would line up as they do at the end of the formation lap at the race start.

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1

Whiting, like the rest of the Formula One [elite?] is blowing smoke out of his [mod]. He’ll still be droning on about how things can’t be simplified when the last of the fans have left the circuit with no intention of going back and the TV contracts have been thrown in the bin because of lack of viewers.
He’s an old man in a young man’s sport, it’s time he was shuffled off [mod]

2

It’s stupid to try to make the sport simpler just for the sake of making it more appealing for the younger generations. If the teens and kids these days find F1 interesting, they’ll want to learn however complex it is.

I still remember the first time I was in touch in Formula 1 was back in 1998 during my prep school (secondary school) studies, my English was not very good back as I’m from Asia where F1 isn’t very popular, so so it was twice as difficult. I had to learn from simple things like what they meant by terms like “season” and “retire”, to more technical things like how qualifying works, point system, how wings affect cars, how F1 teams are structured, etc. It was difficult yes, but I found these things very interesting and fascinating, and I have been hooked to the sport since.

I re-watched some old races that were from ages ago, for example late 80s and early 90s. They had some fantastic stuff like commentators would be inside a team’s garage standing right next to a car explaining how various bits work. Why aren’t these kept? It’d make things a whole lot easier to understand if these were shown on TV. In my first year of following F1 back in 1998 they certainly had none of these and up till today they still don’t have it.

If you want to talk about complex, even with today’s regulations and stuff are not much difference in terms of learning curve for a new F1 watcher and learner, it’s just different variables being placed like double points for final race and different engine technology.

One easy and simply thing the FiA and FOM can do to attract audience is to MAKE IT FREE TO WATCH!! It was free F1 on TV that allowed me to watch whenever a race is on, coz there was every chance for me to take advantage of to enjoy the racing. Make it available on internet as well as kids are more connected to their computers these days than in the past. Not everyone can afford a hugely expensive subscription fee, or even if they can afford it, willing to spend that money just for 20 races per year, leaving the remaining 345 days for the set-top box to do nothing.

3

Well Charlie I respectfully disagree. You can make F1 simpler. We are still entirely focussed on aerodynamics as the means of improving a car. While slightly interesting to anoraks such as myself and I imagine most of the readers of this site, it is not interesting to a casual punter and is not conducive to good racing. I thought this new engine formula would spice things up but it hasn’t, engine development is still banned so ever since the first race it has been abundantly clear that a Mercedes powered car of some kind would win the championship. If I were a casual punter and read in the news this week that e.g. Ferrari had launched a new engine with many more horsepower to try and beat Mercedes I might be more inclined to watch a race but who cares about a new front wing that gives them a 0.1s benefit. I just can’t understand why engine development is banned, keep the 100kg fuel limit but let them use it however they want.

Get back wider cars with sticky slicks to improve mechanical grip and strip back the aero massively. Develop tyres that don’t deposit rubber all over the track so it is actually possible to drive offline. Personally I don’t mind DRS but things like DRS and “Abu Double” are just alienating existing fans and doing nothing to attract new ones. Tyres, why do you have to use both compounds? It was introduced a few years back in the hope that we would get a wide variation of strategy, great idea in theory but in practice it doesn’t work, by in large they all start on the same tyre. Just another boring rule commentators have to constantly explain, and then explain it doesn’t apply if it rains, but not necessarily, only if it is officially declared a wet race.

My last point is the media coverage. in mainstream media there is none, you have to have a good look at a paper on a Monday to find the Grand Prix. Certainly here in the UK I think the coverage by both the BBC and Sky is far too bloated (less so now for the BBC). A GP lasts about the same time as a football match but the program lasts about 3.5hrs. As an anorak I like this but the majority of people just want to tune in, find out the grid order, who done what to who, and then watch the race and podium. I actually think the BBC showing only highlights for some races but at prime time is beneficial for attracting fans.

All in all its a very difficult one, for the die hard fans such as myself it is the complexities that make the sport interesting for me. You can’t dumb it down too much, as Charlie Whiting says it is the pinnacle of motor sport and motor racing technology. Either way the powers that be are going about it in totally the wrong way, they are attempting to dumb it down with crappy tyres and double points but at the same time introducing pointless complexities such as baffling tyre and fuel consumption regulations. Neither the anorak or casual observer wins and F1 loses.

4

James Allen do you pass this sort of feedback on?

5

Of course.

They read it here anyway, though

6

What a pile of bs There’s so many silly rules to eliminate before even starting to look at the cars!

7

So what’s this old dude saying? If I’m not on the same technical level as Adrian Newey, then I should follow some other racing series? How very welcoming.

To be honest, I now prefer “simple” IndyCar racing to F1’s barely functioning hybrids now and it’s down to the fact that they’re good with social media, they have various teams that fight for wins, they have proper crazy tracks (adios, Tilke!). Next year they’ll have different aero packages as well to add more fun to it. IndyCar engines are every bit new generation but without these funny hybrid parts.

What the FIA is saying is that hybrid cars are everywhere and they couldn’t ingone it, I look outside my window and see a single Toyota Prawn, and Toyota aren’t even doing F1. These 2014 F1 cars are not natural, and F1 people don’t understant that mainly because they live in a bubble.

8

The World Cup, the Tour de France and Wimbledon are all looking mighty good this weekend: Not sure the British Grand Prix has ever felt so irrelevant … Perhaps Mr Whiting (and others) have already made such a good enough living from F1 that they are simply unawre that they are pulling up the ladder behind them … If Senna’s were the champagne years of F1, we’re now down to the beaujolais nouveau.

9

If Whiting thinks the task of simplifying thd sport is too hard, maybe he is part of the problem – resistence to change is always voiced loudest by those who are the most privileged and have the most to lose. Time for a new generation of chiefs in F1.

10
Tom in Adelaide

Charlie can’t the forrest through all those damn trees.

F1 needs some younger people making decisions. The sport is dominated by a bunch of old dinosaurs who have completely lost touch with the fan base. They are so caught up in decades of personal rivalries and various monetary interests that it prevents them from viewing the sport from anything other than their own skewed perspective.

11
kenneth chapman

@ tom….how very true, i fully agree. as for whiting’s statement that the technology can’t be wound back is just plain nonsense. the issues that are highly contentious are, in the main, non technical.

mid race restarts, paywalls that alienate viewer/fans, fuel flow restrictions [semi technical] last race double points are but a few non technical impositions that could be modified at the stroke of pen!!!

whiting is seriously misrepresenting the issues to avoid an assault on his ficticious claims. if anyone is out of touch it is this bloke. obviously he doesn’t lower himself to read JA on F1. if he did then he might just get to know what the fans/followers think.

12

It is so laughable and so condescending to suggest that things need to be “simplified” for the younger generation!

What idiot thinks that the “younger generation” is stupid, or *less tech savvy ??

Get a grip! It doesn’t really matter how simple or complex the cars are! *That stupid idea is a distraction. *That is engineering and the fan base for that is somewhat smaller. Engineering competitions only excite Engineers!

Its about the rest of it – the “sport,” the show, the excitement! Watch any of the “X-Games” style of competitions – what do you see? Wild and crazy kids doing wild and crazy stuff sponsored by a wild and crazy energy drinks company. And most likely on free-to-air TV, btw.

That’s your demographics’ interests, not some semi-secret, arcane aero device that adds some invisible top speed. Whatever changes are made for the “show,” its gotta be f-ing *visible.

But its all nonsense anyway because they’re talking about the WRONG demo! The target demo for the money people (sponsors) is those that can afford fast cars and all that goes with, NOT some pimply-faced 20-something w/o a pot to p in.

But here’s a suggestion anyway: (Sorry, Bernie) let teenagers in at the races for free. It worked for *me all those years ago.

rant/off

13

If my employer’s power would be reduced by simplification, I’d say it was unfeasible too.

14
Peter Scandlyn

Listen to Charlie, he knows what he’s talking about……

Tyre test….yeah no worries

F duct…..yeah no worries

Mass damper…..yeah no worries

Standing restarts….absolutely…. oh, wait…..( bit early here)…

15

One of the main problems is that the cars seem to be slower and slower and slower. Blindingly fast cars pushing to the max for an entire race will bring in both young and old fans.

16
Man On Wheels

F1 in Silverstone, at the moment, is as fast as 2012, that’s not too bad, and we’re still in the beginning of new regulations. By the way: this year’s cars are faster in a straight line than last year.

You’re tricked by the sound and the fact that TV stations still haven’t managed to get someone in who can actually mix the sound properly.

17

I am not tricked. I said, “seem,” not, “are.” For the general population perception trumps reality. The general perception is that the cars are slower so though they are faster than last year’s in some ways isn’t really importAnt. F1 needs better story telling.

18

There are two straightforward things that F1 can do to widen it’s market share and appeal to younger fans.

i) Get rid of the existing top brass. Bernie, Charlie et al have done a grand job, but it’s time to step aside and reinvigorate F1 and F1 broadcasting with younger talent. If the people putting the show together are 40+ is it any real surprise that the demographic is ageing?

ii) Stream F1 races live on the internet for free, or very close to free. Have an F1 youtube channel, an F1 app that uses a subscription service like whatsapp does ($1 a year) and stop trying to monetise the fans so much. Build a much larger audience and milk the advertisers instead.

TV is dying, the future of broadcasting is internet streaming, see iplayer/netflix/youtube/vine/twitter/facebook etc etc. To appeal to a younger demographic you need to deliver content to them via a medium they actually use all day (mobile phone/tablet)

The racing is great, it’s not too complicated, younger people can understand what is going on at an F1 race, the problems not the racing it’s the way it’s delivered to people.

19

As a very long term fan (I used to watch Jackie Stewart etc at Brands Hatch!) I honestly think F1 is nearing it’s death throes. It’s become over-regulated and nothing but a cash cow for Bernie and whoever he’s working with at the time. Yes, I do still watch it and, yes, I still enjoy it for the most part. I have visited every race in Europe (and once to Indianapolis) except Monaco which has cost me a fair amount over the years but refuse to line SKY’s pockets by also paying for their coverage. I did watch it once on a free 24 hour pass and thought it was pathetic compared to the BBC show, even as highlights they are way better in my opinion.

Bring back free engine design, bring back re-fuelling if necessary. Ditch DRS, ditch grid based restarts after a safety car. Keep all the safety improvements. Throw out mandatory use of two types of tyre. If you want to incorporate energy recovery then do so, just don’t pretend it has any relevance outside of racing or make it madatory. Just go racing! Then maybe the viewing figures will come back up.

20

Further innovation could use superconductivity in the energy storage, this would raise the efficiency of the ERS by quite a bit, but introduce liquid nitrogen into the mix. (Unless we get ambient superconductivity by then,, maybe graphene based)

21

The innovative years of F1 are well behind us, now everything had been thought of and banned!

I have to say that LMS rules are now better and allow different engines. But in F1 we have to give free electronics so that we can have ABS, traction control and direct energy harvesting off the wheels.

Then if we really are serious about emission control and fuel usage, we must allow variable valve timing and lift. Also full free mapping.

keep the fuel flow limit and total allowance but like LMS, do it over 3 laps so as to allow a hot lap where necessary.

22

A live feed from FOM on their website with an annual payment of say £100 would get back many of the viewers. that have given up because they cannot afford sky.

Putting F1 behind expensive pay walls decreases the viewing figures and discourages potential sponsors at least those who don’t mind the sport being tarnished by Bernie’s behaviour.

When Bernie suggests something outrageous its time to look at what he is diverting attention from, in this case, his part time trial in Germany.

23

I don’t get what is hard to understand about broadcast rights and why viewing a race is not “free”. Obviously the various broadcasters would never agree to paying for the rights to broadcast the races if you could side step their broadcast by viewing the race on another format such as YouTube or even under your proposed option of paying directly to FOM.

I know many of you are comparing SKY to BBC and consider the BBC to be free. If I understand correctly it is not free and there is some sort of fee or excise tax that you must pay which would drive me as batty as SKY does you guys.

I agree that they need more accessibility for those of us that want it through their broadcast partners.

24

The younger generation are driven by direct easy and free access. YouTube, Face Book, Twitter etc. I am middle age and refuse to pay the monthly cost of SKYF1 etc. It might be great coverage but at a cost,, so I depend on the few live races BBC show.

The racing this year has been great, but my interest in not as great as it used to be for this reason. Other ways of funding the most money driven sport in the world needs to be found but not at the fans expense. Until then the young generation will find other interests.

25

I’ll be 40 next month so am certainly not the younger generation. However I stumbled across the Goodwood Festival of Speed’s live YouTube feed last Sunday and thoroughly enjoyed watching all the action, so completely agree with your comment. I do subscribe to Sky, but frankly as a non-football lover, the £720 annual fee just for F1 in HD, divided by the 10 races not shown live on the vastly superior BBC doesn’t represent good value. F1 need to have a word and persuade Sky to offer an F1 only subscription at circa £15 per race weekend.

I also like the IndyCar concept of having to run Red and Black side-walled tyres during the race, without getting hung up over which compound the Softer and Harder tyre actually is. In terms of simplicity all we really need to know is that Red is softer than Black, it doesn’t matter that in one race the Red is a Super-soft and the next race Red is Medium – in both races it just represents the softer option.

26

Why are you paying £720 for Sky F1? I have the basic TV package for years and added Sky F1 HD only at an extra £10 per month. I don’t subscribe to Sky sports package as I can’t stand football. Perhaps they don’t do that deal anymore or you have been conned.

27

I feel exactly the same way as you! I used to religiously watch every race going back over twenty years, but refused to pay for SkyF1. I watch whatever they show on the BBC, but I’m rapidly losing interest in that too lately.

Bring back testing, end engine homogenisation lockdown, lose blue flags, drastically reduce regulation to allow engineers innovate. Stop penalising drivers for gearbox or engine failures.

And forget about grid restarts after a safety car and double points for the last race. Why not give points to the top four after qualifying to spice things up?

28

If there is an objective risk of accidents (in some circuits) in starts with tyres & engines in a good conditions, I can’t understand how FIA can say there is no risk with wasted rubber & engine overheating. I accept the “entertainment” reason but please don’t treat us like stupid,[mod]

29

Yes!

Just ask yourself “when do most crazy crashes that put ppl out of the race happen?”

And does this cause a yellow flag? Any fan can answer this.

And then we’re going to do it again? And again? And until the 1/2 of the field remaining gets it right at the 1st corner?

But evidently F1 wants to be more like a demolition derby.

30

Charlie does not get it. All he is interested in is maintaining status quo, which is more complexity and pedantry, more technical delegates and inspectors, bigger empire for himself to control that ultimately doesn’t add to the spectacle, only unnecessary costs.

Give the engineers a freer hand. Give them the opportunity to correct mistakes if they “got it wrong” as obviously Renault and Ferrari did with their power units. The whole PU issue is so contorted and uncompetitive tokens and all. It discourages other manufacturers coming into the game, as well as punishing those who “got it wrong” the first time to correct their mistakes. They may, but only in a very limited fashion. They cannot correct fundamental flaws with the initial design.

Such flaws in the regulations give those an ongoing competitive edge who got it right the first time and punishes those who didn’t. As a manufacturer, why would I consider joining such an anti- competition series when my hands are tied as to what I may do? I can’t showcase my engineering skills and creativity anymore. My hands are tied and the show becomes a predicable procession favouring one PU supplier at the expense of the rest.

To make matters worse, the teams cannot even be guaranteed access to the best power units available. The whole set-up is so anti-competition and a monopoly I’m surprised the Competition Regulatory authorities haven’t investigated yet. But then, it’s literally an old boys club that you don’t have to join if you don’t want to. That said, the old boys shouldn’t complain if their audience is staying away in droves. They only have to look into the mirror and take responsibility for their poor decisions. The problems and solutions are so obvious!

31

“Whiting spelled out that the standing restart would not involve a new grid procedure, rather the drivers would line up as they do at the end of the formation lap at the race start.”

So drivers could say, move from 13th at the race start to 5th, then a Safety Car comes out and they have to go back to 13th at the standing start? What on earth?!

Not good.

32

Pretty sure that’s not what he means. I think it’s more a case of just parking up in a grid slot that corresponds to the position you are in at the time of the restart. Dumb rule either way if you ask me.

33

I think you’re right on both counts.

34

I’m not at all sure about that Kenneth, but I kind of hope that’s the case as it would be much quicker to get the race going and I’d kind of like to see a Marussia start on the front row 🙂

35
kenneth chapman

does this mean that lapped back markers don’t get to unlap themselves?

36

On an unrelated note, but something surely to do with P1 at Silverstone and (P2 as I’m watching right now), I’ve noticed a lot of drivers going off the white lines with both right tires off the white lines on the club corner on the way to the start/finish. I really hope every driver who is going off there in qualifying to have his lap disqualified. We can’t have different rules on different tracks. Get off the white lines with both right tires off at club and have your lap disqualified. Alonso had been within the white lines, but since almost everyone was going off, he did it himself. How to shuffle qualifying results for the “show”? Enforce the dam* rules in qualifying.

Another point I want to bring up is the unfairness of the whole grid having to suffer because a Caterham is beached. Regardless of the reasons, just get that car immediately out the way (pull it out with the help of 6 marshals if need be), and place it somewhere where yellows won’t be brought into the equation. We’ve already gotten rid of gravel traps. Why should other drivers suffer if one driver goes off by his own mistake?

Pull that car out of the way. All kinds of mistakes have to be punished. Whether one’s car can make it to the pits with/without the help of cranes or otherwise is irrelevant. You make a mistake, be prepared to sit out of the whole session if it can’t be helped. The means of ensuring a different line up come qualifying or race is already there – enforce the dam* rules.

Award the drivers who’re milimeter perfect, and punish those who aren’t. I don’t care if it is Hamilton or god. Rules are rules! Sorry for the passionate outpour!

The marshall who came towards the Caterham was walking his way to the incident zone. This isn’t a Cricket test match. Time is a premium. FIA goes around playing around, but can’t enforce the simplest of rules. Just doing this will shuffle the grid every now and then without the need for sprinklers or artificial sparks.

37

“I’ve noticed a lot of drivers going off the white lines with both right tires off the white lines”

Unless they’ve changed the rules then as long as two wheels are still within the track limits it should be okay – it’s only when all four wheels are outside the white lines that they should be penalised (and I agree – when they do that they should be consistently penalised, not just on a track by track and corner by corner basis).

38

Hello Random 79,

Thanks for your response. The corner was a right hander, which is why I mentioned the right front and rear only. All 4 wheels were off the white lines at Club.

39

Makes more sense now, thanks 🙂

40

I can see how my comments were confusing. I did it once again by saying right hander and right tires lol. My apologies! What I meant was, the last corner’s exit, not entry before start/finish. On that exit – which is on the left side of the track – drivers were stepping outside of the white line with all 4 wheels, and then reentering the track.

May I also make clear that I am not too concerned about whether a driver gains (or not) advantage by going off at that point of the track. If it breaches the rules, please be consistent with its application everywhere as Random 79 also agreed.

41

I agree with the majority of commenters. F1 needs to get a grip on WHY it wants an audience, then it can think about HOW it gets an audience.

Money comes into the sport from advertising and from fans. Fans pay for TV access and track access, advertisers pay to put their message in from of as many people as possible. To maximise their TV revenues FOM aggressively defend their IP rights which forces much of the audience to use paying channels to access the sport. That reduces the advertiser’s audience. So the sport becomes something only people with money to spend can access, and that means older people. And the advertisers begin to fall away – look at the number of spare sponsorship slots on even top cars this year.

Maybe if FOM released all their footage for free on the net 24 hours after the race a whole new young audience would arrive. True petrolheads would still pay to watch the race live at the track or on TV and some of those youngsters would become sufficiently interested to begin to pay. Meanwhile the avertisers would get their audience and the money would start to flow back in.

But currently FOM are driving hard down the other road, and it is a dead end.

42

This just underlines that FIA dont have any idea. They’re not in touch with the fans nor do they have any connection with young people.

Formula 1 and motorsports in general are all about selling out everything they can with no consideration for the effect it has on growth.

Do they even know that the vast majority of video games are now free to play? Look at League of Legends, World of Tanks, Warframe, Blade and Soul.

These games are bringing in more active players than the combined TV ratings of a Formula 1 weekend. How does Formula 1 compete with those markets?

Standing restarts is’nt going to work. The Formula E is a joke too as they’ve set it up for young people but are running the events during times when young people will be studying for thier exams visiting tutors on saturday and sunday afternoons. They’re not going to have the time or freedom to break off those lessons at a critical time in thier life.

So the FIA are alienating thier older audiences while running events that have been scheduled at the worst possible time for thier target market.

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