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Newey and drivers highlight concerns that F1 cars are ‘too easy to drive’
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Posted By: James Allen  |  23 Aug 2014   |  9:54 am GMT  |  95 comments

The announcement of Max Verstappen coming into F1 next year at 17 years of age continues to prompt reflection and analysis on modern day F1 cars and there have been some interesting points raised over the past two days by drivers and senior figures alike.

Most drivers seem to have taken Verstappen’s presence on the grid with an open-mind; clearly he is a talented driver, goes the reasoning, he’s likely to make rookie mistakes, but Toro Rosso has a track record for developing young talents and they know what they are doing.

This site raised the wider concern last week that should the public see a 17-year-old jump into an F1, it could lead to a damaging perception that F1 is easy.

This line of thinking has resonated this weekend in Spa; 1997 world champion Jacques Villeneuve has very strong views on the matter, seeing it as a lose-lose for the sport, “It is the worst thing ever for Formula One because it will have two effects,” he said. “It will either destroy him or, even if he is successful right away, then F1 will be meaningless.

“What will F1 be? It will be nothing. It doesn’t do any good for anyone.”

Adrian Newey

Red Bull’s technical boss Adrian Newey had to pick his words carefully when responding to questions about Verstappen this weekend, for obvious reasons. However he too expressed concern that the public perception of F1 as being made easier is not positive for the sport,

“I think the fact that young drivers – no disrespect to them at all – can jump in and instantly be at the front, or competitive certainly, is an interesting one, he said.”

“The critical thing is the cars should look fast,” added Newey, “And, if you’re sitting there watching television that it should be ‘Wow, those guys are superheroes, I couldn’t do that.’ If I’m honest I don’t think the current cars really do that.

“I think If you watch MotoGP then you certainly have that feeling, that those guys are superheroes, whereas the current crop of cars, their power-to-weight is not fantastic. Going back to the 1300hp in qualifying Formula One cars that were quite a bit lighter than they are now. Then those things, you had to bolt on some fairly special appendages to drive them in qualifying.

“I don’t think there’s an easy answer but I think it would be good to make the cars a bit more difficult to drive in truth.”

Ferrari technical director James Allison had a slightly different view; albeit agreeing with Newey’s point that it’s important that the cars look fast and exciting,

“I think what we have at the moment is fast. I think it looks dramatic, I think it requires skill from the drivers and I think it’s producing fairly good races. So I don’t really see any big problems in that regard,” he said.

Nico Rosberg, Felipe Massa

Earlier in the weekend several drivers had aired similar concerns to Newey about the difficulty level of driving the current generation of cars, as highlighted by the ease with which very young drivers are able to jump in and perform.

Felipe Massa and Nico Rosberg (below in 2005), who tested an F1 car at 17, both said that the cars of 10 years ago were more physically challenging to drive, especially as refuelling meant that the races were a series of sprints, with faster lap times and higher physical loads. They both called for the cars to be more challenging physically, which would have the knock-on effect of making it harder for young drivers to cope physically.

Nico Rsoberg tests an F1 car age 19

Romain Grosjean gave a slightly different view, however.

“Don’t get us wrong, the cars are not easy to drive. They’re still performing very well. Yes, physically they are easy, but there are other challenges” he said.

“I think it’s still a tough job. I remember my time in 2009, and already then the cars were physically harder to drive. I would like more: the quicker it goes the more we enjoy it. We are racing drivers. If you give us 200 more horsepower and more grip, we will take it – but what we want is to really have good races.”

It’s an interesting discussion, which will continue no doubt. It’s part of the wider discussion on what the stakeholders want the sport to be for the future.

Part of the reasoning behind having a 17-year-old racing is that this will help to open up interest among the younger generation who do not relate to F1 and don’t watch it.

This may happen to some extent, but this site maintains that in the risk/reward balance on this topic, the wider negative for the sport of perceived as being ‘child’s play’ outweighs the positives of a few more teenagers watching the sport.

What do you think? Have your say in the comments section below

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F1 isn’t about being a stage for the pinacle of drivers but for being the pinacle of motorsport/innovation, the best entertainment from drivers comes from the lower down formula with harder to drive cars without the ‘bells and whistles’ of the extent of telemetry and analysis in formula 1. actually who am I kidding, its probably the same there too just its bit harder to turn the cars into the corner and stay on track…alledegedly 😀


What Newey said is very true. This is one of the reasons Fernando Alonso was ignored by Red Bull. A highly skilled driver like Alonso is of no use if a rookie can drive as fast as him. This is because the cars are too easy to drive and experience seems to count for nothing. We, as viewers, don’t want to see a rookie come and beat our legends. Yes it may bring some new young viewers but it will loose some old viewers because we like to see legends race against each other (and may the best man win). We don’t like to see our legends get beaten by rookies. That is why I am starting to dislike F1 a little bit. I am a Fernando Alonso fan. I hate to see him not having the ability to get the best seat or the second best seat. It is for sure bad for the sport. James, you should write a more detailed article about this topic because it really concerns me and the future of F1 depends on it. F1 cars should be tough to drive. It is a sport and sportsmen are more important than any other thing. Good players should not be beaten by bad players.

Thank you.


If Verstappen is competitive next year it will make a mockery of the supposed race craft and skills needed to succeed in Formula One, and if that is the case, there’s a lot of over-paid “fat cats” in F1 bilking us ticket buyers because how can you truly claim F1 is the top echelon of motor sport now!


which is basically what vileneuve is saying, and hes right too, its lose lose situation


The two arguments that I hear:

1) The cars are too easy to drive, the driver does not make the biggest difference:

Interesting that people here are saying that F1 is too easy and that it is nothing like the “old days”. I heard exactly the same sentiments 20+ years ago. Do some people long for the times of Nigel Mansell in his “electronic” FW15? In these times the car was definitely a bigger factor than the driver.

2) Very young drivers make F1 seem bad as it seems too easy:

Do people long for drivers like Giovanni Lavaggi/Phillippe Adams/Paul Belmondo/Jean-Denis Deletraz/Taki Inoue/Alex Yoong etc? THESE guys made F1 look bad! They had absolutely no business of being in F1. Lets not even compare them to a driver like Max Verstappen, who is supremely talented and will get into F1 because of his skill.


As a 50 something the incessant media push for teenagers( and ever younger teenagers at that) in all sport – swimming, athletics, golf, football and now f1 is I have to say putting me off. I dont want to watch child prodigies pushed into the limelight by parents, agents and sports teams. i want to watch sport – the clash of technique, experience, sportsmen and women at their peak. The younger the teams become the less interest i have and the less I shall be watching. Goodluck with that teenage audience.


No one whinged that Tennis was too easy when Boris Becker won Wimbledon at 17.

Sochi Olympics Julia Lipnitskaia, 15, wins figure skating gold.

Marc Marquez is the best Moto GP rider and he’s 21.

Kids have no fear.


Those who talk about “hard to drive” must say whether they’re talking about the physical demands, or about skill. Otherwise they’re saying precious little of any value.

Given that it’s being related to age, and to the 2014 changes, it’s probably mostly about the physical side. Surely the answer to that is things like banning power steering or increasing mechanical grip via e.g. wider tyres? No matter how much some might like to beef up the downforce, we know that hurts the racing.

If it’s about skill, then those complaining must come up with some evidence before we can have a meaningful debate.

I accept the MotoGP/superheroes point but it’s mostly just because MotoGP’s more dangerous. Unless there’s a way to change F1 so that drifting is the fastest way through a corner? After all, how much downforce does a MotoGP bike have?


I simply don’t buy the argument that young drivers undermine the ‘profession’ of F1 driving. If there’s one thing that undermines F1 driving and insults the fans who (nowadays) pay to watch it on TV, it’s pay drivers.

As long as a driver is in the car on merit fans couldn’t care less about age or gender. We want to see the world’s best drivers racing wheel to wheel, not some overprivileged halfwits ruining races.

Those calling for “superhero” drivers seem to have forgotten: superheroes come in an astonishing range of shapes and sizes. However I don’t recall ‘parental wealth’ ever being a celebrated superpower.

This website’s commentary on F1 and it’s vision for the industry is mostly flawless. It’s position on young talent is out of character and disappointing.


From a design perspective, I think we should return to the days of the MP4-17 and F2002. The kind of designs where front wings were narrow and rear wings were short. This makes the cars look sleek, which therefore makes them look faster.

I’d also revert to their downforce set-ups. 3 elements spanning the entire width of the front wing, make adjustable, and that’s your lot. Do the same with the rear wing elements. Keep the coke bottle area nice and neat, as they are now.

Patrick Head said at the Monaco GP you could make 800hp for 2 million euro’s a year. I’d stick one of these engines in the back and leave it at that. Surely plenty of engine manufacturers would be interested in F1 for 2 million a year? That’s got to be spare change to the likes of Toyota, BMW, Audi etc.

F1 cars do not have to be complicated. Indeed, it’s by keeping things simple that we get great racing and the “superhero” outlook on the drivers, because they don’t have the technology to help them/hide behind. The HUMAN element is put to the fore.

Keep the cars simple! That’d go a long way to solving a lot of the problems F1 has atm.

Kristiane Cyrus

Best cars that look aesthetically pleasing while being challenging to drive were ones from late 80s’ to early 90s’. Just go back to those cars, with today’s technology in safety such as higher side protection and chassis and body construction, roll hoop and the lot, instantly the cars would be great.

Add to that, ban data sharing to show who’re the naturally talented vs averages ones, then we can see the best of the best duke it out at the front while the average ones fight for mid positions and let them figure out for themselves how the heck did the fast ones drive so fast.


I can’t help but feel like people just want to put down the new ambitious youngster, by attemtping to write off any potential achievements Verstappen makes as F1 being easy.


Reduce the amount of power steering allowable. That will bring a more physical aspect into play immediately


I’ve been banging on about this for ages. The cars are too easy to drive, way to easy. I could get in one and drive it very fast. Anyone who has been competive in a racing discipline could. Can you say the same about Moto gp or a F1sidecar? Even a super kart? The actual performance is not as important as the perception. No 17 year old lad could manhandle a GP car from the 80’s. that’s the part that makes it boring. The guys would rather get on the radio and cry to the put wall rather than sort it on the track. Its the whole mentality from start to finish. They lack guys.


I think all the telemetry takes a lot away from the. drivers. I was driving my Fiat the other day on the hwy and started to feel something odd, perhaps a tire going low. I had to make a decision based on my experience and feel to either pull over and check or continue. Now of course this is just an easy call to make but if these types of situations had to be called by the driver’s feel and not some engineer reading streaming data it would add a lot more to the racing and make experience count for something. Even using only spotters would be better then what they have now.

This is just a small example of an area I feel that could be changed for the better of the sport.


Best season for years and still they moan. Interesting that Newey cites MotoGP as the way to do it (again), a sport in which a 21-year-old has come in, won 10 races on the bounce and pretty much humiliated every other rider in the class.

kenneth chapman

exactement mon ami. those moto guys are streets ahead of anything F1 can conjure up.


Ben, how do you figure it’s the “best season for years”? Only two cars are capable of winning on a consistent basis. Unless mechanical woes set in, which is the only reason DR has been able to get a couple of wins. I work for one of the major sponsors of Formula One and within the company, this has become known as the “asterisk” season for the simple reason that only Mercedes is truly capable of winning and, with that, only two drivers capable of the WDC. Pity


Pity indeed if that’s how people are thinking about it, and I guess I can see why, but the truth is I’m finding it really compelling, and certainly better as a spectator than the blown-floor years. It should be an AMG steamroller, and at some races it has been, but there have been some incredible on-track battles all season – the last few laps at Spa today, for example. I just think it’s a shame that there are constant calls from inside(-ish) the sport for yet more rule changes. Grand slam tennis and the Premier league manage to leave the rulebook alone, more or less, for years.


On the other hand, having a 17 yr old kid driving at 200 mph certainly fits in nicely with the FIA “road-relevant” idea.

And what better way to promote road safety?


Comparing Max Verstappen to the average 17-year old racing driver is just plain stupid. What Max has achieved at his age is unprecedented. No one, i repeat no one has done what he has so far. In Karting and his transition to F3. He has always raced ppl 2-3 years older than him, and has 13 years of experience under his belt. Granted, not in F1, but you have to start somewhere. 😉

Villeneuve clearly doesn’t know what he is talking about, like many doom mongers and nay-sayers here…they don’t know Max and haven’t clearly followed him…


Totally losing touch with reality.

Pretty soon it’ll be like ladies gymnastics: dominated by jockey-sized children.



Regarding the new cars, obviously new regulations means less downforce in the corners but has the new brake by wire system decreased the force under braking? Or is that just due to the sound the cars now make under braking making the force seem smaller?


I wonder this too. Any on-board comparisons 2013 to 2014? Obviously much bias is set to front, but as you pointed out heavier car. And drivers do say they are not confident in brakes vs. last year. Has to contribute to when they brake as well.


Not that I’ve heard the forces are still high from what we see of the data get

Cars weigh a little more and have to slow from higher speeds, yet we’re talking less than 100m for Les Combes at the end of the Kemmel Straight


2014 f1 cars easy to drive not for Kimi they’re not.


I say, take away the pit to car radios. Bring back the pitboard for all comms. Theres way too much info and direction provided to the drivers throughout the weekend. Ok, maybe keep the radios for free practice but thats it. Also get rid of the ridiculous fuel flow rules and bring back refuelling. Raise the weight limit so drivers dont have to look like supermodels.

kenneth chapman

@ glennb…….drivers are mere puppets most of the time. they do what the pit wall tells them. yes, there are digressions, being hamilton and vettel but that was all about team orders. the most significant and telling conversation was a short time back when button asked his engineer the question’ who am i racing’? pathetic really. can’t possibly imagine mansell asking something like that.


I’ve read all of the comments to this point and agree with some, disagree with others. I do like Newey’s comments about MotoGP. Absolutely on point! As a former professional road racer (from the Kenny Roberts, Gary Nixon days), I absolutely love MotoGP and go into severe depression when the season ends. That being said, I have three teenagers at home, 2 boys and a girl. My kids have zero interest in F1. However, when it comes to MotoGP, they know the players, including the lower classes, and each have their own rider to watch. Marc Marquez is the hero to each of them, although my 13 year old daughter still hopes for a Casey Stoner comeback just to see the battle with Marquez.

Why do they not care for Formula 1. My daughter said it best. “You can’t see the driver. Who knows if the guy getting into or out of the car is the same one that they show standing on the sidelines?” She’s right. MotoGP riders are gladiators. Watch Marquez dragging his elbows on the tarmac and within a couple of races, Pedrosa, Rossi, Lorenzo, and the rest are doing the same. That’s what it takes to keep up. Watch the 2500 frame per second replays of the corner exits. Look at the black tire marks being left by these riders powering through the corners, in some cases, completely sideways. Do you see this in F1? No way.

You want to bring audiences to F1. Make it entertaining. Who gives a damn about Hamilton’s wannabe rock star life? Who cares that Sebastian’s girlfriend just had a child? Emphasize the cars. Let us see the drivers work. Lower the sides a bit so you can see the drivers in action. Camera views of the footwork, manual gearchanges, no radios, pitboards, refueling, in-season testing, etc.

Look at other forms of motor racing and compare Formula 1. Look again at MotoGP. Great, recognizable, paint schemes. Riders in loud, identifiable, leathers. Remember Benetton’s great paint jobs? Remember the 7-Up Jordan? Those cars could be spotted a mile away. I’m telling you guys, entertainment is where the future lies with Formula One.


F1 cars are too easy to drive. Just ask Pastor.


I agree with Newey to a point, but he is being a bit of a hypocrite, most of his cars had huge amounts of downforce, and things like the exhaust blowing with the Red Bull, and the tech monsters of the Williams fw14b and the 15, all these things by there nature make the cars easier to drive.


Looks like the general consensus is that F1 is not realy the pinnacle anymore, but it’s hard to roll back the years to >1200bhp and aero that was only semi-stable. We are bound to move forward, so lets take a look at what’s available. The ERS powertrains have shown massive torque, making the cars a bit of a handful sometimes, so lets emphasis that by encouraging more energy recovery and useage without artificial restrictions. It’s fair to say the the DRS is totally artificial and can be dispensed with to encourage “real” overtaking. Get onto big rims to lessen the effect of tyres in the equation, maybe making it possible for more than one tyre manufacturer with costs governed by FIA saying all trye suppliers must give their customer teams X number of tyres at a price of not more than €Y Let the teams decide which compounds they want to use, in consultation with their supplier. Sort out the aero packages by insisting on certain width, chord and thickness dimension limits for front and rear wings. All elements together must fit within that dimension specification. End plates must be flat, within specified dimensions and unperforated. There’s lots more – obviously – and cost saving will also come as a result.

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