Double Formula 1 world champion Fernando Alonso has triggered an interesting debate by asserting that the 2000s era of the sport was its most popular and – effectively – the peak.
In a recent interview, the McLaren driver outlined his thoughts on why he ranks that period – during which he won back-to-back titles for Renault in 2005 and 2006 – above the era of the mid-1980s to the mid-1990s, another period that many consider to be a golden age for F1.
Giving his thoughts on the earlier era, when the likes of Alain Prost, Ayrton Senna and Nigel Mansell fought for the championship, Alonso said: “Formula 1 at that time, it was very boring. If you see a race now from ’85, ’88 or ’92, you will sleep through the race because it was two McLarens, the fourth guy was lapped and there was 25 seconds between each car.
“There were 10 cars DNF because the reliability was so-so. Television figures, spectators are going down [in 2016], like it was in these boring years in the ’80s where Senna, Prost and these people were saving fuel, saving tyres and things like that, so it’s exactly the same boring as it was at that time.”
But when talking about the 2000s period, Alonso highlighted the interest in F1 through high TV figures and new races joining the calendar.
He said: “I think Formula 1 grew up a lot. A lot of manufacturers came into Formula 1 in the 2000s – BMW, Toyota, and there were many people coming. Television figures and the spectators were at the maximum.
“We opened Formula 1 to new countries – we raced in Korea, we raced in India, we raced in Singapore, two races in Spain – and that was the maximum. And we didn’t understand that situation, probably. The costs were very high, technology was very high, some manufacturers pulled out.”
During the 2000s era, a several major manufacturers entered the sport as team owners or engine partners and many of the lap records at tracks that have remained on the calendar since 2004 were clinched that season.
Ferrari and Michael Schumacher, who swept the board between 2000 and 2004, dominated the first five seasons of that decade. Then Alonso and Renault won their titles before Ferrari and McLaren fought over the 2007 and 2008 campaigns.
The final season of the 2000s era, 2009, featured a significant regulation change as F1 moved away from high downforce cars and reintroduced slick tyres. It followed the global financial crisis, which caused a number of manufacturers to pull out of the sport.
In the years that followed mid-race refuelling was banned and Pirelli’s high degradation tyres became the control rubber from the start of 2011.
In 2017, and for the first time in a generation, F1 is changing its rules to make the cars faster, not slower for safety reasons. The aim is to improve the show via aggressive-looking cars, lower laptimes and testing conditions for the drivers.
So we’re handing the discussion over to you. What do you think of Alonso’s comments? Was the 2000s the most peak era in F1? Or was the Senna-Prost-Mansell period better supported? And why? Or, conversely, do you think the upcoming season could herald a new shift in popularity for F1?
Please complete the polls above and then leave an explanation of your choice in the comment section below. We’ll collate your comments later in the week and pick out the highlights in an analysis of the discussion.