Analysis: F1 overtaking crisis – Why listening to F1 drivers is bad for the racing
Sebastian Vettel
Posted By: James Allen  |  28 Mar 2017   |  1:43 pm GMT  |  395 comments

Although the Melbourne weekend was largely positive for Formula 1, it revealed one serious threat that hangs over the series this year, which is the problem with overtaking. Melbourne is not a typical race track and we need to see the cars on circuits like Shanghai and Bahrain, but already some things are painfully clear.

There were just 5 overtakes in the whole race, compared with 37 last year and while the new aerodynamics have a large part to play in this, there isn’t much that can be done to improve the difficulty of following another car now the season has begun.

However there are strong calls behind the scenes in F1 for Pirelli to review its selection of tyres to bring the softer compounds and increase the variables in the racing.

For Spain, for example, it has nominated Soft, Medium and Hard. No team will use the hard and so the race will be processional with largely similar strategies. If it was the softer compounds, there could be more variability. Valtteri Bottas did a stint of over 20 laps in testing in Barcelona on Ultra Soft tyres, which is an ideal opening stint length for a race, so they can’t be that ‘ultra’ soft after all!

All the signs are that in listening to the F1 drivers, who wanted tyres they could ‘push’ on, the sport has suffered; it has had a detrimental effect on the overtaking as the cars are all doing basically the same thing, rather than mixing it up and having big performance differences at various stages of the race.

Max Verstappen

So the drivers are happy, they are having fun. But the racing has suffered and actually the drivers from 6th place downwards have all suffered because they have no chance of getting a big result now. The low degradation tyres are another thing that keeps the top teams ahead.

Because the Pirelli tyres barely degrade over a long stint and the compounds are closer together there is no differential in pace. We saw degradation of half a second over a long stint on some compounds where last year the same run and compound would have seen the performance drop by five seconds a lap. Those offsets are where overtaking happens, when cars are jumbled up on different strategies.

At the same time the changeover in regulations from 2016 to 2017 has seen the wealthy top three teams open a huge performance gap to the rest, thanks to much greater levels of downforce.

The finishing gap on Sunday between the fifth placed Red Bull of Max Verstappen and sixth place Felipe Massa in the Williams was 55 seconds, which is basically 1 second per lap.

The Haas car qualified in 6th place at Melbourne and was 2.6% off the Mercedes in performance terms. In 2016 a 2.6% delta would put you 14th on the grid. So you can see that the field has opened up, which is bad for the racing, it’s more like it was in the 1990s. What kills F1 is the separation of the field and it’s this area that should be Ross Brawn’s number one priority to fix with the FIA in the long term plan for the next set of regulation changes.


It means that the leading cars have a pit stop in hand over the rest by around Lap 12 so there is nothing the midfield cars can do to get involved in the action, no scope for a Sergio Perez, for example, to get a podium by clever strategy or taking a chance on a Safety Car.

F1 is now an A race and a B race. This will carry on through the year.

More worryingly, the sport is dependent on the Ferraris and Mercedes staying on the same pace through the development race this season – and hopefully Red Bull joining in once they stabilise a couple of problems on aerodynamics and engine, which they will do by Russia or Spain at the latest.

The 2017 season is set to be the biggest development arms race the sport has seen, due to wide open scope on the aerodynamics and a token free system on engines. And if one of the top teams gets a step over the rest, for example if the stage two Mercedes engine from Spain onwards gives them a half a second of performance margin over Ferrari, then the viewers will soon switch off.

Brawn and the FIA will have to step in if that happens and effect a short term solution to the problem for the good of the sport.

Sebastian Vettel

So what is the problem with the overtaking?
There was concern at the end of last season about the new regulations and the idea that the turbulent air from these higher downforce cars would make it hard for a car to follow another and pass. At the same time the extra downforce means braking distances are shorter. The idea with these rules was to make the cars much faster over a lap as the drivers complained that they were not a challenge to drive and 17 year old Max Verstappen was able to compete straight away, which older drivers found depressing.

The other idea was to give the drivers tyres on which they could push hard throughout, as in the Bridgestone and Michelin days. But the overtaking then, such as it was, came from the refuelling levels and also the offset in performance between two tyre companies.

With robust tyres that have low degradation and low wear the cars basically will qualify and race in car pace order.

McLaren F1
Was this Melbourne specific or will we also see it in China?
Melbourne is a particularly difficult track for overtaking, as there are no long straights, braking distances are shorter this year and the track is lined with walls.

Fernando Alonso had a top speed of just 290km/h in the horsepower-challenged McLaren Honda and managed to keep Esteban Ocon behind him for most of the race, despite the Force India having top speed of 317km/h. That will not happen in Shanghai.

The Chinese track is better, thanks to the 1.170km main straight and the Drag Reduction System on the rear wing, which sheds drag when a car is within a second of the car in front. This year, with cars that have more downforce and therefore more drag, the DRS will be more powerful in China. We expect to see a speed boost of over 20km/h and cars will pass on the straights. There were 28 overtakes last year of which 16 were on the DRS straight. We’d expect to see that and more this year.

Valtteri Bottas

Driver Reaction
Following last weekend’s Australian Grand Prix, several Formula 1 drivers offered their thoughts on the lack of overtaking moves witnessed in the Melbourne race.

Perez expressed his belief that a driver now needs to be two seconds quicker than the car in front to pull off a move. Hulkenberg described overtaking in 2017 as “almost impossible”.

Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas highlighted the problem with the turbulent air as a particular concern for the chance of a pass.

He said: “Even in the years before it’s been difficult to follow once you get within one and a half, or one second, just because of the turbulent air which messes up the aerodynamics of the car and that way we don’t have that much grip.

“Now, as more of the grip from the car is relying on the aero, it’s a bigger effect. And the cars are wider so I think there’s more turbulent air so now it’s more like two seconds or even two and a half because you actually feel quite a big effect from the car in front and that way in the corners it’s more difficult to follow.”

Lewis Hamilton

Hamilton, who had expressed his concerns about overtaking before the start of season, outlined his belief that strategy battles and pitstops would produce the main passes in 2017.

He said: “It’s always generally been tough to follow. I hope that doesn’t mean for the rest of the year that it’s more of a train.

“I don’t know if it was exciting for you guys to watch, but for me personally I want to be closer up with the cars and doing more close wheel-to-wheel battling. It’s really through strategy and pitstops that we are racing right now.”

But Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen, who finished fourth at Albert Park last weekend, urged caution on the overtaking issue.

He said: “It’s only one race and this circuit is far from let’s say a normal circuit. Some circuits will be more easy, some more harder in a year. We have to see how it goes in the next races.”

What did you make of the issue of overtaking at the Australian Grand Prix? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below or head over to the JA on F1 Facebook page for more discussion.

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This sport is really good at killing itself.

All over the winter on the website the armchair pundits have been predicting this aerodynamic effect on overtaking. Yet the people that run the sport didn't seem to realise it.

It does make me smile about Pirelli - they were slaughtered for doing what they were asked to do with tyres that degraded. They've now done what they have been asked to do with tyres that don't degrade. I know it's only one race but I know what I prefer.

I guess we can sit here now and start debating the next changes in regs, as it looks like they can't come fast enough. Let's hope that Braun can bring all his experience to bear without listening to fans, drivers or teams and come up with something that actually works.


James, it seems to me that we WISH for parity (equality in machinery and driver ability) across the field and yet expect to see more overtaking. How that is possible, beats me. Isn't motor racing about one car going faster than others through driver ability AND and one team being more advanced than another through technology If so, doesn't the constant shifting of 'goal posts" (rules) negate this, the very essence of competition?



And that's why his a car uses its tyres has always been critical

If they can all use these new ones more or less the same, that takes away a performance differentiator

So the cars finish in car pace order


Shock horror, fastest car comes first? That'd be physics.
Boil it down to its essence ... a team mate who is a faster driver should have a reasonable chance of getting his identical car in front of his teammate's because of his greater skill.
Anything you complain about that doesn't directly offer this chance to him is just waffle - including trick tyres.


It was exactly as I feared. Low deg tyres and higher downforce reduced the overtaking opportunities.

F1 listened to the teams and drivers when specifying this new formula and not the fans. I hope it improves in China.

All I ask is that we learn from this for the next regulation change.


Yes that chap LukeC blasted anyone who had the slightest concern re overtaking for this season and kept telling us the wider track and bigger tyres would compensate for the increased aero.. he seems to have disappeared.



What's so annoying is that this situation was so damn predictable. Too many vested interests and too much intransigence led us here.


Drivers will complain lack of grip forever. Mika Salo said on sunday that there is never enough grip for driver. That it's kind of a paradox. There is allways something that you can complain about and something the car lacks. So it's useless to listen what drivers want. These cars are obviously more fun to drive but there was no racing at all @melbourne.

Same with the fans. Why listen to fans when 30% thinks 'this is the best way', 30% thinks 'no it is not' and the rest thinks that every decision is bad. Average fan, like me, did not notice any increase in speed compared to last year race @melbourne. Just no overtaking at all and huge gaps. Cars are obviously more stunning and stuff but is it worth it really? First car was lapped after like first 10 laps or something? I mean that's just sad.

Lets see what happens on a proper race track. Maybe there will be less overtaking but maybe it's more exiting when it happens who knows..


I've been very confused about everyone being so excited about Brawn joining Liberty and fixing the regulations because Liberty are the commercial arm of F1, they don't set the rules and regulations. Todt even just cleared this up by stating the same. Sure they can have an opinion but the FIA don't need to do anything they say.


Actually that is not completely true, liberty has around 1/3 of the votes, so has fia and the 5 big teams share the rest. Thats why before todt bernie could push regs cuz he was close friends with fia.


I don't often criticise this site, especially what James Allen says but give it a chance, Melbourne is full of fast corners leading onto straights making it difficult for any car to overtake, others circuits have slow corners leading onto straights, this will promote better overtaking. Also 2016 was the last year in the regulation cycle, this is the first race in the new regulation cycle.


Exactly. James writes that "there isn’t much that can be done to improve the difficulty of following another car now the season has begun." yet Vettel was within a second of Hamilton for most of the first stint.

I really used to respect JA but calling for a return to low deg tyres is absolute insanity. I'll happily take 10 hard-fought overtakes a *season* against 30 cars sailing past each other every race because they're on tyres that are 2 seconds a lap faster.


Yes Vetted was able to follow but he never even attempted a pass. I don't know about you but I don't find watching one car following another that exciting


Who's "calling for a return to low deg tyres"?

First you mean high deg tyres, I believe.
Secondly I'm not!

I'm saying that we need a way to have differentials in performance as the cars will find it very hard to overtake due to the massive aero turbulence

So we need Pirelli to be more adventurous in the choices they bring to races, where that's possible

When it's U/soft, S/Soft and Soft anyway, we just have to hope for the best

With no differentials in performance from tyres at different stages of life, the cars will finish in performance order every week.

Is that clearer?


So - you want the tyre performance to be able to mess with the cars' performance, to randomise the results. I'd prefer that drivers were able to make the difference.



I just want the tyres to be another thing the driver's have to master in their skill set and a wider variety of choices for races than the conservative selection we seem to have


Yes, I meant hi-deg tryes, silly mistake on my part.

And I'm happy to 'hope for the best' as opposed to creating artificial performance differentiators. If you're happy with cars passing each other just because they have a tyre that's a second or two a lap faster than the guy in front, that's your business. I want to see drivers following each other lap after lap, biding their time and waiting to pounce. As long as drivers can follow closely, which they appear able to, then there's always a chance of an overtake. If it doesn't happen, it doesn't happen and so be it.



But factor in that throughout F1 history using the tyres, getting the grip out of them on hot laps and looking my after them on long runs, has always been a critical part of the game - look at Mansell, Prost etc

If tyres perform more or less the same for everyone then it takes away a key performance differentiator

That's all I'm trying to say


@ james...the tyres should not be a differentiator. The way 'drivers''use the tyres should be the differentiator


Maybe refueling is the way to create performance offset and promote overtaking....


in this season i agree teh softer compounds have to brought in so as to get more interesting races. but for next year if th regulations are not cahngin by a large margin then we need refuelling . That will change things but im not sure about how close racing will be since i feel cars might end up being too far off each other.


Don't worry Mr Allen..
We still love you!!


Re-read the article - 37 versus 5 overtakes last year / this year!


Too right. Tyre strategies were not the same. Casing point of Hamilton. Give it a chance!

Melbourne was boring because of the circuit - and how amazingly proficient the drivers are now.

No crash at the start. No Jacque overcooking into turn 1. No Brundle or Alonso somersaulting at turn 3. No crash at all even with these "physical" cars. Maybe not physicial enough (apart for Pascal).

Teams look closely matched too. No Williams 1-2, McLaren 1-2 (and swapping!), Ferrari 1-2 or Mercedes 1-2!

Give it a chance.


I don't think Hamilton had a chance no matter what he did. Eventually Vettel would have been 2 or 3 seconds faster on those ultrasofts and passed him. Vettel was even faster on the sifts eventually. Maybe that was because of lap traffic but I just think tires are faster on MB on a short run but Ferrari has them on long runs. We will see if the same is true in China


China - Mercedes will remind everyone what the order of affairs is. You'll see.


I'm thinking the same, hope we are wrong but... I do hope any Ferrari wins don't feel artificially created.


If Mercedes win in China it is wouldn't be surprising, they've always been super competitive there, even before they were dominant. People forget that Rosberg fought for the win in both the 2010 and 2011 races before he eventually won it in 2012. Hamilton was also on pole in the 2013 event.

Last season Ferrari should have won in Australia, and probably could have challenged for it in Bahrain if Vettel hadn't blown up. Yet come China they were a second a lap off the pace.


Vettel or Raikkonen could have been on pole in China but both blew it at the hairpin.


Sebee1 Star2 Star3 Star4 Star5 Star
China - Mercedes will remind everyone what the order of affairs is. You'll see.

I doubt that Merc has it in it. They are still quick but they lack the endurance. Something tells me that they will having a season that is 2013 season where they won most poles but few races.


Brawn and the FIA will have to step in if that happens and effect a short term solution to the problem for the good of the sport.

James must tread carefully here, FIA can't just yank sports rules as it sees fit. A lot of work and money goes into gaining an advantage in this sports. It would be immoral to change the rules just because you want to level the playing field.


It never stopped them in the past.


...and Brawn has already said he doesn't want the knee-jerk reactions of the past


Good article, the gaps need closing, the top speeds must be close.

So Ross, it's either a speed cap or maybe...


Use the DRS.
Red Bull can use DRS in the zones every lap.

Midfield can use their DRS over half the lap.

McLaren can use DRS over the whole lap.

A handicap system for those with duff PUs, Renault, Customer Mercs and Ferraris, year old PUs and of course Honda.

Emergency needing drastic quick action.


Yep do all that but overtaking needs to be addressed. F1 need a wind tunnel to bench mark the level of dirty air produced by each car. The lowest gets no penalty- everyone else has to carry a tone of dead ballast in the car as a handicap. We will then see cutting edge solutions to make the cars less likely to upset following cars allowing them to close the gap, get DRS and overtake some more. Melbourne was woeful. I want double the overtakes of last year not less. I also want three tyres used each race, and each to have a vastly different performance. More stops not less one stop Melbourne boring boring boring.


Seriously why do people always put the word "simple" before going on to describe a really daft idea??


Yea and the lead driver has to race with one arm behind his back, and the backmarkers can throw as many green shells as they like. Jeez...


We don't need more artificial junk


...another statement Brawn's already made


Don't agree with analysis at all. Aero, not tires are the reason passing is hard. Get rid of all of that superfluous stuff so we can have closer racing. TIme to put Newey and his colleagues out of business. I want the drivers to push hard. Deteriorating tires were a disgrace. Good riddance.




And another "hear, hear!".

Is it over simplistic to suggest that (radical!) reduction of aerodynamic grip, and increasing mechanical grip will make for more compelling racing? I seem to recall Martin Brundle saying something about that ... aeons ago.


Aero is why drivers enjoy pushing an F1 car. Getting rid of it will put them out of business. Good riddance?
F1 fans are just so great.


Nonsense. Drivers will push in whatever they are driving. Aero helps with stability. Less stability means greater reliance on driver skill to keep the car on track going as fast as possible. Separates the wheat from the chaff.


Indeed just get rid of all the aerodynamic crap. Let's go back to the times where cars just had a small front and rear wing. Put a good set of rubber under it and done. Easy. Simple. Cheap.


Hear, hear! Simplify the front wings to something similar to GP2, sorry, Formula 2, and scrap DRS. The front wing should be there to stabilise the front of the car, nothing more. Obviously a knock-on effect on the rest of the car, both the visible and hidden elements, but surely not beyond those clever aerodynamisists to overcome?


I would suggest any bodywork or wing ahead of the front axle is limited to a maximum width, lets say inside of the front tyres for example, so it can be `box-tested' in scrutineering and reduce the aero effect on all the cars. Maybe restrict it to a single plane to eliminate the curtains we see on the front wing now. And if you're concerned about loss of lap time, allow higher cc's or battery power to compensate. Bit old fashioned I know.


Obviously humans can rewrite physics however we like.


Most definitely! Overdone aero has and still is killing racing and causing the addition of all manner of band-aid BS fixes that only further alienate trad fans of "pure" "mano-e-mano" "may the best man win" that F1 always bleats on about still being. Maybe worse though is that these ever increasing jiggerings make the sport even harder to understand and appreciate to new viewers. Cost caps. No more Bernie-power "Heritage Team" payments. No appendage wings, period. One continuous-flow body forms with under body diffusers. Fill the cars with fuel and tires that can just last a whole race and turn the lights off. Then we'll see who the "best drivers in the World are!"


The bad about the new aero, it impacted passing.
The good about the new aero, it nullified the DRS.

Recipe for the perfect F1 formula:
Spending cap. NA V10. 600Kg cars. Refueling. These wider slick tires. No winglets or appendages. Exhaust out absolute rear to stop blown defusers. 8 gears in the gearbox. No KERS. No hybrid. No sparks. No DRS. No fuel limit. No tire usage rules.

This would be a no fluff show. No passing for passing sake. Closely matched cars. Glorious sounding and looking. I'll take 5 passes per GP in this formula vs. 65 with DRS formula.

Just look at how proportional this formula looked:

Now look at this loooooooong contraption:


Exactly...the problem isn't the tires, the problem is the aero. The cars can not follow close enough in disturbed air. Period.
The powers that be in F1 are concerned that the cars are perceived as being the fastest in the world over a given road racing circuit; and as such, serious aero is needed to maintain speeds through curves, but what has happened in the decades since aero derived downforce has existed is that we have come to have half aircraft-half car racing. If you want fast cars, increase the power to weight ratio, however you do it. If you want more passing design circuits in which these cars can pass. It isn't rocket science really, it would simply take the FIA to admit that the series has been painting themselves into a corner for a very long time....and that things were going to change.
And, for anyone who says that you simply can not control downforce, that the designers will get around any regulations.....I say.....a car is allowed to produce X-lbs of downforce as measured in a certified wind tunnel before the series begins, and that the FIA can require that any car can be required to be tested at any time during or after the series, and that any violation will be dealt with in an exreme way. The teams will comply.


No. The Aero has always been a problem ever since F1 worked out that if they dirtied the air behind their car it would stop other cars from overtaking. Of course the new aero has increased this opportunity and the improved tyres have also shortened the braking zone length so that the zone where the aero disruption doesn't affect the following cars as much. They've produced a bit of a perfect storm for themselves - affecting the good areas badly and the bad areas well..


Spot on Seebee.

Hope you're listening Brawn!


Yeah. See your point - black paint should be banned from F1 bodywork immediately.


Ha ha ha...good one. But seriously, why paint black carbon black? 🙂


@sebee - very interesting observation about the length!

The picture you have given as reference is a 2005 Ferrai i think, vs 2017 Merc. It was very hard to get the exact lengths of 2017 cars offcourse but i found a link that is logical enough with its data visuals.

Compared it to the 2005 Ferrai wiki.

Length is a tricky issue for 2017, If i understood the below links properly- perhaps the 2017 Merc is 5067mm while the 2005 Ferrari was 4545mm.

Wheelbases however is easier to compare- 2017 merc is 3760 mm compared to the 2005 Ferrari which was 3050mm (as per wiki).

WHat is strange is.. the 2015 and 2017 wheelbases are also higher than the 2005 cars at.. 3411mm and 3500mm for the mercs in 2015-16 respectively.

So im assuming that the Hybrid era Power Units have forced the cars to be have much longer wheelbases thus making the over all length longer aswell.



I believe that's F2004 and W08. When you scale up the pictures to sync the tire width from above (as diameter didn't change, just width, just like they did in your link), you can see a good approximate comparison. What happens behind the driver of a PU hybrid car is a disaster. F2004 is so lean looking. Sexy! W08 is like the Minardi 2 seater long! Look at all that length this PU needs? It is incredible. Someone noted that due to front and rear wing sweep it is 5200mm, but indeed confirmed length data on W08 is not something I've come across yet.

Thanks for the link. Nice one. That's compared to last year though, which were already longer than V10s. They just keep bulking up. FYI, monster trucks are 6000mm long, so soon F1 will be longer if it keeps this up. By the way, anyone see the Mad Scientist Monster Truck do a 360 forward flip in free style 2017 competition? I don't care what motor sport you like, it was amazing!


'By the way, anyone see the Mad Scientist Monster Truck do a 360 forward flip in free style 2017 competition?'

I saw a clip, crikey! Is that the first time that's ever happenned?!


You know, this exchange about elements in other motorsport makes me look back at V10 again. What did we have that looked amazing in the V10 era?

Well, obviously we had the amazing V10 sound.

We also had the glowing brakes before they covered them up. How amazing would that be now that we have sunset and night races?

We had fire shooting out of the exhaust on those V10 periscope dual exhausts. You can't have that with these PUs turbos and capturing heat with little fans spinning in a pipe.

And then we also knew what was going on under the engine cover - absolute insanity with the whole thing glowing red hot at 20,000RPM and 950hp - 10hp per kg of V10 engine! I said it before and I'll say it again - drivers earned immediate respect from fans just with the knowledge that hey agreed to strap into a seat inches away from this:

So to sum up, you want elements of excitement, all of these have been engineered out of F1 just with a few slight changes. Something as basic as glowing brakes, you just don't see that often, and when you do it communicates to you visually the energy that is being shed in braking. You certainly enjoy seeing glowing brakes, vs. not seeing them - yes?


If you guys want to see it, it's here.


Apparently it is the first time in freestyle competition. Maximum D attempted on a purpose built track and it was really a fail. But this was just out of the blue not on a track built for the stunt. It is amazing for something that big to do THAT!

These Monster Trucks are an interesting case in motor sport entertainment. They come to town and over two days can easily pack 100,000-150,000 fans into a stadium for 3 shows. They are incredibly loud and at 1500hp insanely nimble. One truck easily stumps authority on the stadium. I've gone to a few and I can tell you it's an interesting experience. When these things fly, flip, rip the truck body work to shreds, or miss a stunt and basically rest absolutely sideways and the driver somehow manages to flip it back upright, you will see fans with Rolexes and Timexes cheer like crazy. My kids love them and it potentially sets a certain expectation as they grow up when they see other motor sports. (I can't lie, I enjoy watching them too. ) Bring out a Monster Truck with 1500hp loud engine that is only amplified in a stadium, make some sparks shoot out the back and make it fly and flip jump over a school bus and you can see how a certain expectation of some of those elements may be in place for other motor sports. Say what you want, it entertains. NHRA - same thing, you see those top fuel things rip down a 1/4 mile in 3s with fire shooting out of the exhausts, no matter how you feel about it, it's exciting to see. I still haven't been to NHRA top fuel competition life, but I want to go. F1 by comparison is tame on those elements, which these young fans growing up with these things and comic films could be demanding, expecting, and which may be driving the direction F1 is going in as a result. Sparks, exhaust whistles, gimmicks, etc. It's worth keeping in mind that eventually any product looks at other products and tries to incorporate features from it. It is why I am surprised Formula 1 gave up the V10/V8 engine sound. It certainly was an important identifying feature.

Ricciardo Aficionado

F1 is already drifting away from the purity of purpose that makes it a worthwhile expenditure of my time. All this talk of "entertainment" as a priority makes me sick.


Refuelling was the single worst thing to happen to F1 perhaps ever, you are viewing that era with some heavily tinted glasses. Combined with the lack of DRS in your ruleset and all you end up with are passes completed in the pits, not on track. Because that's exciting.

Reverting to V10's would drive away 3 of the 4 engine manufacturers, effectively killing the sport. Fuel limit is irrelevant as teams have been using less than the stated maximum since the middle of 2014. And no sparks? But why?

I wouldn't watch your sport for free, I sure as hell wouldn't pay for it.


'Reverting to V10's would drive away 3 of the 4 engine manufacturers, effectively killing the sport.'

Because the PU hasn't done any damage??

Too expensive, too quiet, too complicated and too heavy.

Maybe more manufacturers would have joined F1 recently if the PU wasn't such a barrier to entry.


This week I had the option of taking my kids on a road trip to their first F1 GP but ultimately decided not to. Partially due to wondering whether or not they would actually be as impressed and captivated by the experience as I was as a youngster.
Formula Sebee would alleviate those concerns and engage a new generation of fans.

So what if the manufacturers leave, the void will be filled with passionate racers and constructors who are in it for fun and interest rather than just commercial interests.

While the current PU's are technically amazing and I support their development for application to the global auto industry, the authenticity of F1 seems to have been lost somewhere along the line.


Interestingly, I responded to NickH about this very subject right in this post when we segued to other forms of motorsport.


Reverting to a V10/V8 would drive away 3 of the 4 manus. Yes and it probably would attract 3 or 4 new engine builders...maybe even more given the economics of the exercise. By keeping these PU's the sport is driving others away. The manus are running the sport...No?


Kenneth, who are these engine builders? Why were they not involved in the sport previously?


Cosworth comes to mind


Msta, remember the Cosworth V10 and V8 from the previous era? Underpowered, unreliable and inneficient, anyone else you think would be queuing up to get involved in F1? Independent engine builders were not exactly kicking the door in to get involved before were they?


There was no refueling on sunday and hamilton got passed in the pits?


Funny, because most people ever watched that F1, that I would slightly improve with little less aero and more mechanical grip with these wider tires. Thus only improving it.


I seem to recall that legendary Mika/Schumacher pass happened during that era. Plenty of others. JPM. Kimi. Alonso. DC. I recall plenty of good hard passes. Sure, not 65 per race like we have now, but enough.

Personally, I'd rather have one fillet mignon than 17 McDonald's hamburgers.

Ricciardo Aficionado

Mika/Schumacher... Is that officially the best overtake ever?

Seymour Quilter

So you will remember the countless dull and boring races during the same period? I do. The Trulli Train where no one could pass him - ruining a race. DRS saved us from all that dullness.


AS there were last season and the season before and the season before.

F1 is never going to have great races all the time, but every so often it throws out brilliant races. People watch for the possibility of this unlikely chance. Just like in football there is probably only 1 in 10 matches that is actually a good game.


Good example Sebee! i wish we could just turn back time.


Yup. Turn it in to F2 and watch Formula E take over the world.


hey sebee...during refuelling all the passes happened in the pitlane...remember that!


What happened on sunday? Who made the pass in the pits?


Not all. Some, sure. But when I think back about France 2004, I don't feel cheated by that. Yes, I'd rather see wheel to wheel, but it was fascinating to see Schumacher put a 4 stop to work for the win. I know I paid attention the whole GP. Schumacher pushing as hard as the hardware allowed, pole lap after pole lap, slowed only by the extra bit of fuel weight. It was a master class display. And then sustained forces and fitness. It was beautiful to watch even without a pass for the win.


I get why people wanted the cars to look wider, but I still can't understand why the hell they also made them longer - As I said before wider + longer = just bigger.

Welcome to Follow-the-leader One.

Anyway, kudos Sebee - You managed to write an entire comment without mentioning a Mercedes conspiracy or Formula X1 🙂


The Merc was so long, Bottas had to start out of his garage as he couldn't turn from garage to pit lane without hitting the wall!

I'm hoping they understeer at the Lowes Hairpin at Monaco (or whatever it is called now) so they can't make the corner 😉


It had occurred to me 🙂

I'm a bit fuzzy on the rules about reversing - Are three point turns allowed in F1?


wider + longer = just bigger <-- Maths with Sebee confirms this to be true.

Now answer this:

bigger + heavier =

Speaking of conspiracy, you know what's really cute? If you try to fix a race to win, like Renault Singapore 2008, yikes, it's ugly. People get thrown out, teams gets fined 100M (suspended for friends), team quits F1, etc.

If you try to fix a race to lose, throw a race if you will, there really aren't any consequences for it. If you're found out, it probably wouldn't even damage the brand. Conclusion: "They were so good, they didn't want to win it all"

It's good for Formula 1. It doesn't can't hurt the team doing it. You have to give it to them...they have put themselves in control of Formula 1. How oh how will Liberty claw back control from the real owners of Formula 1? Mercedes own F1, and the didn't pay a penny for it! 🙂


Hang on...last I heard Red Bull owned F1 😐

Bigger + heavier = slower I believe, which might be part of the reason why the cars aren't quite as quick as they were supposed to be. I know the drivers need some chassis/crash structure in front of them so they don't break their legs every five minutes like the good old days, but again, why - whyyyyyyyyyyyy - didn't they find a way to make the cars look wider by making them shorter???

And still no X1 - Proud of you Sebee 🙂


I was thinking bigger + heavier = gastric bypass surgery to not be obese and reduce chance of heart failure.

Red Bull did have a period where it exerted leverage and called the shots, but it was nothing compared to what Mercedes has done and now can do. Red Bull didn't make engines for 1/3 of the grid, dominate F1 at 85% - and only at 85% because they gave a way a few. And Red Bull didn't force through expensive PU formula that cause a team to fail, is draining cash from teams and is punishing the manufacturers. Honda is taking massive lumps, Renault did and still is too. There also doesn't seem to be a way Liberty can regain control without Mercedes leaving. Mercedes will not loose. They will pull out if they aren't winning.


F1 is also an engineering competition. I do not find it right to blame Mercedes for having done a better job than their competitors have managed. What is there to blame them for? If Renault and Honda are failing to catch up, Ferrari look like they have, is it Mercedes fault?


Random, they are as quick as they were supposed to be, around five seconds quicker than the 2015 lap times. Still significantly quicker than last year, so the bigger+heavier = slower doesn't seem to hold water does it?


Wasn't the target six or seven?

Yes, I'm quibbling, but as I said not *quite* as quick.

I think that part of the improvement comes down to improved engines (Honda excepted of course)...and yes, I still do think that bigger+heavier=slower.


Random, no the target was five seconds, this is the only number ever mentioned in the new regs discussions. The cars are bigger heavier and faster than last year, so bigger+heavier+more downforce+more mechanical grip=faster.


You know, no one mentions that a car that is so much longer is harder to pass.

It should be obvious, should it not? Longer car, requires more distance to pass, no Maths with Sebee needed to figure that out. These things will be harder to pass even on straights due to length. They are now the length of a Cadillac Escalade SUV at about 5200mm! Craziness.

Longer, heavier, bulkier, less proportional. It is amazing that F1 is heading in this direction. Instead of smaller, lighter, slimmer, sexier, more proportional, faster. Reminder - PU cars take the grid at 177kg heavier than a V10 car did. One hundred and seventy seven kilograms!


It's true. Shorter vehicles travelling at higher speeds does produce better racing and more overtaking. And we already have this. It's called MotoGP.


Qatar was fun!


And any length is doubled, not only do you need to clear the longer car, you have to clear it with your also longer car.


Good point. A five meter+ long anything is hard to overtake on the highway. For that you need lots of room for a big distance ahead and a good turbo. Also, that black paint everybody favors now to hide their secrets must weigh a lot - it looks just so...heavy.


The car manufacturers are all desperate to sell their latest raised SUV version of their car be it the small, medium or large SUV si the inefficient 177kg extra is the way the manufacturers are going.

All they care about is the marketing spin of the new supposedly green PUs, not the reality of their weight, their monsterous cost, their rediculous complexity, their pathetic money grabbing low power customer units, or their ruining of F1 racing between teams.


Clarkes, extra 122kg, not 177kg.


V10 car was 600kg plus 50kg of fuel to line up on the grid. 650kg total.

PU car is 722kg plus 105kg of fuel to line up on grid. 827kg total.

827 - 650 = 🙂

Sure PU card line up with few less kg of fuel. So did V10s. 177kg is the difference at the lights.


Sebee, ok 177kg at the lights, but 122kg at the flag. That number will vary though depending on track conditions, if they were one stopping at Monza the V10 car would need more than 50kg.


Alright, the new snuggly me says we're both correct.

Any way you slice it, that's a lot of weight. 20% dry weight gain on V10 car. How would you feel if you gained 20% of your weight? Then I'd stick another 15% of your weight into your belly in liquid so you can be bloated. Now, go for a jog!

Formula 1 PU cars need to be cut off from the buffet and get themselves a personal trainer to shape up!


Amen to that


Forget the mandatory tyre. Let them go ultra ultra ultra if they want or go the whole race without changing.


Ultra is a term I do not think has a place in F1 let alone an apt description for tyres. Leave it for the cigarette, tampon and condom marketing crowd.

Let them go hard, medium, soft, super soft and then ridiculously soft, unfathomably soft, unheard of soft, off the richter soft and so soft that its not a tyre but a strip of licorice soft. (with a pink stripe of course!)


@ Aezy D...that's been my mantra for a very long time. Let the teams choose what they want and when they want. No third party supplier should have the ability to influence race outcomes.


A lot of fans will not like this, but ultimately Formula 1 not a sport, it is entertainment. It needs to recognise this and create a spectacle accordingly..

Ricciardo Aficionado

A: the terms are not mutually exclusive
and B: Nooooooooooooo!!!


All sports are entertainments really so F1 is a sport

Ricciardo Aficionado

That's a non-sequitur. IF all entertainment was a sport then your statement is accurate. The order in which you've stated things means nothing.


Not true sport is just one type of entertainment category.

Ricciardo Aficionado

Sport is a contest. A winner and a loser. You're getting confused because some bright spark (let's call him Bernie) has realised this contest is quite entertaining. Then sold it to you.


Boy, that's an elephant in the room. I wonder how many others there are.


Sorry James, but I will have to disagree with you. We need more robust tyres so that cars can battle each other for lap after lap. The "only" problem at the moment, is the fact that increasing the downforce, increases the sensitivity of the cars to dirty air. People "in the know" including Hamilton saw that one coming and said at the time that overtaking would suffer. So, maybe the drivers should of been listened to with regards to the aero regulations.
Personally, I would like to return to the early 80's cars (like the Braham BT49) where front wings were not necessary.


The fix is easy (and I've been saying it for years) - keep the tires that degrade quickly, but make the drivers push for the whole stint. How? - Mandate 2 pit stops per race. Or, for added mix, mandate 2 pit stops *unless* you run the hardest compound tire, then you can get away with 1 pit stop. But in doing so, make the harder tire *much* harder than the next compound.

Alternatively, use indy as inspiration and reduce the number of people involved in a pit-stop. i.e. Make the gun man also take off and put on the wheel


While it might be too soon to call it a crisis, it's certainly true that there wasn't much overtaking in Melbourne. The problem with the Pirellis from last, and previous years was the unnatural way in which they degraded. As far as i am aware the compounds contained special chemical bonds that would break apart at a certain temperature and cause a massive loss of grip. these bonds meant the drivers had to nurse maid the tyres too much throughout the race, and lead to the low race lap times that many fans did not like. The obvious answer is the one suggested in the article, get Pirelli to soften those compounds! No tyre described as "ultrasoft" should last twenty laps, that is clearly nonsense. If the compounds were softer, they would react in a more natural way, and drivers would have the choice of nursing them and doing fewer stops, or going for it and trying to make up an extra stop by being very quick on the track. The hardness of even the sodtest of Pirellis compounds prevents this being a viable option. One question, if the ultrasofts can do twenty laps, how many laps can the hards do?!


How about Ross brawn starts work tonight on a spec front and rear wing. Get a few hundred made up and come Spain each car will have the same spec wings giving 75% less downforce.


This is how I'd like to see the sport go. Spec wings. It contributes nothing to road car development, so has no place in F1. If manufacturers have an idea they want to try out, then it can be suggested to a TWG and provided for all to use.


Tyres are the biggest issue.need to get back to 2012 tyres when they were falling apart.8 winners in 8 was a great story for F1.Actual excitement and unpredictability.




it was again artificial...remember what happened to kimi in china after his tyres went off the cliff...
Drivers should be allowed to push on the limit..Pirelli should introduce the softest rubber avaialble all races and we will see good racing


I made a comment about this yesterday, but in retrospect I made it on the wrong article, so I'll repost it here...

When was the last time we saw F1 cars that could actually follow each other properly through high speed corners? When did the 'dirty air' phenomenon start to become a problem? I've been following F1 since 1997, and I'm pretty sure it's been mentioned every year since then, to a greater or lesser degree. Irvine was unable to pass Villeneuve for the lead in Argentina that year despite having closed in by almost a second per lap, for example.

It should have been, and I'm sure it was, blindingly obvious to all concerned *twenty years* ago that F1 cars' increasing aerodynamic complexity was detrimental to the racing, the show, the sport. And it's not as if there weren't any potential solutions - the potency of ground effect had already been demonstrated emphatically by Lotus and Brabham in the late 70s, while mechanical grip could also have been increased in various ways (lighter cars, wider tyres, active suspension etc). All of these things could have been harnessed in a controlled way.

Instead the cars became more and more aero-dependent, got heavier and narrower, and we were left with artifical sticking plasters like DRS.

Why has F1 been so blinkered? Not only has the problem been obvious for years, but different potential avenues to explore have been staring it in the face. It's almost as if it's politics first, sport second...

Now we have wider tyres again, which I'll admit is a step in the right direction, but the cars are still heavier and more aerodynamically complex than they've ever been at pretty much any point in the modern era.

On the plus side the powers that be do finally seem to be talking about it - Ross Brawn is a man who clearly understands the problem. But I can't help wondering how much of a role he played in creating it in the first place. Ferrari were obviously extremely politically involved in F1 during the 1990s and 2000s and there were times when they appeared to hold the FIA to ransom - not that other teams didn't also try and do this.

We'll probably never know the ins and outs of it, but it's pretty inexcusable for such a technologically advanced sport to be flummoxed by such a seemingly simple problem.


Random 79 will hate me for it, but it is time to mention it.
The solution is...Formula X1. 🙂

Adrian Newey designed the X1 race car to depend on ground effects. There is a fan and fanless version of it even. Imagine that!? And my idea for Formula X1, fans get to vote which Formula X1 car gets used at the next Grand Prix, a fan car or fanless car. Just imagine that? Formula X1 fans around the world having a say what CAR HARDWARE drivers will race! How amazing would that be? Clearly Melbourne would get a fan car, right? 🙂


Sebee, not long to wait now before we see those X1 cars lining up on the grid, according to your prediction....


I'm looking for Middle Eastern investors to place car order and get the series started. Reach out to me here Middle Eastern investors. Don't worry James, we'll make sure you are to X1 what Brundle is to F1. 🙂

Now is the time, while Formula 1 fumbles with PUs and soon exhaust whistles and is sitting behind paywall till into the 20s. Functional designs can't be patented, so we'll lift some of the concepts form Adrian's car. 🙂


I stand corrected.

Time to go back to rehab Sebee...


@'s all your fault, very naughty. Stand in the corner and recite 100 times.. 'i must not invoke sebees X1 theory'.


Yep, but I'll let you start first kenneth 🙂


Sebee's Formula X1 would be the bee's knees!

Did I ever tell you that drivers in Formula X1 would have to wear G-suits? Like the guys in Red Bull Air Race. That's because the cars would be that extreme, dude!


You're right. Increased aerodynamic drag to generate downforce reduces overtaking. Please let's not return to tyre degradation as a means to create overtaking -- it's artificial. Only a return to low-drag cars that can pass each other easily will save the sport, with the benefit that they will produce power slides when driven at the limit, thus exhibiting drivers' skill.

It's cars running on rails trailing aerodynamic barriers to stop other cars overtaking, which are killing the sport. The move to wider tyres and bodywork for 2017 is great, but the accompanying increase in down force and drag has killed the key thing that attracts the fans.


And had the regulations remained the same (tires, areo, engine minus tokens) the field would be tighter and the racing would be better... this is the legacy of Bernie and his knee-jerk do something for the whining fans.... had they just left well enough alone we'd have better passing and closer cars... as well as cost savings that the mid-field teams wanted.


Well said Kimi, knee jerk reactions are the scourge of our sport. We all wanted to see cars that were visually faster like the last of the V10s but unfortunately that means returning to a V10 era of overtaking (or lack thereof). DRS is false and has many critics but it does and will allow them to overtake this year, Albert Park as Kimi said is not a normal track and it does not have any straights long enough for DRS to be effective.

As for the tyres, we all wanted to see drivers be able to push and not just pootle around trying to conserve the tyres. It doesn't take a genius to work out this will do nothing for overtaking, it just means everyone can go a bit faster. The engineered to fail tyres have always been IMO more false than DRS, was the record amount of overtaking we have seen recently really all proper bona fide overtaking? No it wasn't. Just wait till we get to Bahrain and see Hamilton and Vettel recreating the great Hamilton vs Rosberg duel from 2014, it will all be forgotten about.


hamilton rosberg bahrain duel was also manifested by a safety car with 10 laps to go and them being on fresh tyres so they could race till the in my opinion a bit artificial most of the times you could not race in those tyres


I'm pretty sure there was an identical piece to this back in 2010 following the season opener in Bahrain, which was a dreadful race in a pretty fantastic year.

It's a shame we're still talking about the tyres; I certainly want the drivers to be pushing hard and therefore more likely to make mistakes, but I'd hate to see the introduction of mandatory pit stops or a gimmick like that. The issue is, as it's always been, aerodynamics and (for some circuits) track design. I guess the paradox of the current aero formula is that it makes the cars look incredible over one lap but pretty disappointing in the races.

A short term fix would be to ask Pirelli to make the compounds softer so we're more likely to get a mixture of 1-2 stops.

I'd also like to see them ditch the mandatory tyre rule and let the drivers start on whatever tyre they want. At the moment everyone in the top 10 runs the same strategy and it's far too predictable. I've recently watched some races from the refueling era and it was great that both James and Martin had no idea when a driver would be coming in for a pit stop; it was an unknown variable and it actually made it exciting when a driver jumped into the pit lane. At the moment you know that they have to make a stop and what tyre they'll put it just doesn't work.


Rapidly degrading tyres caused a lot of overtakes, yes, but they weren't exactly the types of overtakes that got you on the edge of your seat. It was mostly just those drivers on fresh tyres after a pit stop breezing past the drivers on old rubber like they weren't even there.

Okay, maybe that's better than not being able to pass at all, but the flip side of that was that if the drivers did happen to find themselves behind another car but without a tyre deficit they were doubly hindered. Not only did they have the dirty air coming off the back of the other car, but their tyres would also be ruined if they pushed too hard for an overtake.

I want tyres that the drivers can push on. I want a smaller performance deficit between the teams. I want close racing where driver can challenge each other wheel to wheel without needing an artificial overtaking aid or a gigantic performance differential. Is that too much to ask? I really hope not. Hopefully a new independent overtaking working group funded by the FOM can find a solution to these problems.


So James, you're basically saying that 2017 has the potential to be a boring season after much hype and excitement?


Not if Ferrari and Mercedes develop at the same pace (and hopefully Red Bull joins in once it has fixed a couple of problems)

If one of them (most likely Merc) finds a step, then we are stuffed


What if they put their trick suspension back on? Is that enough to stuff us?


So James, do people behind the scenes feel we have taken a step forward or a step back? I'm ok with less overtaking and some long awaited competition up front but as you say the gap to the midfield is way to big. A bit to much robbing peter to pay Paul!


Whilst ever the technology on engines is cutting edge and new dont expect any parity anytime soon.
Back in the day most could build a typical V8 or V10 etc. High tech and cutting edge now is a very different beast.


I don't think they need to find it. They just need to select it on the steering wheel. 🙂


Lol good point


@Sebee - "just need to select it on the steering wheel" - Yeah and hope the tyres hold on with that kind of power 😉 😉 or else back to the drawing board for the car design team.

My silly mind imagines the Power Unit Design team at Merc is having the opposite problem of Mclaren Honda maybe.

Merc PU team: You guys in car design are stifling us! Can you please make a car that doesn’t set the wheels on fire when we unleash our full PU power?

Merc Car Design team: Challenge accepted.

Meanwhile at Williams: Oh hey Paddy! we have a Merc PU aswell, Surely you can guide us with how to make the wheels not destroy itself?

Someone a few days ago dreamed of a Massa WDC. Yep this could be Massa's Phoenix like Return 😀

*disclaimer – no offence meant to anybody – all in jest 🙂 *


😉 But I didn't run to bookie after that dream😜 No offense taken! But it would be ultimate Hollywood for him to win it, especially if by a narrow, last gasp margin against Lewis!


Thank you, James! Fantastic analysis. What surprises me is the reaction of Jean Todt. He believes that the lack of overtaking is the price WORTH PAYING for having faster and more agressive cars. Not for me!


Todt is deluded.


The only real criteria was, "Let's go faster!", it was never really, "Let's go race!"
Why are we surprised.

Big teams want big budget spends. Aero fits with big budgets. Big teams build the gap.....

Conversely, F1 on a budget means teams like Ferrari and manufacturers will leave the sport, because they can't commercially risk being beaten by what are now considered mid field teams. (you know, that extra $100m and such) So status quo.

F1 finds itself in a wedge situation.

I could turn this into an essay, but I might keep that on my pc and save you all the boredom, but it will be interesting at the end of 2017 to see how this season is described.


When a F1 car follows another one than mainly front grip is lost. Why literally nobody points the finger to those ugly and over engineered front wings? How about reducing their size/complexity?


I think the fans have to shoulder a lot of the blame for this, as certain groups of fans made a lot of noise about how slow the V6 cars were at the start of their rule cycle and also about high degradation tyres. The 2017 regulation changes were clearly designed to address these two complaints, but it's like nobody involved in the process stopped to consider what the consequences would be.

The increased aerodynamics would make it harder to follow, low degradation tyres nullify strategic variation, and new rule cycles always create large gaps between teams. Surprising absolutely nobody, all of that has happened. But hey at least the cars are about as much faster than 2016 cars as 2016 were than 2015 cars, worth it?


the fans complained about drivers being on cruise can't call that a race when you're asked to drive a car within the limits all race long...this was a huge handicap


Verstappen and Bottas said that even if you are as far as 2 secs behind the driver you are chasing, driving becomes very difficult. But at the same time Vettel was doing fine behind Hamilton and his tyres were quite good. Maybe just have to wait for the 'real' racing tracks. Melbourne is just so weird..


That just means the Ferrari can handle it better, barely. They still sat between 1-2 seconds behind the majority of the time when they had a car in front.


It has to be said that the new regulations are positive in one aspect because with the cars having difficulty overtaking, this means the chances of a safety car are minimal hence the drivers are much safer.

Having said that, tough regulations like these make the joy of overtaking that more satisfying when it happens likewise, the midfielders are more joyful when they achieve a surprise podium

Overall the drivers were right to request for durable tyres because the sport was getting faster so the drivers needed durable tyres to display this speed


James - do you think Ross Brawn would intervene mid-season if engine development reaches a tipping point where we see a large performance differential between MB and Ferrari / Red Bull? Or would he wait to incorporate changes meant to improve on-track action into next year's potential technical revisions? I believe mid-season changes would draw the ire of fans and drivers alike even if it amounts to closer racing.


He can't intervene, he doesn't set the rules.


Perhaps I'm missing something fundamental here but my proposal is to very drastically reduce the aero... reduce the downforce. The low (air) volume behind the cars will be smaller, the braking distances will be much greater, the cars will be more 'edgy' which means that the cream (of driving talent) will rise to the top and racing will be less about the computer boffins.


Then it would truly become an engine formula. You think people were crying before about Mercedes. You ain't seen nothing yet if that came to pass.


The problem is the cars won't be very fast. F1 is supposed to feature the fastest cars on the planet. If the WEC or GP2 cars are lapping faster than an F1 car then it is no longer the ultimate form of motorsport.


You're not missing anything: you've highlighted succinctly what many of us think, Penn.


James I think the content on your website is generally excellent however I think on this occasion I think you are jumping the gun the gun a bit too early . Melbourne along with Monaco , Hungary and Spain particularly has alway been a difficult place so it's no surprise to me these wider more aero orientated cars struggled . The next race is in China with a wide open circuit. There should but plenty of overtaking there and if not then and only then will I agree with you and consider F1 to have an overtaking problem.


Agreed. Think we'll only really get a full picture after Bahrain or even Russia. Also, we kind of knew what was coming with the rules change - that the races could become more processional - so I think we've got to face the consequences if it turns out that way. Thoughtful solutions to improve the racing are welcome but knee-jerk reactions are not.

There are different types of racing too. I liked the intense battle between Hamilton and Vettel, separated by less than 2 seconds and pushing hard, in the first stint.

James makes some good wider points too though. Like what happens if one team gets an upper hand at the front, and how the chance of a great result has diminished for the midfield teams. It's difficult to see how a Perez, a Grosjean or a Sainz could get on the podium this year. Equally, however, we've still only had one grand prix!


Thoughtful solutions to improve the racing are welcome but knee-jerk reactions are not.

My sentiments exactly.


"All the signs are that in listening to the F1 drivers, who wanted tyres they could ‘push’ on, the sport has suffered"

I can't agree with that. The whole essence of racing is for the drivers to be pushing and driving on the edge. Artificial constructs such as DRS, "lift and coast" fuel saving, and self destructing tyres that need to be "managed" are exactly what we don't need, irrespective of how much overtaking they allow.

Frankly I'm surprised and disheartened that this site is advocating "not listening to the drivers" and places "the show" over the purity of racing. If that is the future of F1, I'll happily forsake it, to watch the kids duke it out at the local kart track. At least I can be sure that they are giving their everything, and driving as fast as they can... Its the soul of racing, and to me that is more exciting than watching someone getting overtaken because their tyre has gone off the edge of the performance cliff.


I tend to agree with you on many of your points. I personally believe that the season is too young to want changes already. Maybe the Pros know better and can already see the problems that the new regulations have brought but, I would hope that the teams can work to make their cars better fitted for the say new rules.
I would leave the tires as they are. If they are that durable, why then Hamilton/Mercedes, although Bottas did not seem as affected, seemed to have trouble keeping them in shape?
With regards to overtaking, I am not too concern, l remember many great races where the lead driver on a slower car could hold a faster one for laps. Nothing wrong with that really. If the faster driver/car can always pass, we won't have much close racing as well no? Of course not being able to work up a good try because you have to stay 2 seconds behind is not what l have in mind. Given a race or two, these talented drivers sure will find a way to set up their cars as such that they will at least be able to give it a go. I am and remain positive this season will be a cracker. Marc


@Redline, I would have not written a comment if it wasn't your last three lines sentence that kindled my interest in what your wrote. I really liked it. Still James has a point, but let's wait for China+


totally agree with you and totally disheartened to read such an article on this site


It was a bit strange to hear here.


I agree that the opening stint was immense in terms of two top drivers giving it their all in a fierce battle. But by the start of the second stint- the race had been completely shut down and Lewis resigned to turning down the power and coasting to P2.

It was expressed nicely by Toto's fist slamming on the table. The first one was "**** that has probably cost us the race". Then he took a brief moment to think it through properly. And out came the first again in a "**** that has definitely cost us the race".


And the cameras were positioned perfectly to catch that in all it's glory with plit second timing!!!!!


I thought the fist slamming looked fake. A put on for the camera he knew was in his face.


Dear James, thank you so much for your thoughts, they are exactly my thoughts. I have been an F1 fan for about 33 years taking a break from 2002 onwards as I got so bored of the processional racing. I figured I could just watch the first 2-3 laps then mow the lawn and watch the final 5 laps, which saved me a lot of valuable time. i only started watching again because I was curious how this 17-year old boy was going to 'disappoint'. I must admit I was wrong as the Kid made me feel excited once again because he was actually RACING. Even though it has been just one race, I have to agree that common sense would suggest that cars on rails make difficult objects to overtake, it's called physics. For the older guys around here, they surely remember the Lotus 79, with Andretti and Peterson taking a second lead per lap. I don't want to go back!! Please no more PROCESSIONS!


It's only one race. Wait until Bahrain, and if overtaking is still not happening, then we have a problem.


I say F1 needs to listen even more to the drivers. Give them what they want:
- cars that can follow each other closely (so remove wing generated downforce, but not ground effect)
- tires they can push on (so we don't hear drivers talk about managing tires but racing them)

This will bring the racing on the edge. That's what we want in sports, seeing the protagonists on the very edge.

The number of overtakes must not be the aim, but rather the number of quality overtakes.

We want to see drivers go mano-a-mano and not DRS-activated vs DRS-disabled.

In essence an F1 aero package must be analogue to a kart aero package. No one cares about whether there are 10 winglets and bardgeboards vs. zero. We just want drivers to be able to mount a challenge.


Are all the drivers asking for the same thing and are they really speaking the truth? I am almost sure most of them would not mind being at the wheel of a very dominant car and could not care less about the "Show" if it brings them the title. Just saying, don't know any of them personally. Marc

Dimitar Kadrinski

"Brawn and the FIA will have to step in if that happens and effect a short term solution to the problem for the good of the sport."
This exactly what has made F1 what is today. Temporary and ill juded decisions which never worked.
Everybody who had even the slightest knowledge of this sport KNEW overtaking would be almost impossible with the new rules.
The problem is that the very people rhat should promote the F1 (drivers, teams, promoters, rightholders etc.) are the first to start winging when thinks are not going their way.
The only think they need to address is to make the races easier to follow for tge casual viewer. Everithing else was OK.
If Bernie (thx god hes gone now) was explaining about the exciting tech involved in these new engines instead of the "no noise" noncense then it would be different (and not just Bernie... this is the whole paddoc fault).
Dont change anything now, whatever the season turns out to be. Let the new owners bed-in and hopefully start making changes slowly but concistently to make this sport really great.


It's looking pretty bleak for me. To be honest the entire circle that comes up with these rules are doing a terrible job.. the only other group in F1 doing a worse job is Honda. I remember last year some employees were saying every time there is a major change its to improve racing but the big teams with money will always increase their gap. So we already know this.. why did anyone think it would be different?

I guess I'm the only one who things refueling should come back into F1. Sorry but its been processional for awhile now. At least that throws another factor in the mix and I enjoyed the days when a slower car started on less fuel and climbed early as a strategy. The theory this year was that oh now the drivers can really really push and we'll see who's the best at driving flat out .. but they are all still fuel saving! They'll always be fuel saving to save weight. We'll never have a race where the drivers drive all out qualifying laps it seems.. and I'd like to see more of that.

I'll reiterate what I've save before. It's just a tale they weave.. that they think of the fans. They only think of the fans after themselves. This applies to all the big guys in F1.. because fans have literally been asking for the same thing for decades. I think if we looked at the timeline of how long ago fans have been crying out for closer racing, we'd see one of the worst success rates as a sport of giving fans what they want. I don't expect change... I think Brawn & Co as usual are part of the same old gang at the top and unless someone breaks it all up, they'll always be patting each other on the back while reminding them who is truly important. And we the fans are not on the top of that list.


Remember that refuelling avoided close racing and overtaking by moving the chess pieces into and out of the pits around each other, rather than to make them encounter each other on track.


Fair enough, but before fuel loads had to be declared fans didn't know who had what fuel, and therefore who would pit first etc. Pit stops often caused a cascade of reactions as teams switched stratagies. Kept things exciting from a strategic point of view even though passing was reduced.


@ James...and what did we have on sunday? No close racing and no overtaking and no re fueling either?


That still doesn't mean refuelling is the answer. It's other factors that are driving. The trouble is when pit stops are governed solely by tyre wear then you need high deg tyres to generate the strategy. But that leads to cars not pushing flat out because it will always be advantageous to eek stint lengths out through conservation. So that doesn't satisfy the drivers.

However, we have seen races where a good balance has been found - where there's been 2 stop races with tyres that aren't too soft or too hard. But tuning tyres like that for every track is a challenge, and regardless, drivers still won't like the tyres. They won't to be able to push flat out for the whole race, which I would want too I'd driving and makes perfect sense. But the strategy needs to come from somewhere because at 1.5 hours, F1 is not a sprint.


That's true James and a fair point except the field is widening so much that it would lend some excitement. Pit strategies seem to be affecting the race anyway ad it is. I enjoyed myself too when watching a driver start on low fuel cos there were strategy plays that new, things we didn't completely know, that all played out during the race. But I suppose I might be in the minority in mIssing refueling. No one really ever talks of it as a future option so.. glad I watched while it was around ☺


I am glad too. And I am so glad I milked V10 era for all it was worth.


@ CheesyP...Yes, whilst refueling had good and bad points, there were still many different strats going on. Teams would go long, go short, a series of sprints or long with a splash and dash etc etc etc. with hopefully a convergence at the very end. This year we saw a reduction of passes by 85% over last year and the track hasn't altered! That is not progress in the entertainment/racing stakes.


It feels like we're in the minority, but I loved refueling too haha. I'll take the varied fuel strategies of teams and passing in the pits over tyres that the drivers can't push on for more than a lap and DRS overtakes. It's probably a combination of me enjoying the guessing game and also having truly started following F1 shortly before refueling was introduced so I grew up with it.


You mean like the Knight Lewis who was moved out of the way of King Vettel in Australia to avoid encounter on track? Do we have refuelling now? 🙂


yes I agree refueling is not the solution. major racing was done in the pitlane...this formula is a good starting point...we can get grippier tyres and reduce the aero somewhat for cars to follow each other..but again drs overtakes add nothing to the show

Tornillo Amarillo

But Vettel coud follow Ham.... Please explain.


We saw it last year, if you get the Merc in the pack it is not so effective. I think it is because being ahead over the last 3 years they have trimmed their car to run fast up front. Ferrari and others have to overtake and maybe that fundamental design helps Ferrari now they are close enough.


Being, typically, a second behind is not following close enough to attempt an overtake, TA.

Tornillo Amarillo

So, "mind the gap."

Tornillo Amarillo

So meanwhile, put refueling back and two mandatory pitstops for new tyres.

James, could FIA regulate aero in order NOT TO bother the car behind?


Anything is possible - it just needs a proper plan


OK, my thesis for a "proper plan" then....

The ultimate aerofoil is one which splits the air at the front and zips it up at the back, just like an aircraft wing. Without the latter there is drag, as evidenced by the fact that DRS increases speed. OK, so less downforce on corners, but more speed on straights, faster acceleration, closer following

James, can one of your experts do the maths on whether an F1 car based on an inverted aerofoil would be faster/slower over a lap than one of the current design?


@ CRC....correct me if i'm wrong but what you've described is, in essence, ground effect. It works miracles in LMP1 and encourages close racing and how come the pinnacle of motor racing hasn't adopted it?


Kenneth..... similar to ground effect in what it does, but not relying on proximity to the ground. Otherwise, inversly, aircraft would never rise away from Mother Earth!


Another option would be to significantly reduce the reliance on aero effect from wings, body and all the stupid add-on bits and increase the reliance on mechanical grip from floor/diffuser, tyres and suspension. My vote would be to mandate a single plane wing front and rear of fixed area and maximum vertical difference between highest and lowest point of the wing's form, remove ALL add on aero winglets, turning vanes, barge boards etc. and that shark fin (which turns out to be causing more headaches than it solves anyway!), DECREASE the length and width of the car but keep the new tyres.

And the biggest one - Paul Di Resta summed it up in his piece during qualifying (although I am not sure he was aware that he was making the point). The braking distances are far too short to facilitate proper overtaking moves. Typical overtaking is done in lunges under braking (not tyre differentials, stuff ups in pit stops or DRS) and the carbon brakes are the problem. Go back to steel brakes to enable those daring under-brakes overtaking moves.

Smaller, nimbler cars (whose rear wings don't stall in a slide due to shark fins that pitch them instantly into irrecoverable spins) should encourage drifting through corners when drivers step over the edge of adhesion. Max Verstappen sliding around the outside of a corner in an overtaking move in the DRY anyone? Increased reliance on aerodynamics prevents that as an option. And the engines? Less complex, noisier, more reliable, more equity between manufacturers surely can only be a good thing. Look at NASCAR and INDY cars (stay with me on this one) where the manufacturers all get a chance to visit victory lane - the marketing guys love that and know they can pump adverts out showing their brand with the winner's laurels on a regular basis and that keeps them hooked, not flitting in and out as budgets dry up and victories remain elusive (I am recalling BMW, Toyota, Honda, Yamaha, Renault, Ford, Jaguar here). Mr Brawn - I am available to assist!


James, do you know how they manage to do this in IndyCar? I haven't followed the series since the Cart/Indy split, but it's my understanding that the racing is close and cars can follow/pass without too much difficulty.


The low downforce package is only used at the larger ovals, the superspeedways -- Indy, Texas, and Pocono.

The high downforce package is compulsory everywhere else -- not just on road and street courses, but also the smaller ovals, such as the miler at Phoenix where there were certainly complaints about the quality of racing last year.


On the ovals, yes. Recent aero packages have been detrimental to what happens on the road and street courses.


Actually they complain about too much downforce there too, but from 2018 they'll be back to common aero and the Indycar tech team should be better able to set allowable ranges appropriate to each track.

What IndyCar does have is field-bunching Safety Cars for even relatively minor issues, and a push-to-pass button (for extra horsepower, rather than F1s DRS) that, for this year, is available for a limited amount of total time over the race (it has an off button) rather a limited number of button-pushes (that work for a fixed-time each) as previously used.


All of a sudden, the drivers or GPDA had the biggest say in the sport? Did I miss something?


This is almost comical if were not so pathetic. This sport has been dealing with this issue of dirty air and overtaking for a long time now. So what do they do? They make wider cars with more downforce which makes the dirty air problem and overtaking problem worse? Seriously, how do things like this happen? Frankly the aero part of the sport has gotten insane to the point where they spend more money on wind tunnel testing and aerodynamic design than a state of the art fighter jet. It's cool and impressive to be sure but it also happens to detract from the racing.


James what are your thoughts on reintroduction of ground effects to the cars and have you heard any discussion amongst the paddock on them?
Obviously we know that they were banned in the 80s mainly on safety grounds (although Indy Cars still use 'Bernoulli's principle in the design of their cars) however with the increase in safety, not only with the cars and the circuits, and a better understanding of the principals its based upon, could it be a viable solution to the issues the sports currently finds itself mired in?


@ Sars...If i recall correctly there was a call for ground effect many many years ago and the task force investigating it decided that it was too costly to implement at that point in time. The same group came up with a completely different idea called the CDW system [central downwash] which effectively replaced the rear wing with two separate wings. one either side and a gap in the middle that cleared up the aerowash turbulence onto the following cars. That was abandoned because it was said to limit the ability to provide a larger horizontal plane where sponsors could be strategically placed!!! Maybe a revised CDW and some ground effects combined could do the job. Anything but what we've currently got.


Hi James, are people really interested in more overtaking or better racing? I feel under the old regulations, overtaking was easier but the racing wasn't necessarily better. We just got to see cars wizzing past each other with apparent ease. Maybe the drivers need some time to get used to actually taking risks again to move up in the field.


Thank you. Cheap overtaking, aided by artificial constructs such as DRS and the tyre compounds lottery does not lead to better racing.

Otherwise the sport will become a circus act like WWE - do we really want the soul of racing sacrificed on the alter of entertainment?


Overtaking is one thing, close wheel to wheel racing and passing into corners all the while jockeying for position is another. I am afraid we will not see much of the latter with this formula.

On overtaking this season, so far, I tend to agree with Lewis. Its down to strategy in the pits, and using DRS on tracks like China and others.

If F1 and Ross Brawn are serious about improving the formula and this means racing not driving the cars (some think its the same thing), then start by eliminating these arrive and pay drivers like the ones currently at Renault and Williams for starters.

Tornillo Amarillo

If track position is King, qualify will be the most important thing on earth.
How to improve in qualify without crashing would be important too.

Liberty is giving more liberty in social media this year, I think with all this problems they should also give free air TV, free real-time info and free tickets for fans...


Kimi the voice of reason. In other news, pigs are flying outside my window.


The DRS works when the cars are within 1 second of each other. What I hear the drivers saying, is that that find it hard to get closer than 2 seconds. It will take a long long straight for the DRS to become available. Might they change the requirements to 2 seconds instead of 1? China will give the answer.


Bottas got within 1.5secs of hamilton......he could've tried a pass but conveniently didn't even bother.


20 drivers had fun, but Millions of viewers didn't.
I wanna see drivers out of their confort zone, demonstrating their extreme skills.
I liked the new tires bcs there were fewer marbles on track.
I still advocate for shortcuts for the pursuing car to allow a slightly different {shorter} trajectory with some clean air for the front wing.
I believe a green tarmac zone in the left handler before the main straight of Albert Park would do.
I the pursuing car could place two wheels beyond the apex it would allow the pursuing car to enter the main straight much closer and make use of the DSR.
Some tracks don't have a lenghty enough main straight to make use of the DSR device.
Eventhough there is more downforce/drag this year - in absolute terms - what really counts for overtaking is the drag GAP/difference among the two cars - in relative terms.
The drag gap for 2017 was reduced due to the aero passive suspension that changes the rake and the lower postion of the rear wing.
I believe the main advantage of the bigger teams is the capacity to create complex front wings.
F1G should simplify it by restricting the number of ellements [blades] and make bargeboards straight and plane.


Just go back to the pre-2014 regulations. Everything about F1 was better.


I noted that the most competitive season of F1 in recent history was 2012 season. 7 different winners in first 7 races. Top 10 separated by 1s. WDC settled in a 2 team battle in Brazil! F1 Gods intended. I know V10 is my dream formula, but after seeing the PU formula, both version, put be down for a double serving of 2012 V8 formula. I'll take it! Sure, sound wasn't like V10s, but close enough.


We should give SV credit for his titles, don't recall so many winners in other eras. But Sebee, PUs seems to be your personal enemy 🙂


1982 had 10 or 11 winners I believe with Rosberg Sn taking the title. Marc


I did the math, if I remember right Vettel 4 year domination Red Bull won 53% of races between the two drivers. Vs. 85% for Mercedes. Think about it for a moment and try to absorb that.


Terrible article in my opinion. I really disagree with it. It is absurd to blame the tyres being "too good". And it is absurd to ask Pirelli to re-intruduce silly tyres that degrade all too rapidly for the sake of "sport". What sport? Well I guess fake sport would be fine in the age of fake news...
Oh my, F1 really HAS lost the plot.
What fun , I ask, is there in watching a driver overtake another not because he is better, or has more technique, but simply because his tyres are new and the other's are worn.
Don't get me wrong, i accept tyre management is part of racing but not when the tyres degradation is artificially rendered ridiculous.
What we need, as many in this forum have said and is ever so logical (so why can't you talk about it James??) are NOT artificial gimmicks to aid overtaking (such as fuel stops, degrading tyres, moving aero in certain parts of the track) but simply to go back to full mechanical grip (so cars can follow one another and set up a REAL pass), no wings (or drastically reduced, one plane, non-flex wings) and normal tyres with normal wear.
And then for God's sake let them race!
Am I talking about vintage F1? well maybe yes. The fact that I get more excitement, more slides and more fun watching a vintage race (where drivers are, let's face it, pussy-footing around not to damage their precious vintage cars) then watchinh a modern F1 race says it all.
Honestly i cannot believe i just read an article suggesting going back to tyres that wear out after 7 laps. Pathetic.


Where does it say reintroduce tyres that wear out after 7 laps?

Where does it say re-introduce tyres that degrade? The tyres for 2017 are set.

It says bring the softest tyres to the races.

Try reading the article before launching the rant


As I understand it, if you are unhappy with tyres that last 20 laps and want Pirelli to bring softer tyres, they will last what, 10 laps?
Also how about answering my query re you opinion on getting rid of aero or at least minimising it dramatically? So many of your readers are adamant that this is what they want, but I do not remembering JA saying much about it. What is your opinion on that? Would like to know.


James. Slightly off topic but do you think we will see a mercedes engine in the back of a mclaren this year and a Honda in the back of a sauber?. With mclaren talking to mercedes and honda supposedly talking to other teams. I can see honda paying for the mercedes engine for this year and alonso salary. And paying off the 16 ferrari engine contract


I think we will see another engine in the back of a McLaren this year, but a Honda next year. Their money is too important to McLaren for them to give it up, but the engine is miles off this year. There must be some kind of compromise to be done

A second supply to Sauber in 2018 would make sense for additional mileage etc


@ james...I am somewhat staggered that you think that that could actually occur! No doubt you have good reason to suspect this. Would Honda really accept that? According to my understanding [limited] of the japanese way of working in 2017 that would still be a massive loss of 'face' no matter which way it's cut. Then again, maybe there are clauses in the contract that allow freedoms under say 'force majeure' F1 style. I still find that with honda's statement that they are building another new engine after such a short time to be quite unbelievable considering that this current engine has only been on the track for a couple of months, if that!


How could a company like Honda or any other go for that? They need a second team in their stable though, that alone would help greatly with the development of the PU. Marc


Really? I can't see that ever happening.


James, if you think that is so, when would that happen?? It would make sense to do the switch sooner, because then they'd have a chance to score points. At the same time Honda claim they'll have new components for more power in June...I would love the idea of Mclaren switching. If they were able to get a Mercedes engine they'd have a direct marker for Honda to hit next year. It makes sense on so many levels.. not least of which Mclaren should be and to finish higher in constructors.


No other manufacturer will entertain the idea of giving Mclaren an engine
mid season James . I don't believe Honda would like that idea either . They'd probably strop and withdraw their money from Macca and pull out.


Huge IP threat to whoever supplied the engine

They'd want assurances that no Honda person went near it!


@ james.... would mclaren honda have to get agreement from all the teams in order to make changes mid year? The team's name would have to be changed wouldn't it as i believe that the engine supplier must feature in the teams official entry. I'm sure i'll be corrected if that is wrong.


Hi James,

I feel the issue is less that Honda wouldn't play ball than another manufacturer agreeing to a semi-year supply.

Let's look at the options.

1) Mercedes.

After their (recent) history, I can't imagine Mercedes wanting anything to do with McLaren. Additionally, they'd risk the wrath of Williams and Force India as they are in specific areas of the grid without Mercedes-engined competition. I can't see Mercedes wanting to a) risk their IP, b) return to an soured, old relationship, and c) upset their long-term customers.

2) Ferrari

LOL. Peace in the Middle East will come first.

3) Renault.

This, for me, is the only possibility -- and it sounds mighty strange. McLaren Renault?

Of the three options, Renault would be the least desirable from a performance perspective. So the decision is do McLaren get Renault to move up one rung in engine performance, or, do they push through with Honda.

I've a feeling they've already picked the latter, much to the annoyance of Alonso -- hence the many "Alonso could retire..." articles / threats.

Tornillo Amarillo

McLaren made a bad precedent with the spy scandal, Merc was there, huge fine...

Andrew Halliday

First time I've heard this one, but what an interesting possibility! What are the chances of this happening?


Surely a temporary mid season swap would be a legal nightmare.

I cant imagine that Mercedes or whoever would entertain the idea of all that lovely technical feedback going back over to the orient. Even if the Honda personel were banned from the garage, it mclaren would have all sorts data to share


McLaren will get found out if they bolt in a Mercedes PU and the car is still a dog...... I'm not convinced that they would have the nerve to try it.


Ok, but if they give up on the Honda this year won't they be in this same spot next? Where is Honda going to get the milage to develop?


Why didn't the experts see this coming? I've been watching F1 for ~23 years and I saw this coming.

Personally I was a fan of the refuelling era: with light cars and sticky tyres the drivers could push all race and there was overtaking due to the pace difference between fuel strategy. I did not like driver pace management to save the tyres in the last several seasons because I think F1 should be about driving flat out for the whole race. Endurance racing is about pace management, not F1.

Bring back refuelling mid season?


+1 although i suspect there is no way to do it in season.

However: does a differing fuel load cause a greater performance delta than tyre compound? We're hearing that you need a 2 second pace advantage to overtake - how does that translate to fuel load?


Blind Freddy could see that the dirty air would make the 2017 cars harder to overtake.
But i do think it's a bit of a long bow to put all the blame on Pirelli- surely ii is Williams own fault for wasting the best engine in a such a poor chassis.


@ Axel... I happened to have a word with 'freddy' and he said he didn't see a thing!


What would the tyre strategy be if Pirelli bought along the Ultra Softs and the Hards (only two compounds)?


If they got rid of the requirement to run 2 different compounds, and for the top 10 to start on the Q2 tire, then I can see some trying the whole race on just the 1 set of hards versus some running 2 or 3 sets of Ultra-softs.


You can't have a serious conversation about this without discussing budget caps and revenue sharing. The teams up front spend vast sums of money chasing hundredths of a second while at the back you have teams that are barely solvent. What realistic chance do they have of success? A guaranteed share of revenues combined with a cap on spending puts everyone on equal grounds. The bans on testing and development need to be looked at. Teams like McLaren and RedBull have the means to improve their cars and advance up the grid if they are not hobbled by restrictions on testing. These items alone may not solve overtaking, but would create closer racing.


Or make the sport more attractive to manufacturers so you have a bunch of rich teams fighting it out. I'd love to see Mercedes vs. BMW vs. Audi, Ferrari vs. McLaren, Honda vs. Toyota, Renault vs Hyundai...


Funny (and so very predicable) how history repeats. So now will there be pressure for Pirelli to supply a tire that degrades? Then everyone will complain about that so we go back to tires that dont degrade? And so on and so on...... Lets try square tires or perhaps ask Fred Flintstone to demonstrate the foot powered philosophy of race car design.


Just make DRS more powerful by increasing the gap bet. cars for when it can be eligible and/or lengthening the activation zone as well. Ironically, the "gimmick" actually has a purpose now since it's much harder to follow a car and overtake.

Otherwise, I enjoyed the new Formula. It's good to see F1 cars going naturally fast again, and drivers pushing. As well as the physicality of them separating the men from the boys (e.g. Lance Stroll).

No big deal about the performance gaps between teams, it's always been like that whenever new rules are introduced. Just look at 2001, 2005, 2009 and 2014. F1 has never really been about (excessive) overtaking a la Indycar/NASCAR. People make a big deal about it, but that's usually because they get nostalgic about bygone eras after watching edited/cut videos in Youtube!


Hi James, I really don't post often however I am a keen observer and reader of your site since inception. Personally you're well missed on the coverage, as is Murray walker who was well complimented by Martin Brundle in the late 90s. I've been watching F1 since the start of the 1994 season when I was just 7 years old and have yet to miss a race since and I will not. But ...
I have been more disappointed by Grand Prix racing in the last 5 or so years than at any other time. The cars are hard to follow .. yes they are. But they have been since I've been watching .. it was always known and discussed but now it's this big complaint particularly this year? With all due respect to the drivers when they're asked a railroaded question such as 'how much harder was it to pass with the new aerodynamics this year compared to last?' .. their answer will be just that 'of course it's the reason I couldn't get past' rubbish ... Vettel was as close to Hamilton as any other similarly paced car running the same tyres, with the same tyre life and with the same fuel load ever has followed in the last 23 years of my watching. On Valtieri and Hamiltons comments: Go back to last year and watch any race where a Mercedes got stuck behind a slower car on similarly aged tyres and they simply could not follow closely; whether it be a 1.5s per lap slower Force India or Williams it couldn't follow. Verstappens Red Bull was slower indeed but 1.5 sec from the Ultimate pace at that stage only ... not 4 secs as it would have been this time last year due to the tyres, couple that with the Albert Park short straights and medium/high speed corners (it is the 5th fastest circuit on the calendar behind Spa and in front of Suzuka) it's difficult. So Valtteri is wrong in my opinion. Maybe compared to his Williams sure the Merc can't follow. But it's not a new problem for them.
The tyres.
I think there needs to be less compounds and more of a step in between; ultra soft medium and ultra hard let's call it. The Ultra hard should be a tyre on the edge of making the race distance if you're brave enough. But the time steps between the tyres must be as such that it is still 50/50 on your strategy call. It could cause at a place like Silverstone where the pit loss is small someone going for no stops, someone two and someone three if the time gap between compounds was correct. I know that that is hard to achieve but variability would still be achieved by the way certain cars use their tyres better than others. It's an idea anyway.

I think a big mistake was made in dropping refueling. I think that it was exciting not knowing the levels. If the third placed car sprinted off the line into the lead running fast laps on a three stop over a Williams in pole on a one stop - think Schumacher/Hill back in the day or indeed at anytime up until it was banned. Brilliant. I think also they were on the right track when it was qualify with your race fuel load in 02 or 03 it caused variability and unknown. I think it would be good if we had refueling for Q3 runners to have to do that again brilliant!
What refueling also does is help the speed and intensity of the racing. Remember when Villeneuve described the difference between Indycar to Formula 1: every lap in a Grand Prix is a qualifying lap and that's what we've been missing the last few years. Its why yes no one runs off into a gravel trap, retires from the race. Watch last year a driver could be imprecise and still stay within his target lap time - 6-7 seconds slower than qualifying because they're so far under the limit. (Thank god they've semi fixed that) it was ridiculous. I really don't grasp it. Most other top line forms of Grand Prix length motor racing have refueling? Why has F1 stopped it. I challenge anyone to show me how it's made the racing better. Made the spectacle better? People keep screaming for variability and we don't have refueling of all the variables?
They don't transport fuel rigs around and so it saves them money. Stop It.

Also we've become overtaking obsessed. It was mentioned that China had 126 overtaking moves or something stupid. Can anyone recall one of those moves? I can't. The worst thing ever done to F1 was the DRS .. passing is not the hero move it was. Overtaking has become oversaturated. No one even knows why they want more overtaking but it seems to be the answer to everything; overtaking. I don't think it is.
I watched the 1998 Italian Grand Prix just a couple of weeks ago.
Now I'll tell you what a Grand Prix that was ... there must've been 5 on tack overtakes the whole race at Monza!! But a must watch to see what actually Formula 1 is .... it is difficult and it is hard and it should not be easy to pull up along someone in a similarly top line racing car and have a wheel to wheel battle. The guy in front is trying out run you the guy behind is trying to close you down. If a mistake is made you run wide you're pounced on; if both cars, drivers and teams are on their A-Game and don't make a mistake no overtaking will result. Similar to a football match. No goals are possible unless a defender doesn't perfectly track that man or tackle at the right moment in the right way. This is a gladiatorial battle which we've trivialized by crazy tyres and wings that pop open if you're inside one second? The fans should never have been asked what they wanted because now we've got this mess which is impossible to undo and go back to sensibility. How do you explain that your going to do things that will reduce overtaking when people have become addicted to it like sugar no matter the quality.
Back to the 98 Italian Grand Prix. Coulthard from 4th on light fuel 2 stops (allegory because we'll never know!) gets up to 2nd behind Hakkinen, Mika waves Coulthard by because he's one stopping like Michael who is closely stalking Hakkinen. They're both on it ... then smoke between the Curva Grande and the Della Roggia in the shade of the trees. Coulthard blows up! Following drivers unsighted by the smoke ... Hakkinen lifts Schumacher stays flat ... looks inside Hakkinen defends (in the braking zone!) Schumacher moves to the outside takes the better line Hakkinen is in tight and runs wide on the exit of the chicane .... Schumacher cuts to the inside on power at the exit .... Hakkinen desperately and belated squeezing him right over into inside before Lesmo 1 ... outrageous! memorable! This is overtaking which excites and makes you realize what these guys are doing out there is something special. Have one of those a race is impossible but let them create the moments!
You're the first James who is mentioning it's the bloody tyres not the aero. Sky Sports have been shoveling so much bs into viewers ears and inevitably the viewer takes it as the gospel truth because Sky Sports keep saying it when it's an utter falsehood ... that Crofty I'll tell you .. WOW!

Increase the steps between 3 compounds, bring back refueling, force all Q3 runners to run with starting fuel load and all other open choice as with tyres, drop DRS and watch how bloody enjoyable Grand Prix racing is.


I couldn't have said it any better. I've enjoyed the last race very much, the way Vettel could put pressure on Hamilton for the whole 1st stint without his tires falling of after 3 laps, that's what I call Formula 1 racing, I got so bored with the fake DRS overtakes we saw over the last years, it always reminded me watching my son play on the PlayStation. I'm all for bringing back refuelling, I still remember Hungary 1998 when Schumacher won by doing 3 pit stops instead of 2, the 11 flying laps he did in second stint where as exciting as a good overtaking move.


I completely agree with this. Regarding overtaking, there are several problems with assuming more passes correlate with better viewing. 1) Like a bad action movie with too many special effects, too many overtakes ruins the narrative of a race. 2) It just means that the fastest cars always finish in front of the slower ones - it feels like the overtakes are unearned and the driver has less influence. Also, the audience does not prefer it - fans do not get the build up of anger or frustration when their favourite driver can't get past. The fact they are angry of frustrated means they care. 4) More overtaking has just meant less impressive racing, each pass becoming less memorable.

Refuelling is a tremendous loss. It created uncertainty, suspense and made strategy exciting. Remember the pit lane reporter standing with his stopwatch and estimating when the driver would have to pit again. Even then you could not be sure because nobody knew how much fuel was in the tank before filling! I realise refuelling was not always a feature of F1, but it made things more exciting and could be infinitely better than a 3 second pit stop.

seymour quilter

Unfortunately it is proven through facts that refuelling reduced on track overtaking. Many websites have the data including this one:


Hi Seymour thanks for that. No doubt I agree with you and the data can be read in a number of ways.
But between 1994-2009 we average 13.06 on track genuine overtakes per race. **I'm only going to compare to 2010 as canned effect of DRS was added after that**
In 2010 we average 21.33 overtakes per the data you supplied - a tangible increase.
It doesn't tell the full story though - how many passes through strategy did we lose? Firstly it is apart of the sport but secondly this is how the contenders passed each other, the contenders being the front runners. There was no increase in on track overtakes by the front running teams. This is quite usual as the cars near the front generally run perfectly from start to finish and engage in less risk. Thetop teams rarely have setups which are compromised at some point in the race as they're efficient in getting them right. But yes the midfielders and back-marker's were making more passes. Remember Alonso and Webber, they could not pass Petrov in 2010 Abu Dhabi and I think you'll agree that they would've been desperately trying to pass. So I don't feel that removing the variability of strategy has added to the spectacle. Looking at a figure jumping from 13 - 21 on a spreadsheet doesn't increase the enjoyment. Indeed the stated reasoning for dropping it was safety and cost reduction primarily.
More tellingly - 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007 & 2008 world championships where the average was only 12.25 p/race average were outstanding and these were years of big aero and lower deg tyres. The viewing figures and F1's popularity in this period are also a telling stat. Indeed they were monstrous in this period.
It also notes at the bottom of the datapage that San Marino 2006 had the equal fewest number of overtakes on track for a dry race at 1. Go read the race report or watch a replay. It was one of the best GP of the season ... you dare not turn off the TV! And all sorts of things were happening undercuts/over-cuts/Button being released with the hose still in. It all combined to the titanic tussle Alonso v Schumi. What wasn't to like?
The correlation between the experience and overtaking is just not there as evidenced by viewership of F1 declining. The public will watch Grand Prixs for fear of coming into work on Monday and being told about the move that Vettel put on Hamilton going to Eau Rouge as Hamilton exited the pits and lost time due the fuel hose getting stuck .. or equally no pass but the stress/excitment of the fuel hose getting stuck. It won't happen every race but people will dare not miss just in case.
I've watched many football matches at nil-nil that are fantastic and you feel fear, and pressure and anticipation and if it ends like that so be. You still watch next week. They do not say that to make football more exciting we need more goals so if a player gets to the 6 yard box the whistle is blown and the player gets to take an automatic penalty? It would be a canned rule ... much like DRS and you wouldn't need to watch ... what are you getting excited by? If i miss this match I can just watch the next ... this is F1 right now. The public are so used to overtaking that it doesn't matter anymore, it's par for the course. Of course it's really the person that will never watch F1 anyway (and i don't mean a casual viewer even) that always said 'im not interested because they don't overtake' .. okay that's fine. I don't watch Rugby because I'm similarly not interested. The other problem is F1 now is so hard to follow with tyres falling to bits, DRS ... it used to be much more structured and easy for the casual sport fan to follow. I can't explain in Layman's terms to my 15 year old brother what on earth is going on .. it looks like a bloody free for all ... 'why is he going so slow compared to the other guy?', 'why are his tyres a different color?' ... 'why did he go past so fast on the straight?'' why didn't he fight him?' 'why does his rear wing open and close?' 'why are the guys at the front still not passing?' ... 'this is rubbish im going to play xbox!' ... But F1 is good because cars can overtake!! This is the sort of up and coming viewer - i.e. my brother who should become a life long fan. He will not be however because I cannot give him my passion as my passion for it was created in a time not so long ago but really different. I can't be passionate for what it is as I need to explain all the bs ... indeed when I explain DRS I have to add 'but I dislike DRS it's wrecked the spectacle' .... people will not watch if someone passionate says 'but' there are all these problems with it. F1 needs to refocus on its core base, it needs to be a product of sport ... moving away from sport to WWE style action entertainment has failed. WWE is canned madness and some people like that as it's just entertainment and the viewer understands that from the get-go. F1 is sport and people subconsciously don't respect canned madness in sport. The noise is not respected, the cars are not respected, the difficulty is not respected, the drivers are not respected anymore. This year is a small step in the right direction but the re-fueling will add value to the product without being a bull-dust addition. Add refuelling and keep the regs as is for a bit - we may get 2003/07/08 again in a couple of years.


We had no refuelling on sunday...and there were only 5 overtakes!!!


Passing in Formula 1 for quite some time has been like Vitamin C in potato chips - artificially added.

I don't want Vitamin C in my potato chips. I want them fried in lots of oil with a loud crunch!


It's only the first race of the season on a street track that is notoriously difficult to pass, give it time before sensational conclusions. I would much rather see 3 or 4 hard fought spectacular overtakes than 30 or 40 meaningless passes assisted by DRS


Children, do you want an f1 that is like the classic f1, the pinnacle of motor racing with lots of noise, and state-of-the-art aero?

Do you want it to be modern and road relevant, with lots of overtaking and unpredictability?

do you want overtaking to be difficult so that the men are separated from the children by having to work hard for every pass?


Do you want a formula where drivers have to push like crazy lap after lap in quality mode?


Do you want different tyre compounds so there can be strategic battles?


Do you want the compounds to be near indestructible so racers can push to the limit?


Do you want development all through the season so the battle keeps relevant?


Do you want budget caps so spending is kept under control?


It's bad enough the knee jerk reactions... I'm just afraid the problem is that no one has a clue and they've lost the plot. In Spain we say "if you let an infant sleep in your bed, don't be surprised if you wake up wet."

255 the analogy. ten out of ten


There has been overtaking issues for over 20 years, and Albert park was difficult even if you go back to first race in 1996 which much mor simple aero,

never understood the the obsession in f1 with the focus on pit stop strategy, people want good racing, you don't watch a Moto gp race and think I really wish they had pit stops, it is possible in f1 look at Mansell at Hungary 89, 12 to 1st with no pit stops,


You are absolutely right. I watch MotoGP and think it is superb that the riders can follow each other so closely and can pass and repass each other numerous times during a race.

My only complaint about MotoGP is that the races aren't long enough, but I guess the physical demands on those guys are a bit too much for the races to go on for 90 minutes.


Last Sunday's MotoGp race was a cracker l give you that. As are most races of late. Starting to see many aero bits though. Marc


@ Aaron...i watched moto3 yesterday and there were more edge of the seat passes in that one race than in F1 for an entire year!!!! That is what F1 should be...edge of the seat and it isn't any longer.


Back to the drawing board .....


How was it not going to turn out like this, as if F1 had not covered this exact same ground before? Is this what is called 'none so blind as those who will not see'? This could not be seen coming?


Maybe its time we brought back refuelling.
The cars would still have a limit on the amount to be used, thus keeping the tree hugging lefties appeased, whilst adding another element of difference to how teams approach each race strategically.


@ have my support in that proposition. Couple that with cars having ground effect and WOW...we have racing again. Insane speeds and spectacular passing opportunities.

seymour quilter

Unfortunately it is proven through facts that refuelling againg reduced on track overtaking. Many websites have the data including this one:


@ Seymour quilter...In 2015 there were 35 passes in the race. This year there were 5...that's 85% less and there was no refueling!! Kinda begs the question....


Thanks for the link.


for me, it's number the number of overtakes but the significance of an overtake that matters..

Seymour Quilter

That's s ludicrous position to take, pun intended! If a car is stuck behind one that is slower for half a race the damage done to the race is astounding. Think of all the better races we would have had when cars were not stuck behind the Trulli Train during the late 1990s and early 2000's. I would much rather see faster cars overtake slower ones - thank heavens for the DRS!


each to his own, they say.


@ seymour Q...i am always conflicted with the allowance of blue flags. These backmarkers are racing as well and to see them destroy all their hard work in having to let faster cars through must be self destroying. Theoretically, a faster car should be able to pass a slower car and if they can't at first then they should have to try and find a way that doesn't destroy someone elses efforts. Different lines or whatever. Blue flags were i believe only introduced around 2001 so that they are not really traditional at all.


Not often that we agree, but this time 100% 🙂


am glad..


So, given that it is what it is and a knee-jerk reaction might be needed to keep fans engaged, why not change the "DRS activation" trigger to 2 or 2.5 seconds, since the drivers say that 1.5 seconds is about as close as you can follow ? Putting things on the Tires, when they've (once again) done what has been asked of them design-wise seems a tad bit out of place. Maybe bring back refueling, too, and eliminate the fuel flow/consumption restrictions and also drop the rev limits while we're at it, eh?


good point..


Don't ask engineers or drivers-

ask a theoretical physicist:
The cars need even more wings and more up-force to allow overtaking using the third dimension...
ask my daughter:
Each race each driver has one time per race the option to ask for a blue flag even the driver in front is in the same lap.



It wasnt as if we were not warned......

With the car regs as they are, the only fix will be a sporting must use all 3 compounds in the race or the tyre you start on is selected at random or other false measures to try to spice things up.....or Ross saying to pirelli, throw these tyres away and come up with something else.

I constantly fail to undertand why we dont do something radical. remove the things that cause the problem...front wings, barge boards etc etc.

I know that I do not care if the cars are going 10 sec per lap slower than now. If they were going sideways on big sticky tyres, I guarantee you no one would care!


Yes. I think part of the problem stems from the need for bragging rights, for F1 to be able to claim "fastest in the world" status. Fastest lap time does not, automatically, make great racing. Making the cars fun to drive and spectacular to watch does NOT mean reaching an arbitrarily faster lap time. It means, make 'em fun to drive and watch. F1 has yet to recognize the difference.


Please Chase! Less aero, more mech grip, more power! We might even get to see a four wheel drift or two again! wouldn't that be something. And maybe drivers would have to have more of what James Hunt had. BIG BALLS!


I dont mind less overtaking what I do mind is a uncompetitive field, hopefully one sunday I will wake up thinking who out of 8-10 drivers will win the race today instead of 1-4!

They really have shot themselves in the foot Toto was right saying if they kept last years rules others teams would of closed the gap more.

I will pay to watch the next race on SkyNow but if the next race is as bad as Melbourne I wont pay anymore and just watch highlights. Forget about Spain, Russia and Monaco with these cars. Zzzzzzzz


I'm likely in the extreme minority but I'd like to see them at least consider allowing refueling. I know there is added danger and cost but I really enjoyed that added intrigue of fuel load and the fact that it spread out the field a bit more with different strategies. It would need to just be one piece of the puzzle to increase the tension ans excitement of watching a race but I'd like to see it re-evaluated.

James, any chance that's considered?


Reading through, seems I'm a little late to the game on the refueling suggestion.

James, I hear what you are saying about the chess pieces not encountering until the end. I happen to enjoy some of that because it added more intrigue. Even though the order was mixed up around the track, I seem to remember more cars mixing it up because the added variation in the capabilities of the each due to fuel wight and tires instead of just tires. May be just my perception though.

It definitely has it's up and down sides like all other possible solutions. I just remember being more engaged and enjoying the anticipation of which strategy eventually won out.


I completely disagree with this article. Aero is the main culprit here, not the tyres.

Of course having a speed difference because of different tyres help, but last year you couldn't push for two laps behind another car or ruin the tyres. There was no real fight for position for lap after lap, like 10 years ago. What we need is a balance between good fights and overtaking.

And bringing back refuelling won't help as 2010 showed, because without a major regulation overhaul and consistent tyres overtaking increased twice as much as the year before. Without DRS or fast degrading tyres. So these gimmicks are not needed for good racing as other classes like the LMP1 Sportscars show. What we need are cars that can drive in each others slipstream for lap after lap without ruining the tyres. That will give good fights on the track.

So instead of not listening to the drivers, F1 should not listen to the teams as they are the main reason for the current (2014 and onwards) regulations as they stopped the introduction of ground-effect the FIA was planning to go along with the hybrid engines to make the racing better (in stead of using gimmicks like DRS).
Ground-effect will give the same level of downforce without the levels of drag these cars have, which allows for cars to drive in each others slipstream in stead of a distance of more than 2 seconds without losing grip.

So I hope Ross Brawn will implement in the near future what the Overtaking Workgroup (of which he was part?) envisioned for the future of F1 racing in sted of a knee-jerk reaction to go back to fast degrading tyres to improve the show. Knee-jerk reactions we have seen to many times in the past of F1. The current aero rules are a perfect example.


"All the signs are that in listening to the F1 drivers, who wanted tyres they could ‘push’ on, the sport has suffered"

Yes, this was entirely predictable. The problem is, in past years the drivers could have pushed just as hard, but they would have had to stop more so they just opted to tiptoe around hitting laptime deltas and then complained about not being able to push. With all races effectively becoming a one stop event, there is less variability and less potential to have a high pace offset between strategies at the front of the grid because everyone will qualify on the softest tire available meaning they will drive a predictable number of laps +/- 5 or so at the beginning and switch to the fastest tire that gets them to the end of the race without stopping again, as we saw on Sunday. The advantage goes to the car that is faster/better on tires as they will stop later and have the tire life to cover off anyone who was behind them, but even then, it is still only going to be a few laps of advantage which even with the older tires wasnt really very meaningful. So, as Lewis learned this weekend, the first mover has no advantage on the pit stop when the cars behind are effectively on the same strategy.

This could definitely be mitigated by bringing softer tires.

David Whitehead

Quick fix idea - what if the DRS gap was increased from one to two seconds? Or, what if there was a DRS Gap by position? 2-5 get one second, 6-10 get two seconds, 11+ can use DRS whenever they like.


I believe we should deal with what we have this season and enjoy Hamilton vs Vettel drama.
Meanwhile F1 needs to give Ross Brawn some time so he could come up with the best possible solution to make races once again more entertaining. No one but him knows better these complex technical rules and how to make F1 a grand show again, IMHO.


What drama?


I think that everything possible has already been said (I'm in the "disagree" camp; reduce aero, reduce gimmicky tires & drs, reduce mandates (different tires, pit stops). Anyway, the topic keeps reminding me of the world's worst 35 laps at Monaco


Not the usual tone from James papers !

I think the title is very misleading as if you are right about the more durable tires, drivers were among the first to warn about overtaking with the new maybe listening to them could be beneficial, if there was a better choice as to what the FIA would choose to listen to !
Also, it's a fake fix to have "cliff tires" as the overtaking is not on equal terms


I think part of the problem with the racing nowadays is formula 1 cars are no longer sprint cars they are endurance cars. Just four pu's for the season, each gearbox has to last six races, fuel limits. The drivers might want to race flat out but their team managers are looking fifteen races ahead. Get the car to the finish the drivers are told before the race and look after the engine we don't want to be taking an engine penalty at Monza.


I'm a fan of the degrading tyre - it may be slightly artificial but that's how it was back in some of the best racing before they got wise to tyre strategy. I especially liked the days of the cliff where when they got it wrong and went a lap too long they lost several seconds.

Personally, I think that there is a way to make high down force/low wake cars and also I think that there should be a way to evolve aero to better cope with turbulent air. I suspect that with Ross Brawn in charge, he can get an aero team together who can pick out the aspects that make cars hyper-sensitive to wake and also what features of aero cause the most wake. Box in those features and you go some way to solving the issue. It may be that they need to bring back diffusers (because the underside may be able to shape the air flow before the active element) and take away rear wing.

I want a formula that taxes the strategists, the designers, engine and aero and the drivers. I think low deg tyres are a mistake as it takes away strategy and driver skill, I think 2017 aero was a mistake and they knew it before they started, they've been constraining aero for a long time so nothing new in further constraints and we want cars to bring back the Coulthard neck!

Just don't bring back grooved tyres!


I always remember James Hunt talking about the dirty air caused by the car in front so this is not a new phenomenon. Why don't they introduce rules and specific rear dimensions where the aerodynamics are such that the following car gets a genuine tow from the car in front.


25 years of watching - my conclusions:

All formula changes are cursed by the law of unintended consequences. So there is no one answer.
2. Only 25% of all F1 races (of any era) are very exciting. You need to watch them all so you're there when they occur.
3. Candidate for the best year ever was 1999. Tyre degradation was they key.


You can please all of the people some of the time. You can please some of the people all of the time. Unfortunately, you cannot please all of the people all of the time. Let's see how it pans out. There's another eight months of the season ahead of us.


This is easy, I'll fix F1. First, “ why listening to F1 drivers is bad for the racing “ The drivers have been trying to tellin you what is wrong for years and no one would listen. I have not actually watched an F1 race since it went behind the pay wall. I pay for the privilege of watching F1 by sitting through the tsun