Abu Dhabi analysis: Three things on my mind as the 2017 F1 season comes to an end
Mercedes
Posted By: James Allen  |  26 Nov 2017   |  6:25 pm GMT  |  524 comments

The F1 racing season is over now and all thoughts turn to the 2018 championship and a clean slate for all the teams and drivers and for the sport as a whole.

There is so much going on in F1 at the moment and we will look in depth at all aspects of where the sport and teams are heading during the winter break, but here are three things which are top of mind as we leave Abu Dhabi for home.

Bottas classy, but Hamilton not at his best
I asked Hamilton after the race whether this was a case of ‘well done, Valtteri, enjoy the moment, but in Melbourne it will be business as usual from me’. He admitted in the press conference that he has been celebrating his fourth title and has let his focus slip a little as a result.

What’s interesting about this is that he made it clear he didn’t want a repeat of 2015 when he let Nico Rosberg get a grip in the final races of the season after Hamilton had wrapped up the title and then carried that momentum into 2018.

Bottas has rarely been the competitor for Hamilton that Rosberg was in 2016, but it was only his first season with the team. In general Bottas has struggled through his F1 career for consistency. It was consistency that won the title for Rosberg last year and for Hamilton this year and nothing less than perfect execution every week will do if Bottas is to step up next season to the next level.

I shall be fascinated to see whether he has another level in him. Likewise with this Ferrari team; they stepped up from 2016 to this year better than anyone else, but can they find the inspiration to do it again into 2018?

It also shows that for a driver, if you are not 100% on your A Game, even with a driver on Hamilton’s level, then you lose.


F1 needs more competition at the front
The TV director focused largely on the battles in midfield today, understandably, because there was plenty of close racing, such as Massa and Alonso, Grosjean and Stroll as well as Magnussen and Wehrlein, being some examples.

It highlighted that F1 can produce good racing even on a track like Yas Marina where overtaking is difficult, but the problem is that the gaps at the front are still too large and between the front three teams and the rest is a gulf.

The points table reflects it. Between Red Bull in third and Force India in fourth is 181 points, Red Bull has almost double Force India’s tally.

That is the focus of attention at Liberty Media with support from the FIA.

It will not be easy to achieve, but it is essential for the long term future of the sport because we have to get to the point where a team like Force India can aspire to win a race, just as a lowly Premier League football team can win against Chelsea or Manchester United.


F1 is entering a delicate moment
F1’s commercial boss Sean Bratches and Head of Marketing Ellie Norman revealed the new F1 logo today in a press conference before the race and it was rolled out to the world on the podium.

It was a strong visual statement of change from the old regime to the new.

Officially the reason given for the change was because the old logo doesn’t work on digital content and on screens due to the dead space between the F and the 1.

Of course it is a very visual reminder that F1 is changing its culture away from the Bernie Ecclestone regime and that needs to extend well beyond things like logos to the way it makes decisions and the quality of the decisions it makes.

Liberty have had a busy year, making lots of small changes and only a handful of big ones, but despite the generally more relaxed and upbeat atmosphere around the F1 paddock, the mood music from the teams is that there is ‘concern’.

Things like prize money reducing because Liberty have invested money in new staff, facilities and events like F1 Live, niggle the teams.

Teams don’t feel that their share – which comes from a percentage of net profits – should be affected because of these things.

More seriously the plans unveiled for the new engines post 2020 were badly received by Ferrari and Mercedes in particular and they seem generally to be spoiling for a fight.

We are heading for a showdown and the key to it will be to present the changes which are unpalatable to Ferrari in such a way that they don’t react emotionally.

Reading the tea leaves, I can imagine a set of circumstances in which Sergio Marchionne takes Ferrari out of F1. If it happens it will be like what happened in US open wheel racing in the 1990s when Tony George took the Indianapolis 500 out of ChampCar and both sides lost.

The series and the event have never recovered from the fall-out from that debacle. They are now incidental to the global motorsport story, where prior to the split they had the must-watch series with Mansell, Andretti, Fittipaldi, Unser, Villeneuve and the rest battling it out in high level, very close racing.

F1 would survive without the red cars, but would be diminished.

Time would tell what the effect on Ferrari would be, but they seem to be going more like Porsche and heading into larger volumes and a broader range of models, so they would probably back themselves to be able to maintain appeal to prospective and existing customers without F1.

We will go into more detail on all of the above and more over the winter.

What do you think? Leave your comments in the section below


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1

The logo leans backwards not forwards – F1 in reverse??

2
Gavin Pendergrast

The F1 world championship will always be the pinnacle for a single seater driver, whether Ferrari or Merc are involved or not. History doesn’t write a a byline in the records saying they weren’t there so all remaining teams/drivers will be gagging for a chance to compete when they are not around. There is enough money in their bonus payments alone to fully fund a couple of extra teams!

I am an F1 fan and have been for 20 years not because of Ferrari or Merc are there but because I love seeing humans do things that are extraordinary. Through those years I can pinpoint moments (passes/hotlaps/crashes) that stick with you not because of what colour the cars are, but because of the drivers taking risks and exploring what they are capable of. Its the same reason I watch any sport.

Its also the same reason why esport can never evoke the same emotion in a viewer, but that’s not saying it won’t be hugely successful.

I would suspect that Liberty will have a pretty accurate business model sitting in the wings if Ferrari/Merc do decide to exit. They probably had one done before they brought the sport, especially given they knew the contracts would be up in 2020.

Technology has already overtaken the sport of driving. Merc in particular are a tech driven company and they treat the driver as just another component of the device. They have a head of ‘human performance’ along side ‘head of aerodynamics’ or ‘head of engine department’ It just doesn’t excite me. I love racing and just because F1 has lacked that at the pointy end doesn’t mean it can’t have it in the future

Reduce the cost through introducing standard parts, make the cars look/sound spectacular and put the driver at front of everything. They are the heroes, they are the humans we are all drawn to watch.

Actually I feel the halo introduction will hurt the sport more than anything else happening at the moment. I know it’s a safety device but a single seater race car has never had something obscuring the drive like the halo does. It disconnects us with the hero. I’m sure if you gave the driver the choice they would all choose not to have it and take the risk of injury or death. They are not playing tiddlywinks after all!

3

Considering the points gap between Vet & Bot, it is likely Bot would have been ahead, if Ferrari would have allowed Rai to race Vet on equal terms.

4

They changed the logo for digital content? Because it clearly hasn’t worked online for the past 20 years… I mean, yes, the website itself has always been pretty crap for the past 20 years.
I thought they would opt for 7 different variations of the logo; the real logo, the more real logo, the slightly less than real logo, the hyperlogo….
Like everyone else has been saying, there are bigger issues at stake in the sport right now and people generally dislike change (I hate the new logo btw) but I’ll get over it. The halo? not so much.

5

A lot of people have been posting about the new logo and HT tracks having too much run off. I dunno the old F1 logo 20 years. Ferrari and Mercedes logos much longer. I dunno what to make of that yet.

It sure sounds like bigger problems are ahead.

6

When anything changes it takes a while to adjust and get used to it. But when I first saw it i’ll Admit I didn’t see F1 ! Or actually get what it was. So that says something in itself !

7

The logo is the least of Liberty’s problems – first they have to make the whole show more entertaining. It is only when you watch other types of racing that you realise how mild and predictable F1 has become.

8

James, I firmly believe the points gap is due to the current points system.
Every motor racing event should base their points on the MotoGP system.
25,20,16,13,11,10,9,8,7,6,5,4,3,2,1

9

How about a logo that incorporates the “Halo”?

10

I think real well of JA, but my reaction to a notion that Ferrari could leave was not so charitable. But… things change a lot. Maybe Formula E, road-car battery tech takes off and Ferrari makes a bold move, goes to Formula E. To read that back, it seems preposterous, but it wasn’t so long ago that it seemed even crazier to imagine bashing this out on a pocket-sized, $100 computer.

11

Mr. James,

Re: New regulations on PU for 2021. (just a bit off topic)

Will the new regulations affect the efficiency of further PUs? i.e. elimination of the MGU-H and other revisions that the FIA seeks to introduce.
In other words:

http://www.thedrive.com/tech/14286/mercedes-amgs-f1-engine-has-cracked-50-percent-thermal-efficiency-report-says

.. or maybe the FIA expects that by 2021 PU will be more efficient (compared to the current benchmark) even without MGU-H?

12

It seems rather ironic that F1 could lose the prancing horse to attract Porsche. I rather think a compromise will be found unless the three pointed star board decide that they have proved their point and quit.
I think it is more likely that Mercedes will quit at the end of the Concord agreement because F1 will be made so they can no longer win and Mercedes are in it to dominate. Those two are incompatible so Mercedes will quit while on top. It is difficult to predict how Ferrari will react to Nercedes withdrawing from F1

13

2 events happened last weekend. The final round of the F1 season, and the final round of the Aussie Supercars championship.

I challenge anyone who is a fan of actual RACING, and just an F1 clinger-on enthralled by the glitz and glam of the circus….I challenge anyone to watch both events and dare say that the F1 event was better.

It’s not even a comparison. It’s like comparing curling or lawn bowling to skydiving.

On another note, James, do you plan on writing a eulogy for open cockpit racecars?

14

In two minds regarding the new logo, halo, heavier cars, 3 engine limit etc….

On one hand, like many, I hate change – especially entering, the twilight of my thirties.

On the other hand, time marches eternal. Embracing change is part and parcel of growing up. Reminiscing about the good old days often blinds us to the now.

On a whole, this was a great season. A titanic battle between red and silver. Ferrari vs Mercedes. Lewis vs Vettel.

The coming of age of young max. The brilliance of Ocon and the revelation $troll has talent.

Looking ahead, I really really *curse word* hate halo. The logo pales in comparison.

15
Tornillo Amarillo

I liked your “$troll” spelling !

I hope next year the Lowe’s car suits him better, fingers crossed.
In Canada the promoter are already selling tribune number 24 for Lance’s supporters promising to deliver free-Canadian-red caps & t-shirts to them. Yeah, like mirroring Max supporters.

16

Digital image technical issues aside, my impression of the new logo boils down to “not needed, but not bad”. I like that the curves elicit visions of sweeping corners and don’t mind the font. But most of all, it really does signify “this isn’t Bernie’s F1 anymore” and that’s what makes it important.

17

Spot on

18

Well that may apply to Liberty but how many of the millions of fans would even know who BE was and that it was associated with him in either fact or fiction?

19

I happen to think that this is possibly the worst time ever for Ferrari to quit F1.
They will be leaving at a time when it will be perceived that they are the second best at producing the fastest cars in the world…..oh hang on they are.
I think if they are going to leave it should be when thay are at the top of their game. They are second, first to come last. Come on Ferrari. You are better than this constant winging about leaving, go out and win then tell eveyone you ar egunna quit at the top!!!

20

What about. Leave these engines as they are. If new manufacturers like cosworth want to join. They can come in with a 3.0l n/a engine. Similar power to the hybrids but would use slot more fuel. Let them refuel etc. Would certainly spice it up

21

Old logo: Negative-space blah blah. (I’m guessing someone felt resentful that they couldn’t see the extra “1” in the middle and this is their overreaction.) Puts a red blob as the new logo instead. It looks more like RRI, FI or a faucet. Completely unrecognizable on digital media.

22

I was late to the party with the ‘f1 is rubbish’ social media, I’ve since caught up and its almost impossible to ignore the constant ongoing wailing of fans and media alike.

Fundamentally racing can be dull, its cars going round in a circle and unless they are sliding at ten tenths then they need to be racing more closely. It was ever thus. The volume has gone up because of social media but I remember Murray Walker oft repeated phrase ‘catching is one thing, overtaking quite another’ and that was in the 1980s, an era people seem to yearn for.

We also suffered from terrible TV producers back then, following a Ligier for lap after lap trundling round in 24th, if it was the French GP. Ferrari in Italy etc. Battles weren’t shown, mistakes weren’t replayed and there were many many processional races.

Looking back from todays billiard table tracks and index finger gear changes, they look far more exciting because the cars were handfuls and the tracks bumpy and badly tarmacked. The oft replayed Senna clip at Monaco being a great example,

I’ll leave the last word to Adrian Newey..from memory…: ‘when you see Senna drive that qualifying lap at Monaco you think it would be impossible to do that, that they must be supermen. When you see todays drivers, you think you could probably do it. You would be wrong of course but it doesn’t seem impossible. f1 has lost its gladiatorial spirit’

23

Yup. As I have said many times, F1 has gotten to the point where there’s minimal obvious display of driver control; the engine regulations are for endurance racing; and the chassis and aero regulations mean the cars optimized for time trials, not racing against one another.

If a GP is going to remain roughly 200 miles or two hours long, then hybrid/endurance drivetrains are unnecessary and unimpressive. The races are short enough that it’s just ho-hum. Lengthen the distance to 500 miles w/o refueling and it becomes more interesting, and easier to market.

If absolute laptime is the measure of how good a car is, then inaugurate the World Time Trial Championship and let each car go out alone.

If you want RACING; a situation where you can see the effects of the driver’s efforts to control the car, then stop worshipping at the altar of laptime. Reduce or eliminate aerodynamic-dependent cornering power. What, for example, would a modern take on the Lotus 25 or BRM P261 do with modern materials, including brakes and tires? Slower laptime be damned. They would probably give us spectacular racing.

24

Excellent, excellent point. As MotoGP proves every week whilst circulating upto 30 seconds a lap slower than f1. I’d love to see a modern take on pre aero cars.. unfortanetly with Jean Todt in charge and the manufacturers wagging the dog I can’t see much improvement any time soon.

25

I think there is room “off the ladder” for just such a series. Note that FIA Appendix J Article 277’s “Free Formula” regs expressly permit races for cars outside of those otherwise listed by the FIA. Note also that FIA Historic racing has become extremely popular; I believe recent data shows more licenses granted for those categories than for any other FIA Championship. And among the most popular segments is for the pre-wing/1.5 liter GP cars of the 1960s, and their immediate predecessors, the front-engined 2.5 liter cars of the 1954 – 1960 Formula.

Also of note, as Motor Sport magazine has explored in depth over the last three issues, modern race preparation techniques- including suspension analysis and optimization – and improvements in tires, fuels, lubricants, and materials – have increased the performance of various historic racers well beyond how they did in-period; there is an obvious market for combining these elements.

A series that deliberately goes “retro modern” can fit successfully into the marketplace. It needn’t compete with F1 directly, nor should it even be part of the FIA “ladder” to F1. Let it operate in its own ecosystem. Let it use FIA Grade 2 (or lower) circuits, thereby avoiding the high costs that would come with using a modern GP palace. Brands Hatch and Watkins Glen (to name a couple of excellent examples) would do nicely for such a series.

26

Its got legs that idea. I mean it does go on, I’ve been watching VSCC since my dad took me as a wide eyed boy in the early 1980s and my favourite era was when they got ‘really loud’, the cigar shaped pre wing cars. The noise and speed after you’ve just been watching pre war 3 wheeled Morgan’s is quite something. But I know what you mean, not middle aged rich men doing it but bright young things seeking a career in driving or engineering. Probably just need to put a cost cap in from the get go and ask itv4 to show it.

Modern retro is massive, just ask Fiat about the 500. If Peugeot did a 205 update they’d not be able to make them fast enough.

27

Adrian Newey mirrored my exact thoughts in an article the other day. If you watch the footage of Senna going around Monaco in his McLaren it’s incredible, it looks massively hard work and totally committed not to mention life threatening. They were gladiators. That was F1 for me. Obviously safety had to be addressed but hybrids and halos seriously? It’s like watching paint dry compared to th 80’s but those days are gone and I can’t see the show getting any better sadly.

28
Tornillo Amarillo

Is the money problem for Ferrari exacerbated by the fact they are losing Santander as a sponsor?

29

It’s only less than 10% of there income.. about 40Million. Not nice, but not a real problem.

30
Tornillo Amarillo

Banco Santander abandona la Fórmula 1 al romper el patrocinio con Ferrari

La entidad financiera ha decidido no continuar como ‘sponsor’ principal de la escudería italiana tras una alianza de ocho años y una inversión directa de casi 300 millones

El Confidencial.

31

The new logo on F1’s Facebook page looks awful: so much for the old one not been suitable for the digital age. It looked good at a small size and in mono. New one is awful and starts to loose what little detail it had to start with.

32

There is certainly an argument that Ferrari might actually be better off not competing in f1. After all, in the most public forum possible, they are proving that they are no more than second best every season, aren’t they ?

I have a Ferrari 575M and the reason for buying it had nothing to do with F1 as I am a lifelong McLaren and Williams supporter.

I bought it because it was the best Grand Tourer available at the time and I use it as such. Maranello might acquire more conquest sales from other makes if they were dominating F1 but I doubt it.

For real enthusiasts, the road car division of Ferrari stands and falls by the beauty, the quality and the performance of the cars, nothing else. Their cars are better than those currently produced by McLaren, for example, and the Ferrari badge is the icing on the cake.

Of course there are lots of Ferrari owners who buy the car as another trophy to demonstrate their wealth because of the badge. A lot of these people by Californias! The Company competing in F1 has even less influence on the buying decision of those customers.

I would not like to see Ferrari pull out of F1 but I would like to see the new regulations create the conditions where my two favoured British teams, Mercedes, Ferrari and, perhaps even Red Bull all had the opportunity to win a race or two.

33

I couldn’t care less about the drivers. But what does interest me is the technology. It’s been 4yrs since the hybrid technology came in to f1. Surely in that time batteries size weight and performance has increased massively. Can the fia not bring the minimum weight of the pu down and increase the power of the hybrid.
Let’s start getting rid of the fat from these cars.

34

While I don’t mind the new logo as many have said there was nothing really wrong with the old one.

However has no one though of one of the most obvious reasons for the change of logo? How easy will it be to replace the ‘1’ with either a 2, 3 & 4??? I think there many be rebranding of F2 & GP3 on the cards soon especially as the FIA have already talked about making a more clear feeder series ladder to F1.

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