What Can Change To Fix F1? | Planet F1 | Formula One | Features | Editorial
What Can Change To Fix F1?
After the Bahrain borefest, change is once again on F1's agenda. So what can be done? PF1 considers the options being put forward...
Do Nothing And Pretend All's Well In The World
As advocated by: Formula One's official website (see picture above).
Comments: And that type of myopia is presumably why, ladies and gentlemen, you've opted to visit this website rather than theirs.
Wait And See
As advocated by: Bernie Ecclestone.
Comments: Bernie's clout tends to end all argument so if he says that F1 should wait and see until after China - which is followed by a three-week break in the calendar - before entering into a decision-making process then that's the (non-)decision likely to be made. It's a surprise, though, that Bernie seems so apathetic; he's F1's money-making promoter, he must realise the damage that is being done to his product and indeed one of the reasons Bahrain felt such a letdown was that there were - the past tense is a matter of personal choice - such high hopes and expectations. Millions of casual viewers will have tuned into the opening race of the season on a promise of greatness and they will now need a convincing push to return. Try telling them to wait and see...
Ratings will plunge for Australia and will continue to fall if a repeat of the Bahrain borefest is served up. Does Bernie really need telling this? Apparently not: according to reports, he left the Bahrain circuit even before the grand prix had finished its procession.
Bring In Short-Cuts
As advocated by: Bernie Ecclestone (who does want to do a little something after all).
Comments: And when he says short cuts, he is speaking literally. "A driver could use it so many times a race so that if he really gets stuck behind somebody he could still get past," said Ecclestone. "I'm pushing, but sometimes people don't understand these things too well, they don't see the advantages."
We can see the advantages. The problem is that it's easier to spot the disadvantages with the words 'laughing stock' to the fore. F1, as the pinnacle of motor racing, has spawned a multi-billion pound industry on the basis of its cutting-edge technology and awesome machinery. If it can only be saved with computer-game gimmicks then we might as well call it quits and buy shares in Sega instead.
Change The Circuits
As advocated by: Sir Frank Williams
Comments: "There's no magic formula," says Sir Frank, "but the one change that might help is a different style of circuits with longer straights and wide run-off areas."
Hmm. The sound you can hear in the background is five years ago calling.
F1 doesn't have time to wait for new circuits to be built. And if it was possible to actually add overtaking opportunities to those circuits that already preclude such pleasant activities - Monaco, Valencia and Budapest, we're pointing at you - then, surely, it would have already been done long ago.
Use Two Similar Types Of Tyres
As advocated by: James Allen.
Comments: Every driver has to use two different compounds in a single grand prix and on Sunday the standard formula was to begin on the super-softs before pitting for the primes after 20 or so laps and then continue a circular procession.
JA's proposal would be for 'Bridgestone to bring tyres which are closer together in performance, rather than two steps apart as at present. This was done last season and it improved things, but now they have gone back to bringing super soft and medium to the first race. Because the soft is so much faster, around 6/10ths and degrades more quickly, it will always be the qualifying tyre, which then leads to an early first pit stop for the medium, which is the better race tyre.
'With tyres that are closer together, the performance difference is less and so are the wear rates and it is more attractive to try a different tactic.'
Somewhat perversely, the key ingredient of the Bahrain 'failure' was the excellence of Bridgestone's rubber. The theory was that the extra weight every car was carrying in the form of their race fuel would cause telling degradation, especially on those cars whose drivers hadn't nursed their tyres. Unfortunately, and it was definitely an unfortunate thing, the drivers seemingly found tyre-management easy despite the heat. Put bluntly, Bridgestone did too good a job - so it's hard not to sympathise with them. In an era of one tyre supplier, Bridgestone are only mentioned whenever there is a perceived problem. The problem in Bahrain was that their diligence prevented any occurring. JA is no doubt correct in what he states, but rather than provide the implication that Bridgestone are to blame, F1 should look for a solution of its own.
No Mandatory Pit-Stops
As advocated by: The PlanetF1 Forum.
Comments: An idea that's worth listening to (in part because the forum doesn't take kindly to being ignored...)
The theory is that it would inspire a shake-up because the teams would have to choose between attempting to run an entire race on the primes tyres or a multi-stop strategy using the softs (there are other permutations, but for argument's sake we'll use the most dramatic discrepancy as illustration).
The flaw, however, in the idea is the risk that one strategy would prove clearly superior and if the primes were found to be a better choice then the running order wouldn't even be altered by the sort of pit stop 'jumps' we saw in Bahrain to change the running order.
A Second Mandatory Pit-Stop
As advocated by: McLaren's Martin Whitmarsh, Red Bull's Christian Horner and Mercedes' Nick Fry.
Comments: The most likely change.
Horner's inclusion on the list of advocates is significant because it was the Red Bull boss who first called for a second pit-stop to be compulsory - the theory being that it would offer the potential of different strategies as well as incentivise drivers to run aggressively on every stint rather than prioritise tyre protection - but was rejected because of the suspicion the Red Bull boss had an ulterior motive. Now that the Red Bull has proved in Bahrain that it is kind - or at least not unkind - on its tyres, that suspicion cannot be levelled against him.
Intriguingly, Ferrari, whose public position has been to sit on Bernie's wait-and-see fence, are reported to have voiced their objections to the proposal in private. Yet if the pattern of Bahrain is repeated, with the Red Bulls quickest in qualifying and Ferrari unable to captalise on their superior race because of the impossibility of overtaking, then the Italians would have the most to gain from a second stop being demanded. Still sitting comfortably on that fence, chaps?
Clean Up F1's Dirty Air
As advocated by: Anyone and everyone.
Comments: The fundamental issue holding F1 back - and its cars, literally - is the 'dirty air' that a faster car must drive through to overtake. In Bahrain, Fernando Alonso clearly possessed a quicker car than Seb Vettel but lost a second in a single lap of turbulence when he caught the Red Bull. On his radio, Vettel was even told by his race engineer not to worry about Alonso's superior pace because he was likely to overheat in the dirty air his Red Bull was churning out.
The outlawing of Double Diffusers will only come into effect next season and it remains to be seen to what extent the ban cleans up the sport. It was, in case we've forgotten, pretty dirty even before Ross Brawn and co had their brainwave.
In the meantime, nobody should be under any illusions about the dirty mess F1 is in. No matter the number of pitstops being made or tyres being used, overtaking will always be at a premium if the cars can't follow another without being penalised.