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The Dawn of a New F1…? Saturday 16th May 2015


Andrew Davies says ‘curb your enthusiasm’. Although there are a lot of good ideas in the new strategy proposals, there is one fundamental flaw that the regulations don’t address.

Last Thursday’s Strategy Group meeting has produced some big talking points about the future direction of F1.

There’s some good stuff in there, that could cause drama at races further down the line. For instance the free choice of two Pirelli compounds (exluding wets and inters) per race, within safety parameters, would give teams a lot to think about. And doesn’t cost the teams anything.

They want to make cars 30-50kg lighter without prejudicing the heavier drivers. Easier said than done, when the whole design ethos (Unless Bernie’s idea of removing 30kg is to take away the hybrid energy system) of F1 is to make cars as light as possible in the first place.

Higher revving engines would naturally make for louder engines. And the Power Unit Working Group are going to have a look at changing tail-pipe architecture to make them as health-threateningly noisey as they were before. Again, this shouldn’t add cost to the teams.

Less driver aids. This can only be a good thing. Drivers shouldn’t have elaborate launch procedures to get off the line at the start of the race, they should be allowed to have a really bad start. Similarly, driver contact with the pitwall should be further limited. Giving drivers a set time to drive to shouldn’t be allowed – and though we love hearing the radio messages, there should be a cap on them.

A return to motorsport good looks – Increase rear tyre width from 360mm to 420mm, wider front and rear wings, and wider cars will make F1 look sexy again. This is great news. It’s going to increase cornering speeds, though, and the rush of enthusiasm for these potential new changes will have to be tempered by the realisation that when accidents happen, they are going to be BIGGER accidents.

A return to refuelling will also throw another variable in there. The cost is going to have to be looked at, but for those who say it will add danger to the pitcrew, take a look at the last race, where Romain Grosjean played ten-pin-bowling with his Lotus crew. Refuelling will certainly make cars quicker and those drivers who are good at looking after their tyres are about to lose a virtue. But it’s a controversial area, and if refuelling is allowed, then the idea of choosing tyres will have far less of an impact because teams will go for the quicker options.

What they haven’t addressed

Any sport is only as good as its top performers – yet in F1 we don’t have the top performers. We regularly lose the talented drivers who cannot find sponsors to pay for their first one or two years at the top level. And that’s because the prize money system is broken.

How can you have a sport where Mercedes, Ferrari and even McLaren can afford to pay their drivers $40m a year, yet Lotus have to be paid $17m by Pastor Maldonado’s Venezuelan oil backers to let him drive?

All teams need to be supported to the level that they can pay their drivers and choose them on raw talent. Because it’s the raw talent that entertains.
We need 26 cars on the grid, and they need to be more evenly matched. Customer cars may help, but it steepens the slippery slope towards just a handful of manufacturers and the set of problems that itself brings.

There’s a lot of good stuff in the new proposals, but fundamentally, unless they sort out the revenue for the smaller teams,  F1 will still be a shadow of what it could be. At the moment it is the blindingly fast against the blindingly well-sponsored, with technology making up the difference so the gap doesn’t look too big.

Andrew Davies