As the days and weeks roll by, the Australian Grand Prix gets ever closer. The Melbourne race will start the 2008 season, the 58th since the organised championship began, and the sport as come a long way since the days of Ascari and Fangio. But the modern era of Formula One seems to be dominated at the moment with politics and money. Admittedly, if you were looking to point a finger, you cannot necessarily blame the sport entirely for this. It just happens to be the climate of the times in which F1 rests; it isn’t going to change too soon and is something the teams and fans have become used to over the passing decades. However, this money and political involvement has caused the rules of the sport to be changed significantly, and not always for the better.
Generally speaking, the sport of Formula One has improved since the ’50s on a variety of level, most notably safety. The last death to occur during a race was the tragic weekend at San Marino in 1994 when both Roland Ratzenberger and Ayrton Senna lost their lives. Only last season Robert Kubica suffered an almighty accident that, had it occurred fifty years previous, would have almost certainly added to that season’s fatalities.
So progressing the sport is essential for its long term survival; be it for safety reasons, trying to get more viewers by hosting the races at different times or even just altering the testing regulations to improve the fairness. Whatever it may be, positive and well thought-out progression is vital.
Unfortunately though, and here comes the crux of the post for those eagerly waiting, not all changes have been for the better. Once again qualifying has been tweaked for this upcoming season. This small change should actually be for the better, but the original change from the 12 lap free-for-all was simply a bad decision in my opinion. Another example of bad decisions is, once again in my humble opinion, the tyre change rule. Yes, being forced to run both compounds does add a little spice to the proceedings. But it has taken away one thing I loved about F1, and added another that simply isn’t necessary.
What this rule has added is an extra layer of complexity for new fans to follow. Heck, it sometimes provides a sore head for some of the older fans as well! Trying to understand a team’s strategy is at best a nightmare, but throwing in a differently-behaving type of tyre just makes it harder for newbies to understand and may contribute to them turning the TV off.
What the tyre rule has taken away is, for me, more damaging. It has taken away the essence of Formula One: A driver doing his damnest to win a race by out-driving and out-witting their opponents. In 1997, Mika Salo scored two valuable points at the rain-soaked Monaco Grand Prix. The race was held over 62 laps, having been cut short from the intended 78 laps due to treacherous conditions causing the time limit to come into effect. The eventual winner was Michael Schumacher, who won with a comfortable margin over his rivals. However, everyone aside from Salo who finished pitted at least once, Salo managed to get his Tyrrell to the end without a single stop. The Finnish driver used the weather to his advantage and conserved fuel and looked after his tyres. Not once did he come down the pitlane during the two hours of the race. That, to me, is partly what F1 is about; using your head, innovative strategy, common sense and down-right guts – his tyres looked pretty ropey towards the end and he had a damaged front wing for last few tours of the Principality.
The FIA are constantly tweaking the rules, trying in their minds to improve the show and provide better racing. As regular readers will note I’m not a particular fan of the governing body, but I hope my examples above aren’t too vindictive of the man who really needs to leave when his current term is up. But all that aside, to bring the post together, I would like to return to my question: What one rule would you change in Formula One? And of course, the obligatory why…
I agree that the tire and quali rules are ridiculous. A waste of money and gas. Quali should return to a one hour low fuel format, 12 laps, but just mandate that 3 laps have to be done in each 1/4 hour. Simple.
Simple really. Less wings, more tyres (full slicks).
This will allow closer running and more overtaking.
Anything else is just fluff (like running both componds!)
Wow. There are so many I don’t no where to start. I guess if it had to be one I would do away with race-fuel qualifying. I never liked how the race and qualifying sessions became connected like that, with teams sacrificing a good start position to carry more fuel, and vice-versa. To me qualifying should be about setting up a car to extract the maximum performance possible, part which means running a light fuel load. After all, during what part of the weekend do we get to see the cars at their true ultimate pace?
So that was my one permitted idea, but a “friend” I know would like to suggest doing away with components that have to last multiple races, simply because he hates seeing penalties given for mechanical failures, and also because the rule has failed in its stated objective of reducing costs. And, he thinks the tyre-rule is pretty daft too. 😉
@Mescalero: You’re after my own heart! 😀 I’ve been saying that qualifying should return to a 12-lap/1-hour session for a while, even proposing the same idea about forcing runs every 15 or 20 minutes depending on the choice of run-format. Needless to say, I don’t think Max is listening to us.
@AM: I like your succinct approach. “Less wings, more tyres”. I like it.
@Eric M. Great comment. You’re not the only one who thinks the qualifying fuel-load is a bit daft.
I’m new to your blog and I’m enjoying reading it 🙂
I would agree that with what everyone else so far has said about the rules regarding downforce, tyres and quali. However.
Personally I would like to see the costs of tickets to see a grandprix made cheaper. I’m not a rich man and paying hundreds of pounds to go and see the British grandpix is just out of my depth 🙁
That that is the one thing I would change 🙂
Hope your wrist gets better soon, I look forward to more blog posts in the run up to the season start.
Welcome Stephen, thanks for leaving a great comment. I hadn’t thought of ticket prices but you’re quite correct. The entry price is pretty steep, and of course you also need to consider travel expenses, accommodation, food etc… A grand prix weekend can very easily top the £500 mark without too much hard work.
And it isn’t limited to grands prix. Goodwood FOS came in close to the £500 mark for two people this year. And this is just entry, grandstand and hotel.
Although motor racing tends to be a very expensive sport to run, I think more should be done to keep the barrier of entry down.
I read your piece and thought how can I pick one rule when so much is wrong with the sport. Fortunately a few people before me have shown the good sense to agree with me.
Yes to less wing more tyres. Common sense.
Yes to getting rid of stupid tyres with stripes.
Yes to low fuel quali. The 12 lap system was good. OK occasionally there were 15 minutes when nothing happened so give them a few more laps or have a 45 minute session. Watching Senna prepare for a final run was more exciting than trying to figure out how much fuel someone is carrying.
Yes to getting rid of multi-race components. Who wants the world championship decided because someone has a penalty because they have a minor fault in a gearbox that has done three race.
Ban pit stops. If a driver wants to get past another driver he should do it on the track. Compare and contrast Gilles Villeneuve winning at Jarama in a truck and Michael Schumacher finishing 2nd at Imola.
Villeneuve had a car which wouldn’t go round corners but through precise driving without blocking was able to hold off a string of faster cars. Had there been pits stops he would have been forgotten about by the time of the 2nd stop.
Schumacher on the other hand as a result of Ross Brawn’s clever strategy went from 12th to 2nd and passed only one car. How can you make up ten places and only pass one car? That is not grand prix motor racing.
I am always amazed at the consensus between fans when rules are dicussed. There will always be some level of disagreement but in general fans agree about what they want and agree that Max ain’t delivering it.
Come to think of it I have changed my mind. The one rule I would like to see changed is the one that allows the president of the FIA to stay in power for more than one term.
I think I got away with putting to changes in my post.
Thanks for the comments Steven. After Mosley has gone the rule about the FIA president changes and they may only serve a maximum of two terms, or eight years.
Nice comparison between Gilles Villeneuve and Michael Schumacher.
The one rule I would get rid of…
That’s tricky. I was going to say ‘refuelling’ straight of the bat, but you’d have to ban that, and that would mean creating yet another rule.
So I would ban the technical regulation requiring tyres to have grooves.
Grooved tyres are innately wrong: no other top-flight motorsport has them, they look awful, they behave oddly under degradation and I’m convinced they play at least as much a part as inhibiting overtaking as wings do. And did I mention they look awful?
Agreeing with many of the above – if I could change just ONE rule, it would be the qualifying on race fuel. If the FIA don’t want to go back to the old 12-lap format, here’s an alternative, close to the current 3-stage knockout:
Let the 1st & 2nd stage run as they do now. Prior to the 3rd stage, make teams submit to the FIA the tyre compound and amount of fuel they will start the race with (not to be disclosed to other teams, of course). Then allow them unlimited runs with low fuel, fresh tyres, etc. At the end of qualy, make them top up cars with fuel as agreed.
Plenty of action throughout the hour, and a grid based on raw speed.
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