In The Driver's Seat

Talk to make F1 races more exciting is a good start

Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen in action during the British Grand Prix 2015.
Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen in action during the British Grand Prix 2015.PHOTO: REUTERS

It has been a very strong weekend for Formula One, with a gripping four-way fight enlivening the first half of the sell-out British Grand Prix at Silverstone before the almost inevitable victory for front-runners Mercedes.

There were also some interesting proposals which came out of the Strategy Group meeting last week that are designed to enhance the future of the sport.

Both the race, and the proposals, have been an antidote to the endless accusations from critics and fans that F1 races are starting to get monotonous.

The proposals, in particular, are an indication that the powers-that-be are quite prepared to listen and that the teams can actually sit down together and reach some sort of agreement - if it is in their interests to do so.

It remains to be seen, of course, just how much of the talk will actually translate into concrete action. The proposals also have to be ratified by the F1 Commission and World Motor Sport Council.

If they are, we might find out by the Belgian GP at Spa at the end of August whether new initiatives to hand more control back to the drivers will prove effective enough to spice up the racing, by forcing them to make their own decisions rather than allowing them to rely on very specific information from their engineers via radio link.

 

  • Both the race, and the proposals, have been an antidote to the endless accusations from critics and fans that F1 races are starting to get monotonous. The proposals, in particular, are an indication that the powers-that-be are prepared to listen and that the teams can actually sit down together and reach some sort of agreement - if it is in their interests to do so.

Defending F1 champion Lewis Hamilton has mixed views and said that his stop for intermediate tyres on the 43rd lap was the first time in his career that he'd made the right call on tyres himself.

"I've never felt the decision thing was a strength for me," he said.

"The driver only has one view whereas those outside the cockpit have a better view of a situation.

"But I trust myself and my decisions and I don't think it will make a serious difference."

Another proposal for 2016 could give teams more control over their choice of tyre compound prior to a race, rather than rely on Pirelli's prescribed options.

That could trigger off upsets in the race, especially if one of the smaller teams have a car that is particularly kind to its rubber and can thus run a compound that is softer than the others.

Both ideas might be described as cosmetic changes, however. More importantly, there are proposals to change the cars for 2017.

These will make them "faster and more aggressive looking", according to an FIA statement, with wider cars, wheels and tyres, new wings and floor shapes and "significantly increased aerodynamic downforce".

I like the sound of all but the last bit of that.

The endless search for greater downforce in the sport has been one of the enemies of close racing for too long.

It remains to be seen whether these proposals entail ground-effect, undercar shapes but these would limit the importance of the front wing and thus enable cars to run closer and overtake more easily. They could thus be a key part of any attempt to make the racing more exciting.

Hand in glove with all these should also have been proposals to create circuits which promote overtaking, rather than boring Tilkedromes where second- and third-gear corners predominate.

There are also proposals for significant development of the power units to generate closer to 1,000 bhp, which could be good provided that it isn't simply absorbed by the increased downforce. But limitations on the use of dynamometers would be pure folly if they hurt a manufacturer's chance to improve its power units.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 07, 2015, with the headline 'Talk to make F1 races more exciting is a good start'. Print Edition | Subscribe