With the recent decision taken by the FIA and Jean Todt to introduce the halo despite the fans overwhelming voice, I have taken the decision to write this article in an attempt to make the F1 fraternity realise what fans want and to air my opinion and concerns.
I will tackle this by breaking down the entry into sections (engines, car design and tracks) and go through my concerns and hopes for the direction F1 takes in the future.
The first topic I am covering is the engines. This has been in the spotlight since the introduction of the hybrid power units. These were introduced to make F1 more road relevant and to try and attract manufacturers.
Firstly, this drive to make F1 more road relevant is a marketing ploy by the FIA to make the sport appear “green” despite them flying cars, crew and haulage around the world and hen indulging in massive motorhomes and incredible luxury. The fact most drivers also take helicopters to and from the track is also ignored. F1 has never been about road relevance. Has technology created in F1 made its way to road cars? Absolutely, but that is not why F1 invented the technology. It was created and designed to increase performance and give that team an advantage over the competition that was then shown to also introduce benefits to road cars.
F1 can never and should never focus on “green” technology for road cars. That is what Le Mans has been doing since its inception and why Formula E was created. F1 has always been about showcasing the best drivers in the world in open cockpit cars that are difficult to drive and incredibly fast.
If F1 was about road relevance why do the cars lack traction control, ABS and a range of standard features that make the cars safer and more road relevant? It is because road relevance is not in F1’s DNA. If manufacturers wish to leave, let them leave. Having more basic engines produced by company’s such as Illmor or Cosworth or Ferrari with that incredible sounding engine would do more for F1’s appeal than road relevance. If road relevance was key then the World Endurance Champiomship and Le Mans would be the most popular form of motorsport. It is not and I urge the FIA to stop turning F1 into an open cockpit version of Le Mans. You are destroying the very essence of F1.
The two clips demonstrate the amazing sound we used to have in F1 compared to the pitiful engine noise today.
What these videos are unable to demonstrate how loud that car driven by Mansell was. I remember going to the British GP and in traffic nearly 5 miles away being able to hear the cars warming up. Now when a modern car goes past I barely need to raise my voice in the grandstand. We need louder engines but also a return to the unbelievable pitch of the v10s or v12s.
Although car design has marginally improved in 2017 the current crop of cars are still ugly and next years introduction of the halo is devastating.
Firstly, F1 is and must remain open cockpit. I appreciate pundits views such as Anthony Davidson who says racing closed cockpit doesn’t make a driver less of a hero but the fact is the DNA of the sport is open cockpit. To change this is like changing the shape of a football into a rugby ball but keep the rules of football.
Drivers who drive close and open cockpit are equally brave and that should not be used as a reason to not introduce the halo. However, if drivers are not willing to run the risk of open cockpit them they should join a sport such as a Le Mans. I fell in love with this sport due to the beautiful looking cars, engine noise and visually seeing drivers hustle the cars in the cockpit. In closed cockpit cars even if they are putting in as much effort you do not get that feeling or visuals or a driver muscling a car around the track. Formula 1 has already restricted the view of drivers it is already difficult to see when a driver is really hustling the car or not. But looking at the clip below you can see in the 90s Senna driving his McLaren hustling the car around the track. You can feel the superhuman efforts to hang on to the steering wheel. This is what F1 is all about.
The footage is brutal, awe inspiring and frightening to when you see the effort input by the driver. We need to be able to see the driver in the car and must not introduce the halo or a closed cockpit Formula.
Nobody wants to see a driver hurt or killed. But the appeal of F1 is that danger and the fact that a normal person could never do that or take those risks. But all drivers and fans enter the sport knowing they could die or their favourite driver could die. This risk should not destroy what F1 is. It is the equivalent of MotoGP riders having stabilisers or sat in a protective dome that means they cannot fall off and injure themselves.
If safety is paramount and the FIA want to eliminate risk of death then why is ABS, traction control and other safety features not introduced. Surely to be safe robots or AI should drive the car. Going down this route is a slippery slope and the FIA has a responsibility to make the right decision for the sport instead of making a decision out of fear they could be sued by a drivers family.
I think F1 also needs to reduce the aero dependence of the current cars. The amount of ridiculous bits of carbon fibre hanging off the car is unsightly and really destroys F1’s sexy image. Equally the aesthetics of the current car lead to poor racing. Moving the downforce to the underside of the cars and ground effect would eliminate so many problems this sport has. Everyone is getting sick of “dirty air” radio transmissions and reliance on a button to overtake rather than skill of a driver.
As a comparison the below cars are from 199/2 and are a thing of beauty compared to the current cars. Whilst those cars could go on a bedroom wall tomorrow the current cars will be lucky to reach a bedroom wall.
What makes them appealing is the sleak low lines. The cars look aggressive but beautiful with no bits hanging off them or popping up on the front wing. They are basic, but those basic lines really make them stand out.
I honestly would prefer to see cars looking like this going 10+ seconds slower than the current cars racing. They are beautiful and you can see your hero working hard to deliver an unimaginably quick lap. Modern cars do not provide that thrill and have not done for many years.
The final and brief section will cover the tracks. F1 must retain historic venues. There are reasons why Monza, Monaco, Spa, Silverstone and the old Hockenheim track to this day are loved by fans. They punish drivers mistakes with little run off and incredibly fast and bumpy sections of track. They make drivers work and allow the best show their talent and show he difference between good and great.
Modern tracks and revised classic tracks are being neutered. No one wants to see anyone injured but these tracks are devaluing the sport. We want to see drivers punished for going off the track even if that means less cars finishing. Tarmac and AstroTurf runoff do not punish the drivers who can make a mistake and actually gain time. The sausage kerbs introduced are a joke and although provide a deterrent look ridiculous and make the tracks look a joke. To this day people talk about special laps of Monaco by Senna or Schumacher at the old Hockenheim track due to that danger but because one mistake will take you out of he race. Drivers can not make countless mistakes for no punishment. This eliminates the excitement of risk and makes it impossible to appreciate a special lap as drivers exceed track limits to gain time. You don’t know whether they are quickest due to them or taking advantage of run off.
The final change F1 needs to make is to allow bumps to develop on tracks. Current tracks have more in common with a snooker table than a race track. They are so smooth that drivers have an essier job. Look at the below footage from Spa qualifying. Although extreme, the bumps meant that only the bravest drivers could take corners flat and if you got it wrong you would be punished. It made the drivers winning pole appear superhuman. This is what we need with modern F1.
I just want to end by saying I love F1 and have been brought up on it but I truly fear the direction it is potentially heading.