You asked for character, frank talk and plain speaking Formula 1 drivers? You got one! Fernando Alonso has offered the most direct, full-frontal assault of F1’s regulations and current direction than many of the current drivers on the grid today. BBC Sports has the call from Fernando:
“If they happen, we will get rules like seven or eight years ago,” said Alonso. “For the last four or five years we’ve been going in the wrong direction.”
Back in the day, drivers had to really work the car and it was physically demanding. Alonso says he hasn’t felt that in years:
“They were eight seconds quicker,” said Fernando.
“The engineers did some calculations. The winner of Malaysia this year would have been lapped six times by the winner of Malaysia in 2006.
“So when you are eight seconds a lap quicker, that is very demanding physically and mentally and everything was pushed to the limit.”
The fact is, like many of todays cultural memes and initiatives, we tend to lose sight of the facts in favor of what we want to happen or would like the reality to be but in truth, going backwards by trumpeting technology for technology’s sake and treating F1 as an incubator for technology has had an impact on the racing in general and the speed specifically.
While the causes for change may have been born from good intent, the result was rich on pragmatism and lean on prudence resulting in serious changes set for 2017 to save F1 from itself.
There are racing series to explore technology and road relevancy ideologies such as Formula E and the WEC but F1 has taken a serious hit with the current regulations at the expense of what truly was the byproduct of its races—incredibly fast, visceral and entertaining racing.
Alonso, like F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone, says enough is enough and it’s time to consider changes:
“We cannot run one second quicker than GP2 cars because the grandstands are empty,” Alonso said. “It is a sign it was not going in the right direction.
“Hopefully now it is a good change and we can see the fastest cars in the world in the future.”
You may or may not agree but suffice it to say that the current direction of F1 isn’t working regardless of how just the causes for change were or how much you would like to see the series be something different in the future. Technology should be a tool, not THE focus of F1. Road relevancy is a nice knock-on effect when it applies but it shouldn’t be the main goal of F1 or the prime tool for luring participants to the sport.
Gaining manufacturer support is terrific but changing the entire series to become a development lab of someone’s road car division is just not what F1 was designed to be. That baton has been carried incredibly well by the WEC and F1 has always been the ultimate bragging rights by any manufacturer brave enough to build an impenetrable brand in the crucible of speed and precision from car to team to driver.
The irony of moving forward is that many of today’s “big technology” breakthroughs are really just digital versions of rehashed ideas that have been around for centuries. Sure, Facebook is wonderfully fine but like Google, they are selling ads at the end of the day. Sure, they are doing much more than that but their main revenue is no different than what the NY Times was doing in 1920—selling ads.
If the high-tech hipster is really on the evolution of change and forward-thinking technology, then their handcrafted hip flask is just the mother of all anachronisms right? The desire for authenticity is admirably strong in the Gen Y and Gen Z culture but F1 is anything but authentic to its origin right now.
The sport has evolved and that’s natural with new technology and materials but it lost its authenticity when it brought in DRS, HD tires, hybrid engines and many other constructs intended to lure manufacturers and “spice up the show”. I would much rather have teams like Williams, McLaren, Ferrari, Red Bull, Lotus and Force India who are in F1 to race and build their brands.
BMW, Toyota, Honda and now Mercedes have all dabbled in F1 with differing levels of success and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed their participation but if it means F1 has to be something it isn’t in order to keep them involved, then I would prefer they leave and keep F1 as a privateer series using engines made by manufacturers. That, while maybe not the nicest thing to say, is authentic to F1!
Hat Tip: BBC Sport’s Andrew Benson