Defending F1, it’s heading in the right direction

Editor’s Note: Occasionally we get a nice post for an editorial piece from some of our readers and we like to share those with you in a editorial feature we call marbles. FBC reader, Mr. Daniel Johnson, offered to take the alternative side of the F1 construct argument. He reckons it may actually be moving in the right direction and here’s why:

It is easy to make fun some of the recent changes to F1; DRS, hybrids, double points. It all seems to be wrecking the sport we all love. A good parallel (at least here in the US) is college football. This is the first year where we had a four team playoff, before that we had the BCS (Bowl Championship Series). In which we literally had a computer to help us figure out the best two teams in the nation play. Sometimes it worked sometimes there were three or more worthy teams and someone got the shaft. It was a lighting rod of controversy.

Why do I bring this up? The BCS was ineffective, controversial, and in a number of years completely wrong. It was also the best thing to happen to college football. Before the BCS the two best teams didn’t play each other (unless the planets aligned) and if you want to go even farther back the National Champion was determined at the end of the regular season and the bowl games were meaningless. It also gave the talking heads sports shows endless fodder to discuss. In a sport that gets constantly bumped due to the big brother NFL, this was priceless.

So what does this have to do with Formula 1? I believe some of these rules, while flawed, are a step in the right direction, and might be more positive than we think. Let’s look at two of the biggest offenders.

DRS

The Drag Reduction System is designed to let F1 solve one problem without addressing the elephant in the room. The aero on the modern F1 car has become so crucial to cars making speed. In a recent downshift interview with Allen McNish cited how cars had evolved over his career and how the top speed at Le Mans had gone way down, while the lap times continued to get quicker. What that means is that your top speed isn’t as crucial as your slowest speed. This matters because the speed disparity for straight line speed is a lot less and the ability to pass comes from the straights, the ability to out accelerate and decelerate your opponent, driving too close in the dirty air of the lead car means that the speed difference needed to pass in the straights has to be staggering.

While DRS is not the most elegant solution it does prevent much slower traffic from holding up the better cars for too long, while allowing the Adrian Newy’s of the world the ability to still play with airflow. It also puts into play an interesting cat and mouse game at right around 1 second difference. It puts into play the speed difference that used to be on straightaways in the 90’s and before.

Duel tire compounds

When you compare Formula 1 with something like Nascar the two don’t have a lot in common (except maybe going fast and four wheels). What makes Nascar interesting (for us oval racing lovers) is how widely the speeds vary during the length of a stint. It is not uncommon to have the speed fall off by 1 to 2 seconds a lap over the course of a full fuel run. What that means is cars are driving at different speeds on different strategies. It also has the byproduct of creating more passing and situations where the fastest cars are at the back fighting their way up front.

The duel compound seeks to accomplish the same thing by giving the teams one more choice in strategy after taking away refueling. In addition to just another strategy it essentially is trying to give us a tire war without a second manufacturer. All while avoiding another race with only 6 cars (let’s just not mention Silverstone a couple of years back). Essentially what this does is the benefits of a car trying to stretch a tire run (think last year with Alonso at Hungary) or a faster with time running out chasing down slower prey. While you might have that with a single compound the second compound adds the element of having a car on a longer but more consistent run while the other cars are trying to create a gap to pit with.

In addition this also substitutes for refueling, and while most fans don’t like the idea of driving to delta’s the skill of saving tires is a skill and not simply a dial (as in turning down the boost to save more fuel). It might not be as sexy as driving all out but it gives the drivers another area in which to separate themselves from each other and where certain manufacturers are able to stratify even if underpowered (Lotus a couple of years ago and Sauber before that).

Conclusion

These recent changes aren’t without their flaws (those flaws are well documented in the rantcasts) but while the flaws are obvious the first step has been taken and if the minds of university presidents can be changed in favor of a playoff long overdue, Mr. E will eventually see the light (or the dollars) and make that final step into something that really works.

 

 

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