The usual suspects. DRS, high-degradation tires, hybrid power units and overwrought aerodynamic designed wings, chassis’ and faring’s. On our way to a sixth dominating season for Mercedes AMG Petronas, it’s as if we are watching a Punch and Judy show in slow-motion.
Punch is dominating the sport, and the fans, or Judy’s in this case, get frustrated by the way things are being handled and eventually the Policeman, or FIA, come to arbitrate and get the raw end of Punch’s slapstick.
Many feel that I have sallied forth to attack Mercedes for their domination of the sport going on six years now but that is simply not the case. Any one of us, with the resources Mercedes has, would seek to do the very same as Toto Wolff and team are doing. No doubt.
No matter who you are, you have to admit that Mercedes has done the best job of pinning the FIA down, influencing the sport’s regulatory trajectory (2013) and then pummeling the entirety of the sport with a deck of cards it knows better than all the others. That’s pretty darned awesome no matter how you measure it. Problem is, I’m growing weary of it and weary of F1’s failure to address the obvious elephant in the room.
To be fair to Mercedes, F1’s issues were festering before Mercedes came to dominance. The dependency on aerodynamic downforce, DRS and high-degradation tires all existed before Mercedes reached the beginning stages of their domination of the sport. You can’t blame them for that and they did what any well-funded team should do, push the limits of those elements and make them work for you.
I’ve no issue with domination in the sport, that happens in F1. What I do have an issue with is the FIA’s inability to safeguard the sport from itself. While the FIA has been all-in on sustainability through hybrid engines and puttering away at a few changes to the regs here and there, Pirelli have tried to get cute and out-think the team engineers by inserting themselves heavily in the technical sophistication of the sport.
They’ve done this through bewildering compound performance windows that try to out-smart the teams and this has left us an ebbing and flowing of this kind of layer of complexity which begat the 2013 blowout gate to seasons wrought with accusations of being too conservative. They can’t win.
Fact is, Pirelli shouldn’t even be in a position where they are asked to try and help increase the entertainment value of the sport. They should make the best tires for the sport full stop.
The reason I started this dog-eared diatribe once again is because I read an article over at Sky sports F1 by Martin Brundle. He is right and he speaks the truth though it may be difficult to hear for some.
“I’m frustrated with Formula 1 and the FIA because the 2021 regulations offer the opportunity for a root and branch change that the sport needs and, from various conversations I had in Spain, I don’t sense it’s going to happen.
Teams are involved in the process too, and they shouldn’t be because they are competitively hard-wired to think only of their own success, and not the good of the sport.
I sense significant compromise coming, with little changing in terms of overall competitiveness through the field, and nothing to attract new teams and manufacturers which is critical to the health and future of F1, just as it was in the past. We are on a heavily-moated island, drawbridge raised, and more importantly few waiting for the drawbridge to be lowered.
F1 is 70 years and 1000 races old, and is a global giant with 350 million viewers. That momentum is great, but as guardians passing through we can make it better. It’s a duty.”
He’s correct. Teams shouldn’t be involved in the decisions, the FIA and the owner should be deciding what is best for their sport in the long term. When Liberty Media bought the sport, long term was the word they were throwing around like a Kookaburra during a Sky Sports F1 broadcast levity piece. Seems the need for Mercedes, Renault, Ferrari, Red Bull and Honda to stay in the sport trumps long term thinking.
When Liberty hired Ross Brawn, I thought this is a guy who knows where the bodies are buried and knows how to write a set of regulations that will balance the field, reduce spending and get the sport back to exciting racing. Even he seems to have capitulated to the Mercedes foot on the neck of F1. Like Martin, it is my understanding that a wholesale change in 2020 is not going to happen. In fact, the sport is staying with the current engine from all reports I’ve read.
“Formula 1 has to be entertainment first and foremost. The cars must lose 100-150 kgs. We need bulletproof low-degradation tyres even if we have to mandate a number of pit stops. The aerodynamic influence must be slashed, such that we don’t need artificial band-aids like chewing gum tyres and drag reduction systems in the rear wing. Back to where we were, with a modern twist.
F1 must be a drivers’ championship, not an engineers’ tech fest. The cars must be the angriest, flightiest most challenging machines on the planet. I don’t want to see teenagers jumping in them and having it all mastered by lunchtime, and fully on the pace.
The drivers must be gladiators, but we’ve buried them so deep in the cockpit we can only tell them apart by a glimpse of a multi-coloured crash helmet and some Day-Glo tape on half the camera boxes above the roll bar.
Think of an image of the faces of Fangio and Moss at work, and the body language of Clark, Hill and Stewart in the car. Mansell and Senna wheel to wheel in Barcelona. Now mentally draw the top of the crash helmets of today’s stars.
We can’t appreciate Lewis’s ‘strat mode 5’ power setting or the latest 50 spike aero barge board in the same way, but three abreast into the first corner in Barcelona was immense, if only it could have happened a few more times for the lead.”
He’s right. Of course he’s right. Everyone knows it but the FIA and Liberty are not willing to risk losing Mercedes, Ferrari, Renault, Red Bull/Honda by changing the regulations that would neuter their hybrid investments and reliance on aero and HD tires as well as DRS.
You can’t blame Mercedes for doing it better than everyone else and I’ve argued about their baked-in advantage and more but still, they are doing it better than everyone else. You can’t blame them but if the FIA are scared of them and their possible departure from the sport if they don’t like the regulations, then that’s a different story altogether.
If I am honest, I don’t think Max Mosley would have sat still while this was all happening to the sport.
So here we are, the Emperor’s new clothes. F1 fans and viewers can’t take much more. It is said that the sport enjoys 300 million viewers. That number used to be over 500 million if memory serves correctly.
Hat Tip: Sky Sports F1