Formula One World Championship, Round 5, Spanish Grand Prix, Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, Spain, Sunday, 12 May 2019 Photo by: www.kymilman.com/f1

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.

Martin says

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

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Tim C.
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Tim C.

Good points NC. And, to prove your point, I recorded the race with the intention of watching it Sunday afternoon. I glanced through a few online articles and they told me all I needed to know. I then promptly deleted the race from my DVR without even watching it. And, if I have guess, I’m probably going to do the same for the remaining races this season. I just want to see good racing where multiple drivers/teams have a legitimate chance of winning and running well. Have to watch the same results race after race after race is not enjoyable… Read more »

delboy
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delboy

Hi fully agree with every thing you say i stopped watching F1 2 years ago after about 25 years of watching i just keep up to date on GP Today but most racing is over on the first lap we dont even get break downs any more its just boring to watch even Merc fans must know the result before it ends

Peter Riva
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Peter Riva

well put.

Joe
Member
Joe

Great post NC, and good to see Brundles take, as a driver who was always in midfield teams. I hate American football. But I have to use the analogy of “any given Sunday “, any team CAN win. Not so in Formula 1, and to add fuel, I want to point out that for five straight races we’ve had the same top five drivers, in varying orders. Now, I enjoy seeing the engineers innovation and I love the aero tricks that Newey thinks up. But this is by far a stagnation of the sport. If they simplified the car to… Read more »

ShortShift
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ShortShift

I am sorry to be negative, but perhaps we are witnessing the death of F1, at least in its current form. In 2040, if not before the production of gas/petrol and diesel cars will come to an end in Europe. The manufacturers are stuck between a rock and a hard place. All the manufacturers have invested probably a lot more than a billion dollars in engine development if you include all the energy recovery systems. For them at least this technology is only a bridge to the future, that leads to nowhere; where there are no fossil burning fuels. So,… Read more »

the captain
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the captain

I agree we may be watching the death of F1 in it’s current form I just don’t buy it’s because of the transition to electric cars. It may just need smaller ‘manufactures’ but I don’t see why ICE racing will stop once EV happen. As the example, no one has ridden a horse to work in almost a century yet every year a 100,000 people come to my town to watch a horse race.

Joe
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Joe

Adding in when you could race at Barcelona… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mSD-VllWlYg&feature=player_embedded I’m not sure if I am the young crowd, but I can tell you the car crowd of my age and younger are interested in turbochargers, superchargers, and loud and exotic exhausts, as well as nimbleness. I don’t know of anyone outside the west coast and upper east coast involved with EV mods. We can’t afford the good ones like Tesla. Let me also speak about batteries. I am in a wheelchair most of the time, and the battery tech is terrible. The price of speed and range even in Formula… Read more »

the captain
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the captain

I’ve actually seen a few people involved in EV mods not on the coasts, but it’s not ‘replacing’ ICE it’s just a neat thing complimenting car culture.

But yea, batteries have a looong way to go. And I’m not ‘against’ electric cars, hell I think most mini-vans should be electric. You don’t need a ICE to pick up the kids from practice, save the gas for us ICE drivers :)

ShortShift
Member
ShortShift

The comparison to horse racing is an interesting one. However, i believe that one of the main drivers behind horse racing is betting, certainly in Europe. They have not developed a robot jockey horses yet. Yamaha has a robot that can ride a racing bike.
I have also don’t believe that it is the change to electric cars is the only reason for the collapse of F1. Though I do think it is a major one.

4Williams
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4Williams

I have to say after I looked at the results after getting off a plane . I only watched a couple of in car laps but was disappointed . I really feel it when I go watch Mansell vs Senna in Monaco 93. That’s what I miss. However, I love the sport and will stick with it. I would like to see a real fight for the championship but I would love to work for Toto (Get Down) and James Allison at Mercedes

Peter Riva
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Peter Riva

“the FIA’s inability to safeguard the sport from itself” is exactly right. When you go to Wisconsin and visit a cheddar cheese factory, you see them turning out tons of the same cheese. And yet, that same factory produces 12 varieties of cheddar – some rely on packaging changes for clients (Haas using Ferrari components), some rely on design of the blocks (Red Bull & Toro Rosso), some rely on a little additive herb concoctions to proclaim that the cheese is “completely different.” No, it’s not. it’s all basically cheddar, all the same basic cheddar, rules st in place to… Read more »

the captain
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the captain

But the powers of F1 just gave you a Verstappen inspired parade in the Netherlands. Is that not enough for you? Are you not entertained by that? (end snark)

Tim Wood
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Tim Wood

Well stated, Todd! My sentiments exactly…

Darrel
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Darrel

Great write-up NC,

I’ll join in as the glass half full guy and point out that the racing in the midfield this year has been fantastic. Surely not great at all tracks but very good at some and a mix of results each weekend. The midfield has what race fans lust after, uncertainty, back and forth development, off then on then off again drivers (looking at you RoGro), roll the dice strategies, and rarely do we see team orders.

Fabio
Member
Fabio

At least you can’t complain that the new aero rules aren’t working, no one can get within cooee of the Mercs to test them out.

Joe
Member
Joe

Not to add further fuel, but Marko spoke up again, that paragon of diplomacy, and pointed out that it is… Ahem… Easy to drive that Merc.. https://www.grandprix247.com/2019/05/17/marko-a-second-class-f2-driver-showed-how-good-mercedes-is/

the statement should be read with his traditional rancor, but it does suggest that Brundle may have a good point. To almost match Bottas qualifying time? That’s nuts.