France celebrated its 60th Formula 1 grand prix this weekend and the resulting social media and press reaction has been very unflattering. In fact, it’s been downright harsh.

The wave of fan and press negativity started in Canada two weeks ago when the sport’s governing body, the FIA, deputized three stewards to oversee the race. In doing so, they penalized the race winner, Sebastian Vettel, which in turn altered the on-track results via a 5s penalty handing victory to Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton.

The inherited win was met sheepishly by Lewis who knew he had been beaten and yet both he and the team made platitudes to the growing chorus of moans from fans by blaming the inanimate object—the rules. Them’s the rules, don’t blame us, change the rules.

Two weeks later and the sport’s fans are still discussing the penalty and on the backside of the French grand prix, where more penalties were given removing Daniel Ricciardo from a points finish, the wave of negativity is turning into a tsunami of anger.

I’ve been arguing these issues for years now while the press has gleefully peddled the narrative but now even the press, at the risk of biting the hand that feeds, is starting to call foul on a series that is seemingly intent on destroying itself. Lewis Hamilton said:

“We don’t write the rules,” Hamilton said. “We have nothing to do with the money shift [between the teams] and all that stuff.

“You should put the pressure on the people that are at the head, that should be doing the job.

“I think they are trying to. But for many, many years they’ve made bad decisions.”
“I think it’s important for people to realise it’s not the drivers’ fault.

“This is a constant cycle of F1 for years and years and years, even before I got to F1.

“It’s because the way Bernie [Ecclestone, ex-F1 boss] had it set up, the decisions they were making back then.

“It’s still the same and until that [rulemaking] structure changes it will continue to be the same in my opinion.

“That’s not my job to do that. My job’s to come here and do the best I can as a driver.”

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff blamed the rules in the aftermath of the Canadian Grand Prix. Most of the drivers interviewed in France disagreed with the penalty in Canada. The opportunity to right the wrong was afforded the FIA this weekend in France as Ferrari asked for a review and it was flatly denied with mocking and jeering of Ferrari because of their use of Sky Sports F1’s SkyPad analysis among its new information that should prompt a review.

The penalty isn’t the issue, it is the sheer domination of the sport by Mercedes who were instrumental in influencing the current set of regulations and masterful at exploiting a set of regulations tailor-made to their success. The hybrid engine era has bankrupted three teams, placed several more on life support and created a propeller-head championship in which it is team engineers vs team engineers and increasingly less to do with the drivers.

I’ve listened for years now about how we should deduct three of Michael Schumacher’s world championships because he had the dominant car over the entire field. Oddly there is silence over such a notion about Lewis Hamilton’s five titles and the domination is such that Schumacher could only have dreamed of having this kind of advantage for six seasons.

The Mercedes team isn’t the issue, it is their influence over the sport and the delicate balance that Formula One Management (FOM) and the FIA are trying to manage to keep manufacturers in the sport. The FIA’s Jean Todt fears losing Mercedes, as does FOM, and they are folding like a chaise lounge with regards to making serious changes to the sport to create exciting racing again. They would seemingly rather be a rapid-prototyping R&D lab for Mercedes and their road cars than an exciting sport.

Meanwhile, Formula One’s new-ish owners have meddled in new logos, theme songs, fan events that do very little and a dodgy streaming service that crashes entirely even though it is well in to its second season of deployment. They’ve increased staff, rented posh offices and with precision, pomp and circumstance, they’ve put lipstick on the pig. Few are buying it.

F1’s troubles are at the DNA level now. The methods, politics, regulations and genuflecting to Mercedes have all passed their sell-by dates. The FIA’s Jean Todt remains quite and it is difficult to read his inaction as anything other than being purposefully obtuse or worse, feckless in his role and powerless in his scope due to his boorish commitment to sustainability and keeping up appearances while rubbing shoulders with global dignitaries over climate change, plastic straws and road safety programs. Doesn’t matter what you think of these issues, Formula 1 was not created to be the solution to any one of them.

I’m not one for conspiracies and I’ve ignored the accusations that the sport is being manipulated by FOM, the FIA and Mercedes to exploit their media magnet, Lewis Hamilton, and give him the dominant car and pathway to eclipse Michael Schumacher’s seven titles. The theory says that the British fans would be elated and it would drive up revenue for everyone.

Again, I’m not one to believe these kinds of accusation but when Pirelli changed their compounds mid-season in 2018 to accommodate a graining and heat issue that teams were having, Mercedes came on song with the thinner tread. This season, guess what we have? Thinner treads and the Mercedes is the only car that works with them. It’s one thing to suggest that Mercedes got it right and it’s the same for everyone but eight races into the season, I’m having a hard time believing that no other engineers, including Adrian Newey, can figure out how to get heat in the tires.

The calls for a change in tires has been met with excuses about how they can’t change tires mid-season etc. Odd, they did last year. Excuses have also been offered about changing regulations mid-season but I’ve been around long enough to remember the J-Damper (Mass Dampers) changes that immediately impacted Renault or the flexible floor that hobbled Ferrari or the cold and hot blown diffusers banned ahead of the British GP.

The issue isn’t the Paul Ricard circuit, France or Canada, it is the over-litigious nature of the stewarding on a series that is being beaten like a rented mule by one team for six years now and people are tired of it. The first glimpse of someone beating Mercedes and the FIA reverse the result. Justified or not, the fans are buckling under the weight of a bloated system far too aligned with the causes of manufacturers, political ideologies, floundering management, Pay TV-only viewing and no one with the guts to take the risks needed to get the sport back to rude health.

Let’s say you change the regulations to a simple, high-efficiency V8 engine with KERS and limit the total downforce of a car—monitored by FIA sensors on each car—and good, grippy tires that do not degrade unnaturally as well as no DRS. Let’s say Mercedes pouts and leaves. Maybe Ferrari pouts and leaves. What if you were left with privateer teams with healthy balance sheets and close, wheel-to-wheel racing? McLaren, Red Bull, Haas F1, Williams, Racing Point, Alfa Romeo, Toro Rosso and two or three new teams that could afford to go racing with this package might produce better racing and the balance between drivers and engineering could be more equal. However, would F1 survive in the loss of revenue that some argue would occur if Mercedes and or Ferrari left?

I understand why long-time sports journalist, Oliver Brown, wrote this headline in the Telegraph. I know Oliver and I are both fans of F1 and have been for years…that’s why it hurts to write headlines like his or editorials like mine. I love this sport. I want it back. I have no idea where Chase Carey was in 1972 but I doubt he was watching the Lotus 72’s run around Monaco…I was and I was just a boy.

“French Grand Prix was the worst race I have ever seen – Formula One must change or the sport will die”

Otherwise, who’s ready for the 2020 season and a seventh title for Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton? It’s hard to believe that FOM and the FIA would wait until 2021 to make any changes knowing they are bleeding out in the parking lot of a half empty Paul Ricard circuit. At least we have a new logo, dramatic theme music and a dodgy streaming service so we’ve got that going for us.

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John Cakanic
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John Cakanic

I said it last time….”How I long for the days of the FIA going after the top team” This is getting out of hand. The only way things will change is when it hits Liberty in the pocketbook. Most of us love the sport too much to stop watching (Although one could watch the first handful of laps and come back with 5 to go). Don’t listen to the trolls that say “Im Not watching anymore”…you’ll notice they are on after every race making the same complaint. I want good close racing. I know F1 needs to be at the… Read more »

photogcw
Member
photogcw

But that’s the problem: nothing will change, even at the 2021 deadline. Liberty has followed Bernie’s mantra of keeping manufacturers inside the sport and keeping them happy. Any crucial change will cause one or two of them to bolt. I have said it before and I’ll say it again-it should be the F1.5 teams who should be threaten to leave the sport and then the FIA and Liberty Media will move and act.

Heath Newland
Member
Heath Newland

you don’t even need monitors by the FIA on downforce just have driver adjustable wings. we can do away with the stupid windtunnels (a new one is being built by Mclaren).
Who cares about KERS? these are race cars who have no relevancy to road cars and whose gas consumption in the greater scheme of things is totally irrelevant.
Toss out the rule book and so if somebody does come up a hot car then the teams can engineer something to compete (and bring back the booze and ciggie sponsorship)

Michael N
Guest
Michael N

F1 has no where to go. It’s a dying formula. Formula E is becoming increasingly more relevant and exciting to watch. Granted, Formula E is not there yet in regards to real tracks, top racers or pure speed, but it won’t be long until they’re there. It’s inevitable, F1 will dissolve into Formula E, or just die off into obscurity.

Matthew Royer
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Matthew Royer

I remember reading these sorts of editorials when RBR were dominating. It seems rather hysterical to me, Ferrari had a very competitive car last year and they couldve taken the championship battle down to the wire, but I seem to recall one driver error after another, and one strategy error after another cost them a bundle of points. The next time Vettel spins under pressure or Ferrari’s strategy team throws a race away, will you blame Mercedes for that as well?

ShortShift
Member
ShortShift

Let’s put the clock back, to when Ferrari were dominating. In most of the sentences written above you could replace the word Mercedes with Ferrari and the same would be true.
Likewise you could replace Hamilton with Schumacher and the same would be true.
You have the fastest and most experienced driver in the fastest car, that is only logical.
Ferrari disintegrated then Todt, Brawn, et al left.
If in the end LH44 ends up with seven world titles, I can’t see that there are many differences between the Ferrari domination of some years ago and what we are seeing today.

Jeff Caughlin
Guest
Jeff Caughlin

Absolutely, enough said!

brawnydog
Member
brawnydog

Nicely written. I agree on most of your points. I’m a Ferrari fan and when they were dominating I got really bored. It was nice to see them dominate but I would have rather seen drivers fight for victories like it used to be up until the 90s. You know what I mean. My fondest memories were from the 70s. I remember real racers, not taxi drivers. I now find it hard to commit 2 hours of my Sunday morning watching a parade. Do I ruin a good fishing day to watch paint dry because that’s how today’s race felt.

Aelfwald
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Aelfwald

Very cynical of Toto Wollf to blame the rules when this time last year he couldn’t contain his glee at Christian Horner angry about the 2019 regulations. Wollf knew the regulations would eliminate Red Bulls strengths and increase Mercedes strengths. No doubt these regulations were rail roaded through with the backing of the Merc customer teams. It’s sad we don’t have team principles likeRon Dennis around anymore who were willing to take a competitive hit for the good of the sport.

Brian Toro
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Brian Toro

Enjoyed reading this well written article and not this dribble we got served up yesterday on and off track. F1 took another step backwards. F1 reminds me of that old t.v. show ” who’s line is it anyway- where everything is made up and the points don’t matter” No wait , that show was entertaining.

Patrick Leclerc
Member
Patrick Leclerc

Talk about crazy conspiracy theories and pure BS, from a McLaren and Alonso fan!

Greg Cheney
Member
Greg Cheney

Amen brother! If Mercedes and Ferrari want an engineering spectacle, leave and go endurance racing. F1 would survive. it did for decades without Mercedes. Let’s bring back pure racing for the sport of it.

Nowhining
Guest
Nowhining

“The first glimpse of someone beating Mercedes and the FIA reverses the result” Really??? Spouting crazy conspiracy theories invites skepticism for any valid points you may have.

Joe
Member
Joe

I saved an hour and a half by watching the highlights only, and I am glad I did. My son told me it looked boring, and apart from the midfield, it was. I remember the McLaren domination, the Williams domination, the Ferrari domination, and Red Bull. The statistics don’t equal to the level of dominance that Merc has since 14. In the Ferrari and Red Bull eras, they each had two years of total dominance, and two years of competition. There were more opportunities to innovate. As I said before, each of those teams dealt with rule changes to unsettle… Read more »

Nige
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Nige

Great article, but I think we are all overthinking this. Like the Roman Empire at the end, Formula One has got soft. The moment the sport started caring about being “green”, women’s rights, and obsessed with safety it was over!!! Think about it: they take away the aggressive V8 fire breathing engines and replace them with boring and expensive hybrids, they ban the grid girls which made every red blooded male (ya know, the fans?) groan with annoyance, and then they put the “Coward Canopy” (HALO) on the car which makes the sport so hideous young boys would rather have… Read more »

Gary
Guest
Gary

Well spoken, sir. You have obviously struck a nerve as there are 19 comments already in substantial agreement. Personally, I fell asleep during the race. Third time in 27 years.

Matt
Guest
Matt

Personally I don’t care about the Mercedes domination. The stewarding and penalties is a real turn off for me. (I am still annoyed about a penalty I think grosean got for going around the outside in Hungary turn 4 a few years ago as he was mm outside the race track). With Danny Ric’s penalty if there was grass there everyone would be marvelling at the guys balls to pass on the grass. Remember the Japanese GP 2005, that Kimi move would have garnered a penalty in this day and age and neutered one of the greatest races of all… Read more »

Qarbon
Guest
Qarbon

You also have Checo leave the track (seems he locked his brakes as the car in front brakes suddenly) take the escape route as specified and rejoins and gets a 5 sec penalty. I guess I can understand the 5 seconds but taking a point of his license – that is downright unfair – he did as per the rules and lets be honest the first corners are pure chaos. I have watched F1 since the 1960’s – it has never been this dire, predictable and BORING. You absolutely know what the result will be and the race stewards will… Read more »

GrumpyGrizz
Member
GrumpyGrizz

I will echo the chorus of I’m tired of f1 this season. I have only been watching for 10 seasons or so, but the the Redbull and Mercedes domination is not even comparable. At least in the Redbull years other teams won some times and some years the championship was close. Mercedes will probably set a record this year for the earliest constructor championship. And they have already broken the record of consecutive one-two and the season isn’t half over. Not to mention their winning percent of the past 6 years is beyond Ferrari or Redbull. The past two races… Read more »