I won’t lie; I have mixed feelings about this story from AUTOSPORT. The Formula 1 strategy group is now focused on making F1 cars more difficult to drive. It assumes that a lack of appeal for fans can be found in the notion that we are turned off by how easy it is to drive a current F1 car as evidenced by the signing of Toro Rosso’s Max Verstappen—the 16-year-old son of former F1 racer Jos Verstappen.

Signing Max hasn’t implied driving ease so much as it has challenged the wisdom of hiring a young man with limited race craft and experience. To suggest that Max’s ability to drive a current F1 car indicates the ease at which these cars can be driven and thus souring the F1 fan base is a bit of a stretch in my opinion.

Max has been driving karts and racing since he was 4-years-old and his father is a former F1 driver so the kid knows his way around a racecar. If you threw me into the car and I was setting times that were eighth tenths off Fernando Alonso’s pace, then maybe we would have something to hang our hat on but Max isn’t the best measuring stick in which to indict F1.

The issue that is souring the milk isn’t the ease at which the cars can be driven as technological evolution has made the systems better and better over time. The cars of today have neutered Eau Rogue and 130R corners where in the past they were never taken full throttle. That’s aerodynamic efficiency and the evolution of F1 car technology.

The issue that is souring the milk is the lack of competition and the ability for cars to compete with one another on track due to aerodynamic wash and car instability as well as the negative impact on tires and retardation of speed when one car follows the other. To cope with the wash, drivers can’t run nose-to-tail and wheel-to-wheel as often as they used to—although it has never been prolific to begin with—and this creates a lack of on-track action.

The cars themselves may be easier to drive but that’s the technological evolution of the car in total, not just F1 cars. If the FIA is intent on being “Road Relevant”—and clearly they are or we wouldn’t be using hybrid systems with a flatulent V6 turbo—then why are we now discussing the de-evolution of these cars in order to make them a harder to drive? How road relevant is that? Does that not betray the technologically advanced series of motorsport milieu teams like to throw around?

F1 and the FIA are trying to have their cake and eat it too—or in the case of Jean Todt’s FIA, “there’s no bread, let them eat cake”. It’s a balancing act and I am not trying to shove their nose in it but you will always have a challenge when you want F1 to be road relevant, sustainable and the height of technological evolution only to then ban certain pieces of obvious technology—traction control, ride height—in favor of constructs such as DRS or HD tires.

So teams feel fans are losing interest in F1 due to it being too easy to drive the cars and there is a resounding lament of the glory days when drivers would exit the vehicle sweaty and exhausted?

Not to be contrary but how would I know if the car is not as difficult to drive? Sure, I can take Jenson Button or Felipe Massa’s word for it but it’s not a tangible folks, fans don’t see that from the world feed. They don’t see the intricacies of managing “Strat 3” or ERS levels or other nuances. What they do see is a lack of competition and on-track action that excites them—and I speak in generalities here.

Once again, we ignore the elephant in the room, which is that circuit design isn’t flattering the evolution of the technology and the black art of aerodynamic evolution has the series firmly lodged in a postal code that left road relevancy long ago.

I don’t want to bad-mouth this effort before it begins but hopefully the FIA will avoid constructs and come up with meaningful solutions to allow for the continued tech evolution without resigning itself to circus gimmicks and parlor tricks.

I am all for improving F1 but it seems to me that the teams have shown that they are not completely in touch with what the fans really want because their own institutional biases—naturally occurring—are placed well above the individual. Protecting the institution over the individual seems to be a recurring theme these days in every walk of life and in F1 it will continue to skew the ultimate goal that is getting fans emotionally engaged again.

Hat Tip: AUTOSPORT

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Daniel Johnson
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Daniel Johnson

If they want these cars to seem like they are hard to drive, just sign up 22 Pastor Maldonado’s to race!

StephenB.
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StephenB.

…so the ABS, TC, grooved tires, massive aero, v10, 20,000 rpm years were harder? Even though they took all that away to make it more difficult? I’m confused here. The strategy group couldn’t have their heads farther up their own ass.

Rapierman
Member
Rapierman

I dunno….I would already find it hard enough to drive a V6-Turbo at 12K RPMs. Why would they make it easier? That would be akin to making it easy for me to take one out for a spin on I-35. We all know that ain’t happening.

offcamberm3
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offcamberm3

Super! Make the cars 1,200 hp with massive turbo lag and no down force. Add tires that randomly explode somewhere between 10 and 20 laps. Maybe looser fitting helmets that slip around blocking vision. I’ve got more ideas, F1 strategy group. Call me, we’ll do lunch. We can eat soup, no spoons allowed.

Rapierman
Member
Rapierman

What? No land mines on the track? ;-)

Dr T
Member
Dr T

They’ve already done the randomly exploding tire thing – you must have forgotten Silverstone 2013

Doug Patterson
Editor
Doug Patterson

F1 cars too easy? Just go back to these. Problem solved.

jeff
Guest
jeff

How did you imbed a picture in your comment? Sorry for the dumb question.

Doug Patterson
Editor
Doug Patterson

I used the HTML “img” tag. < img src="image URL" >

dude
Guest
dude

It doesn’t sound good at all considering all the goofy things they’ve been coming up recently, so it’ll ended up with some convoluted gimmick (probably having to do with more tyre or fuel saving) instead of a simple solution like reducing aero and complexity of the car. But it makes no sense because they embarked on this hybrid power unit which is extremely complex, I think it’s a different type of challenge, the drivers have to worry about a lot of things while driving and they are overly occupied as it is. Introducing more complications is not going to help… Read more »

dude
Guest
dude

I think F1 cars should be challenging to drive in the sense of overall racecraft level of all the drivers, the physical requirement, and mental aspect like strategy. The series will become strong when there are many contenders which bring interests. But the cars should not be intentionally made difficult to drive, that make no sense in term of car design. Of course, it shouldn’t be point and squirt with computer controlled active suspension and such.

Ronald G
Guest
Ronald G

Doug Patterson has the solution above. Simply take the excessive wings off the cars. Remember the days of the four wheel drift executed to perfection?

JakobusVdL
Guest
JakobusVdL

Who do Bernie and his management team listen to? Most of the recent ideas to ‘spice up the show’ are about as far away from the things the fans on f1 sites talk about as you could get. You see next to nothing of the drivers and how hard or otherwise they are working, they are set so low in the cars and apart from hand movements in the in car shots you’d get no sense of it from TV images. Wouldn’t the strategy group be better thinking about ways that fans (and viewers) can get a sense of how… Read more »

jeff
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jeff

“Wouldn’t the strategy group be better thinking about ways that fans (and viewers) can get a sense of how difficult it is to drive a F1 car before they stuff around with ideas to make it harder?” Great point. I feel many who blithely criticize the drivers as playstation button pushers have never driven a race car/fast road car hard, much less an open-wheeled formula type. How best to convey that to us inexperienced fans? More in-camera, development of the eyebrow cams, trumping of the acceleration/deceleration figures… These would do F1’s image wonders. I oftentimes feel FIA/CVC have little faith… Read more »

JakobusVdL
Guest
JakobusVdL

Thanks for the reply Jeff. I think you’re right when you say the owners of F1 have no faith in the series, and must work on the basis that “no one ever went broke under estimating the intelligence of the general public” – its hugely frustrating for fans like you find on F1B, who have a passion and intelligent interest in the sport, and the technology that drives it.

Dan Chen-fung
Guest
Dan Chen-fung

Formula 1 has always been portrayed as the best drivers, in the most technologically advanced cars, at the most exotic locales. But when we hear grumblings of harder to drive cars, reduced telemetry, reduced communication, etc. this does not bode well for the future of our beloved sport. I may be naive but I always imagined Formula 1 to evolve into the next step of Motorsport, it seems however that they are content to dabble with titanium spark plates. Technology has evolved, and so must Formula 1, if that means that 16 year olds are driving these cars so be… Read more »

Dr T
Member
Dr T

They won’t choose between cake or bread. It will be cake or death! (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rMMHUzm22oE)

Todd – I reckon anyone who thinks it’s easy just needs to get onto a PS3 or go to one of the simulation stores (There’s a great one in Australia called “The Grid”)

Wrecked2002
Guest
Wrecked2002

This just in…all drivers will be required to wear “rage meters,” like the ones seen in the game street fighter, once a specified level of “rage” is achieved, they will be granted a power up move, a boost in horsepower coupled with invincibility, think star power in Mario Cart. Competition committee is meeting to discuss feasibility & implementation, Ferrari is said to be interested only if it will improve their car, whole slowing down the mercedes.

Danfgough
Guest
Danfgough

All the long through the night fan conversations about how much I miss sparks, how I long for more grid restarts, and now how I wish F1 was harder have made me sleepy. Can someone wake me when the strategy group actually discuss a question that F1 fans care about!

@_canuck_
Guest
@_canuck_

I think they are sifting through the thousands of crazy ideas to make F1 better on the autosport forums.

Steven Boyd
Guest
Steven Boyd

Completely agree NC – I hope Verstappen Sr. is there all the way for his son to navigate this insanity; I mean, being saddled with the next coming of Senna? ‘We expect him to be competitive from the first race’ – what the **** is going on? I don’t think humans have evolved at a rate that now negates any need for development and maturing….. If he goes the way of Jaime, he’ll be all washed up at 19! Really appreciated your rants on the last podcast, and I can’t wait to hear Grace’s reactions to the 2 seat moves… Read more »