Fat tires: Is F1 the McDonald’s of racing?

As Formula One discusses ways in which to improve its product, the concepts recently thrown about included titanium skid blocks to produce lots of sparks like they did in the 1980’s and a possible return to 1,000 bhp turbo engines…like the 1980’s.

Today AUTOSPORT ran a story in which Pirelli’s motorsport boss, Paul Hembery, says the sport is looking at ways to improve itself and a return to wider tires is something the company has spoken to the FIA’s Charlie Whiting about. You’ll recall that last year the Italian tire maker ran a larger tire for demonstration purposes but this would be wider tire. Hembery said:

“We’ve had the discussions with Charlie [Whiting, F1 race director] about that and we’ve always said that we are open to do what the sport needs,” Hembery said.

“Wider tyres? That appeals. I think when you see the images of the 1970s cars, it’s not so extreme that you think dragster, but you do think ‘wow look at that’.

Hembery says that any possible change would most likely happen in 2017 and that’s the same time target that a potential move to 1,000 bhp engines would happen as well so if you were a betting person, you might look to a raft of changes in 2017.

If you were Gene Haas, you might like to get some clarification on that because you’re busy building a car for 2016 based on regulations that are supposed to be stable until 2016 and any increase in tire size would be a big chassis change.


I can’t help but wonder what F1 is going through at the moment. Wide tires, sparks and 1,000bhp engines seems like a #throwbackthursday rampage on Facebook. I’ve often thought that moving forward might be a good idea for the sport and if you listen to Adrian Newey, he’s step back from daily F1 toiling is really down to the restrictions placed on innovation in F1.

That’s not to say that wide tires couldn’t be a part of a forward-thinking program but most of the initiatives talked about are throwback concepts. It’s as if a lack of vision has the series trying to return to what may have been popular and exciting for fans in the 1980’s but is that any guarantee that fans of 2015 will find it equally exciting given the march of technology has moved on?

Are fans expecting something new and innovative? Is F1 having a pragmatic knee-jerk reaction over its recent moves that have cost it dearly in fan loyalty and viewers? It’s not an easy thing to turn a ship around but it does take vision and I have to wonder what vision F1 is working toward. It would be great if they would explain how these nostalgic constructs are actually future-forward thinking or how tying these nostalgic elements with today’s technology is really advancing the sport.

I suspect it is seeking entertainment over substance. However, I could argue against my own concern. It’s my argument about McDonald’s fast food—as long as they keep making their current financial plight about the food, they will lose.

No one goes to McDonald’s for healthier food so why toil over the obvious instead of raising their game and matching the service and experience through superior customer service and efficient, friendly employees? When I juxtapose my experience at a Chick-fil-a versus McDonald’s, there is no comparison. The latter is like the DMV, they don’t care if they serve 1 or 1,000 people, the pay is the same.

Perhaps F1 is trying to not get bogged down in its own reputation of having to field technology so outlandish that it becomes untenable rather focus on fielding great racing in nice cars and improving the fan experience. If that’s the case, bring back fat tires!


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