Has F1 changed in 15 years? Not really

When you’ve been around Formula 1 as long as Felipe Massa (2002), you’ve seen a thing or two. You’ve seen massive changes in the sport through sporting and technical regulations and drivers come a go as well as teams for that matter. Or have you?

“In the moment that I started, overtaking was very difficult, we didn’t have DRS and everyone was complaining about the same thing,” Massa said.

“They said ‘ah, we need to overtake’, ‘ah, we cannot follow the cars’, ‘ah, the top teams have more than the other teams’, ‘ah it’s too expensive’…

“What is different? I don’t really see a big change.

“Maybe in that time, teams spent even more money than they are now but the gap between the best and the worst was huge, like it is now.

“This is F1. Hopefully it will change in the future, but I didn’t see a big change.”

Uh…actually, it seems not a lot has changed. Now, that’s either comforting to you as a fan or it is downright depressing that the sport hasn’t cured its ills in 15 years. If you’re one of those F1 fans who feels that the core DNA element of the sport is all about technology and the advancement of technology, then you should be concerned that this evolution path hasn’t changed much of F1 in 15 years. 

Surely, you say, these cars are way different than in 2002 with all the advancement in technology and super cool hybrid engines and the complex engine mapping and brake-by-wire systems, right? Well, maybe not so much.

“They are different cars but the mentality – the way you are driving, what you put into the car, how you try to get the best out of the car – is no different,” said Massa.

“It’s just different types of cars, different rules, different tyres, different engines.

“To be an F1 driver, you need to be the best and you need to take the best out of the car

“It was always like that in F1, it hasn’t been anything different from when I started to now. How things work is not so different.”

So the series is still battling its old nemesis in the form of no passing and the cars aren’t that much different to drive. It does make you wonder, doesn’t it? Is this a true view of the sport and the lack of impact all this super expensive technology has had or is this Massa just remaining relevant in a sport that has changed radically in 15 years? 

Hat Tip: Autopsport

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Salvu Borg

Massa is correct in what he says.

Tom Firth

Political arguments have stayed the same for years, Since F1B’s launch in what was it, 2005, Todd? It’s the same type of arguments right? The same stories? Money distribution, potential or actual loss of classic circuits for new venues, customer cars? How interesting the racing is, Domination of a particular team, Overtaking? All stories we’ve commented on here for years. Fundamentally the basic DNA of what an F1 car should look like hasn’t changed since 1973. It’s evolved as Aerodynamics have become more of a science but there’s still a basic outline shape that has carried on since the Tyrrell… Read more »

Tom Firth

Thinking more – 15 years is a pretty short period of time though, really. Think of policy change elsewhere in society and how long that takes to resolve debates, discussions and arguments with postponements and different stakeholder interests coming up? It is little wonder that debates in running professional sports stay around for years I guess.


If he’d ever give a straight answer, it would be fascinating to hear Bernie Eccleston give his views on how F1 has changed over the last 15 years. While Massa might content that the job of a driver hasn’t changed much, I’ll bet that looking across the whole of F1 as a sport, business, entertainment, etc a huge amount has changed (including the longevity of drivers).