Heidfeld: Defending F1; not its constructs

I’ve always had a lot of time for German driver Nick Heidfeld. In fact, the FBC staff make fun of me for being a fan boy of Nick’s. Reality is, Nick is a very good driver and was in Formula 1 for 12 years usually beating his teammates regularly. What he didn’t achieve was a win but then he was never in the best car on the grid.

To that point, Motorsport has a nice interview with Nick in which he says F1’s negative image of late is really not quite fair. Domination has always been a part of the sport. He believes that the series has been trying to get the cars closer together for racing’s sake but the negativity is not quite just.

“First of all, I think Formula 1 needs to get out of this negative spiral which it is in, which, for me, is not there for the right reason,’’ Heidfeld told Motorsport.com.

“Of course, you can always improve things, but F1 is not as bad as some people try to make out. It still has fantastic cars with fantastic drivers and good racing.”

As F1 tries to define what their 2017 regulations changes will be, I found Heidfeld’s concerns of F1 more prescient than his defense. F1 may be looking at ways to get the cars closer together and much has been suggested about wide tires and mechanical grip. The sport is looking at new tire compounds for better wear and possibly more ground effects for more grip levels.

As F1 removes its token system, Pirelli are keen to move away from the HD tire gambit, I wonder if it could find it in its heart to ditch the DRS? I’m not alone in my disdain for the contrivance. Heidfeld also misses the sound, like many F1 fans but he also does not like DRS:

“For me what I miss is the sound, and also that the overtaking is too artificial with the DRS,’’ he explained.

“At least we have some overtaking, but sometimes you have one car overtaking the other on a straight and even going back in-line in front of the other.

“It should be just on the last part of the circuit, sliding and then just overtaking. This is what is missing a bit, in my view.”

The issue of grip is a real moving target and some F1 pundits say that aerodynamics is the least expensive way to find it but Heidfeld reckons mechanical grip is something the sport should be focused on:

“I think [mechanical grip] will always help racing. Especially since aerodynamic grip is lost when you follow another car in dirty air.

“So, to have mechanical grip and more grip from the tyres is the right way to go.

“It also increases safety, especially the tyre grip. If in a car where you generate more grip from the aero and you spin and go sidewards and backwards, you lose all that.

“If you’ve got big tyres, big grip from tyres, it’s safer and better for racing.”

There you have it. No DRS, no HD tires and more mechanical grip with more sound. Sound familiar? F1 pundits, especially team bosses, often cite the elusive fan desire and parrot comments about needing to understand what fans want and how challenging it is to know what fans really would like to see. They’ve been kicking that can down the road for 10 years now while they pretend to be in the dark as far as what fans really want from the sport. This purposeful obtuseness is really a smoke screen for continuing the program they want and placing the manufacturers desires over fans.

After all the surveys taken and the stream of social media fan comments and F1 pundits still act like they just don’t know what fans want. I find that entire line of thinking insulting and patronizing. Even Nick sums it up quickly—which is why he’s called Quick Nick—in saying no HD tires, no DRS, better sound and more mechanical grip, less aero.

Now, before F1 start gnashing teeth, we’ve tried the other constructs and even ushered in electric cars, why couldn’t we at least try this other direction? If it doesn’t work, we can always change back to the current format.

Hat Tip: Exclusive from Motorsport

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“This purposeful obtuseness is really a smoke screen for continuing the
program they want and placing the manufacturers desires over fans.”

I think that perfectly sums up the last year or two of controversy.

By the way, there’s a subtext to the Motorsport article – or at least to the headline. Is it now newsworthy and notable that an experienced F1 veteran says “F1 not as bad as people make out”?

If so, it must be pretty bad out there. “Man bites dog.”

Jack Flash (Australia)

Is Nick Heidfeld channelling me… cos’ this is what I screaming like a ‘mad cow bag-lady’ for several seasons now.