Formula announced they would be radically changing qualifying and also voted on proposed changes for the 2017 season. I must admit, the fan’s response has been weighted on the negative reaction side rather than the positive and while many fans like the current regulations and hybrid power units, it does seem that more fans are against it or at least more vocal about their dislike.
The drivers aren’t really sure what to make of the new qualifying routine for 2016 and many fans, if asked what one thing about F1 is working, would say that they were stunned the changed it at all as it was one part of F1 they liked.
When the FIA release information such as the big changes to qualifying, they fail to realize that there are a host of questions about how fans will understand the new system given its level of complexity. They left those answers completely out of the brief. This breeds doubt.
As for the proposed changes for 2017, perhaps the most scathing comments came from current world champion Lewis Hamilton and perhaps he has the clout, now, to say what he thinks without fear of being scolded by his bosses at Mercedes or F1 leadership. Lewis not only dislikes the proposed changes; he hasn’t liked any of the changes the series has made for the last few years:
“I don’t think the [current] regulations are fine, even if there were five teams battling,” said Hamilton.
“I like a different kind of car. I don’t have all the answers, I just would have a preferred type of car.
“I love a V12 and the big, wider tyres. I saw a picture of an old Ferrari when the sidepods were super-low. It must have been the mid-80s, and it just looked so cool with the wide track, wide wishbones and the slick tyres.
“I don’t know what the answer is. Whatever decisions they’ve been making have not been right for some time.”
Lewis didn’t stop there when queried about more driver input in the process:
“I don’t agree with the changes that are made, and have been made for many, many years. We just live with it,” added Hamilton.
“I think the drivers should be consulted, and I’m sure they’ve been involved more in recent decisions – not the ones that have just been made.
“But we do have a feeling in the car, some ideas of what could be better. We do know what is not good.
“For those who have been driving 10 to 15 years and have been through all the different rule changes, they know which ones worked and which ones didn’t.”
Let’s be honest, those are Sebastian Vettel types of comments that cut right to the heart of the matter. I like the fact that Lewis spoke his mind on the issue because clearly drivers like he, Alonso and Vettel are getting tired of this type of racing and it is really starting to impact their careers.
Mr. E wouldn’t pay to see a race
Veteran F1 journalist Kevin Eason released an audio piece today that bemoaned F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone’s candid and quite brutal commentary on the state of the sport saying he wouldn’t pay to go see a race, that’s how bad it is. Kevin wasn’t jazzed about that and I completely understand, F1 is a series these professionals rely on to put bread on the table and its waning audiences, inability to make the right changes and politics could mess it up for everyone…including Kevin.
Kevin felt that it is a self-fulfilling prophecy in that Mr. E’s negativity is then parroted by the fans and creates a spiral of negative thought. Mercedes boss Toto Wolff has said very much the same thing but I disagree with them.
We aren’t talking about a fat, dumb and happy fan base that has now turned on F1 because they heard Mr. E say something negative. You have to give fans more credit than that. We know how Bernard works and how he angles for the decision and deal he wants. No, the festering negativity was already there. He, perhaps like a certain figure in American politics, is just tapping into that frustration for better or worse but in Mr. E’s case, I think it’s calculated for a particular response.
Look at it this way, it is not a top-down thing. The top brass is starting to feel the bottom-up frustration about what F1 is now and where it may be heading. In the end, it’s the hybrid engines, HD tires, DRS and inability for anyone to reduce aero and make the cars more reliant on mechanical grip. If the fans are wrong on these points, no one is making a good case as to how they’re wrong…other than complaining that fans are becoming bitchy. Well, that’s not good enough coming from the sport’s regulators, owners, pundits and press.
It’s MY pretty pig, I’ve pwned it!
Mercedes is trying like hell to put lipstick on a pig because they have the sport right where they wanted it. Ferrari are sort of okay with it because they, right or wrong, feel like they could catch up to Merc but the rest of them are in varying states of lukewarm agreement or numb silence.
The press that professionally follow the sport and make their living from doing so are rightfully concerned. They should be, they have every right to be. I have a lot of empathy for them. They’ve worked hard to shape the fan opinion since 2013 and much to their dismay, and with little help from Mr. E and F1 itself, they haven’t been able to do so. They haven’t been able to convince fans that what they are seeing is a great direction for F1. To be fair, that’s not really their job so much as the FIA, teams and F1 but they found themselves in that uncomfortable spot nonetheless.
They’ve peddled road relevancy, sustainability, passing devices such as HD tires and DRS and the total number of passes versus years past. They’ve tried to highlight the incredible technology these Power Units have and they then turned slightly bitter when fans didn’t sponge it up and parrot it on social media. They started to see the impact and don’t get me wrong here, I am on their side. They are terrific people but my point here is that even they haven’t been able to stave off the slide in fan passion and attention. They haven’t been able to assuage fan frustration or shape the opinion and narrative.
In the end, Tuesday’s F1 Commission announcement was really a bit patronizing. Driver of the day as voted on by fans? Some future date in April—it’s already been over a year waiting for these changes—until more possible 2017 changes will be agreed upon? A radical overhaul of one of the elements fans felt was actually positive in qualifying?
Socially responsible sustainability..where’s my damned ice!!
Like much of the social responsibility narrative, it sounds fine but the application is miserable. It’s like curly light bulbs that only get bright after you’ve tripped and fallen in the room you entered, new refrigerators that only hold 3-cups worth of ice, washers that take 5 hours to run a low-water-usage cleaning cycle, F1 cars that could run fast but are starved of fuel, regulations that could make the right changes but for fear of making manufacturers mad, simply ignore the fan’s greatest desires.
No one wants more spice, they want more meat. Meat grilled correctly doesn’t need spice. Point is, these sustainable technologies are simply systems that work far worse than the previous systems, provide less of what you want and are slower and ill-performing. So too is the current regulation F1 car. It’s an incredible engineering feat but that dog don’t hunt when it comes to great racing and fan interest.
You see the narrative that ties all of this together? Everyone just gets less. Less light, less ice, less clean clothes (in a timely manner) less real passing, less speed, less tire grip, less fuel, less water in the shower, less water to appropriately flush the toilet, less, less, less. It isn’t about replacing these things with eco-friendly systems that are more efficient than the old ones, it’s about making them produce less of everything and when you do that, of course you use less resources. Look at the current F1 car as the curly light bulb and you’ll start to get the big picture.
The press, bless them, were always going to have a hard time selling that and shaping the public opinion on F1. Mr. E knows that all too well and he’s calling a spade a spade. I say good on him. He’s playing the angles, of course, because that’s what he does when he’s feisty. We all know that and Kevin knows that more than most.
When F1 decided it would regress
In 2013, Formula 1 decide it would become much less than it ever had been before and it would gift wrap this less-is-more package in sustainability talk and positive thoughts. It isn’t working. When is it a great thing to talk about how these new F1 cars, fridges or cars are close to what you used to have. They are pretty fast or they do make ice and 3-4 cups worth. Point is, we’re always making excuses and bigging up the tech and forgetting the actual performance delta to what came before. It begs the question, how much of all this crap is actually ready for prime time? You have to replace something with something that is better than what came before. Not less and then find ways to make it sound like it’s more.
Even fans that LOVE the technology side of F1 probably weren’t thinking that technology in F1 would be used to provide them much less. Less speed, less real passing, less grip, less action. Less sound, less power, less media coverage, less F1 journalists and less parity amongst teams. That’s never been how technology was used in the past in F1. It was always used to produce more, better and faster. Quite a dupe there wasn’t it, you tech wonks?
The small teams have less money and as it turns out, less patience and ability to remain a going concern in light of less sponsors and less revenue from a lopsided commercial prize money agreement. They also have less of a voice and less power within F1.
The only people who are getting more? That’s where you have to focus in this whole equation. Manufacturers, the FIA and commercial rights owners. In a world of less, if there is an entity getting more, you have to seriously consider why.
There are more races, more far-flung locations chasing money and more circuits going bankrupt and more legacy races falling off the calendar. What if we really took the less-is-more route and did what Lewis wants, gearboxes, shifter knobs and V10’s? Is that too archaic? It happens to be a less strategy that many fans would rather have and that’s only because they don’t know what to tell F1 as far as the future direction goes, that’s F1’s job and Lewis says they’re not very good at it.
Maybe curly lightbulbs and no ice is a good thing and that may be your kind of living, so be it, I’m not trying to pick a war over the planet earth. Maybe those types of things work in a model where appliances make less and therefore use less. If you like that, more power to you…I just don’t think its working well for F1 or at least not with these regulations. WEC seems to have regulations that allow it to work better or at least fans feel like it is so they’ve done a better job with shaping the narrative and opinion.
In the end, it isn’t good but I could write an equal editorial talking about what is right with F1. There is a lot that is absolutely terrific about it if they make the right changes and get it back on track. Don’t get me wrong, I love this sport. That’s why it hurts so much to have less of it. I like ice too but can’t seem to get more than 3-cups worth of it from my refrigerator and that’s really pissing me off! Wonder what Lewis thinks about that?
Hat Tip: AUTOSPORT