Making F1 unpredictable

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There was an article about preventing teams from using all the tire compounds during Friday Free Practice sessions at Autosport in which Williams tech boss, Paddy Lowe, discusses the notion put forth by F1’s tech boss Ross Brawn.

I was reading that and I understand the thought but it, in my mind, would render Friday’s impractical. Maybe that’s the point, I don’t know.

That wasn’t the topic or quotes I was interested in, however. No, what I found interesting is Paddy’s commentary on predictability.

“If you want to make it more valuable, you’ve got to prevent the optimisation and allow for effectively more disturbance, more noise, which will come from external factors, that we couldn’t optimise around.

“It will be good. Because the other alternative you get rid of the engineers by cost cap or reduce the operational staff level here [at the track].

“I am not trying to just make a lot of engineers redundant, they can do other things.

“I think Ross has realised [that optimisation is causing predictable races], that’s his own observation, and he has a project around that.”

I’m very curious at what those efforts are in Ross’s project to reduce predictability in racing. What elements would it include? We’ve read elsewhere that Ross has conceded in some part on the hybrid engines so what areas is he focused on to cause disruption to the status quo?

Again, I am concerned about an engineer simply trying to engineer his way into exciting and entertaining racing. I hope Ross does it and it is outrageously successful but I do have concerns.

As Grace and I mentioned on the last podcast, you want unpredictability? Re-introduce refueling and low-fuel, grippy tire strategies. That put the cat amongst the pigeons. Otherwise, maybe sprinklers and shortcuts for everyone.

Hat Tip: Autosport

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Tom Firth

I’m thinking aloud here but isn’t the problem with a lot of the sport, not just F1 that we are trying to make it unpredictable in an unnatural way? Whether that is through engineering or gimmicks and that really taking a step back is better than interfering? Schumi’s era wasn’t really unpredictable, nor were a lot of Senna’s wins but they were appreciated as masterful because you saw the brilliance in what the drivers and their teams did. When we start dictating fuel loads or overtaking zones or pit stop windows, don’t we lose that brilliance and isn’t that what… Read more »

Tom Firth

Also when you try and introduce the unpredictable, it eventually becomes the predictable. Look at NASCAR in plate races for that.


Unpredictability used to be caused by drivers making a mistake (missing a get a or over revving the engine), or by unreliability. Such things do not happen now. The semi automatic gearbox eliminates the possibility of the driver selecting the wrong gear, the engine management system prevents over revving of the engine, the reliability has improved dramatically (when was the last time fewer than ten cars finished the race?) and tarmac run off areas mean that drivers are not penalized for driving off the road. The last unpredictable season was in 2012 with seven different winners in the first seven… Read more »

Tom Firth

Hello! Long time, no hear :-)

Yeah that’s all true, I can’t disagree with any of it really. Other than that in 2012 it definitely became too unpredictable just around Spain… I wonder why that may have been ;-)

Dan Cooper

It’s a pickle, because Paddy is exactly right in my opinion – engineers will optimize, and optimization is a sh*t spectator sport. On the other hand, F2 is 5X more exciting to watch and it’s not much different, so I reject the notion it can’t be done. Maybe if they want it less predictable and more relevant for the next generation, they should make 2 seater cars and have the F1 driver in the back explaining what to do to a randomly chosen Uber driver who’s at the controls?