Technical not working? Let’s try the sporting regs

What did I say back here at this editorial piece? I was slated for my comparison but I stand by it and now Mercedes boss Toto Wolff echoes my opinion on what F1 should be striving for moving forward…simplicity.

F1 tried it’s new qualifying format once again in Bahrain and it was met, once again, with serious discord from fans and F1 pundits alike. Wolff said:

“It’s very difficult to follow as to who is in and out, and we have a duty to simplify the sport rather than add complexity.

“It doesn’t mix up the field enough that would make the race more entertaining, so I hope we can have some reasonable discussions tomorrow.”

Wolff said that F1 would look like fools if they tried the new system again in China…too late. Most fans felt trying it in Bahrain was foolish enough after Australia’s debacle. They also felt somewhat betrayed as press reported that the teams met and decided to revert back to the old format for Bahrain only to be told that this wasn’t the case. Apparently the FIA didn’t offer that as an option to vote on last week but Wolff says it will be discussed on Sunday in Bahrain:

“When I spoke to Jean last week he said he wanted to approach things in a structured way,” said Wolff.

“He felt with Q1 and Q2 there was maybe something to learn, and therefore he wanted to go for the Melbourne format again, or the hybrid version to find out if it was all bad.

“If it was all bad then the most realistic scenario would be to go back to 2015 qualifying, and he said that to me.

“We’re not in a position anymore, after changing twice, to experiment for Shanghai. We would look like fools.

“Maybe there is a different format that could be interesting. He said a single-lap shootout for the last eight drivers, which could be interesting.

“But we need to properly assess it, and if we find all the data and information we collect make it look like an interesting format, we should implement it in the rules and race it next year, but in a structured way.”

Technical isn’t working, let’s tweak Sporting

My concern is simply this, it seems that the FIA are unable or unwilling to correct the issues F1 currently has through it’s technical regulations and as such, they have taken to changing and tweaking the sporting regulations to try to cure their ills.

After many years of engineers, designers, drivers and pundits suggesting that the best way to cure much of the on-track issues is through a reduction of aero and increase of mechanical grip with superior and larger tires, the sport has had many opportunities to make those changes and have failed to do so.

Instead they’ve made radical changes in the sake of sustainability and yet still left the reliance on aero and new hybrid electric power to keystones of their formula. Why do they ignore the elephant in the room? One reason is that it is less expensive to work with aero than it is major chassis and wheel size issues. Regardless, galactic engine changes to hybrid units is no less complicated or expensive.

The sport tried to usher in HD tires and DRS to help matters but in the end, they are now trying to tweak and change the sporting regulations in hopes it will do something e.g. new qualifying format. Unfortunately, that isn’t working and it is a bit patronizing when everyone, including fans at home, know what they want and what would be the best direction to go in to achieve it. Even if it comes up short, it can’t be any worse than the new hybrid systems that have bankrupted three teams and have three others on life support.

The new hybrid format with HD tires and DRS isn’t working so the sport needs to find a different direction. Not just tweak a few sporting regulations and hope that works. It needs a major overhaul and F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone agrees.

It’s a critical time for F1 and I am not sure they will find it in their individual interests to do what needs to be done. The sport is now working from a democracy and that ‘s, itself, isn’t working either. Drastic changes may cost F1 manufacturer involvement but they are all looking at WEC right now anyway so continuing to experience death by a thousand wounds is not a good idea.


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On the Channel 4 F1 website there is a video interview between Eddie Jordan and Bernie Ecclestone. The link below is to an interview between Murray Walker and Jenson Button, butt the Bernie video is on that page.

Mr E blames the Engineers for the current power units, and says they are nothing to do with F1 or show business. He also refers to the idiot who set up the Strategy Group, and I’m not sure if he means himself or Jean Todt.


MIE, he says “I was the idiot who put it together.” It’s a little garbled, but the “I” is pretty clear. That was a brief but excellent interview. Bernie makes the connection between the manufacturer’s over-engineering orientation and the adverse impacts that’s having on the entirety of F1. In particular the hybrid formula, which Bernie says “this engine – is not an engine – it would never be used in anything… nothing to do with us, nothing to do with Formula 1.” He goes on say that “It’s the engineers who are controlling a lot of things in Formula 1.”… Read more »

Negative Camber

In many ways, he’s right. I know lots of folks like to blame him for every single thing in F1 but that’s not entirely fair and he’s not entirely in control.

The Captain

I don’t think many people blame him for everything… but he is bloody damn well responsible for a few of the gaping wounds in F1 and this qualifying mess lands squarely at his door. No one pushed for a change but him.

Negative Camber

Indeed and I think he would admit where he may have not made the best deal but even those deals had hair on the like the bi-partite deal with teams individually. They had to get done as FOTA was threatening a separation and CVC were putting pressure on about their investment. The democracy via F1 Strategy group was not a good deal and he would/has admitted that. Regardless, the inability of the group to do what is right by F1 is not all his doing.


I don’t understand the animus at all, although it’s the meme that floats around the Internet. IMO the worst thing he did was to sell out to CVC, which gave him a lot of money but a lot less control, and he’s been trying to regain his benevolent dictatorship ever since.

I kinda wish he could.

Andreas Möller

Todd, I agree with you completely, apart from one thing. I don’t think the hybrid engines are part of the problem – you could slap a 2.4L V8 in the back of the cars, and they’d still have the same problems in traffic. And while the normally aspirated engines were relatively cheap at the end of their life (especially the frozen V8’s we had at the end), they were not in any way cheap to develop and run back when they had constant development and practice, quali and race engines for each race meeting. So I agree completely that the… Read more »

Jason Smith

I’ve been thinking about how to eliminate the aero dependency for a while. About the best (or least bad) way of doing it I can think of is to provide the race officials with the telemetry feed from the suspension load sensors (they already get the real time fuel flow rate). The FIA sets a maximum average suspension load for the cars at say, 150-200% of the fully loaded weight (I’m just throwing the figures out there, they’re probably unrealistic). There would still be useful aero advancements, they would just be focused on decreasing drag instead of increasing downforce (road… Read more »

Jason Smith

I guess great minds really do think alike! I promise, I wasn’t intentionally plagiarizing you.

Negative Camber

We all, deliberately or not, end up plagiarizing the mighty Dave. He’s a sharp cookie. :)


I’m just pleased that others agree with my reasoning.

Andreas Möller

Setting a max load on the suspension (relative to the fully loaded weight) would be one way to do it, although as you mention it would introduce yet more telemetry that needs to be monitored by the FIA. And since any violations would need to be policed immediately and in real time – the last thing anyone wants is to have post-podium changes to the results – that would mean quite a bit more work during the race. What I like about that idea is – like MIE wrote in his editorial – the way it pushes teams to limit… Read more »

Jason Smith

I initially thought of that, but it just leaves room for the engineers to do their thing and find a new way to claw back the lost aero. Most likely in a way that will make us all say “How in the Hell did they think of that!?”
The load sensor method just eliminates any incentive to even try any of their sorcery…
I’ve found that it’s difficult to be disappointed if you just expect the worst in people…

Jason Smith

I just thought of another thing. If the maximum allowable reading on the load sensor is based on the weight of a fully-fueled car the numbers would only really need to be watched during the first few laps. As the fuel burns-off the numbers will naturally fall. That should give plenty of time for any penalties to be handed-out without changing the results after the fact.


Or team’s just run a few mph slower at the beginning of the race. Downforce increases with the square of speed, so a small drop in speed at the end of the straight would greatly reduce the downforce. Also as the driver can only use 100 kg of fuel for the whole race, and the car is 702 kg, so the fuel is a relatively small percentage of the overall load on the suspension at max speed.

Jason Smith

And see, that’s just the kind of tomfoolery from the teams we were trying to avoid… Those engineers are worse than clever toddlers.

As always, great thinking MIE!


I wouldn’t mind such “Tomfoolery”, as it would avoid potential in race penalties. Changes in wind direction between qualifying and the race could lead to a change in overall downforce, which would have to be managed.

Jason Smith

I was thinking of your example of driving slower as a race strategy to have a car with an aero-grip advantage at the end of the race by running a slightly more aggressive aero package than they could if they ran flat-out from the start.
I guess this is an excellent example of just how difficult it is to regulate the sport…

Andreas Möller

Hmm. And since downforce increases with the speed, making the car more slippery won’t help (since you can’t use that top speed anyway) unless you also compensate for the higher speed with even less downforce (which, in turn, will allow the car to go even faster, forcing even more downforce to be taken off)…


What you would end up with is a low drag, low downforce car. That would be fast in a straight line, but relatively slow in the corners. The result would be longer braking distances, so more chance for real overtaking. As a side effect, if the car is low drag anyway, DRS will have less of an impact so we may as well remove it.