We’ve been chatting recently about what Formula 1 could do to turn itself around and either get back to its DNA or find a true north in the future. Where would F1 fit in the grand scheme of things? Does it owe anything to humanity other than racing and competition? Could it be road car relevant or even an X Prize-style innovation block?
If you were AUTOSPORT and you happened to bump into former F1 driver Jacques Villeneuve, you’d probably ask him what he thinks about today’s F1. That’s exactly what AUTOSPORT’s Glenn Freeman did and Jacques was not at a loss for words:
“They are trying to cater to the wrong people,” he said. “They are trying to cater to the ‘greens’, but F1 is not green so there is no point even trying.
“It gives a good image to governments and parliaments but it’s not F1.
“And they want to cater to the younger fans that don’t have an attention span, and just want an overtake every two seconds even if it is a terrible one, because they don’t understand it.
“I’m a purist and I love the sport. I loved the 60s and 70s, when the fans even enjoyed the races where only four cars finished and they were two laps apart.
“You respected what the drivers had done, what they had achieved.
“They are making a lot of decisions that in the long run are not helping F1.”
We’ve made a similar argument int hat F1 is not a very “green” sport and the question becomes, should it be? We have the FIA promoting the Formula E series which makes sense but does it make sense for F1? There are several folk sin F1 that do like the sustainability component. There are many who don’t. Regardless, Jacques has a point with the DRS and bad passing. Is it an attention span issue for a younger generation? Is it merely the fact that other sports have more appeal, more action and therefore compete for the time of the younger generation’s TV viewing? With the barrage of information younger viewers have to digest these days, is F1 “edgy” enough to gain the attention and patience of the new viewer?
For Villeneuve, F1 isn’t fun anymore. It isn’t the same:
“Formula 1 is not epic anymore, the drivers are not heroes. The problem is that the changes are being made in an artificial way and that doesn’t work.
“It may be fun for six months, but after that everyone gets bored, and once you start going artificial you have to do it more and more to the point where it’s not even real racing anymore.”
It dredges up the question we’re all debating, has F1 lost its DNA and if so, what DNA is it trying to crate for the future? Is it guarding aerodynamics so closely that it would stomp out any engine innovation, fuel flow rate challenges, electronic control packages or maybe even basic, back-to-their-roots driving with a gearbox? I’ve seen what the engine departments are doing first hand and I can tell you they are excited about the V6 Turbo challenge but are the fans? Wouldn’t they be just as excited if they were asked to make the V8 run on 20% less fuel? Maybe not.
All of this, however, could be coming from a man who is old school and perhaps it doesn’t resonate with you as a legitimate critique. That’s fair enough but I will say that he is a world champion and I gained a lot of respect for Jacques when he put it in the wall just at the exit of Eau Rogue attempting to go flat out…twice! The guy is no stranger to bravery and certainly understands what excitement is. The question is…do new fans? Does F1?