What Needs To Change In F1?

Patrick AllenAnalyst ISeptember 11, 2008

Ok, so Lewis Hamilton’s ‘controversial’ Belgian penalty has sparked a new debate about the state of F1.  Many McLaren fans will see Hamilton’s penalty on Sunday as concrete evidence that Ferrari rule the roost.  

Personally I thought that the penalty was fair and in actual fact has now made the championship a hell of a lot more exciting (though I am a closet Tifosi). So what, if anything, needs to change to make F1 a better sport?

Unfortunately, my number one rule change is one that many would argue against; I would like to see everyone in the same chassis.  Being a massive Jenson Button fan, I was and am angry at the way the British press has completely dumped him in favour of new wonder boy Lewis Hamilton.  

How much better is Lewis than Jenson, and how much of it is the car? Last year I spoke to a driving instructor from Silverstone race circuit, who had seen Hamilton, Button and Anthony Davidson progress through karting. Interestingly, he told me that of the three, Davidson was by far the most promising driver.  However, Davidson’s career has been nowhere near as illustrious as Jenson’s or Lewis’s, an outcome that has come about partly because of very bad luck, but mostly because of the car he was driving.

For more evidence in favour of a same chassis rule just look at the progress of Alonso and Piquet at Renault to see how frustrating it must be for Alonso, who is (in my opinion) the greatest F1 driver around at the moment, to be stuck in a below par car.  Fernando has outperformed the R28 at nearly every one of this years races, whereas Piquet has struggled. If Alonso was driving a Ferrari or a McLaren, he may well have won the 2008 championship by now. Put Piquet in the same situation however, and would probably not have won the championship, but I expect he might be having a similar debut season to Hamilton in 2007.

Next year the new chassis rule changes might be a step in the right direction. Perhaps the removal of aerodynamic pieces will create a more level playing field, though I’m not sure. The cars will probably look very similar to each other next year, so why not simply stick everyone in the same chassis?

To me it makes perfect sense, F1 would then become a true race between the best drivers and engines in the world. The constructors’ championship would also be a lot more relevant and exciting, as the only significant differences between the cars would be their engines.     

Whilst the elimination system in current F1 qualifying is infinitely better than the pathetic one lap system of 2005, surely a return to the classic system of the 90’s would be better?  Currently the teams that are eliminated in round one and two are no longer part of the ‘show’ and therefore arguably the system is causing fans of teams such as Force India and (unfortunately) Honda to turn off after 15 minutes.

We nearly always have the same teams in the final session, which simply makes the whole thing predictable and boring. The old qualifying system would not have made it possible for certain teams not to bother even taking part in Q3 either!  

The third fundamental change that I would introduce would be a new points system.  I imagine it to be very depressing to be a driver in say, 11th position, with no chance of making eighth.  Why even bother finishing the race? If you got something for practically every position then surely the racing would be more exciting and both the driver and constructor tables would look quite different!

Finally, F1 needs to be more ‘fan friendly’.  I’m talking about proper fans here, not just the perfect Monaco F1 fan.  As an example, my home GP at Silverstone carries a starting entry price of £109.  This doesn’t buy you a seat, though. This buys you, as the web site puts it: “access to the whole of the outside of the circuit where you are free to find your own vantage point”. Wow, that’s what I call value for money!  I don’t know many F1 fans who could afford £109 when frankly, they would probably get a better show on TV.

Many seem to believe that there is a lot wrong with Formula One at the moment. I personally think that the past three seasons have produced some pretty great title fights.  Nevertheless, something needs to change (lets get Honda and Renault back to the front for a start!). The four simple points that I have made may help the sport. Alas, of the four, I can only see a re-think of qualifying as being likely, and  I’d love to know how other people feel about these ideas.