Formula 1: What's Wrong with the Current World of F1?
I will warn all readers now—this is a very opinionated bit of writing and has been inspired by some amazing historic footage of F1 that has been shown by the BBC in the last few weeks.
Some of the amazing footage that has been shown has really got me thinking.
I started watching F1 when I was a lad—maybe no more than 11 or 12 years of age. I remember the weekend when Roland Ratzenberger and Ayrton Senna tragically lost their lives.
I've seen the dominance of Schumacher and the men who have been able to limit him to 7 F1 crowns.
In my viewing career I have seen drivers come and go, teams be bought and sold, and the worry of politics rear it's ugly head.
New circuits have arrived, people have retired, cars have crashed and fortunes made.
Yet in 2011 I feel that there is something missing.
Reliability: A Good or a Bad Thing?
Over the years I have seen countless faults develop with F1 cars. Blue smoke was always a signal of trouble, tires would de-laminate and brakes would fade.
In 2011 Valencia was only the 3rd ever F1 race to have all drivers who crossed the start line finish the race. This happened in the 1961 Dutch GP and again in 2005 in Italy.
Does the reliability have have a negative impact on the race?
I still hate to see my favourite drivers putting in fast laps late into a GP. I always feel nervous that something is about to let go on their vehicles and that will mean I have to deal with the worst thing as an F1 fan—disappointment.
However, this is a double sided coin. When my least favourite, sometimes even hated, drivers are leading I crave nothing more than the see the glorious sight of oil, petrol, air and pistons meeting at a point that the engineers never cared to design.
The work of Pirelli in 2011 was meant to try to create, in a very artificial way, some uncertainty in a GP weekend. Mark Webber showed that managing tires in qualifying (whilst an error led to him qualifying 18th this still applied) meant you could still out perform others due to pure grip.
Bernie Ecclestone has suggested that he would like to see a circuit wide sprinkler system fitted to circuits to reproduce the unpredictability of rain.
Are these tyre and rule considerations a result of bad regulation changes in the past?
Safety: Have We Gone a Step Too Far?
Death and F1 used to be linked in a most frightening yet tantilising way.
I love to hear the old F1 driver speak of the joy and thrill that they got from taking a car out on a track and knowing that they might not return to the pits. It gives you a sense of someone who has faced danger and lived to tell the story.
To clarify, I don't want to see another death in F1. I hope Ayrton Senna is the last F1 driver to perish at the wheel of an F1 car.
It's clear that F1 still has it's dangers, Schumacher breaking his legs, Massa's near fatal collision with a spring and Perez colliding with the Monaco barriers.
At this point I would like to just pay tribute the the lower formula motorsports. Of note is Adrian Surtees who tragically died in a collision with strange similarities to that of Massa.
I miss fuel stops in F1. Yes there were accidents putting fuel into cars but it was amazing when it came to specticle. It also meant that you had the fastest laps for the most time in F1. Please bring this back.
There is something missing when drivers like Robert Kubica and Kimi Raikkonen are turning to rally to get a thrill from motorsport when they are part of the best sport in the world!
When I talk about safety in this way I sometimes come into conflict with myself.
The Monaco GP is a fantasic example of one of my favourite tracks in the world. The slightest mistake can lead to a race ending consequence.
The new generation of circuits with large run off areas just don't appeal to me. I want to see the best drivers in the world getting it right every time and getting punished for mistakes.
I have ultimate respect for the men who dared to drive F1 cars without HANS devices, seatbelts, carbon fibre monococks and even helmets. These men were real path finders and deserve to be remembered by every motorsport fan.
Rules Rules and More Rules!
When I look back through the past picture of F1 cars my favourite has to be the Tyrrell P34—the 6 wheeled F1 car.
This shows the length to which F1 designers have been able to use their creativity to make an F1 car.
The Tyrrell won the 1976 Swedish GP. For me it was one of the most visible F1 designs that shows the amazing ability of the designers involved in F1.
In 2011 the cars all look the same and the designers are bound by ever changing technical regulations.
F1 grids are full of people standing in front of the smallest bits of carbon fibre and slight tweeks to cars.
I look back on the days where a team that could make an engine rev beyond 19,000 rpm were the evny of the pit wall.
Now as soon as a team develops something the FIA work to quash it.
I would love to see a grid with 12 cars that look totally different, where cars are pushed the their limits with new and amazing designs. F1 should be a show case of technical innovation and brilliance. Instead we have a sport where rules are changed for single GP's when the cars are out on the track—Silverstone 2011.
I am a huge F1 fan. I will be up at all hours to watch GP's. I love to watch the qualifying and all 3 practise sessions.
I honestly feel that we have lost some of the magic of F1 over the last few years.
Designers have been limited, tracks have been made into a "safe haven" where the racing and risk is totally eliminated.
The 2011 drivers are some of the greatest driving talent that can be offered in the world today. I do not dispute that today's drivers are of an amazing class.
I do have some concerns though. 2010 and 2011 have seen their fair share of wet races. I have heard team radio where the drivers have complained that the conditions are "undrivable". When drivers are being paid £1million a race I feel ashamed that they can't drive in the wet.
This is an example of why F1 lacks something. I would love the chance to drive an F1 car and I would relish the challenge of getting the best out of my machine whatever the conditions.
To me F1 has become a sport that was created by men that is now showing some of the worst things about the modern world.
There are men and women who would kill to be F1 drivers and would love to take on the challenges and dangers of F1 20 years ago—why can't we manage to recreate that in 2011?