Changing the face of F1


Exulted Lord High Moderator of the Apex
Staff Member
Valued Member
A thought occured to me the other day that we spend a lot of time talking about how we would improve F1 and the changes we'd like to make but I was trying to figure out from what base do we all start from. What I mean from that is that we all have different likes and dislikes and we are all different ages. We have all followed F1 through different eras and I suspect we tend to look back with rose tinted glasses.

I will use myself as an example. I starting watching F1 in the mid 80's but it wasn't until the early 90's that I would say I really understood the more technical aspects of the sport. I.E. for the bulk of the 80's I was a Lotus Fan and was happy to watch Senna, Elio etc drive the cars because at 10 years old the ins and outs of Aerodynamics are a little complex. Of course the more you watch something the more you want to know about it (well I do any way).

Now this is where the problem occurs. In the early 90's the internet was in its infancy and there were only a few motor racing magazines to provide the info. Race coverage was restricted to the Beeb with the James and Murry show. For me it was the excellant and much missed Formula one News for all the latest information.

Today we have a host of internet sites including our very own clip the apex, we have wall to wall F1 coverage, every session screened either on Terestrial, Digital or the Internet. We have blogs and interviews and analysis of every single aspect of the sport from what Jenson eats for breakfast to what technical tweeks will be on the Force India in the next race.

I believe it's the Fan who has changed more than the sport as a result of the way that coverage of F1 has changed. In order to get more people to watch, the "show" is the thing. Our expectations have risen because we have been told to expect them to rise. Thanks to the excellant stats from Brian and Gordan we have a way of grounding ourselves to show that old F1 isn't all that different to new F1. Take the 1963 and 1965 seasons for example, Jim Clark won them by a country mile. Senna and Prost in 1988 won all bar one race that season. The 1992 and 1993 seasons were effectively over by the half way point.

I expect people in the 80's were complaining that the sport wasn't as pure as it was in the 60s and I know I've heard fans on threads in the other place, talking about how much better it was in the 90s compared to now. The trouble is, as I've argued above, a lot more people understand the sport now so they aren't in awe of the drivers or baffled by the latest technology. Lets face it, most of the tecnology that is banned in F1 is currently on our average road car (power steering, ABS, TC etc) and more and more cars these days even have "Flappy Padle" gear shifts.

Yes of course no one wants to see dull races with one team way ahead of the others but at the end of the day this has happened before and will happen again. 9 our of 10 FA cup finals turn out to be dull as dishwater but just because thats the case we don't call for the FA to make sweeping changes to the FA cup final like no goal keepers, bigger goals or a return to longer, less aerodynamic shorts.

So in conclusion, I think that before we all agree that F1 needs to change I think we need to agree on what we as fans believe that F1 should be becasue we all have different ideas based on when and where we started watching the sport and that shapes how we look forward as well as back.


I think i'd agree with you in the large - when over in "The other place" many people seem to maintain that F1 has to be the peak of technology. However, I'd argue that this is unnecessary. Technology has rapidly increased since the 1980s, and personally, I think that computers are what have made F1 less entertaining than it once was. Nowadays, every aspect of production is computer controlled. Machining parts for engines is done by CAD and CAM, so inevitably, everything is produced to much better tolerances.

However, this is the same thing that happens within road cars nowadays, so how to separate the breeds? Essentially, when it started, F1 was essentially a single seater, with a big engine up front driving the wheels. As it's evolved, weight distribution initially became key - then people understood that, wings were introduced, then aerodynamics became much more easily understood, the engines started being attacked again, fitting turbos and running at full boost.....

Nowadays, computers can model aerodynamics using fluid dynamic equations, allowing teams to try and create an optimized chassis (Although, as McLaren have proven this year, if they get the initial conditions slightly wrong, then it's perfectly possible to create a dog). What people don't realise is that the aero-modelling that the teams now do, really is the peak of technology. They use supercomputers to model the effect of a slightly different aerofoil.

The way I see it, is that if the teams were given a free reign, nowadays, cars would have fully automatic gearboxes, fully automatic suspension, traction control, brakes that could never lock, aerofoils which are computer controlled to change the aspect of the car throughout the race, from corner to corner. Essentially, the cars would be more like the euro-fighter than cars. So, what do I think is wrong with this? Essentially, the drivers would have very little to do than pedal and steer.

Do I think what Max has done for the sport is bad? No.

Do I think that driver aids are missed? No.

Do I think there are still too many? Yes. (Back to manual gearboxes please)


PS. Glad to hear that you also miss F1 News. (Puts the Fun back into Formula 1) - it was such a much better publication than F1 racing nowadays - the days of Eff One, Mogsley etc etc.....
cider_and_toast said:
Yes of course no one wants to see dull races with one team way ahead of the others but at the end of the day this has happened before and will happen again. 9 our of 10 FA cup finals turn out to be dull as dishwater but just because thats the case we don't call for the FA to make sweeping changes to the FA cup final like no goal keepers, bigger goals or a return to longer, less aerodynamic shorts.

The FA did not insist upon the return to longer, less aerodynamic shorts, but they were introduced by Tottenham Hotspur in 1991 and have been copied mercilessly around the world ever since. Kind of like a double-deck diffuser!

I suppose with the Cup Final, the anticipation of a 1953 style classic that will be repeated ad nauseum usually outweighs the spectacle itself. However, it can still happen - 2006 Liverpool vs West Ham...

Most sports suffer with this in some form or other. No-one wants dominance of anything! Rugby union's solution to New Zealand's dominance was that New Zealand would always choke at the World Cup, usually with France somewhere in the nearby surroundings! (Sorry, I couldn't resist a pop!)

My beef with F1 this year is that we had a system that was producing some good stuff, lots for us to debate here etc. This time last year we had a poll on [glow=#FFAA00:3oh2lzfq]Clip the Apex[/glow:3oh2lzfq] saying "Who will win the World Championship?". It came down to one single point, remember. As it did in 2007! Now they've changed the rules to make it more exciting and... it hasn't.

The other thing to remember is there is less room for technical innovation in the other sports as there is in Formula 1. After the late 50s-60s where football generally did away with the utterly ridiculous 2-3-5 "WM" formation there have been few changes from formations with 4 defenders! The main changes have been in professionalism and diet, mainly over the last 15 years, partly with regard to not drinking. (I love Harry Redknapp's quote on footballers drinking - "You wouldn't put diesel in a Ferrari"!)

Everyone is cleverer than the person he's standing next to, we've all got "great" ideas; maybe in practice they'd work. But we're the armchair squad and it wouldn't be fun if we had nothing to criticise, would it boys*?

*Sorry, girls, not meaning to exclude the fairer gender from this rhetorical question.
PS. Glad to hear that you also miss F1 News. (Puts the Fun back into Formula 1) - it was such a much better publication than F1 racing nowadays - the days of Eff One, Mogsley etc etc.....

The Artist..... F1 News was brilliant. As you say it really did put the fun back into F1. Unfortunatly it sort of backs up my point. After the Ed passed away and a new team took over they forgot the "Fun" element and it bacame a bit more serious. Adding to that was the arrival of "F1 Racing" with it's glossy ITV backed stuff and F1 News fell apart. I think It stopped mid way through the 97 season. It is sadly missed.

Teabag..... I see your points about football but my argument is not about the technical evolution of any sport it's the dangers of making changes to appeal to fans and fan nostalgia. As a football fan do you like the introduction of music when a player scores for example? I am a huge rugby fan and over the last few years we have seen money take hold to a greater and greater effect. To such an extent we have had to suffer the ELVs (Experimental Law Variations) last season where a bigger effort was made to improve "the show". Thankfully most of these have been dropped.
cider_and_toast said:
such an extent we have had to suffer the ELVs (Experimental Law Variations) last season where a bigger effort was made to improve "the show". Thankfully most of these have been dropped.

The ELVs have been a very good example of what you're talking about in my opinion. Weren't they cooked up in somewhere in the Southern Hemisphere (imo to try to crock England!) But there again, it didn't work. Many people watch rugby union for the brute force involved, and I don't think there is any doubt that the England 2007 RWC story is one of the greatest stories in sport.

[BOX=400]If you aren't familiar with the 2007 RWC story:

England were World Champions but had lost most of their 2003 players due to injury and retirement. The average age of the England squad was into the thirties and one hack pointed out "England won the World Cup with "Dad's Army", they're defending it with "Last of the Summer Wine"!"

England opened up with an embarrasing 28-10 victory over the minnow United States of America, who would eventually finish bottom of Group A. That Friday night they were due to play the Springboks of South Africa. Injuries to fly-halves Wilkinson and Barclay meant they would play without a regular fly-half.

As it turned out, England were outclassed and humiliated. A 36-0 defeat (making them only the fourth (I think) team to be nilled in a RWC match) was as embarassing as the scoreline suggests. A debate before the match about who would be the goal kicker turned into a moot point as England didn't get a kick at goal.

Despite still being in the group phase, England were essentially playing knockout rugby. A meeting took place where frank words were exchanged and tactics changed. Jonny Wilkinson was also back from injury and Andy Gomarsall took over at scrum-half.

It took less than a minute against Samoa for stand-in captain Martin Corry to score a try in a 44-22 victory over the Samoans. There were signs of the trouble Samoa had caused the World Cup winners in Englands 35-22 win back in 2003, but England all of a sudden looked back on their feet. Next up were Group A's surprise package, Tonga, in another do-or-die fixture.

Tonga had defeated the Samoans with 14 men and had come within inches of defeating the (understrength) Springboks in the previous match. England were impressive in a 36-20 victory. England had qualified as group runners-up for the quarter-finals, where they would play Group B's winners Australia.

Australia were out for revenge for defeat in the 2003 final and were favourites to get it. However, England dominated the scrum and eventually converted enough penalties to win 12-10. Stirling Mortlock's long-range last minute miss gave England the victory. They would play hosts France in the semis.

France had defeated the All Blacks of New Zealand in the quarter-finals in Cardiff, detirmined not to go out of their own World Cup on foreign fields. Back in their own Stade de France, they conceded a daft try after a minute of the semi-final. France could have won it and led for long periods, but it was the heroics of England's forwards, including a tap tackle from Joe Worsley that saved a try that pulled England through. They won 14-9.

England's defeat in the final against the Springboks, 15-6, was a huge improvement on the 36-0 thrashing 6 weeks earlier but was essentially irrelevent. The journey to the final was a major surprise and showed the sheer character and force of will of England.

Thanks for reading my imperfect guide to England @ France 2007![/quote]

You don't want to change a formula that works, imo! The ELVs did that and didn't improve anything. I suppose we're with FOTA on that one. Then again, costs must be reduced! You never know what's right in sport until it works or doesn't!
A lot of what you posted makes perfect sense c_a_t.

I often reminisce about the "good old days" but when you look in more detail you realise they weren't all that different after all.

Technology has come and gone and now we're in a kind of halfway house with some advanced technology allowed (KERS, engine mapping, etc.) and some not (TC, ABS, etc.).
Personally I'd like to see less technology but then that detracts from what F1 has historically been about which is pushing the boundaries of engineering and design.
It's a bit of a quandary.

I suppose at the end of the day all fans want to see is good hard racing, possibly with some overtaking ;)
If that means either going right back to basics or allowing free reign on the design and engineering side then I'm happy whichever way it goes.
It's very difficult to pin down what the "spirit of F1" is, and different fans always have different views on which proposed changes accord with the spirit, or go against it.

It's a business now, even more than it is a sport, and as a result it has to try to appeal to a wide audience. In the past many gimmicks have been suggested that would make F1 more superficially appealing to casual TV viewers. Many of these viewers seem to be interested mainly, or only, in the drivers, rather than the cars, and I think a lot of the conflict - over issues including customer cars, standardisation, technical restrictions - stems from that distinction.

The engineers always call for more freedom in the regulations, but they have their own vested interests. More innovation is a good thing, but it can often lead to dominance by one or more teams, increased costs and safety issues. Arguably, whatever rules framework you choose, one team can always do a better job than the others and forge an advantage. I don't know whether that can ever be eliminated.

The FIA has drawn a line between "driver aids" and other technologies, and I think that is probably the right approach to take. Where you draw the line can be debated endlessly, though.

P.S. Definitely second the comments about F1 News - terrific magazine. Some very esteemed contributors too - Saward, Constanduros etc. - much missed.
'The spirit of F1'.......

I don't know about anyone else, but that conjures up images of guys sat up in high open top cars, with thin pram wheels and 4 wheel drifting round corners, crunching the manual gearbox knowing if they mess it up they're as good as dead!

That's racing, a man/woman driving a car like their life depended on it. It was a lot slower, but boy does it look damn scary.

These days, I'm astounded at the speed and cornering G's...etc but I don't think 'If he's off, he's dead'..... there's no RISK as such anymore, there are huge run off areas and other such additions that allow a driver to make more errors without getting punished, the only risk in in points or credibility.

my 2p worth....
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