Modern Formula One Manifesto


(I was looking for a place to try and address the multitude of concerns raised about what we have been seeing in F1 this year, and I just couldn't find the right thread. I nearly put it in the "Casual Viewers" thread, but I decided this diatribe needed a thread all its own.)

Large, sweeping assumptions cannot, and should not be made on the back of only 4 Grands Prix The sample size is much too small for any meaningful conclusions to be reached. Having said that, I think it's very possible that we've embarked on a different kind of Formula One experience. One that will undoubtedly rub some people the wrong way.

For nearly the last two decades, overtaking became harder and harder every year. Cars became more and more Aero dependent and a tire war led to a sole supplier whose goal was to create the fastest, most durable tire possible to show the world what a quality product they produced. There was no interest whatsoever in creating an environment where the trailing car was on equal footing with the one he was chasing.

Let's go back even further, to an era where the only thing more plentiful than the overtakes were the retirements. The halcyon turbo days, where drivers wrestled with cars that were drunk on horsepower and scarily short on grip. Cars were often ailing after only a couple of laps and drivers would fall through the field never to be heard from again until they came trundling into the pits on lap 29, having been overtaken by a bevy of drivers up to that point. The overtaking figures of the early to mid 80's are quite comparable to what we have seen so far in 2011, but the viewing experience has changed in unimaginable ways.

Before FOM, a directors mandate would be to follow the leading driver off the start until it was clear that he was not going to lose a position, then find the local hero, check back on the leader, local hero again, show someone retiring on the side of the track, find the leader, and repeat. If there was overtaking going on outside the Top 3, then your imagination was left to run wild. In a race with 50+ overtakes you would be lucky to catch 8-10 of those. By the time you read about the GP in MotorSport three weeks later, driver X's charge through the field up to P6 had achieved mythical status even though you hadn't seen much more than a flash of that car as it was getting lapped by the leaders on lap 47.

So, ever since F1 started to be widely broadcast on television around 1980, viewers had become accustomed to two types of broadcasts. The turbo era when there was a ton of overtaking action, yet very little was actually seen on TV, and the Aero era, where less and less was happening on track, with the equivalent TV coverage following that trend. Formula One was watched by people that knew they might not see an overtake for 45 minutes or longer, and by all indications, they were satisfied with this fact.

Fast forward 30 years. A modern Formula One broadcast is almost unrecognizable to the early days of the BBC. There are multiple cameras stationed at every single turn while every vehicle is equipped with its own personal viewing/recording device. If something significant happens during a GP these days, we see it. Did Sutil get by Alguersuari on lap 22 for P16? You bet your ass he did, and here's the replay to prove it. Heidfeld's closing in on Barrichello for P12 on lap 39, let's go onboard! In some sad way, I suppose it's possible that the FOM directors have bombarded viewers with too many overtakes, thereby lessening the impact of the truly impressive passes for position.

I can sympathize with the veteran F1 viewer, one that has been used to a certain type of viewing experience for decades now. To them, GP's are supposed to take form, settle in, marinate for a bit. Overtakes were to be planned over a period of 5-10 laps, with the culmination of that work being a brakes-locking banzai barge up the inside or a devil-may-care run around the outside. The sight of a car screaming by another on a straight was usually reserved for a McLaren waltzing by an Arrows for the third time. Modern F1 viewing and its multiple angle, multiple replay style is a far cry from what they fell in love with. It's understandable that a 2011 Grand Prix might be a shock to the system for someone who has watched Formula One through the decades of amateur broadcasts, declining on-track action, and technological advancements that benefited only the lead-car, without any consideration to the negative effects imparted on the potentially faster car behind.

But I'm not going to apologize for being a fan of this new fangled Formula One. I think it's great. If a car goes ahead, and stays ahead, it deserves to be there. Worn tires, Wing Opened, KERS deployed, doesn't matter to me. Faster drivers always come to the front. I've yet to see a "lucky" or "artificial" result based solely upon one of the newly implemented driving tools. Have there been a handful of passes that appeared to be too "easy", yes, I would say that, but let's be serious, how can anything being done at 200 MPH while manipulating several paddles, levers, and pedals at the same time be considered "easy" in any respect. I love seeing cars swap places, and it's happening all over the circuit these days. If "casual" fans are responsible for this, then let me extend my thanks.
Excellent insight Keke, I feel almost born again having read that!:ok:

Now, all they need to do is tweak the DRS rules to make overtaking just a smidgeon less easy and adjust the tyre compounds to produce a tad fewer marbles, and we'll be in clover! ;)
Very well put Keke. The only problem I have with the season so far is I can't work out who's where until they go across the finish line and the results pop up on the screen. Somehow I don't think that's such a bad thing though.

It has been exciting, two races in a row and and we've seen cars heading three abreast into a corner, I can't remember ever seeing that before. And, as you point out, the fastest driver in the best car is winning - which is how it has always been, whether you like it or not.

Let's see if the season develops into a 1992 or 2004 steam roller (looking quite likely) but if there are cars trading places further down the track, and we get to see, it I'll be happy.
I find it impossible to argue or disagree with any of this Keke.
You've managed to accurately summarise the last 30 years of my experience with F1 completely.

It is far too easy to forget how dire the viewing experience was back in the 80's and how much actual on track action their was. I'm sure that in another 30 years time the 'newer' viewers of F1 will be talking in the same way about the todays racing as we are now with the Turbo era; F1 has always changed and always will.

I'm sure I remember moans and groans about the loss of 3.5ltr V10's and V12's (funnily enough from ferrari) when it became obvious that turbos were the way forward at the time. And then moans and groans about the change from V10's to V8's and moans and groans about any other change. For a racing formula pushing boundaries at the cutting edge it is amazing how conservative and against change so many of the viewing public are.

I like the new toys and am genuinely excited by the move to small turbo hybrid engines (although if I had my way I wouldn't restrict the layout / number of cylinders - when I was younger I always wanted to hear that V8 Guzzi engine racing in anger). DRS / KERS and the rest address an issue we've all complained about at some point and seems to be allowing cars to compensate for dirty air; I'd just like to see the controls on them lifted. It may mean that eventually we see cars with constantly changing (but driver controlled) shapes and surfaces to adapt to the needs at that point in the race. So long as all of this stuff is controlled by the driver then I'm in favour of it.

Once again, thanks for a great post... :cheer:
Keke. A great post. It's going to take me a week to think about it ... for I agree with much of what you say but despite all of the action this weekend I'm still left wanting. I think my problem does have something to do with my memories of years so long gone (it seems) when you could identify a car by the engine note and the driver by his gearshifts and throttle feather. There were days when a new car would hit the track and people would remark "what the hell is that?" (Chapman, Costin and Duckworth creations spring to mind). I love F1 as much now as I ever have but the glory days are over, mechanical engineers are the old school and the laptop whiz kids are ascendent.

Rock on F1 but how about to the next level? The four stroke combustion engine is just about old hat. How about an engine revolution (excuse the pun) by the end of the decade? Any longer and I'll miss it as I'll probably be pushing up daisies!
I'm going to probably contradict myself here but never mind. Would we be complaining less about artifical overtaking if it was happening for first position with a lot of drivers overtaking for the lead. Or are we complaining more about the fact that the leader is walking away at the front and in a sense the 'big' race is over and we are watching overtakes lower down the field?
Unfortunately, the television coverage has become ever more important in part because attending a race has become such an expensive undertaking. It was much easier to attend when most of the races were held on the traditional European circuits, so travel expenses were much reduced from today.
A very eloquently written post there Keke, but I still can't agree with the sentiment that F1 2011 style is "great". I have a few other things that I would contend with - such as the TV coverage - but I'm a little tired now, so I'll collect my thoughts, reread it, and discuss this further. But, a good post. :)
Thanks a lot guys, I'm glad you enjoyed my Sunday night stream of consciousness.

I'm always happy that I have such a great place to unload my thoughts about the thing that we all love, and sometimes love to hate, Formula One.

Thanks again for taking the time to read this and I appreciate all the kind feedback.

Here we come Barcelona! :snacks:
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