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It's not the rules that need changing

FEATURE BY CHRIS BALFE
15/02/2015

Teams and manufacturers are divided as to when the sport's next overhaul of the rules should be introduced.

Not for the first time, self-interest is the name of the game with the teams and manufacturers split as to what changes should be made to the current formula - still in just its second year - and when.

At the heart of the matter is the desire to make the sport more exciting and attract new fans, the sport concerned at the drop-off in TV viewing figures - though this is mainly to do with the move to pay-per-view - and dropping attendances at races, all of which hit the sport in terms of the lack of appeal to new and existing sponsors.

On the other hand, as previously reported, while unhappy at the falling TV figures incurred by the move away from free-to-air, the teams are pocketing increased prize pots courtesy of the income from pay-per-view. It's what some might call wanting your cake and eating it.

At the heart of the call for a change to the regulations is the power unit. While Bernie Ecclestone has made no secret of his detestation of the formula introduced just last year, a loathing based mainly on the sound, or lack of it, certain teams see a change as an opportunity to negate Mercedes current advantage. Naturally, the German manufacturer wishes to maintain the status quo.

There is talk of 1,000 bhp engines, and other than concern as to how this might be achieved, others are wondering why; for more power doesn't necessarily mean better racing.

With an eye on previous eras that thrilled the crowds and had TV viewers on the edge of their seats - or beds in the case of the 1986 Australian Grand Prix - the sport is understood to be considering a return to car widths last seen in 1997, lower rear wings and wider rear tyres.

All of which some might say is rearranging the deckchairs on Titanic.

Indeed, it is precisely this continual tinkering with the rules that is really hurting the sport, this and the attitude - sadly adopted by more and more 'sports' these days - that the fan (customer) is a cash cow.

Retrograde rules and liveries will not make the sport any better, except in the eyes of a few dewy-eyed fans who would like to see F1 go the whole hog and return to the 60s and 70s when it was faster, cheaper and more accessible... which is never going to happen.

In the meantime, the teams and manufacturers continue to bicker over what rule changes they want and whether they should be introduced in 2016 or 2017. This, at a time the sport should be shouting from the rooftops its achievement - if only on a technical basis - in terms of the new engine formula which, contrary to expectations, was powerful and reliable, as well as (sigh) environmentally friendly. Or as environmentally friendly as Formula One can be.

At a time we wait to see if Mercedes might have a challenge on its hands this season, we do not want to return the latter half of 2013 when rivals gave up any hope of challenging the Red Bull behemoth as they switched attention to the new (2014) formula.

The bottom line is that the sport is not run for fans any longer. It is run - at various levels - by people whose only concern is the financial pay back. Every move they make is driven by the desire to increase profit.

'Passion' has become the buzz word, but we see so little of it in F1, certainly at the top level. F1 needs to move away from the CVC/Ecclestone style of thinking and start to listen to those fans within the sport, those driven by the same love for it that first attracted them.

The likes of Frank Williams, Ron Dennis, Pat Symonds and Ross Brawn, to name but a few, didn't enter F1 to become millionaires or mix with dodgy billionaires and pop-stars, they entered the sport because it excited them, it sent a shiver down their spines.

Only people who have experienced that shiver of excitement will know how to create a sport that will similarly inspire others.

Chris Balfe

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READERS COMMENTS

 

1. Posted by Gilly58, 26/05/2015 10:34

"It’s not the rules that need changing – Neither do we require expensive refuelling or pit passing back on the agenda! My revamped tuppence worth…

It is absolutely right to debate this issue now, as continuing numbers of F1 fans world wide, have, are, and continue to be out priced by escalating ticket prices, weekend packages and unaffordable pay TV viewing packages. Add this to the current disappointing absence of “on-track” competitive excitement and general entertainment value, throw in the increasing lack of access to the drivers and teams that many fans were once accustomed to, and you have a recipe for “melt down”. Unfortunately one only has to read the response to most of the related press articles and F1 forums, to realise that the authorities do not seem to be taking a blind bit of notice of those passionate supporters wishing to voice their opinion, especially when so many of them make very valid and constructive points.

The F1 consortium has in my view, concentrated for far too long and way too much lately on the corporate PR side of business which seems to be ‘bogged down’ in bureaucracy, and obsessed by the anxious, and almost panicked rule change suggestions in an attempt to retain interest in the sport. Instead, they simply choose to ignore the army of loyal F1 supporters and their concerns, who have collectively expended billions over decades which have undoubtedly contributed considerably into keeping the show on the road thus far. It is only right therefore, that they be entitled to a voice. After all, it would be a very hard sell to put on a show of any kind without the fans, be it live at the race track or indeed, the live TV audience. This seasons’ live TV coverage by the BBC has also been restricted to just a few live events, and free view TV coverage in general, is becoming less accessible each year. I am convinced that should this remain the case, the sport will inevitably suffer even more than it is currently doing. I was first introduced to F1 by my grandfather who himself, was an avid fan way back in the sixties. I was immediately hooked then, and continue to be to this day, although continued support is a hard struggle as the whole package has become simply too expensive. Like many others I am sure, I unfortunately am no longer able to attend any live European races as I once used to, and have done almost every year dating back from my very first live race at Silverstone in 1968.

Although F1 has moved with the times, and has undoubtedly improved in many security and safety areas, it still has, in my view, lost the real intimate interaction with its supporters, the drivers and teams that it once had in abundance. It would now seem that, unless you have an open check book or are part of the corporate circus you have little or no chance of getting remotely close to your desired driver/team. Add this to the somewhat predictive, and at times, procession racing (if you can call it racing), plus the European races falling off the annual calendar each year, not to mention Germany this year, which, I fear, will undoubtedly have serious consequences in the longer term. I could never imagine Great Britain not being on the F1 calendar but equally, remember the palaver and hype in 1999 surrounding the announcement by Mr Eccelstone on the switching of circuits from Silverstone to Brands Hatch from 2002, and again in 2008, when he again announced that Donnington Park would host the UK GP from 2010. The later never happened and I think that we all are aware of the corporate sponsorship piece by now, and even the accompanying politics to a certain degree. However, the nonsense that is coming out of Mr E lately demonstrates in my view that he is completely out of touch with reality.

I believe the sports magnets along with the constructors, teams and drivers should get together with an elected fan base as soon as possible to iron out a concept that addresses, and is able to implement the real issues that the sport is woefully lacking. I am sure that there are enough intelligent folk out there, that remain passionately involved enough with the sport to be able to work out a fairer priced ticket system for the fan faithful, but also, and more importantly, be in a position to put competitive ‘wheel to wheel Racing’ back on the agenda without compromising health and safety. I am personally not interested in refuelling or any other expensive or dreamt up scheme to give a driver and team track position without actually having to overtake out on the circuit. Also, why is it that current F1 cars’ are 8-10 seconds a lap slower than they were a decade ago? Surely if this continues, then it will only be a question of time before the GP2 cars become faster than the F1 cars’? If F1 continues to be marketed as the ‘Pinnacle of Motorsport’ then people seriously need to think hard and come up with solutions to what the fans, and now even some of the current drivers, have been openly suggesting for sometime. It’s not rocket science and does not need to break the bank, bring back the competitive on track excitement at an affordable and accessible price, with unhindered TV coverage and perhaps a rejuvenated enthusiasm will return.

It seems like an eternity since we witnessed the Williams cars flat out, and racing wheel to wheel against each other at Brands Hatch.

Here’s hoping Stevie G
"

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2. Posted by Hondawho?, 01/03/2015 18:48

"The F1 structure (FIA) is based on France (was) and is riddled with Frenchman (still is, headed by one in fact). Far too bureaucratic, all good ideas but not worth a light. Move the admin to the UK, put a good Englishman in charge and we will still be working by committee in 20 years without an answer. What is the answer? BE2, whoever that may be and I have heard that position may be held by a women! Just hope she does not try and park Bernie's bus!"

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3. Posted by MKI, 20/02/2015 13:32

"Darvi has an excellent take on F1's issues; the sport's administrative structure is way off beam. Effects are only cured by identifying their cause. You can't have rules set by any sport's competitors, and you'd never go to a theatre hosting a show that does not play 100% to its audience. Yet motor sport thinks both are not just possible, they are actually normal..."

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4. Posted by Steve W, 20/02/2015 11:05

"I'm curious about something. How many here would sign up if F1 were only available on pay-per-view? I wouldn't."

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5. Posted by Chin, 20/02/2015 8:36

"Whilst F1 is now very money centred it hasn't always been. Back in the 70s you certainly couldn't say that John Surtees (amongst others) was in it for the money, he was in it for the love of the sport.
I love motor sport (sport being the important word) but now F1 is a massive hyped up show with very little about what I think of as sport.
As with many other facets of our sport the requirement for safety has made it that much more remote for the spectators. This is always a difficult issue but balance is the hard thing to judge.
If you took the money away would it be safer or more dangerous???"

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6. Posted by Steve Campbell, 18/02/2015 16:35

"Well said Phil.

Let's face reality here folks - it's always, always about the money. If ever for a second it appears to be something different.....stop, think about it....then you will notice it is in fact about the money.

Sadly - with the way the rights are setup, this will never change as the owner of the sport will always be an entity that has paid an exorbitant amount of money to become the owner. Then, based on this high price of entry, wants to make a ridiculous amount of money at the expense of the viewer. Sadly, it is a cow that can only be milked for so long. No viewers, no sport. Anyone imagine the NBA if no-one showed up? Maybe start a #BoycottF1 thingy to get things happening.

The only, ONLY move that is available to those who can influence the direction of the 'sport' is for the teams to unite (hahahaha - I am genuinely chortling on the floor with a racous laughter), yes unite for the next Concorde Agreement (or whatever the teams contract is these days) and lay out the ground rules they want.

Whilst 'sport' doesn't exist without spectators - F1 won't exist without teams/cars and drivers."

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7. Posted by karel, 18/02/2015 12:44

"First of all before gaining new fans, try to get old fans back. As many written and said there is no real racing anymore in F1, it's marketing, it's cleaner then a clinic, it's strangled with regulations and the passion, the real racing, the out of the box thinking, is gone. I Watched a BR 'Over the edge' about the isle of Man, what did I see ? Real hero's getting the fastest out of there machine, no complaining, driven by speed ... although I 'm following F1 since 1976, yes the year James became champion, the sport has changes and not for the better. Remember last year the race delayed for more the 2hrs, for a safety rail ? Thee cars look ugly, the don't sound as a top of the bill racing car anymore. Pilots win or loose decided by marketing principles ? No people are staying away and maybe it's all too late. Even the EU is starting to compromise F1, let'sgo to the isle of Man and feel the excitment again"

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8. Posted by PeterJ42, 18/02/2015 8:46

"Is it true that the reason Luca Montezemolo thought the cars too quiet is that he could hear Alonso complaining every time he came past the pits?"

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9. Posted by Phil, 17/02/2015 4:51

"Agreed the problem with f1 as a whole is the structure. The best run sports in the world are owned by the franchises (ie the teams), and all the funds are reinvested to grow the sport. F1 is owned by outsiders who pay 50%+ to the teams and pocket the rest. The people to blame for this are the teams because they let it happened. They should have told the FIA, Bernie, and every other ancillary business sitting on the coat tails to bugger off. If there are no teams, Bernie and every contract he has falls over because they all rely on 8 – 10 teams turning up to every race. He cannot fulfil his end of the deal.

Until f1 fixes its ownership/management issues, there will be an ongoing debate about cost. I believe 95% of tv revenue should got the teams, 5% for running and management. This will give a minimum of 80 - 100million to every team. Reduce fees to host a race so trackside operators make a profit, they cannot continue to run at a loss. This will ensure every event is sold out as costs comedown. This will encourage more sponsorship as trackside numbers are massive which teams can then get a percentage off. F1 needs to get rid of its high roller perception. The paddock club is where you can meet drivers, teams, see cars etc. F1 prohibits access to this area which is crazy. People want to meet drivers, see cars feel part of the atmosphere. F1 needs to seriously look at Nascar/v8 Supercars/moto GP.

As for rules, the new engines are pathetic. Nothing beats the sound of a v10 at full tilt. When my 6.3 v8 is louder then a f1 car, there is an issue. The current engines are too quiet and f1 trackside experience is poorer as a result.
"

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10. Posted by bfairey, 16/02/2015 17:27

"Get rid of the front wings or at least remove all the tricky bits. The new engines are a great idea but lets get rid of the silly rules or at least some of them."

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11. Posted by Spindoctor, 16/02/2015 12:32

"I think your last two paragraphs are the most telling. Modern Sports are almost all infected with a malaise which springs from the confusion and\or conflation of "Sport" with "Profit". The current conceit that companies exist solely to generate maximum book profits at the expense of everything else makes things much worse.
In Formula 1 these problems are horribly exacerbated by the often conflicting interests of the parties directly involved: FIA, Teams and "Rights Holders".

We fans don't seem to matter at all except as an "income stream", and one to be milked for every last centime, penny, nickel or dime. I will simply cease to take any interest in F1 if it continues on its current path.
I don't and will never pay directly to watch F1 all the time that Bernie & his minions are prepared to deal with all manner of dictators & psychopaths in order to make themselves a fast buck. I would consider paying directly if my payments contributed more directly to the spectacle."

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12. Posted by Darvi, 16/02/2015 11:45

"They need to seperate out the rule making and strategy of the formula from the teams and Bernie/CVC. There's no chance of the teams agreeing on anything, so get a team of unbiased experts to focus on creating a set of rules that make sense to the spectators and circuit owners and then invite teams to come and play and allow Bernie to sell the TV rights. I don't think that Bernie should be allowed to decide on the circuits or anything, his role needs to be to nrgotiate reasonable deals with the circuits and TV companies.

Also, there should be a limit on what CVC can take out of the sport. At the weekend, when the Premier League annouced the new TV deal, all the talk was of how much extra the teams would get - not that the Premier League would pocket most of it. The ratio of revenues in and revenues to the teams needs to be massively different in F1."

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13. Posted by oldjohnny, 16/02/2015 9:41

"Your article has struck a chord with me. I vividly remember that shiver of excitement in the good old days of 'screaming exhausts' as I sat in the stands facing Club corner watching the cars slowly weaving their way through Stowe and Vale to the start line. That unforgettable spectacle and cacophony of sound involved really did produce a shiver of excitement and anticipation of what was to come. The bones in your body literally vibrated.

Compare that with the parade of today, which will only produce a comment of "Oh here they come"! Please bring back the sport that millions of us remember with great fondness, and not the current offering. Silence is not golden to me. "

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14. Posted by SideGlance, 16/02/2015 9:13

"And I would beg to differ 'IF' the new engines are more environmentally 'friendly' !! I have a study done by a IEEE author stating that if you measure ALL the pollution of road car engines - 1. a purely high tech gas engine 2. a hybrid such as Prius, and measure the pollutants of the engine and then those of engine and batteries and their recycle - and if using 'lesser' polluting fuels, that there is very little difference - and the pollutants of a poorly discarded LiOn battery can even make the hybrid worse!!

So I suspect 'the appearance' of a 'lesser' polluting engine is MUCH MORE important than an 'actual' less polluting engine for the PR effect that we call F1 !!

** I wish they would add mufflers to these truck motor F1 engines, and then have a 5000w speaker system playing a high revving V-10 or V-12 sound (from Dyno or track) in place of those flatulent Truck motors, 1000hp or not, we should NEVER hear the sound of squealing tires from braking or spinning starts !! ;)"

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15. Posted by KoosOos, 16/02/2015 5:25

"To get F1 to where it was you only need to do two things. Bring back the feeling of danger and ban telemetry.

Drivers was heroes not only because they could drive fast but every one how new the sport new that every time the driver got in the car he was taking his live in his hands. F1 went wrong in a few places. They should have made the cars even saver and left the races tracks as it is. Now we have unbelievable save races cars but boring tracks. In modern F1 you do not get the feeling of danger any more.

Telemetry is the reason that racing to day is so boring. A Driver to day does not relay need to now much about a car to drive it. In the past a driver needed to find the strengths and weakness of the car so the engineers could improve the car. Today all they have to do is just drive the car and not much more.
"

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