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A Blueprint for F1's future... rediscovering the 'awesome factor' Part III

FEATURE BY GUEST AUTHORS
23/04/2019

In the final part of his blueprint for the future of the sport, Stefan Johansson looks at Entertainment and Relevance.

Entertainment

Make the drivers more accessible: The drivers are the stars and they will always be more important to the fans than the cars or the teams. Every series other than F1 has some form of planned fan engagement either the day before the race weekend starts or for an hour at some point during the race weekends. Make it compulsory for each driver to do a certain number of days as part of the super license. It's a pain for the drivers but in the long run it will benefit everybody. Make it mandatory for the promotors, broadcaster and drivers to provide X hours of promotional appearances prior to each race in each country. By forcing / helping each promotor to better promote the races, each driver will be helping themselves by building a better audience and a more valuable ecosystem. Cross promote the drivers in other forms of entertainment in order to gain a larger following and new demographics.

Make the racing less predictable: By implementing some of the rule changes I have already mentioned in the chapter on Competition, the racing will become less predictable without the use of any artificial devices such as DRS. The combination of less aero, more power, less forgiving tracks, less driver aids and longer pit stops will all contribute to more human errors and will not only make the racing a lot more interesting to watch but will also sort out the good from the average.

By definition, the better engineered a car is, the less chance of something unpredictable happening as it makes the life of the driver much easier. By eliminating some of the electronic aids and making the cars have significantly less downforce, this will automatically help make the races less predictable. By enforcing the track limits there will be more occasions for drivers to make a small mistake, which is often all a following driver needs in order to make a move that would otherwise be impossible. The reduction in downforce will help the car following to stay much closer to the car in front, and as such he will be able to get a run on the car in front on the exit of a corner without having to rely on DRS to pass on the following straight. It's no coincidence that some of the best races we've had in recent years have come when there have been changing conditions, usually unexpected weather, thus making it difficult for the engineers to model the race strategy to the nth degree in their race simulations. We won't be stuck with "he's now in the DRS zone" or "will he do an undercut or an overcut" which it is pretty much what it's reduced to at the moment.

Bring back the 'awesome' factor: F1 should be defined by one word, 'Awesome!' With these proposed rule changes, we will arrive at a point where we will once again have some beautiful and spectacular looking cars that will also sound great.

Make bravery one of the tools that count in a driver's arsenal, and allow the drivers who are willing to stick their neck out to gain a couple of extra tenths in a high-speed corner do so, and let the fans enjoy that show!

The massive reduction in downforce will visibly show the car control of the drivers as opposed to the current cars which are on 'rails' all the time. We will have talking points like "top speed around 400kph" and "1,300-1,400hp" power units, which to anyone is 'awesome' and it will get people's attention.

It's difficult to explain that F1 is the ultimate in motorsport when we have a number or regular road cars today with similar power and top speeds. How do you explain why F1 is the ultimate when you can buy a Jeep truck with 800hp for less than $100,000?

"Well, the F1 cars have a huge amount of downforce which means they are really fast in the slow and medium speed corners... and because they are so fast in these corners they have had to reduce the power in order to slow them down. And because the cars have so much downforce it's made it very difficult to follow another car which makes overtaking really difficult, so to fix that we came up with this idea called DRS. This is a really clever device that that the engineers who design these cars came up with, that the driver following another car can use when he wants to overtake the car in front. There is nothing the driver in front can do at that point to defend himself, but it's supposed to spice up the show." Not a great or easy explanation for someone who is trying to understand the sport. Anytime you have to explain why something is great you're already in trouble, and this is why we need to simplify everything so that anyone can immediately see and understand that this is really 'awesome!'

How simple would it instead be to use the formula of "less aero / lower cornering speeds / more horsepower / more acceleration / higher top-speeds / longer braking distance / more passing / more visible car control"?

No one understands or can appreciate downforce, you can tell them the cars produce 5,000kg of downforce or 50kg, but most people wouldn't know the difference between that and a bar of soap. However, everyone understands 1,400hp and 400kph top speeds, everyone is immediately impressed by that!

Improve the broadcast and the graphics: I find it very difficult to follow any race and fully understand the dynamics of what is happening especially once the pit stops have started.

The graphics and the information you get is very limited and quite poorly presented. It has gotten better this last year (at least in the U.S. now that we see the Sky broadcast) but there is still a massive amount more that could be done to keep the viewers better informed of what is going on. I don't think you can have too much info or data displayed, anything that will keep the viewer better informed is a plus.

The teams already look at a lot of interesting data so a lot of the information is there and just needs to be presented to the audience so they can better understand what's transpiring. With the emerging drone technology it would be possible to show a completely different view of the cars and how a battle between different cars transpire that will add a whole new element. I've seen some prototype footage of this already done at some minor events, and it's a completely different experience than with fixed cameras. This is one area that I believe could really be a game changer for the viewing experience.

Create a huge prize money fund for each race that is transparent and official: As I have already outlined, allocate a large portion (30-40%) of the total pool of funds from FOM as prizemoney rather than a guaranteed amount before the season starts. This a common management tool to align incentives with performance. Money talks and people are always curious when there's big money involved in anything.

If Mayweather was fighting for a few thousand dollars each bout no one but the most absolute die-hard boxing fans would bother tuning in, but because it's tens of millions at stake everyone is curious at the outcome, even people that don't like boxing.

This is human nature. As it is, not many even know what the prize money is in F1, only the diehard fans have some idea what each team gets before the season even gets underway, based on an incredibly complicated pay-out schedule. If we use the already mentioned formula of $200.000 per point, the prizemoney for each race would be:

Position Points Prize Money
Pos Points $200k per point
1st 25 $5,000,000
2nd 18 $3,600,000
3rd 15 $3,000,000
4th 12 $2,400,000
5th 10 $2,000,000
6th 8 $1,600,000
7th 6 $1,200,000
8th 4 $800,000
9th 2 $400,000
10th 1 $200,000
Total $20,200,000

Relevance

How important in the bigger picture is it that Formula One or motorsport in general is relevant? Does anyone know what F1 stands for today? This may be the most important question of all in order for F1 or motorsports in general to survive. In order to be relevant it is obviously important to understand in what context you want to be relevant. In the case of Formula One, does this mean you must be socially relevant or more relevant towards the fans, or can both be achieved in a realistic way?

If you focus on being socially relevant, it is critical to understand if you are following an objective and realistic path or just a narrative. Is it more important that we have an engine formula that is seen to embrace the environment than it is to have fast, loud and spectacular cars? Is it more important that we have engines that can last a third of a season than it is to have a hugely powerful engine that may break every now and then, but will either reward or punish the driver and team instantly if they win or the engine breaks? Is it more important that we have race tracks that are so sanitized and safe that it's become almost impossible to have a bad accident than it is to have tracks that will punish a driver if he goes over the limit?

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1. Posted by sagosac, 07/05/2019 22:21 (moderated by an Adminstrator, 16/09/2019 11:51)

"Part III new

DRIVERS ACCESSIBLE
When I started to follow this sport, back in 1982, I don’t believe there were such fan days or public autograph hours (like they exist today at some races).
The less accessible, the more stardom.
Generally, for everything special, precious, exclusive, SHORTAGE MARKETING IS KING.
I would agree if it was just for children who cannot attend races.

I agree with your basic assumption about LESS PREDICTABLE RACES, when the majority of our input being implemented.

Just claiming that it’s limit-pushing is not enough, in sports & show-biz. The crowd wants to see it => THINGS SHALL BREAK DOWN.
Which would automatically be given, when more PUs (Power Units / components) being allowed. Especially this rule must prevent any new entrants – prohibitive regulation… Maybe this was the casus knacksus for Porsche…maybe the aim in insisting on this highly questionable rule (to put it utmost mildly) was to avoid Porsche.

All connoisseurs will agree with your sight onto the DRS issue, Sir Johansson !
A logical outcome must be that drivers prefer to sit behind their opponent and waiting for the next DRS-straight, instead of trying everything everywhere, what would lead to best entertainment, but regrettably was impossible due to ludicrous aero calamities.
So quite likely the first idea on the table was to alter aero rules and as likely, teams opposed due to protect their investment and know-how therein => overtaking aid on straights => not enforcing hard, tight racing => subpar entertainment => subpar ROI for everyone => just don’t ask the teams.

YESSS, bravery became less important, on those huge tarmac / asphalt deserts with circuits being re-bulldozed and polished until you can play Snooker on it.
Lewis stated the right thing about the totally unnecessary re-surfacing of Hungaroring. It just must kill character. Imagine in Monaco they would still drive on the very same surface (not everywhere, but as much as possible) – where Senna drove…
HERITAGE MATTERS IN SPORTS; IT'S ABOUT BOTH: EVOLUTION AND TRADITION.
Every sports marketer will claim so, but half of them prefer to raise monuments for themselves (new rules or grounds) instead of contenting with gardening precious brand equity / image / heritage.

Imagine a father telling his child stories of the past, about the Coup de Mains of the club / team in favour / on home soil. “Was it here, Daddy ?” “Yes – well no, they bulldozed it and made it all new…” Now imagine the kid’s face…

We all know the arguments of the parties involved in such processes, no need to trying to explain to me that instead of renovating and upgrading / expanding an old venue, it is cheaper to bulldoze it and construct it entirely new.
a) it is not cheaper (ask any child)
b) it does not improve a franchise’s equity when it looks like being invented yesterday, instead of 100 years ago. Right ?

Ludicrously, new stadia (in European football) feature less capacity than their predecessors… Like new Hockenheim features less thrill than the unique version, when the big question was “who comes first out of the forest ?”

In EUR-Football, too, shortage marketing could help to consolidate their short-sighted super-over-commercialisation mania… Hiding AAA sports events like the entire Champions League (and Wimbledon) in pay-TV (like in Germany) is so – it’s so – ARRRGGGHHH
Claiming that in sports it’s all about passion and emotion and then constructing one soulless venue after the other – totally passion-free, cold anonymous concrete, steel and glass and hiding the sport behind pay-walls is so – it’s so ARRRGGGHHH

THE AWESOME FACTOR: Yes, it was thrilling when witnessing a Nelson Piquet at…351 kp/h before Hockenheim's Jim Clark chicane. Or Montoya in Monza 2004. [BTW: anybody a link to Keke's famous lap in Silverstone ?]

T-Cars (Training Cars) and Third Driver Cars: I was ever averse to the second idea, but in most boiling affection for the initial concept, the reserve, the T-Car.
Now I think it could be combined (Toto Wolff was the latest player who brought this idea up again and I do support it). I mean it’s fine, when youngsters drive the T-Cars in all Friday sessions. I also think there should be a Warm-Up on the Sunday morning, like it was over decades, in order to give the teams and the crowd a first taste of what will come (there are things that don’t need change).
On the Sunday, these T-Cars shall be the reserve cars, like it was for as many decades as I can remember when the sport was prospering. After such an invest and effort, then flying to the end of the world without a reserve car can hurt a team dramatically, especially when you lose a car without your own fault.
One should always put invest, effort & chance / bad luck into relation and then it will turn out that abolishing T-Cars, implementing mandatory tyre / choice and limiting engines and opportunity to fine-tune (Parc-Fermé restrictions) don’t correlate with the invest & effort of the teams.

Flying this circus around the world in 6 Jumbo-Jets only pays-off via ever improving efficiency of the engine supplier’s production car / truck / bus fleets – which in 2017 stood for >20% of global production - not a bad market share !

=> F1 HAS A HUGE POSITIVE IMPACT ON ENERGY EFFICIENCY ON A GLOBAL SCALE.
LET'S IMPROVE THIS !

“Anytime you have to explain why something is great you're already in trouble”: YESSS ! ! !
With children (and women alike) realising immediately when a make-up is bullshit.

Maybe that carbon brakes are out of date ? Their abrasive cannot be overly supportive for human health. With ceramic brakes, perhaps 350 kp/h would be enough. Still this might require brake-parachutes…if we’d ask Mark Webber…
If on-track action was superb, even the amount of power is not of great interest.

Yes, on-screen info-graphics could be better, whereby clutter via overdose to be avoided. And drones surely would be an awesome improvement. Heli-view through fast bends would be the BOMB Feature (especially when cars were able to follow another very closely).

RELEVANCE
I believe that political correctness (e.g. societal relevance) and best entertainment can be combined.
Yes, sanitised tracks are to be avoided.
Before changing holy grounds like Imola, the boundaries and/or cars have to change first.
Cars that go over the limit shall be visibly and immediately penalised (=> not via sensors).
Those unappealing tarmac deserts even do not increase safety in case of tyre / suspension / brake failure, in wet conditions, or when a car slithering upside down. Those run-off zones were the wrong idea from the start.

Prescribing max power sounds principally fine. In case that propulsion technology is not limited to a specific concept, then a max weight would make sense, right ? To avoid that someone shows up with a 200-litre tank of oldschool fuel, for a 3-litre 12-cylinder engine ;-) …in bi-turbo configuration…with a turbine on the top of it, including afterburner-technology !

Dear FIA & FOM, please entertain us ! Please entertain the crowd as good as you can, WHILE allowing for societal relevance via freedom of engineering genius. Please be so kind. Please, please, please !
You have the power to realise what once was known as the highest class in motor racing, and its name was FORMULA 1. The “1” stood for top-class, the end of the ladder, the maximum, of everything; according to the basic principle of sport and R&D: MAXIMISATION.

R&D does not work when you are just about to finish a prototype of a ground-breaking technology and then your boss does not allow you to spend the last tiny portion of money; so you have to bin the whole thing. This would not make any sense. R&D only makes sense, when things can be done as good as possible and as far as possible.
PROPER PROGRESS.
Anything else is not sane.
Motorsports can only survive when its top series is being allowed to go full throttle into the future. Otherwise it was only a waste of ever more precious resources.
Copying DTM, IndyCar, NASCAR won’t lead to grow fan base, cannot create HYPE and HYSTERIA.

Wanting to pump up a franchise, in all terms, by downsizing it cannot work out; impossible mission.

BTW: When all parts being standardised bar the monocoque and the bodywork – there’s not much room left for privateer teams to gain an advantage, right ? Was it not the learning from the past that the more tiny the realms for innovation, the more fix the pecking order ?

Took me 15 years – if not 35, to understand what F1 is all about…

FINAL ESSENCE: EVOLVING, TAILOR-MADE, HI-TEC, PEAK-PERFORMANCE-MACHINES on ORIGINAL, PLAYFUL, DEMANDING (=> fine-defined) TRACKS.

Various concepts at the same time, simultaneously, would be the hi-end configuration and perhaps too sophisticated – risky, agreed (and a non-realistic scenario in short-term). At least, it needs a variation over time, with some change for every next season. Without evolution, without excelled, fast paced evolution, no justification for motorsports (entrance level series to be as cheap as possible, top series as relevant / meaningful as possible).

“Formula 1 could become the global leader in innovative thinking… It will very soon become apparent which is the most efficient alternative based on the principles of thermal efficiency, energy density & consumption, weight and power output. For the first time in a very long time, F1 could justify the spend of the manufacturers by inventing and creating things we may not even know exist at this point…Unleash all the bright brains that are already working in F1 and let them get creative!”
YESSS: “Sport is the perfect arena for this as we are talking about competition before a concept is proven.”
“It's become quite evident that in order to get things back on the right track it will not be enough to continue with small 'band-aid' fixes here and there, in fact, it will only make it worse as history has shown over and over.”
Agreed, as long as the sporting regulations remain as stable as possible
[BTW: who instigated the inflation of the point system ? I know from Bernie that it was not his idea.]

“In order for the sport to survive, it is imperative that we all understand that it's unsustainable in the long run to deviate from the core elements of what made Formula One such a huge sport to begin with.”
I could not agree more, Sir Johansson !
THANK YOU VERY MUCH ! ! !"

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2. Posted by Rich Z, 27/04/2019 1:02

"Stefan ideas should be strongly considered to improve F1 in the near term. An idea of mine would be to also require that the car’s radiators be moved back to the front of the car and have a minimum area open to the airflow as a way of equalizing aero performance from vehicle to vehicle. Along with limiting the total wing area I think that the quality of racing and greater reliance on driver skill would be rewarded
"

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3. Posted by Flip, 26/04/2019 12:26

"I had a window pop up when I first posted saying error unable to continue, so tried again an hour later and got the same error message, but it looks as though they went through each time and now there are two of the same postings."

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4. Posted by Flip, 26/04/2019 12:18

"Stefan is right, F1 is losing it's appeal and what it used to stand for, F1 and is getting boring, especially when watching on TV. I have been to a few races and it's definitely more interesting and exciting if you are able to watch each race trackside, but TV viewing is becoming so boring, I record each race these days, so I can fast forward the follow the leader laps. F1 could learn a thing or two from motorbike championships about close racing and excitement, especially British superbikes who have cut out a lot of electronics, so less money spent and close exciting racing with more emphasise on rider skill to win races. "

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5. Posted by Flip, 26/04/2019 11:17

"Stefan is right, F1 is losing it's appeal and what it used to stand for, F1 and is getting boring, especially when watching on TV. I have been to a few races and it's definitely more interesting and exciting if you are able to watch each race trackside, but TV viewing is becoming so boring, I record each race these days, so I can fast forward the follow the leader laps. F1 could learn a thing or two about close racing and excitement from motorbike championships , especially British superbikes who have cut out a lot of the electronics, so less money spent and close exciting racing with more emphasise on rider skill to win races. "

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6. Posted by JL, 25/04/2019 20:31

"I was lucky enough to have one of the best, in my opinion, F1 drivers as my best friend. That was Gilles Villeneuve. The reason I mention that is because in 1981 he and I had a discussion about what was wrong with F1 and what was the solution. Reading Stefan's article makes me think he was recording that conversation.

Gilles was of the opinion that F1 cars had too much aero and not enough horsepower. He felt that a great driver had to have the ability to handle a car that was difficult to drive...and that was almost 40 years ago. It was his opinion that the introduction of massive downforce (by Colin Chapman in 1978) was making the cars far to easy to drive. What has happened in 40 years we have made the problem worse.

Excellent article Stephan

John Lane"

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7. Posted by Paul C, 25/04/2019 17:05

"Everything needs to be less predictable - no top 6 cars. Leave PC to Formula E, because they need something to cover the fact that their races sound like a slotless Scaletrix race."

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8. Posted by Uffen, 24/04/2019 15:21 (moderated by an Adminstrator, 16/09/2019 11:51)

"More common sense. One thing, Stefan... you mentioned, in effect, "if you need to explain something then you're already in trouble." Then shortly afterward you called for more data for the viewers. To me that is just more "explaining something" which means you're in trouble. Personally I love watching racing live, from the stands, when the only explaining is what the local announcer might have to offer (if I can hear him in the first place!). I can easily do the same in front of a TV. "

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9. Posted by Pipsary, 23/04/2019 19:07

"A great insight into an alternative way forward in the world of F1 which may bring back the racing we had and loved in the 80's & 90's. The one thing that Stefan Johansson did not mention is the race circuits themselves and how they could be helped with the financial cost of running a race weekend.

Hopefully we have not seen the last of Silverstone and others after this year because if we were to see great racing again, we would surely need great race tracks to run them on.
"

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10. Posted by imejl99, 23/04/2019 13:37

"Highly appreciate Stefan Johansson`s effort, and thank you for detailed insight.
I sincerely apologize if my other comments seemed disrespectful toward great effort made to put this article series together. "

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11. Posted by imejl99, 23/04/2019 13:33

"Entertainment, Relevance, Political correctness...

I remember don`t minding to wait the whole year to see if that 1990 Japan would in some way mirror 1989 japan.
I remember Hill / Schumacher genuine disliking, as well as Senna / Prost and Mansell / Piquet.
I remember other strong personalities, Hakkinen, Montoya, Villeneuve.
It is all gone, it is all vanilla now. No spice, at all.



"

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