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Stilletos for Bolt


"You're going to need a bigger boat!"

When Roy Schneider, as the character Police Chief Martin Brody in Jaws, uttered those words to be heard by millions around the planet way back in 1975, it was a seismic moment not just for cinema. Speaking as someone who has, as a direct result of that movie, checked swimming pools for sharks, the impact of "small boat, big shark" has haunted me evermore. It also helped define the limits of competition, and the tools required for success. Hunter or hunted? Ruler or ruled?

So to the deep, dark ocean of the FIA F1 universe. You're going to need a bigger... bank balance; wind tunnel; set of cajones; mind; under-floor diffuser-focused vanes... The FIA is looking into the murky blue shark infested waters and trying to work out quite what set-up it needs to tame the shark, as opposed to jumping it.

Usain Bolt. Greatest sprinter of his generation, possibly of all time. Within a sporting context he is an unquestioned hero of mine. So imagine the international athletics association decides to take the same "Bend'em, break'em, ammend'em" approach to rules that the FIA cheerfully takes seven days a week, fifty-two weeks of the year.

Problem: "Bolt is too fast. He wins all the time."

FIA solution: "We have reviewed the repetitive manner of results, and we are aiming to level the playing field."

Result: "For every 0.01 second of winning margin over the next competitor the winner will have 500g of lead shot added to their running vests." Mr. Bolt duly trains with said lead shot, as do the poor peeps in second, and third, and as he is simply the fittest and most adaptable out there... he still wins.

Problem: "Bolt has adapted best. We need more rules to stop him."

FIA solution: "The field must run in Stilettos!"

Rule clarification: "The FIA has deemed that a stiletto has a minimum height of seven centimetres, and a total ground contact area under 0.05 CM2. The ankle must be strapped, and the toes must be restrained in an 'open toe' arrangement, with no more than two across-foot restraining straps."

Result: "Bolt, the fastest human in running spikes, trains to be the fastest runner in stilettos."

Secondary result: "The less skilled runners suffer a significantly increased rate of injury due to trying to keep up with Mr. Bolt while running in stilettos."

So we have the latest farce which is the FIA attempt to blunt the genius which is Adrian Newey at the design table, V. Max at the wheel, and Christian conducting the orchestra pit.

It's like insisting the Beatles use nothing more than paper and comb, plus ukulele. OK, maybe a pair of spoons if they promise to behave. We are currently witnessing genius in full flight. The FIA should be joining with Toto in respecting that we are now witnessing the next moment of supreme achievement after all the years of Mercedes not putting a foot wrong.

As a sidebar confusion we have the growing concern from drivers about the significant loss of visibility in extreme wet situations. The FIA is now looking into how to solve this issue. I'll be diving into this particular mucky puddle in another article. Suffice to say, the FIA appears to have found the incorrect tree for their hound to bark up...

So how do we avoid our "Stilettos for Bolt" moment? The Halo has proven to be a life-saving design change that none of us really talk about any more. Like seatbelts and air bags in road cars, we simply accept it is right and proper to have the most advanced safety features possible.

DRS, on the other hand, has us complaining like Lady Gaga forced to wear Cancer Council approved sun glasses. Generally our DRS complaints are a mix of; too easy to overtake; artificial racing; press-to-pass; too many detection zones, or too few...

Indeed Le Mans winner Richard Bradley recently suggested "reverse DRS", whereby you have it all the time until you are within a second of the car in front... when it is switched off. Quite how Mr. Bradley thinks this would be a benefit is hard to imagine. A time warp back to the soporific days of the Trulli Train would probably be the outcome, or possibly my personal favourite description of the problem... Luca Badoer in the mobile chicane, as Martin Brundle called it.

So we dock Red Bull 10% of their allotted 2022 wind tunnel time, and they are still so far ahead the others do, on occasion, look like F2 cars... So now the other teams are complaining 10% was not enough or that RB did "too much clever stuff" prior to the ban kicking in. No matter! They simply built a better car, and this is the result. They are currently the class of the field, and under any set of sensible rule tweaks will remain so, such is their intellectual advantage. Yes it is an entire design department, and many engineers making those designs real, and providing amazing feedback. It is without question an amazing team effort. But it is the lead violin of Adrian Newey coupled with the conducting maestro Christian that together provide the vision, drive, direction and purpose for the team, while V. Max delivers on race day.

The electric guitar without Hendrix? Hendrix without the electric guitar? A horror thankfully never visited on planet Earth. If the FIA had their way Leo Fender, George Fullerton, and Freddie Trevares would have been sent straight back to cello building school, while Jimmy would have been sent for country and western banjo classes...

So do we allow the FIA to place Mr. Newey in stilettos and see if that throws him off his step? Insist he can only turn up to work drunk? Only allow him to work three hours a week? Insist he must provide all design information to the team in Sanskrit?

Similarly for V. Max. First lap blindfolded? Whole race with one hand glued to the side of his helmet? Toto provided with a remote to provide major electric shocks to any of V. Max's body parts he cares to select during the race? Alonso provided with an in-car remote to randomly apply V. Max's brakes? And just for good measure, Lewis provided an in-car remote to randomly yank V. Max's steering wheel at any time?

The way the RB package has performed this year I believe the FIA could lock the car "as is" in a secure vault in Switzerland only to remove it for the 2025 season, and still V. Max would win!

It is impolite to say to the other teams, "It appears you're too dumb to beat RB." So to avoid this embarrassing conversation the FIA provide all these technical directives, rule changes, finance regulations and penalties to punish excellence.

Red Bull should be celebrated as excellence in motion just as we celebrated Usain Bolt, Roger Federer and Eddy Merckx. (I note you omit a certain Lance Armstrong - Ed) Moments of genius frozen in time. Or from our beloved sport, Fangio. Michael or Lewis.

The closer in time to our own time a hero is, the more difficult it is for some to celebrate the achievement, rather than curse the monotony. People are once more moaning about the lack of Ferrari success. Yet when Michael was busy sweeping the floor, especially when it was wet, people moaned about the endless repetition.

Why can the FIA not settle on a non-prescriptive set of rules? First stipulate minimum safety requirements, in the form of mandatory safety tests that must be passed. Then, as Pitpass has previously suggested, define a 3D shape within which the car must fit, a minimum and a maximum weight range, and a minimum and maximum amount of fuel, assuming there is not a return to refuelling.

The pure simplistic beauty of such a rule set should delight teams. Yet in our cotton wool obsessed world, with an obsession over prescribed actions, step-out-of-line-and-get-hammered-on-social-media, and screaming echo chambers, the FIA prefers to be an all-powerful Defender of the Faith that keeps all souls in line. Ordering stilettos, straight-jackets, blindfolds, and handcuffs for any who achieve unique leaps of genius.

Consider dear reader. First a beautifully clean technical rules book. Then let the technology wizards and the heroic drivers have at it with a sensible set of race management rules, and may the mightiest team win!

With the grace of God upon us there is no need to order those outsize stilettos for Bolt. Just let some fresh air and intelligent thinking, into the foggy rooms of FIA HQ and you never know, magic might happen.

Max Noble

Learn more about Max and check out his previous features, here



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1. Posted by Tyrbiter, 16/08/2023 12:43

"Could we also have a simple handshake between driver and team boss, as JYS and Ken Tyrell did."

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2. Posted by Max Noble, 12/08/2023 0:24

"@ClaekwasGod - quite so! A one page set of rules, and a comprehensive safety framework… then let’s go racing! :-)

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3. Posted by Greg, 11/08/2023 15:50

"Once again a great article @Max. I just wish the FIA had the balls to set the criteria and say that's it. All safety gear as needed, you build a car within these limits as suggested by @clarkwasgod. That would be interesting indeed and well worth watching again. I am sure Newey would come up with some out there solution which would once again be a rocket, but the other talented designers would also shine I am sure"

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4. Posted by ClarkwasGod, 11/08/2023 15:08

"@ Max, Spindoctor et al

How about this as a Rule SHEET:

1) Minimum weight xxx kgs
2) Maximum "Power" yyy kW - how you arrive at this is up to you
3) Maximum W/base & Track aaaa & bbbb mm
4) Maximum downforce @ 100, 200, 300+ km/hr (or just a maximum value) - again - your choice how to
achieve this
5) Current safety requirements to be only FIA approved.

Utter fantasy, but........


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5. Posted by Chester, 11/08/2023 12:59

"Amen, Max Noble. Amen."

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6. Posted by BrightonCorgi, 11/08/2023 12:27

"How about bring back more rainy tracks like Sepang to level the playing field? Add more chicanes?"

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7. Posted by Max Noble, 11/08/2023 9:15

"*regency = reference. Auto correct… sigh…"

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8. Posted by Max Noble, 11/08/2023 9:13

"@ClarkwasGod - Quite… The WEC Hypercars thing highlights that the FIA sees the manufacturers as its clients, not the fans. They can make money in F1 now it is a franchise model, and experiment and improve in WEC… Everyone is a winner as long as you’re a manufacturer!

@Spindoctor - Me cry… Yup. You nailed it. The point about Michael and Ross working their butts off for an extra 1/10 is totally on point. Anyone in those days could simply dig in and try for extra speed… no more. As you excellently highlight now genius idea - that is the latest genius from Adrian - and you’re set for this period of the rules being frozen… the chance to chase down genius by sheer hard work has been removed in the name of making money…

@Apexing - OK - you know you got me! Any Rush reference and I’m all a tremble. The fact you also got a Vonnegut regency in first is like… wow! …All the same we take our chances… :-)

@Superbird70 - I like your analysis but that’s not quite how I was envisioning the shoes! It is however an excellent view point. Just not the one I was striving for in my main argument. :-). It is however, excellent to disagree respectfully as we all usually manage here on PitPass, compared to other sites where the Peeps can get grumpy…

Bring it on team! Love the continuing engagement over a sport/passion we all love. Gilles, Niki, Murray, Stirling, Moss… Long may we all salute you!

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9. Posted by Superbird70, 10/08/2023 15:03

"A fine article but I might argue that the analogy might be a little off.
Bolt = Max, Lewis, Alonso etc.
Nike, Adidas= Red Bull, Mercedes, Aston Martin

It's the shoes that are making the difference in F1 not so much the athletes.

Granted there may not be as much to control in track and field equipment wise (long spikes, short spikes) with more focus put on the athletes (doping etc.).

Even in tennis, there is little to control equipment wise. No player is going to modify their racquet to gain an advantage.

Red Bull has better shoes (wings)."

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10. Posted by Apexing, 10/08/2023 14:35

"Love it!! Maybe the FIA should hire Vonnegut's Handicapper General from "Harrison Bergeron" to keep them all equal...Or they could use Neil Peart's method: The teams are all kept equal, by hatchet, axe, and saw..."

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11. Posted by Spindoctor, 10/08/2023 14:28

"Spot-on in every respect. Despite my antipathy towards Horner & Marko for their continual stream of pointless and pointed comments RBR deserves to be where it is (though some caveats later). I'll offer a slightly different perspective.

Mercedes cracked the initial hybrid era & had the best driver in their car. Their "domination" was nowhere near as complete as RBR's is today. Ferrari often competed strongly nearly winning at least 1 championship. Towards the end of the era RBR had not only the best car, but also the best (or at least equal) PU. The generosity of FIA towards RBR has been immense. Handing the Abu Dhabi race to Max & then completely changing the cars ensuring that anyone employing Newey would (with a decent PU) streak away with the Titles year after year.

If we go back to (say) the Schumacher era the "domination" was more akin to the latter years of Mercedes' triumphs: ebbing & flowing as Schumi & Brawn put in hundreds, nay thousands of test miles refining & improving throughout the season. Everybody else had the opportunity to catch-up and frequently did, only for the dynamic duo to pull a few more tenths out of the bag.... This was much more like perspiration than inspiration.

In the current era, with virtually zero testing & limited CFD & tunnel time, the boot is on the other foot: Inspiration wins-out every time. Whoever gets each new set of (ridiculously prescriptive) rules right will dominate more-or-less until the next major re-write, or until FIA decides "enough" and makes the sorts of changes needed to "level the field".

So my point (got here eventually) is to concur with Mr Noble's cri de cœur that FIA needs to dump all the nit-picking and go for if not a completely Formula Libre at least one not so much constrained by the minutiae of the current onerous & prescriptive ones. Unlimited and\or in-season testing would also ensure a more competitive environment.
I very much doubt this will happen for a variety of reasons, but not the least is cost. This would be closely followed by complaints that it ain't "green" enough in today's <cynical smirk>eco-conscious world </cynical smirk>.
Finally & most importantly ( hence the new line): F1 is *NOT* about the RACING anymore. It's the ROI & Fiduciary duty, stupid!"

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12. Posted by ClarkwasGod, 10/08/2023 12:41

""Why can the FIA not settle on a non-prescriptive set of rules?"

Ironically, for WEC Hypercars, they do just that - the FIA have established datum figures for the various criteria, and it's up to the teams how they arrive at those. Compare Toyota, Ferrari, Porsche and Peugeot. But then, WEC seems full of logic - VSC - all cars travel at the SAME speed, none of this "delta" rubbish, and that is controlled by the Race Director. Never mind that all classes have tyres that can be raced on.....Maybe the ACO need to get involved in F1 as I suspect their input is largely responsible???"

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