‘My make-up may be flaking – but my smile still stays on.’
There are two big debates in Formula One at present. The first is over sustainability and how to ensure the midfield teams can survive and even thrive more.
The second is how to stop the decline in Formula One’s viewing public – both at the races and on TV. Unusually in the Piranha club, there appears to be a consensus that by Improving “The Show”, the latter can be achieved.
The reality is that that solving the underlying problem in debate #1 would go some way to solving problem #2. Further, hiding the sport behind pay walls may be great for the treasurers of CVC and the teams, but this too is a significant contributory factor to the declining of F1’s biggest audience, which watch the events on TV.
So all other proposed solutions appear to be tinkering in the margins – or fiddling while Rome burns.
The irony behind this saying is that instruments resembling any kind of violin didn’t appear until the 16th century, whilst of course the emperor Nero – who is accused of occupying himself with unimportant matters during the zenith of a crisis – presided over the great fire of Rome in 65AD.
All this means that the ‘F1 school of bright ideas’ regularly goes into production overload, as Headmaster Bernie demands solutions to problems he in fact created.
We’ve had a litany of proposals on how to ‘spice up the show’ over the past year. Sprinkler systems to make dry races wet, standing restarts following a safety car period, double points in the final race of the season, bring back the V8’s – to name but a few of the Damascus road moments that have come and gone with little or no effect.
So far the whole debate has been more “hey diddle-diddle, the cat and the fiddle”, than of Nero-esque stature.
Well now we have a new – or newish contender – and it comes from one who mostly plays second fiddle in the Force India family, to the increasingly desperate Bob Fernley.
Sporting director Otmar Szafnauer is reported by AMuS to suggest, that the teams should choose the two Pirelli dry compounds they wish to use for each Grand Prix weekend.
The softly spoken Romanian even has an eye to logistics and cost. “If the teams inform Pirelli of their choice, say with a lead time of four weeks, which combinations they want for each Grand Prix to, the tyres can be produced in time be AND It doesn’t cost more”.
Is Otmar onto a winner here? He even includes an idea to keep the suspense high for both competitors and fans alike. “The choices are then kept secret [by Pirelli] until the Thursday before the race. So then this becomes a topic everyone will be talking about as early as Thursday.”
Pirelli is struggling to find ways to force teams to run different tyre strategies. Which indeed does create more interest during F1 races. TJ13 has consistently argued Pirelli are too conservative in their tyre selection and Szafnauer proposal eliminates this control by the Italian tyre manufacturer.
The detail of how this would play out presents us with a plethora of complex scenarios, and it may go some way to fill the ’empty spaces’ and ‘abandoned places’.
But in principle the concept seems sound. Or does it?