F1 still seeking ‘the magic bullet’



Brought to you by TJ13 Editor in Chief Andrew Huntley_Jacobs


“The more the universe seems comprehensible, the more it also seems pointless.” – Steven Weinberg


The F1 ‘brave new world’ stories roll on through their news cycles and the almost bi-weekly ‘new’ ideas proposed are like a stream of consciousness, but Formula One is no nearer than ever to finding a consensus on what its future objectives should be.

Then again, there are those who feel that not much is wrong with the current F1. Yes the 2015 Pirelli tyres are tending to produce as many one stop races as they are two stoppers, but that is a simple problem to solve and simultaneously a glimpse for everyone as to how F1 might look with Michelin as the tyre supplier.

But is F1 really broken?

Of course, if you own the commercial rights and are looking to sell the sport, then a collapse in TV numbers and race attendances is a pretty big disaster. However, there is a simple solution to those problems. Re-instate all the F1 races on free to air TV and cut the prices of admission to the races.

Both of these decisions are in the hands of Bernie Ecclestone.

Yet, the world of Sports broadcasting has moved on over the past 10 years, and Formula One now must compete in a space filled by a panacea of other sports. It may just be that Ecclestone et al will be forced to accept F1 can never recapture the viewer numbers it once had.

The latest hot topic that the F1 school of bright ideas has been debating ad nauseam has been the use of Blue Flags. Some believe by relaxing Article 20.6 of F1’s Sporting Regulations, will mean the race leaders will find it more difficult to make their way through traffic and this will add an element of excitement to the show.

“As soon as a car is caught by another car which is about to lap it during the race the driver must allow the faster driver past at the first available opportunity,” states the regulation.

“If the driver who has been caught does not allow the faster driver past, waved blue flags will be shown to indicate that he must allow the following driver to overtake.”

The race steward’s policing of this rule appears to based on a principal that means a lapped car has to have moved aside having passed no more than three marshal stations and therefore three lots of blue flags/lights.

Yet writing regularly on Formula One, I feel highly frustrated at reporting this latest enormous waste of time from the highly intelligent people who are stakeholders in the sport

Isn’t the solution to all the race related ideas seeking to tinker with the sporting regulations to sort out the aerodynamic wash the rear wings create, which makes it difficult for the cars to follow each other closely and overtake?

Then all these other suggestions become null and void.

Of course this will mean the regulations will have to be re-written to allow the designers to regain the lost down force or grip from elsewhere.

Again the solutions here are not rocket science. Broadly either ground effect can be increased or active suspension systems need to be allowed – even a combination of the two.

Unsurprisingly, on the debate about blue flags, an FIA spokesman has commented: “It has been discussed but nothing has been decided, so no changes will be implemented in the short term.”


18 responses to “F1 still seeking ‘the magic bullet’

  1. TJ13, another thing that F1 could do to increase the popularity of F1, or at least to cater to the traditional F1 fans, is to offer pay per view footage of races over the internet, either live or recorded. Here in USA, F1 and IndyCar race broadcasts either on free or on paid cable TV channels are filled with commercials, unless you’re blessed to understand Spanish, in which case you can watch Univision Deportes without interruptions. A whole lot of fans would be willing to pay 1, 5, 10 bucks or who knows how much for the privilege to watch an uninterrupted race on NBC with NBC commentary, either live or after the fact. Personally, I’d be willing to pay something like a 100 bucks a year to have any-time access to commercial-free NBC broadcast of F1 racing. I don’t understand why NBC or Bernie can’t implement this.

  2. Besides FTA broadcasting and lowering the prices at the races themselves, one could also look at using social media to increase the viewing/knowledge pleasure. And, very important, access to the action. At the WEC races, there are autographs sessions in the pitlanes, during the races you can sometimes views the pit action on top of the pitbuildings, the teams are far more accessible. At F1, you are’n’t able to catch a glimpse of the drivers other than seeing them flash past in the distance from overpriced seats.
    I’d love to go to more F1 races, with the family, but attending a WEC race, or MXGP race, or Blancpain race for instance, is so much more rewarding in experience.

  3. Nice to hear you touch on backwash AJ. It is easily the single largest issue in the level of racing (or lack thereof). Its an elephant in the room; and the teams will avoid the point like the plague as it undermines their whole focus in R&D.

    It’s rather sad that F1 has travelled so far down this rather short-sighted path, and that by chasing laptime they have bought this double-edged sword into the sport. For example this weekend; by the time Rosberg had defended his first place to the third corner I knew he would win, and that was a comment on the Aero – not Hamilton.

    I really don’t believe the current approach to this issue taken by the FIA is the right one, (limiting the regulations to lower overall downforce levels), these machines are supposed to be incredible examples of engineering,

    I have been trying to work out a good way for ground effect to help make up for front downforce lost behind another car – as I believe taking all the turbulence out of the backwash is a near impossibility.

    Problem with a ground effect compensation system is trying to figure out the variables i.e.

    Pitot tubes/load sensors to measure downforce levels available to FIA (and by proxy all teams?!)
    Base measurement on a dry run of the circuit
    Ratio on compensation/distance to car ahead
    Teams exploiting this rule and giving a bias to the Aero gains (i.e relatively low downforce front wings)

    Will keep trying to figure this one out; not that the idea’ll get anywhere – but its an interesting question.

    • Indycar seem to have solved the problem of aero and close racing; they draft/pass with ease at 220 mph on the ovals. It looks like some ground effect could be the solution for F1. Maybe mandatory underbodies?

  4. “But is F1 really broken?” Definitely. And in many places. It’s hard to know where to start fixing it but there’s no single magic bullet.

    If it were up to me, in 2016 there’d no fuel flow restrictions, teams would chose their own tyres for each GP and there would be a spartan spec steering wheel with a very limited set of functions so the managing had to be done by the driver’s driving instead of the pitwall telling them to push buttons and/or coast. Greater changes to the technical regulations would have to be brought in 2017, possibly abandoning Pirelli and DRS.

    And revenue distribution…

    • I know this makes the purists splutter in anger, but this does guarantee exciting races. Even now when a front-runner starts from the back the TV broadcasters pick up on a fightback through the field.

      Maybe run a shorter Saturday race with reverse grids in addition to main event? You could make the former lower ticket prices/free-to-air to promote it too.

      • Except for open wheels and open cockpit, there is barely anything left for the most radical purists nowadays.

        Instead of saturday races, I’d keep the current Q format but then give points for the top 10 before reversing the grid.

        ‘Pole’ starts last, but gets 10 points. Even if his recovery only takes him to 6th, he’d still leave the weekend with a decent points haul. 9 points for the 2nd and so on until the 10th gets 1.

  5. This:

    “Re-instate all the F1 races on free to air TV and cut the prices of admission to the races.”



    …sort out the aerodynamic wash the rear wings create…




    …from the highly intelligent people…”

    Highly intelligent people are often the dumbest and most useless people I know. Rarer than a diamond is a person of very high intellect that has pragmatic problem solving skills.

    +1 on this, and other, articles. I enjoy reading your work.

  6. @Andrew Huntley-Jacobs good points, I always find interest in your writing and along with Matt Trumpets, the pair of you are by far my favourite podcast regulars too.
    F1 is certainly in turmoil, in the past Bernie and Max would have got it sorted (or even not let things get this bad without action in the 1st plac), but Bernie has had fangs blunted and his venom watered down, combined with an FiA President who seems to have forgotten that F1 is THE jewel in the FiA’s crown of top fligh global motorsport and then there is the teams, they can’t agree what day of the week it is, let alone how the sport should progress. This leaves such a mess, it’s like walking into the local park and instead of just 1 or 2 piles of steaming dog shit on the perimeter, there is just piles of shit everywhere! The point being that there is no ‘quick fix’ for F1, it’s not the core product that is the problem, it’s the sytem by which the sport is run that spawns the most problems and finding problems where there are none (drivers helmets anyon?). Jean Todt’s stance on things could be likened to fiddling while Rome burns and it’s quite obvious that Bernie Ecclestone is getting flustered over the stalemate that is currently stranglling the decision making process.
    Maybe there is some scullduggery afoot and possibly from more than 1 party with more than 1 agenda involved. Perhaps Todt is waiting for the whole business and sport to fall flat on its face and maybe breach the commercial rights contracts so the FiA can grab back a great money spinner and if he played it correctly, the whole governance of the sport too.
    Who knows, but ‘silver bullet’ there is not!

  7. Why do so many have this belief that if only Bernie was given his power back, everything would be sorted. Jeez, F1 is in a bloody mess because of Bernie. He’s never fixed anything, all he’s done is fiddle around paying off people and teams to cover the cracks.
    We don’t the half of what he and Mosley have done in the past, but the end result is there to see – Bernie is rich beyond belief, CVC have made a fortune from F1 and everyone else is in deep shit. If the silly old sod had his way, we’d be watching circus acts all in the name of F1 being a show.
    The Dwarf needs to go, then F1 has a chance to move on.

    • Agreed – Bernie is a large part of the problem, not the solution.
      Also cars need to be able to follow another closely. Before the days when aero became GOD, the track action could be cars passing and re-passing each other, or at least attempting it.

  8. The aerodynamic wash has been a problem for over 30 years now, and the only attempt to fix it gave us DRS. Typical that the only way to fix a problem seems to just ending up making it more complicated. In the end, cars and drivers evolve to suit the current environment. In the past we had big fast race tracks with long straights and fast corners. Now we have small fiddly tracks, and the cars and drivers have evolved to best suit them. Perhaps the only real way to bring back wheel to wheel racing is to go back to fast tracks. Which simply isn’t going to happen due to how much they cost. So, we’re screwed. At least we have GPL.

  9. It’s just time catching up with the sport. A lot of the decisions have been to make a lot of money in the short term while systematically destroying the long term. F1 will mostly have a casual following and a causal following isn’t going to be paying £100’s a year to watch on the tv.

    This exacerbates the other issues in F1, a lot of the decisions of late have been to try and appeal to the casual fan, sometimes at the expense of the fanatic fans. It’s an ever more pointless action given that the casual fans can’t watch any more, F1 is trying to appeal to an audience who they have denied the ability to actually watch. Utter madness.

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