Bob McMurray: Ideas for the future of Formula 1
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As the last Grand Prix of the 2017 season takes place this weekend at the ostentatious but (apart from two featureless straights) painfully slow car park that is Yas Marina, talk will soon intensify about the sport’s future.
(Incidentally, the 2017 Formula 1 Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix’s setting is on a sea of concrete and reportedly the most expensive track built. It cost an estimated $1.4 billion and was built on a man-made island in an attempt to recreate the romance and mystique of the Monaco Grand Prix.
This ostentatious plan failed, of course, because the mystique of Monaco is a result of its history and heritage rather than merely dollars.)
The sport’s future centres mainly on proposals by the sports owner, Liberty Media. Discussions have been led by the Formula 1 managing director of motorsports, Ross Brawn.
His expertise is engineering and mechanical, but he also has a fantastic grasp of the financial aspects of running all teams.
Predictably, he has come up against opposition from the big spenders in the paddock and those discussions — set around the form a Formula 1 “Power Unit” will take from 2021 onwards plus budget caps — will drag interminably.
These things do, at this “pinnacle” of the sport. Perhaps to attract more fans, other things need to be addressed. Like how to run the race weekend and how to make things more interesting.
We had a few ideas pushed forward over the years by that mastermind of Machiavellian mischief Mr Ecclestone.
Gold medals in the Olympic fashion instead of points and sudden, timed water sprinklers soaking some parts of the track randomly being two of his gems.
Perhaps taking some parts of other series would work.
In Rallycross there is something called a “joker lap”. Once every race, drivers can take their joker lap by leaving the normal track and taking a slightly shorter route that cuts off a corner and saves a couple of seconds on the lap time.
That would cure the problem of a slightly faster F1 car getting stuck behind a slightly slower car.
In Nascar, races are split into three parts with the winner of the each given points as well as points for the winner at race end.
That would at least help the Renault and Honda-powered cars to get points during the race before their engines expired.
The reverse grid idea continues to be raised but how about a partially reversed grid as is used in the Toyota Racing Series here?
Just the first six, eight or 10 cars, randomly selected, after qualifying.
We just love to see the likes of Hamilton, Ricciardo or Verstappen coming through the field, don’t we?
In some sportscar racing and the British Touring Car Championship, the use of a “success ballast” acts as a performance equaliser with the most successful cars getting ballast added to their cars on a sliding scale, depending on results.
That would slow down those Mercedes a bit.
Formula 1 could get complicated and introduce an IndyCar style of points system.
One point for pole position, one point for leading at least one lap, two for the most laps led and then points all the way down to 33rd position or, in the case of Formula 1, 20th position.
Oh yes, then double points for two “flagship” races during the year, the Indy 500 (perhaps in F1 that could be the Monaco Grand Prix) and the last event of the year.
I expect none of the above to be a part of Formula 1 Racing of the future and for that I am eternally grateful.
The points system, the tracks and the sport’s general health are doing just nicely, thank you.
Without doubt, some measures have to be taken to address power unit reliability, the subsequent grid penalty system and the lack of overtaking but those things are obvious to all, despite the wrangling and horse trading.
One leaf that Liberty Media, as the sports owner, should take from Nascar is the fact that they are the owners and as any owner of any franchise or business, things should come down to the “My Way or Highway” method of management. A method that has worked for many years for the France family, owner of Nascar.
Call me a seditious rebel if you like, but I do have one more novel idea to improve the sport.
How about Brawn, Liberty Media, the FIA, the Technical Working Group or whichever is the relevant organisation charged with such things, introduces compulsory aerodynamic design parameters that allow and demand that drivers can overtake each other, while racing in close quarters and without the use of a flappy opening device on the rear wing.