Rules – they are a critical part of any sport, put in place to give some kind of structure and ensure there’s a level playing field for all to compete.  They should be simple enough to understand and follow, yet well thought out enough to avoid any conflict and disorder.  Following so far?  Good.

Now then, it’s a Badger fact that Formula One has seen more rules changes than Jordan* has seen tabloid headlines and more changes than Toyota have recalled cars – and that’s a lot.  So many that every year, rather than tweaking them a little bit, they change three or four different rules.  That may sound clever, but if it’s a great season or even more crucially, if it’s a poor season, how will they judge which rule change is the cause of it is?  They won’t be able to – how very clever.

WHO ARE ‘THEY’ ?

Who are ‘they’ you should ask – ‘they’ are various ‘groups’ involved in F1 – namely the ‘Overtaking Working Group’, the ‘Sporting Working Group’, and then there’s the teams’ association known as FOTA and the governing body, the FIA.  Now that’s a lot of groups of folk sitting around large tables having discussions about the racing, the sport and the overall spectacle F1 – sounds quite fab doesn’t it.

There’s only one problem – they seem to work about as efficiently as many public sector organisations do, i.e. meetings about meetings that only end up reversing what has been done before or missing the point entirely – that may sounds harsh, but seriously, what good has come of all these people having a natter?

if only F1 had a Haynes manual eh?

WHAT’S THE POINT…?

2010 follows the recent trend and sees a tsunami of changes – but this time mainly looking at the races rather than the cars – they did that in 2009.  First up, it’s the much hyped points system.  For many many years points were awarded to the top 6 finishers, 10 for the win, 6 for 2nd and then 4, 3, 2 and 1 point for 6th – this worked pretty well, there were some super close races for the finishing line with the 2nd place driver always challenging as much as possible for 1st and the championship battle often went down to the last few races at least with the points gap never being more than a handful.  Then, the powers that be made the system that we’re all familiar with today – 10 for the win, 8 for 2nd and so on, down to 8th position.  This also worked well – or so we thought…

…because the subject of ‘points’ was obviously on their agenda for 2010 and now there’s a brand new (or MotoGP inspired) points system where the winning driver receives a massive 25 points – a full 150% more than the previous decades of F1.  They’ve also realised that if the driver in 2nd place is due significantly less points than he would get if he were 1st, he’d try harder for the win so now the 2nd place driver is in line for only 18 points, with 3rd getting 15 (see the new scale here) – now that’s genius isn’t it – they’ve worked out that if there’s an incentive to go for 1st, there will be more exciting racing – well that’s the plan.  In reality – every driver (bar Piquet Jr – he’d rather crash) goes into motorsport to win, so the greater points incentive is unlikely to make the massive difference it’s intended to… (oh and it means comparing historical points scores a whole new nightmare for statisticians…)

BANNING OF THE HOSEPIPE

Next up for 2010 is the removal of re-fuelling during grands prix.  The reason – to cut costs.  Now this is a good idea, but hardly rocket science – the fact that they ever introduced it into F1 at all is beyond us here at Badger.  It does nothing for the sport.  What used to be an test of endurance, speed, skill and stamina for the chequered flag became 2 or 3 part sprint race.  Why would you risk a manoeuvre when you could wait a average maximum of 20 laps to do it via a pit stop.  Ok, so we had flames now and then and of course Massa’s comical Singapore pit stop in 2008 – but that hardly makes re-fuelling worth while.  It’s good that it’s banned – there may be some real racing now, with drivers making their tyres last as long as possible…

Not just the Ferrari livery changed for the 2010 season © Autosport

…except ‘they’ have gone and changed rules to do with tyres too – the intelligence and forward-thinkingness of these ‘working’ groups continues to astound us.  Now a new rule has been put in place that means the top 10 drivers after qualifying all have to start the race on the tyres that they did their final qualifying laps on, whereas the other 16 drivers can do as they please.  You don’t have to be Einstein to see what the idea is – to introduce another level of strategy for the leading drivers, i.e. play safe or take a punt for pole and pay for it at the start of the race.  Again, we have to ask – is this rule really needed – all it does is give the commentators something to talk about and makes the sport seem even more complex than it is to the new and casual fans. Well done.

AS IF WE AREN’T ‘TYRED’ ALREADY

‘They’ must like tyres because they are also keeping the ‘drivers must use both types of tyre’ during a grand prix – jay-sus, are they actually trying to make talking about F1 racing as exciting as not winning the lottery – if so well done again, that’s another tick in a box.  Whether it’s true or myth, the story that Bridgestone wanted this rule in place so that people would talk about its tyres is worrying.  What if Tango want everyone to talk about its fizzy orangeade – are drivers expect to drink some during a pit stop… we hope you’re still following…

…now, the other significant change is that the front wheels and tyres on 2010 cars are narrower than they were in 2009 – that’s exciting isn’t it.  It’s as clear as day an admittance on the OWG’s part that the massive car regulation changes introduced for last season didn’t have the desired effect so they are reducing the grip by ensuring there’s less rubber on the road in 2010.  Great, but then that’s directly against what they set out to do – i.e. to enable cars to race nose-to-tail for overtaking and out-braking manoeuvres – with less grip at the front of the car, surely that’s going to make it more trickier than before… no?

OUR FINAL THOUGHT

So that’s it – here at Badger we’re all looking forward to the new season and are hoping it’s a close-fought, action-packed fun fair with a few office politics and not yet another step to make F1 an over technical, inaccessible sport – don’t get us wrong, we love it, but just wish there was more freedom for teams and drivers with less of the tiresome geeky rules that do nothing for the spectacle except reduce its appeal.

One final thought before we go – the FIA have launched their annual survey for fans to fill in and submit – that may seem like a good idea on the face of it – the FA do the same for Premier League fans (only if they have been to a match), but with the plethora of fan-driven F1 sites scoured across the interweb you would think hope ‘they’ have heard of a little website called Google – it will tell them what the fans are thinking.

If you do fancy filling our the FIA fans survey, you do so here, but we can’t guarantee they’ll read, acknowledge or act on your comments – tickets prices still increase year on year and despite the majority of fans being European or from across the pond from here in the UK, ‘they’ continue to stage races on the other side of the planet – know any Korean, Singaporean, Malaysian or Bahrain based F1 drivers?  Thought not.  Do us a favour and add a link to this article on your survey response…

*as in Katie Price, not the Irish fella that once owned an F1 team

Adam Mills

Founder and Team Principal at Badger GP
Been a fan of F1 since the days of 'our Nige'. Enjoys the soap opera as much as the racing. A creative geek, with entrepreneurial tendencies who loves coffee, cycling, mod culture and music. Founded of Badger GP in 2008 to give informative, interesting yet entertaining content about Formula 1.

Latest posts by Adam Mills (see all)

  1. I agree with you.. mostly.. I just think it would be a great shame to “Dumb Down” the sport. Perhaps there’s a balance between over and under complicating the technical side of things. Hasn’t F1 and motor sport historically appealed to those that are interested in engineering and machines anyway? I really hope it doesn’t get over simplified or at least that the technical information is still available somewhere to those of us that are interested. Remember “nerdy” is good, “geeky” is bad and “mainstream” is boring ;)

    • Adam Milleneuve says:

      I agree with you 3oin – and the last thing I would want as a fan is the sport to be “dumbed-down”. That said it can be simplified and more accessible without being dumbed down – as you correctly said it is a bit a balancing act.

      The main reason for writing this piece is that ‘they’ don’t seem to realise this need for improved accessibility and instead dream up more ridiculous rules.

      The best thing they could have done for 2010, with the banning of refueling is to make strategy more free and allow teams to do what they like – i.e. someone could elect not to stop at all or someone could stop 5 times and put the softest, grippiest tyres known to man on their wheels. – that would be sure to guarantee exciting racing.

      *sadly the survey doesn’t have a text box for my suggestion, hence as a fan and writer my overall review of the survey is that it’s a waste of time.

  2. Warning: This a bit of a rant..

    It’s long been my standing that “Overtaking Working Group” have no idea what they’re doing. Their meetings probably consist of a coffee-mornings with pop music and random ideas being thrown around then being submitted because ‘they might work’.
    It doesn’t take an idiot to figure out that rule stability produces close racing. With the engine-freeze starting a couple of years ago, the only improvements that can be made were on aerodynamics and once a car had reached the edge of the envelope further developments were bringing miniscule amounts. This allowed the slower teams to catch up, rather than be faced with a constantly moving goal. By 2005, most teams had caught up with Ferrari since they simply could not make their cars go any faster because they’d peaked within the rules.
    Overhauling the rules has always created large gaps between the cars. We had Brawn last year, and previously the big rule-change was 1998 where McLaren were so far ahead that they lapped the entire field in the first race.

    The new Qualifying tyre rule is ridiculous (and has irked me somewhat).
    F1 teams consist of mostly-boring people whose idea of a perfect GP is to have their cars perform optimum laptimes consistantly and finish miles ahead of everyone else with as few interactions with other cars as possible. These people should not be entrusted with attempting to ‘improve the show’. The only reason i can think of for this idiotic idea is so that the teams don’t have to fire their strategists.
    Last year we had the announcement that low-fuel qualifying was back and we all rejoiced, this year we had the announcement that proper qualifying was to carry knock-on effects for the race again and we groaned.
    Hello teams and organisers, i’ll tell you how to improve qualifying: 1 session, 1 hour, fresh tyres, 12 Laps. And abolish that stupid blocking rule; if a driver gets held up with 2mins to go then that’s the team’s fault for leaving it so late.

  3. Don’t fill in the survey yet! I just wasted 40mins of my life and was greeted with:
    “The survey hasn’t been started yet. Please try again later”

  4. Pingback: links for 2010-02-10 « vee8 - Formula 1 and motorsport news roundups and opinion

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