It’s become as common as “for sure” and “turning the wheel” but “improving the show” seems to be one of the sport’s newest common phrases and is one of the great concerns at the moment, sparked off from the first grand prix being snubbed as ‘Bore-rain’.
We may have had the thriller of a race downunder in Melbourne and a pretty good race in Malaysia only a week later, but without wanting to sound negative, you’d be a fool to miss the fact that the main reason these last two races were good fun was purely to the weather causing slippery tracks and mixed up starting grids. It’s a worrying truth that the rest of the races in 2010 (especially Valencia) stand a good chance of being as entertaining as watching paint dry with a re-run of Bahrain 2010 on in the background.
As a result, rather predictably, good ol’Bernie has said to the press that he likes the idea of reverse grids, i.e. qualify on pole position and you’ll be in 24th for the race and so on or some kind of similar turnaround to put the quick cars at the back. Then, to go up a notch there are suggestions for a qualifying lottery.
Although, on the face of it, the reverse grid idea sounds feasible, in reality it would be as good as Bernie’s idea to have shortcuts on the tracks. The idea of sprinklers to artificially recreate the thrills witnessed in Australia would work in theory, but would also make a mockery of the sport. As for the lottery idea, well that would just take qualifying away from us – i.e. often the most exciting part of a race weekend.
To KERS or not to KERS
So what else could be done to “improve the show” – KERS (the energy recovery systems that give effectively a power boost) was introduced and then quickly dropped by some of the teams in 2009 and they’ve agreed to not run it at all in 2010 due to costs. In our eyes, KERS could be a double hit of goodness for F1 – it would boost the current lack of any real ‘green’ emphasis and if worked out properly could definitely go someway to add a touch of entertainment.
KERS failed largely due to the costs, but also due to the ridiculous limitations – limited power boost and the fact that it could only be used for 7seconds per lap – with the added weight, the benefits were clearly outweighed – just ask McLaren and Ferrari who arguably put a great amount of effort into the system and consequently had dire seasons, whereas BrawnGP and Red Bull had beautifully developed cars, KERS-less but quick and we all know how well they did in 2009.
Cleaning the ‘dirty air’
The ‘dirty air’ phrase has been used in every race so far in 2010 and no doubt will be for the rest of the season. In short, ‘dirty air’ is the name given to the wake behind an F1 car. When another car is following, looking to possibly overtake they get stuck in this ‘dirty air’ and lose grip and hence, cannot overtake.
The best analogy for this is if you look to boats – i.e. imagine a large boat on the seas powering along – the water it’s approaching and traveling through is calm and uniform, whereas the water behind it is all over the shop, going off in different directions and would be referred to as ‘rough’ and unpredictable. If another boat was following this one, it would have far less control when following, with the wake left from the boat ahead compared to when it was happily sailing along all alone.
Back to F1 – how can this ‘dirty air’ be cleaned – simple – lose the reliance on wings – the massive regulation change of 2009 forced cars to lose the little intricate ‘winglets’ and went someway towards reducing this reliance, but with double diffusers and the huge front and rear wings the dirty air is still a problem. Back in the 70s, 80s and early 90s, with less effective aerodynamics the cars were able to follow more easily, and further more, back in the 60s with no wings at all, dirty air wasn’t much of an issue. So is that the answer – go back in time?
See the evolution of grand prix cars in this video:
Putting your foot down
Often referred to when accelerating hard, but back in the day, drivers had to put their foot down hard on the brakes too to ensure they stopped in time and the skill of out-braking the competition made for terrific action and overtaking manouvres. With modern brakes being so powerful the cars can stop in the blink of an eye. Also, ignoring Vettel’s issues in Australia, the brakes aren’t of great concern in terms of reliability and can easily last a race.
Should the brakes be less powerful? It certainly would reintroduce the skill of out-braking other drivers because there would be a greater margin to for braking and just as with tyres, if they are over-used they’ll wear thin. What’s more we’d also hear the commentators using the classic “he’s the last of the late brakers there” – again this going back in time…
Tired of tyre talk
The ban on refueling for 2010 was music to our ears here at the Sett – in one swift change, grand prix racing is back to being grand prix racing rather than short sprint races. In theory. The only problem is that over time, the tyres in F1 have got so good that they can last an entire race, even the softer, grippier ones. Also, the difference in performance of a set of rubber that’s done half a race distance isn’t too different from a brand new set. The only reason the drivers are pitting to change tyres is because they have to, due to one of the most ridiculous rules ever introduced – drivers must use both types of tyre during a race.
The rule ensures Bridgestone tyres are the talk of at least some of the race weekend, which will please their marketing chaps and also Bridgestone won’t make tyres that don’t last a race weekend because that will make their product look ‘weak’ and creates a potential PR disaster – a little short-sighted if you ask us.
Seriously though, imagine that rather than having a rule that said drivers must change tyres, instead they introduced a super-duper soft tyre that took over 2 seconds off the laptime, but would be worn out within 20 laps – that would be mega exciting, generate over-taking opportunities and also ensure that tyres get as much publicity as possible. The rule for drivers to change tyres would become defunct. Good idea?
Looking for freedom
If you look through any grand prix history book, you’ll find yourself reading about cars with turbos, skirts, active suspension, having fan-power, six, or even twelve wheels as well as strange wings and layouts – so much so that the starting grid could look more like whacky races than the current, more uniform grid of samey looking cars, resembling a company car park for sales reps (go with us hear, we’re fully aware that an F1 car is better looking than a Focus)
There are pros and cons to design and engineering freedom and if you asked any engineer in the sport, they’d relish the chance to design a car from a blank canvas rather than to the tight restrictions of modern day regulations. It could create more excitement too, but by equal measure could create a grid of cars that differed in performance so much that no one would be able to overtake anyone.
Back to the future
Now, from reading this, it’s clear that we (as in fans of F1) aren’t short on ideas, and that there are definitely ways to ‘improve the show’ but the only problem is that most of these points are looking back at previous decades of F1 and then there’s the argument that F1 is the pinnacle of technology as well as the pinnacle of motorsport, so why should they not be allowed all the wings, fancy tyres etc. Tough call, but here at Badger we just want the sport to live up to our tagline “Formula 1 isn’t boring…” – if that means taking onboard lessons learned from the past, then so be it.
Do you have an opinion?
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- Further reading:
- Doughnuts and other ways to make F1 more appealing
- Breaking the Formula – Rules are there to be.. changed?
Thanks to Chris Labrooy for use of his stunning graphics, see his website for more and hi-res versions