Instead, I want to focus on simple, and organic ways to improve the on track action and fan experience, and by organic I mean no competition cautions like they have in NASCAR or the fanboost in Formula E. I must admit, I’ve only really started to take a more active interest in NASCAR this season and am finding it great to watch, however the whole competition caution thing boggles me, if anyone would like to explain the reasons for it please do feel free in the comments below!
So, before I start bashing F1, I think everyone here in the UK at least can agree that Sky Sports do an incredible job of broadcasting the series. When it was first announced a few years ago that the BBC would be cutting back their coverage with Sky taking over the reigns I was distraught (mainly because I didn’t have Sky), and swore never to watch Sky’s coverage of F1. However fast forward many years and I can now honestly say there is no better place to watch F1 than Sky, and their excellent coverage is a large part of what keeps drawing me back each race weekend. Because, let’s face it, the racing really is pretty crap at the moment. I think even the most die hard F1 fans would struggle to find a way to sugar coat that.
So, back to sewing the seeds of my radical revolution. I’m going to list the ideas I have, not because I want to simplify things (although that’s not necessarily a bad thing), but purely because it’s easier to compartmentalize my thoughts. I titled this post with the word radical because my first two ideas are quite radical, but I honestly do think they could work, the last two ideas I’ve put forward are probably a little bit less radical and a lot easier to achieve.
- Sprint and Feature races
I saw this idea suggested by someone with the twitter name @The_Mighty_Clam earlier today (ok, he’s not really a clam, that’s just his twitter handle) so I’m not going to completely take credit for this idea, but I want to expand on it a little.
The Clam’s (sorry, I just love the name) suggestion on twitter was for a half points, 45 minute sprint race on the Saturday with no mandatory pit stops, something which personally, I actually think this would be a pretty good idea. Let’s just look at the GP2 race weekend format for a minute. They have a feature race on the Saturday, then reverse the top eight and have a sprint race on the Sunday. F1 could quite easily introduce a variation on this. At the end of the day, we, as fans want to see the cars on track as much as possible so why not have a 60 minute sprint race on Saturday followed by a full length 90 minute feature race on the Sunday?
The grid for Saturday’s race could still be decided on the Friday by the normal qualifying system (who knows what that will be), which would make Fridays a lot more important and exciting for the fans. Following Saturdays race, we can still dish out points to the top ten, and then reverse just the top ten finishers to make the grid for Sunday. This way, we’re not creating a dangerous situation where we’ve got eight or ten incredibly fast cars all trying to pass the likes of Manor, Sauber and Haas because barring Mercedes and occasionally Ferrari, they’re all running at near enough the same pace.
Where I differ from James’s idea is that I propose keeping full points for the sprint race. Keeping full points for Saturdays sprint race would ensure that drivers still have to treat Saturdays with as much importance as Sundays, so we wouldn’t get as many drivers trying to hover around 9th and 10th in the hope of ending up on the front row for the feature race. They’d both be of equal importance. I say this because a few years ago in the BTCC the top ten was reversed for race three of the day, and this created problems with drivers happy to settle for tenth in race two, to be on pole for race three. The BTCC solved this by drawing the position the grid would be reversed from from a hat at the end of race two. To be honest, F1 could also do this, but in line with wanting to keep these ideas organic I’ll stick with reversing the top ten. Of course, I love the BTCC, it was the first motor racing series I ever took a serious interest in but pulling numbers out a hat is a bit “pantomime” for F1. Although, you could argue that F1 is a bit of a panto already.
We could have one mandatory pit stop on Saturday, and two on Sunday, so the general strategy of feature races wouldn’t differ too much from what we have been accustomed to seeing
2. Increase the use of stock parts
F1 purists will probably disagree with me on this, and I see how this idea does in some ways, contradict my desire to keep these ideas organic but by stock parts I don’t mean the majority of parts. How about we start at around 50% and see how it goes? It would be a proactive move by F1, and at least show us they’re trying to make things more exciting.
I wouldn’t class myself as a complete purist, it’s fine for one team to be ahead of the others based of their own merit, but the gap covering the whole field in my opinion, is just way too big. Introducing new stock parts would close up that gap and contrary to what some people may think, it could increase the benefit for manufacturers. Hear me out on this one!
Think of it this way, and this is purely the most basic example. Say we have four parts to an F1 car – exhaust, engine, suspension, transmission and currently all four of these things are independent to each team. Let us say that the FIA decide that one supplier, (how about Dallara) will provide 50% of the parts, we’ll say exhaust and engine. Yet again, I’m just using these parts as an example – I’m not saying Dallara make any of these parts! So, we’ve got Dallara providing all the F1 teams with exhausts and engines for our imaginary F1 cars, which leaves the teams with freedom to build their own engine and suspension.
With these stock parts, the advantage some teams have over others will be lessened which should lead to more evenly matched grid, and therefore more exciting racing. For manufacturers and independent teams, F1 would still have a purpose because they would still have to engineer and develop 50% of the parts, and those 50% of parts would arguably be more important than if the teams we’re to manufacturer 100% of the parts. Thus, manufacturers would still be enticed to F1 because they can still push the boundaries of technology, and with the grid so closely matched, every development would have a greater importance. I’m not saying this idea is foolproof by any means, but just look at how competitive the BTCC is, they seem to make it work. And they’re introducing even more stock parts for 2016.
3. Work on “de-corporatising” F1 more
I think there has been some progress made on this, and the advent of social media has certainly helped this a little but to many people F1 still seems a little bit corporate, and therefore sort of inaccessible. I can imagine many people might feel somewhat daunted when trying to understand F1. I think if I suddenly discovered Formula One and wanted to begin to understand it I wouldn’t know where to start. I know F1 has an official twitter account, so how about making it more fun, conversational, I guess more personable?
How about uploading full races onto youtube? Or at least substantial highlights. Plenty of series already to this and it would be another great way to expose F1 to a wider audience. I’m not saying make F1 more gimmicky, but how about more features on the F1 youtube channel like “a day behind the scenes with (a driver)” or have some mini challenges between drivers of different teams? Something to make F1 seem more open and accessible would do the world of good, not just for fans but for potential sponsors too.
Some of the drivers do this well, especially Hamilton who I believe has people managing his social media accounts and fair play to him. Lewis has done a great deal of good by exposing F1 to a wider audience has F1 needs more personalities like that. I think back to Vettel’s jokes in the press conferences last year, we need more of that.
4. Drivers are allowed personal sponsors on the cars, or a company can sponsor just one car in a team
Ooo this might be very controversial and I’m not expecting many people to agree with me on this one but, I don’t see any harm in allowing personal sponsors the drivers have to make their presence felt on the cars. This idea may have been influenced by V8 Supercars a little bit, but I honestly think they do a lot of things right, and the series is great to watch.
I’ve said this quite a few times, but the last few years have seen some incredibly dull liveries and colour schemes adopted by some F1 teams, I know they’re short of sponsorship so why not mix things up a bit? We’re all still going to know which driver belongs to which team and so forth so I see no problem with making the grid a little more colourful. Just look how fantastic the V8 Supercar grid looked at the Clipsal 500, full of colour and vibrancy. In comparison the F1 grid looks frankly quite vanilla.
I know this suggestion is rather superficial, but I still think it could go a long way to shaking off F1’s “corporate” image by making it a lot more fun and vibrant for the fans. Hell, it could even attract more sponsors to the sport because they would just have to cover one car, not too. This idea probably wouldn’t appeal to the teams but it certainly does to me, and I’m sure it does to at least some other people.
So there we have it. I’ve put forward my four best ideas which I honestly think could make F1 a lot more exciting than it is today. I love F1, and I always will but I do think the era of F1 we’re currently in is almost certainly the most troubled and least exciting period since I started following the sport about 15 years ago. It makes for a sad case when the off track action is more exciting than what is going on on track.
It’s not often I openly ask people to share my articles on social media (terrible marketing there coming from someone who interned in marketing last summer) but in this case I’d love to hear your opinions on my ideas, so please do comment below and share my article on social media, even if you disagree with all of them! It’d be great to start some debate about this and I’m really interested in hearing your ideas for F1, even if you think mine are preposterous and ghastly! I’m also interested to see if anyone thinks F1 is currently fine as it is, so please do share away because I think this is a fascinating debate!