Formula One Completes Most Boring Season In History — Plans More Glitz, Less Racing

 

The 2017 Formula One season ended with yet another snorefest in Abu Dhabi, one of many tracks where actual passing is virtually impossible due to a Mickey Mouse layout. Valtteri Bottas led from start to finish while Lewis Hamilton coasted home in second place.

formula one abu dhabi
Credit: YasMarina.com

There were almost 5 seconds of pulse pounding action in the 90 minute race when Bottas ran wide at one corner late in the race and let Hamilton get within a second of him, but he quickly recovered and pulled out a comfortable lead again. Sebastien Vettel brought on Ferrari home in third place — 20 seconds behind the leader — while Kimi Raikkonen finished another lackluster season in fourth, 40 seconds behind.

2017 brought fans such high points as 35 spot grid penalties for teams that were forced to change an engine or transmission before the FIA, in its infinite wisdom, thought appropriate. The FIA has this absurd notion that fans care a flying fig leaf about durability of powertrain components. Note to Jean Todt, the taciturn head of the organization — they don’t. Next year’s preliminary schedule features 21 races — the most ever — but the teams will be forced to complete the expanded format with one less engine. Beginning in 2018, they will be allowed to use only three engines for the entire season. This year’s driving champion, Lewis Hamilton, frets that next year’s car will be like driving a bus because the drivers will be forced to conserve the equipment instead of battling each other on track.

The brainiac  in charge (that would be the aforementioned M. Todt) believe it spices up the show when cars have to start from the back of the and mix it up with back markers. He couldn’t be more wrong. There aren’t more than a handful of fans who can describe the components of the current powertrains.  Motor Generating Unit — Heat? What in the name of Juan Manuel Fangio is that? 35 spot grid penalties when there are only 20 cars on the grid? Try explaining that lunacy to your friends.

The highlights of the season all involve crashes, not racing. Sebastien Vettel’s road rage incident in Azerbaijan stands out along with the ridiculous grand caramboulage at the start of the race in Singapore that saw the two Ferraris make a sandwich of Max Verstappen’s Red Bull at the first corner.

At the end of the television coverage, the NBC broadcast team waxed eloquent about the “spectacle” at the Yas Marina circuit. Colored lights, smoke, fireworks. Oh, my, it was surely something to see! Unfortunately, there was no action to see on the track, which is theoretically the point of motor racing in the first place. The director was forced to focus on the battle for 12th and 13th most of the afternoon.

Formula One is in big trouble for one reason and one reason only. There is very little actual racing taking place out one the tarmac. The promoters and muckety mucks in the luxury boxes are trying things like having Michael Buffer, the man who has made an entire career out of shouting “Let’s get ready to RUM…BULL!” at boxing and wrestling matches, bring his schtick to the pre-race ceremonies at the US Grand Prix in Austin, Texas. Whoever dreams this stuff up must have an IQ equivalent to a musk ox.

cowcatcher pinterestFormula One has been talking about “spicing up the show” for 20 years now, but things keep getting worse. More and more tracks make passing all but impossible. Aerodynamics — especially front wings that look like the cow catcher on a steam locomotive — also limit the ability of drivers to get close enough to the car ahead to pass. Instead, the sport relies on jury rigged systems like the ludicrous drag reduction system to allow some form of fake passing.

It’s that time of year when I like to take the leaders of the sport to task for being dunces. The sport needs more passing and that means less emphasis on aerodynamic downforce and more on mechanical grip. Circuits need to be redesigned to promote passing, not prohibit it. Durability rules are for dummies. Shutting the bottom teams out of sharing in the pot of gold the sport passes out each season is stupid. The smaller teams can never hope to compete if the cars at the front get to spend ten times as much money.

Many racing series use a “reward weight” system to make the racing more competitive. If you win one race, you carry a weight penalty in the next. It’s a simple, cost effective way to make sure the fans get to see some real racing. Some also use a “reverse grid” system to accomplish much the same thing. Neither costs anyone a dime but they do make the action on track more interesting for the fans.

Exciting racing makes for excited fans. Excited fans tell their friends and help grow the sport. They buy tickets to the races or watch on television. More viewers drives up ad rates which means more money for everyone. Formula One has a history of overthinking everything it does. I always goes for the most complex, insanely intricate solution when simple would do. Someone should tattoo the words “Occum’s Razon” on Jean Todt’s forehead.

If the sport has been talking about spicing up the show for 20 years or more, perhaps it’s time to admit it’s not working and it’s high time to try something else. I would humbly suggest Formula One come up with a rules package that encourages real racing. Forget the arcane world of aerodynamics. Give the fans passing and lots of it. Please, we’re begging you!

 





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  • GregS

    Yup it was a snooze fest

    • Steve Hanley

      All the drivers were complaining about the lack of passing after the race. Kimi said its was like a fuel economy run because he had to save enough fuel to finish. This is racing????

      • GregS

        Despite the inherent dangers, maybe they need to bring back refueling, or at the very least increase the fuel tank capacity substantially.

  • kvleeuwen

    This was all predicted… sad.
    Here is one “fan” that does not want louder, or even faster cars.
    In der Beschränkung zeigt sich erst der Meister.
    If they have cars that hinder cars behind less with dirty air etc, the influence of drivers get bigger. We all agree that is a good thing, right?

    Just the fact that Räikkönen was twenty seconds! slower than his teammate, but still managed to keep Verstappen behind him at 1.2 second the entire race, shows that this track was unsuitable for this sport.
    Bring in the water sprayers 🙂

  • Ed

    Rumors are flying about ways to make the sport more exciting. Earlier today, I heard about:
    1. The Jump: Unlike the old Flugplatz, The Jump would be a ramp right in front of the grandstand that allows the brave driver to truly fly – fly over, that is – a time-killing 100 meter set of curves. A lagging driver might expect to gain as much as five seconds per lap with this daredevil leap.
    2. The Windmill: Like miniature golf, a giant windmill would turn at a constant speed at the end of the main straightaway, requiring highly skilled driving to assure safe passage. It is made of solid steel.
    3. The Invert: After years of hearing that F1 cars car run on the ceiling, we are going to do it! Like The Jump, The Invert would provide a shortcut for running on an inverted surface for just about one kilometer.
    4. The Crew Lift: Pit stops will be enliven by requiring cars to enter the pits on the left and stop at a spot 100 meters from the actual pit. The crew will then lift the car and run those 100 meters to their pit for planned service.
    I will let you know when I hear more. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/79f681ee7dff5519ae1f4b8114795e7c08a156e3db4f9af68e562193cb64c453.jpg

    • Steve Hanley

      I forwarded your ideas to Chase Carey, the mustachioed ringmaster at LIberty Media. He said he thought all your ideas were too conservative. Just as he hung up, I heard him mutter something about rocket engines attached to the engine covers.

      Hell, I remember when the cars HAD no engine covers!

      • Ed

        Thanks, Steve, for making sure my concepts receive consideration. I’ve got a million more, each one better than the last.
        Damn….wouldn’t it be great to have a “run what ya brung” series, maybe the only limit being 50 gallons of fuel for 250 miles?! I still miss CanAm.

  • Damien

    I don’t follow formula one anymore, but just watched a few videos of the good old Schumacher days, man that guy knew how to drive… cars sounded so much better too.

  • C-MCC

    I hope the FIA and Liberty Media read all that because you are spot on, I’ve been obsessed with Formula 1 all my life, even though it’s insanely boring right now it’s still my favourite sport. I just want to see them RACE, not taking part in an oversized scalextric for a year.

    But I can’t help but feel the Halo is the final nail in the coffin for F1, it’s not even open cockpit anymore. Everything that made F1 thrilling is now gone, the cars are so wide and generate so much ‘dirty air’ that it’s a tall order for anyone to overtake without DRS. There’s far too many pedantic and intrusive rules that basically prohibit proper racing.

    Alot of the drivers are sooo whiny I almost get the impression they don’t even want to race properly, Anthony Davidson refers to them as ‘gladiators’, but really compared to the drivers of over a decade ago, they’re more like divas. Hamilton for example, the very second he’s not winning it’s ALWAYS the cars fault, and on the rare occasion someone does actually beat him, he just tarnishes and discredits them by blaming his car or his setup, which is funny because you don’t hear nothing from him when he’s winning!

    I could go on and on, and have done, it’s nice to rant. But if anyone from the FIA or Liberty Media has taken notice of this page then heed our words and listen to the fans! We want overtaking, a fairer or level playing field, less rules and for god sake bring the sound back! Please?! If you want to expand the F1 fanbase, THAT is how it’s done.

    • Steve Hanley

      Are we related? We could be twins!

      “Anthony Davidson refers to them as ‘gladiators’, but really compared to the drivers of over a decade ago, they’re more like divas.”

      Could not agree with you more. Can you imagine Denny Hulme or Dan Gurney coming into the pits and whining, “The car is undriveable! It has too much oversteer for my driving style!!” Learn to drive, you prima donna. Grrrrr.

      And yes, CanAm was the pinnacle of motor racing. We will never see the likes of that again, more’s the pity.