Picture the scene please. F1 HQ: All the money men going a troubling shade of grey when they look into the coffers and see that the piles of gold that lined the caskets are all gone! Regardless of the boa-constrictor-like contractual wording that the poison dwarf (Oh my goodness, you can’t say that! Actually, let me check with the lawyers…. Ed.) had tied the worldwide circuits up in, you can’t make any money when the world is shut!
The realisation seems to be setting in that the world managed without F1 and didn’t really miss it. After Monza and 8 rounds into this odd and spectatorless season, said money men are shaking their heads disbelievingly as they look into the abyss of financial oblivion. At this point the mind-bending hallucinogenic coffee they were all drinking must have kicked in because someone piped up…
“Let’s put the slowest at the front and the quickest at the back, a reverse grid!!! It will spice up the races ’cos everyone needs reminding how good F1 is and with Mercedes dominating we need spectacle. It will be like Wacky Races on TV, remember? That was good entertainment!”
The Work of an Evil Genius or Total Madman?
The biggest surprise about this bonkers scheme is that whoever came up with it still has a job! That the idea even made it out of the equivalent of Blofeld’s lair (for those under 35, look it up!) and finally that the notion even seems to be gathering momentum….clearly the madcap scheme of a crazy person – not to be confused with an evil genius! No-one in their right mind (that I have come across) thinks that it is a good idea. Unless you want to see millions of dollars’ worth of race car pieces scattered across the track and the reputation of this great sport in tatters?
Everyone wants to see a competitive F1 race, great spectator entertainment and the best driver winning on merit, all in a neat little package like the old days. But the fact that two out of three of those are not happening is a result of the rules that are in place. It is not a reason to try and spice up the action by creating an artificial situation. Or is it?
The Handicap Race
DRS, the Drag Reduction System, has been a phenomenal success. It recreated overtaking, which was all but impossible previously because of the rule makers. If you like overtaking then BINGO, if you like overtaking on merit then perhaps you are not so keen because DRS leaves the overtakee almost powerless to respond when the overtaker has been granted 15kph advantage. Here’s a great little blog to explain how it all works.
Going to tyres now. In the race, each F1 car must use 2 compounds of tyre. This is to prevent teams from favouring only the fastest, most suitable compound for their car and the circuit. Invariably there is one compound that suits a car and one that does not. This means teams need to strategize more effectively but is rather like drugging a racehorse halfway ‘round the course. All to spice up the action!
In the good old US of A they are completely blatant about the “show”. The customer comes first, entertainment rules, so the yellow flag and the pace car are used “strategically” as well as for incidents. Is that what we want for F1?
Playing the Advantage
Personally, I think the only good idea in this arena is the cost cap. There is no such thing as a level playing field in any sport, but there is a duty to try and make things competitive for all. More money equals more budget for research, more budget for test teams, more budget for more people to do more research and so on and so on. It is my opinion that limiting the money will not stop the best teams from staying at the top, but it may, no, should, keep the disparity smaller.
Where does that leave Racing Point F1 in 2020? They got into a boat-load of trouble by knocking on the door of Mercedes and saying “please can we have your special brakey bit – we only need it for a little testing?”. Was that the product of a self-imposed cost cap? (because there was no more money from Mr Stroll?). I don’t think so. I think that is a clever person reading the rules, finding a loophole and running with it. That doesn’t take pot loads of money or a cost cap. That takes thought and application! A quick plug here – these are just the things we talk to our students about on the National Motorsport Academy programmes. Engineering is about finding creative solutions for old problems.
So, back to the Reverse Grid idea. Actually, I am going to finish there because I really don’t want to give the idea any further column inches or thought. Instead I am going to give the lunatics the keys to the asylum, as it feels a safer bet. We can all wait and watch the carnage that ensues, which will be entertaining but will almost certainly turn the sport into a further farce!
Until next time…….