Monday, July 12, 2010

The future of Formula 1

A Proposal for the future of Formula 1

There are a number of issues that Formula 1 is trying to address right now which affects the future of the sport. Amongst these are:
  • Green initiatives
  • Future engine specs
  • Where to position F1 (as the pinnacle of technology or the pinnacle of motor racing)
  • How to improve the racing aspects
  • How to improve the event as entertainment.
  • Qualifying changes

Here are some ideas that may be applicable. Some of them might be seen, at first glance, as too big a change or as likely to slow cars too much. However, I am not intending to suggest that we should change F1 into something unrecognisable. A collection of small changes to various aspects of F1 will, in my opinion, be beneficial.

Green Initiatives

In order to bring F1 more in line with the real world it needs to be seen to be making an effort to bring in some green initiatives while still being the pinnacle of motor racing. Many commentators on 'green' engine technologies (hybrids, electric, hydrogen, bio-fuel etc) agree that in the short to medium term, modern diesel engine technology has the best chance of being both practical and efficient.

Therefore I suggest that F1 does the following:

Diesel anyone?

This may be a step too far, and the F1 world will probably opt to stick with petrol engines for the foreseeable future, but what about this?

2013 Engine spec: 2.5L Diesel V6 turbocharged and/or supercharged.

2013 Fuel spec: 90% Standard diesel, 10% bio-diesel.
2016 Fuel spec: 50% Standard diesel, 50% bio-diesel.
2020 Fuel spec: 100% bio-diesel.

Peugeot, BMW and Audi amongst others have done some remarkable things with diesel powered racing cars. The main problem for F1 would be the weight of the engine, but who knows what the future holds?

Pinnacle of racing rather than pinnacle of technology

F1, in my opinion, needs to be seen as the best drivers, driving the fastest cars, providing the best racing to be seen in the world. This can be achieved by simplifying the cars, reducing costs, reducing technology, while at the same time making the show better by improving driver input, improving overtaking opportunities and removing restrictions on racing by simplifying the rules that apply to F1.

To achieve that I suggest the following:


7 speed manual gearboxes with standard clutch.

This will:
  • Reduce costs dramatically
  • Improve overtaking, for example: drivers can be pressured into making mistakes.
  • Re-introduce the human factor.

Simpler technology

Remove driver aids such as anti-stall. Add standard, workable starter motors, perhaps tied in with KERS. This will make the cars more drivable, since the driver has more control.


Reduce aero dramatically. Smaller front wings will reduce the number of small accidents that lead to punctures and broken front wings. Less grip means more driver input is required in corners, which leads to better racing and overtaking opportunities.


Ban all exhaust involvement in aero etc. Add green initiatives such as reducing noise levels by 10Db a year for 3 - 5 years. Add a requirement to reduce emissions and collect particulate matter.


Use harder, less sticky tyres on 18 inch rims. Tyres should have a longer life, have a broader temperature sweet spot and provide less mechanical grip than current soft formulas . This will improve racing and overtaking opportunities, while making cars easier to drive in variable conditions. 18 inch rims will mean that tyres are less sensitive to low temperatures caused by safety cars and light rain. Car manufacturers will not have to spend huge amounts of time and money trying to get their cars to 'get the tyres up to temperature'.


KERS should only be considered if it can be implemented relatively simply and cheaply, and if there are more benefits than just a 'push to pass' button. If all cars have it, then that benefit rapidly diminishes, unless there are other reasons to use it. While writing this, I am struggling to think of realistic reasons to implement KERS.

Overtaking and racing

Over the last several seasons, many attempts have been made to improve the racing aspects of F1, primarily by introducing measures aimed at improving overtaking opportunities and by introducing measures aimed at spicing up the race, such as compulsory tire changes, movable wings, KERS, etc.

In the end, though, these are often arbitrarily artificial and only serve to make the cars more expensive to design and produce and more difficult to drive since the drivers are concentrating on car complexities instead of simply driving.

The current cars are very stable in corners due to high down force and high mechanical grip. The critical aspect of breaking into corners has become (to a layman's eyes) more straightforward, since changing down through the gears is almost impossible to get wrong and engine braking is probably far less relevant than it used to be since brake technology is so much better.

Current brake mechanisms seem to have an even narrower temperature sweet spot than current tires, and huge amounts of time and money are spent in getting the brakes to work effectively. This means that cars need to be 'managed' by the driver instead of being driven.

We have seen that when a team gets the tire and brake management wrong on a weekend, the car is almost impossible to drive even by the very best drivers, and other drivers can pass almost at will.

Formula 1 needs to achieve the same thing (drivers overtaking more easily), not by making the cars difficult to manage or by introducing tires that only last a few laps, but rather by making relatively simple cars (compared to current cars) perform better in the hands of better drivers and worse in the hands of lesser drivers - i.e. where it all comes down to driver skill. Naturally, the difference between two drivers of the same skill will ultimately come down to the better car, so manufacturers will still have the same incentive to produce the best cars they possibly can, and each season we will have one or two teams that obviously have the best cars.

There is another aspect to overtaking that needs to be addressed, namely leaders passing tailenders. Currently tailenders are obliged to make every effort to move out of the way, often producing the most alarmingly dangerous situations.

There has been much talk recently regarding speed differentials, but realistically, if all drivers were racing as fast as they can at all times, the speed differentials would be dramatically reduced.

The Red Bull/Lotus incident in Valencia was caused more by the two drivers not being 100% in tune with each other's intentions than by any real or imagined speed differential. If the Lotus had been simply trying to get around the corner as fast as possible on the racing line, and the Red Bull knew that, the accident would almost certainly not have happened.

The solution? Allow tailenders to drive to the best of their and their car's abilities at all times and not be expected to behave any differently when a faster cars approaches.

Blue flags are very important in order to alert the slower driver, but that is where it should end.

In years gone by, a very important aspect to a race was how the leaders were going to contend with the backmarkers, because the backmarkers did not have to jump out of the way. This definitely spiced up the 2nd half of the race. How many times have we seen races recently where the cameras barely looked at the leader/s because they were just cruising off (Mark Webber at Silverstone most recently).

In summary, the racing and overtaking opportunities can be maximised by the following:
  • Manual gearboxes with standard clutches and gear shifts (stick shifts rather than semi automatic paddles)
  • Reduced aerodynamic down force and reduced mechanical grip from tires, requiring drivers to have more input.
  • Simpler brake technology that works in a broader range of situations, leading to greater reliance on engine braking.
  • No blue flag overtaking requirements.


Many current rules have been put in place to improve safety. Blue flag overtaking, chicanes etc. Several high profile crashes in recent years have shown that cars are extremely safe, even in the most horrific high speed crashes.

We don't want horrific crashes, but it may be time to relax some of these rules, especially those that artificially affect racing opportunities.

Qualifying: Move timing positions

In qualifying, and perhaps in the practice sessions as well, move the start/end of lap timing position from the starting grid to a few hundred meters before the pit entrance. e.g. at three quarter distance around the lap.

This will allow a car to do a three quarter lap 'out lap', a full 'hot lap', and a quarter lap 'in lap', in effect removing one full slow lap where the car is potentially balking other drivers. Drivers will be able to do more hot laps in qualifying and will reduce engine and tire wear.