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F1: Here's our 2020 vision to revitalise the sport. 5

Publication: 
Bryan Edwards
chiefofficersnet

Here we are at the last part of this five part series on reform of Formula One from 2020 to improve the spectacle, decrease the cost (and so allow more entrants) and to keep the competitive spirit alive for both the manufacturers' and drivers' championship, while not touching on the commercial aspects of the sport.

To read the previous four parts, click on 2020 Vision in the tags list.

1. Reform tyre rules and compounds.

Compulsory tyre changes put control of the race in the hands of strategists and, even, tyre companies. By definition, these changes take control away from engineers and drivers who are, with all respect to all the other skill-sets, the two roles who, come race day, are at the pointy end. Eliminating compulsory tyre changes puts strategy back in its rightful place at pre-race rather then intra-race.

Tyre compounds must be specified so that that a single set is capable of lasting an entire race distance without noticeable surface degradation i.e. so they do not produce marbles in any appreciable quantity. Tyre life must not suffer a significant drop-off for race distances. That means they must last, with similar performance throughout, for 200 miles regardless of the track surface. But, of course, they will wear and there will be performance advantages in a tyre change especially if conditions change: for example, a race that starts in cool conditions might benefit from a softer tyre but if it becomes much hotter, a harder tyre may prove more durable. What this will mean is that strategy will continue to play a part but a relatively minor part, leaving racers to race.

The bottom line is that we don't want to hear any more messages from the pit lane to a struggling driver saying "don't engage with x, we are racing y" when y is on another part of the circuit.

However, we should not ban tyre changes: let the teams change them without having to explain that a tyre is damaged, flat-spotted or any one of the many excuses teams would come up with if changes were banned unless there was a cause.

2. Blue Flags

Blue Flags are an essential part of racing where some drivers and cars have vastly different performance to others and that always has been and is likely to always be the case in most classes of racing. But the blue flag rule as it is applied in Formula One (and related) races is not the same as in other series. In other series, the blue flag simply says "you are going to be lapped: do not impede the leaders." In F1, that has been turned into "you are going to be lapped, get out of the way of the leaders." The difference is that the leaders swoop through and gain an additional advantage. While I do not advocate, as some do, the system in the USA where there are no blue flags and leaders have to cope with back markers who, deliberately or not, obstruct them, I do say that it should be the leaders' job to pass the back marker as they would any other car.

The result of this change is that the back markers, who have paid just as much to be at the event as the leaders and are doomed to earn far less from their appearance, would not be further disadvantaged by losing time moving off-line nor by getting marbles on their tyres. And the leaders would have to earn their money just a little bit more.

3. Team orders

F1 is a team sport and the ban, several years ago, on team orders was an affront to the sport. If people are dumb enough to bet on a race, they should not be able to influence the sport by reason of their own stupidity. It was a welcome reversal when team orders were re-introduced. But team orders should not be secret. Where team orders are given, they should be in plain English, not code, and they should be made available to the viewing public and media.

4. Refuelling during the race should, as now, be not permitted.

5. Cars

Teams should be permitted to enter two specifications for their cars for the season: one for short tracks and one for long tracks. Let the teams decide whether a track is long or short on s race by race basis. This would enable them to elect which of two aero packages they would run on any given track.

Car specification should be fixed by the teams at the start of the season and again at the summer break. No in-season development can be attached to the car except at those times, including aero and engine/gearbox. New entrants (manufacturers and teams) have unrestricted development in their two seasons.

The car regulations should be fixed for periods of three years. Regulation changes should have a minimum two years' notice.

The old RAC regulations for karting (maybe they are still the same) were very clear on how regulations would be applied and in doing so, they made it clear that there was very little room for manoeuvre outside the parameters specified. There was an excellent phrase in their book "If the regulations don't say it's permitted, you should assume that it's not." F1 could learn a lot from that approach because it would save a vast amount of development funds. So long as the technical regulations are properly phrased, then there is less likely to be a development race where large amounts are spent on adding or subtracting little wings.

6. Grid Penalties for components.

For many reasons, the current system of grid penalties for component changes is silly: one of the silliest aspects is that, once a penalty is taken for one unit, some teams have worked out that they can make, in effect, free changes to other components. In this way, component changes have become part of a strategy that affects not only the current race but the whole season. Also, to penalise the driver when the problem is with his supplier (i.e. the team) is unfair. It's far better to order the team to pay a fine. Let's be clear: in 2017, the teams that have had the most penalties are (excluding McLaren but that's a different story) the leading teams. They are, obviously, pushing development in ways that the teams lower down the order cannot. If the cost of that development was compounded with fines, then they are less likely to play so close to the technical margins. So, three of each component for the first half of the season and the same for the second (with no carry forward), regardless of which specification is used, would be enough and beyond that, say, euro200,000 fine for new major components e.g. the engine and gearbox (except for demonstrable crash damage) and euro100,000 for e.g. the MGUK and other components beyond that original allocation of three per half-season.

While gearbox electronics are set for the season, in-season ratio changes should be permitted.

The engine and gearbox, etc. allocation, applies to the driver, whichever specification he is driving.

Aero packages may be different on the two car specifications but changes to aero packages are permitted only after the summer break.

7 Aero / DRS

Restrictions on the aerodynamics to reduce their angle of attack and the amount of air that the car may displace should be introduced. There is an argument for allowing a degree of ground-effect to replace limited on-body aero-dynamic aids. Once the air behind cars is less disturbed, there should be no need for DRS for that purpose and, if cars are more "slippery" then reducing drag by opening the rear wing should be unnecessary, too. Therefore DRS can be avoided.

8. Wet sessions.

The recent trends in relation to wet sessions, including the race, is not good enough. Tracks must be capable of draining water away without it running across the track or ponding. Surfaces must be designed to provide grip in the wet - the recent changes to the lamented Sepang, Malaysia, track made remarkable improvements. Others should learn - and should also learn that metal fatigue and/or corrosion can set into bolts on drain covers. Three grades of wet tyres should be available - the current set plus the old "monsoon tyres." Engines should be required to have a "wet setting" that down-tunes the engines during a declared wet race. Races should not be started or run behind the safety car due to rain. If it is too dangerous to race, then the cars should return to the pits.

9. Race weekends - structure.

And now the big changes to how the racing itself is organised. On Friday, there should be free running for two hours in the morning and two hours in the afternoon, the latter session to start at the same time of day as the race. Drivers' times from the afternoon session should be recorded so that, if they are unable to take part in or to finish qualifying, their best practice time can be referred to.

On Saturday morning, there should be a one hour free practice, the times for which are not available for cross-referencing for qualifying.

On Saturday afternoon, qualifying is radically different and so is its purpose. The purpose is to make sure that a car and driver are fit to qualify. Qualifying will not determine grid positions. Under Vision 2020, qualifying is to be a time-trial with specific start times allocated by ballot. In the event of a delay due to e.g. a car stopped on track or a previous car using its permitted pit-break as noted below, all subsequent start times are pushed back by the minimum number of minutes required. There should be one car on track at any one time. There should be two "out laps" (the car can come in after the first but must leave the pits within 90 seconds of entering or be excluded from the session). There should then be two fast laps without a break, return to pits on lap 5. As an alternative to the fixed start time, when a car is on his "in lap" i.e. lap 5, the next car should begin his first "out lap" 30 seconds after the previous car finishes his last lap.

In this way, no car gets the benefit of a "tow" and equally does not suffer the penalty of dirty air or a slowing car in his way. In the case of a crash/mechanical failure, the driver will have no restart. The allocated qualifying order should be adhered to with no changing. To ensure that no team avoids qualifying in order to rely on their Friday time, points will be awarded for qualifying performance. The first ten get points: ten points down to one, with the same points system applying to constructors and drivers.

If a car is unable to complete qualifying, its performance in the Friday afternoon session may be taken into account for the purpose of the 107% rule (only cars and drivers that have demonstrated an ability to record a lap time of within 107% of the fastest car in qualifying shall be permitted to enter, unless there are extenuating circumstances).

On Sunday, F1 should capitalise on the one good thing that has come out of engine penalties: that sometimes the fastest drivers in the best cars have to start at the back. We have seen some startlingly good performances as a result. But what we don't want to see is drivers (and their strategists) trying to manipulate qualifying to end up at the front, which is, to a degree, what happens in some two-races-per-weekend series. In fact there is a simple approach: cars start in the reverse order of the championship standings, not in the order determined by the time trial. For the first race of the season, drivers start in the reverse order of the previous year's championship.

10. Points

The points system has been through a number of revisions. For some years, the top six earned points from six down to one. That was changed to the top six earning ten down to one with gaps in between. Then it was changed to the current system where, frankly, it's all far too confusing, especially at the end of the year. Bit numbers of points are so American and eventually cease to have meaning. The points should be simple:

First: 10 points
Second: 8 points
Third: 6 points
Fourth: 4 points
Fifth: 2 points
Sixth: 1 point

The same points system should apply to both constructors and drivers.

Having said that, there should be one more points allocation: two points to the driver (not the team) for the fastest time of the day during the race, so ensuring that drivers keep driving their best right to the end in case someone else snatches those points.

11. Enforce track limits

The current inconsistency of enforcement of track limits raises justifiable concerns over favouritism. The rules are simple but have been diluted in practice by, for example, "gaining an advantage." No, keep it simple: if a car leaves the track, give a warning on the first occasion and on the second occasion apply a one second stop go penalty within two laps. The technology is present to provide the evidence. The only case in which the penalty would not apply is where one car forces another off the track or where the car runs wide and does not do so in the ordinary course of racing.

And here's the good thing: nothing in this increases costs, it increases track time, it reduces development costs and creates racing. And it makes drivers who habitually put all four wheels over the white line to realise that the rules apply to them, too.