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Formula One's big mistake. If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

Publication: 
Bryan Edwards
chiefofficersnet

F1 is making a bad mistake. Recent racing shows exactly why.

If it ain't broke, don't fix it; let well alone, and such phrases come to mind.

Oh, Honda. What a rubbish decision when you said you were pulling out of Formula One.

But it's not your fault, you crazy cats, it's the fault of F1 which argues for cost caps and then creates additional huge expense. Companies like you that have invested hundreds of millions of pretty much any currency you can think of except bitcoin looked at that sunk investment and said "enough is enough."

But you've taken an unreliable chunk of metal that you put in the back of the McLaren and which was taken, with a brave face, by Red Bull when its options were closing down, and now it's the best engine on the grid. But only for now.

Honda is not the only one making hard choices: HAAS can't develop this year's car and next so it's just running around at the back this year hoping for better things next season. But those teams that are developing their chassis and aero are finding pace, reliability and a new competitive edge.

In fact, all the signs are that Red Bull, McLaren and Mercedes will be battling it out at the front with the Red Bull Junior (I've given up trying to remember how to spell its official name and I'm bored looking it up) team and Mercedes coming up quickly. And then there's Williams: fighting a solo battle, Russell is dragging the car far beyond its obvious capability as his team-mate Latifi seems to be making a proper effort to fall off the back of the grid which he can't but only because the two HAAS cars are propping it up. At McLaren, Ricciardo seems to warm to the car as the race goes on. Aston Martin are bumbling around somewhere near Ferrari. Alfa Romeo are just baffling, good battles, good speed, rubbish results.

Let's put this all into perspective - and bear in mind that for the purposes of this point, DRS is neutralised because everyone can use it at any time.

The single factor that is making the difference is not the tyres - they are a leveller; it's stability in the cars' design and development. And as very little development is going on, the even more amazing thing is that it's the mechanics "fettling" the machines that is turning blunt instruments into scalpels and, even more importantly, by keeping design steady, the drivers can learn the cars properly, not having to learn a new car each race.

Let's put this into perspective: in qualifying for the Austrian grand prix this year, there were 18 cars within one second of the leader. When Honda was with McLaren, Jenson Button was almost always around 2.6 seconds behind in qualifying. To bring the whole field together, and not all playing catch-up but actually at the pointy end, is exactly what F1 needs.

Earlier this season, cars in the points were lapping three seconds a lap behind the leaders in the race. That was down to under a second for much of the Austrian Grand Prix for far more cars than we might have expected.

There are still the problems of following cars slowly but they are much reduced. The central problem for Lewis Hamilton in the past two races is that his car has not been the fastest.

So why are we here? Two reasons: the first is that we had two races on the same track so lessons learned in Austria 1 were useful in Austria 2. The second is that the new cars were supposed to be brought in this year but were delayed by the CoVid-19 restrictions and teams have had time to properly develop, without any major rule changes, the cars from, now, more than two years ago.

So, if we put all of this together what we really need is this:

1. DRS to be available at all times in the dry and not at all if it's not dry. Or get rid it all together.

2. If DRS is used, that it is used when cars are MORE THAN 1 second behind so that the field closes up.

3. Immediately announce that the new cars will be introduced in 2015 and that there will be optional two-hour test sessions for those cars on Saturday morning at six grands prix in each of 2013 and 2014. That spreads the cost of development and allows for everyone to be in more or less the same place by the start of the 2015 season. If we don't we'll get another two or three years were the big teams (whoever they are under that regime) dominate.

4. More back to back races at the same tracks. That might sound stupid but Singapore has turned a three day F1 event into a week-long music, arts and conference event at which the race is largely irrelevant: no nearby event can compete with it on the weekend following because there is too much incentive to stay in SIN. Other, larger cities where the track is out of town could greatly benefit from having a week bracketed by two big events to support the enormous costs of running an F1 event, at least the enormous costs in pre-pandemic times. Now F1 is being far more reasonable on what it demands from promoters. Also, because travel is reduced, team members can fly their families to spend time between those races, which will reduce the stresses on teams that are now heading towards NASCAR etc. series but with far more distance and time zones to contend with. In the USA, almost everyone is home by Monday morning.

So F1's owners, the FIA and track owners seem to have some pretty easy decisions to make.

All they need to do is realise that, by accident, they have ended up on the right course. As Americans would say, they have "lucked into" a winning formula.

So do it. Announce it in the summer break and let's see this fantastic turnaround in the sport continue.

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