With this weekends grandly named ‘2017 Formula 1 Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix’ on show at the ostentatious and colourful but, apart from two featureless straights, painfully slow car park that is Yas Marina being the last Grand Prix of the 2017 season, talk will soon intensify about the very future of the sport.
Incidentally, the Yas Marina complex sited on a sea of concrete and reportedly the most expensive track ever built costing an estimated $1.4 BILLION, was built on a man made island in an attempt to recreate the romance and mystique of the Monaco Grand Prix.
It is very apparent that this ostentatious plan failed with real romance linked heavily to history and heritage rather than pure dollars, but building an island for a sports stadium seems a novel idea doesn’t it?
Perhaps Auckland should try it!
The future of the sport has already had some serious meetings and discussions thrown at it centred mainly on proposals by the sports owners – Liberty Media – and led by the Formula One Managing Director of Motorsports, Ross Brawn.
Brawn knows a thing or two about the sport from an engineering and mechanical point of view as well as a fantastic grasp of the financial aspects of running teams, both large and small.
Predictably he has already come up against considerable opposition from the big spenders in the paddock and those discussions, set around the form a Formula 1 ‘Power Unit’ will take from 2021 onwards and budget caps, will drag on interminably.
These things do in this ‘pinnacle’ of the sport.
Perhaps to attract more fans other things need to be addressed, like how to run the race weekend and how to make things a little more interesting.
We had a few ideas pushed forward over the years by that mastermind of Machiavellian mischief Mr. Ecclestone of course.
Gold Medals in the Olympic fashion instead of points and sudden timed water sprinklers soaking some parts of the track randomly being just two of his gems.
Perhaps taking some parts of other series would work.
In Rallycross there is something called a ‘Joker lap’.
Once every race a driver is allowed to take his Joker lap by leaving the normal track and taking a slightly shorter route that cuts off a corner and saves a couple of seconds on the lap time. That would cure the problem of a slightly faster F1 car getting stuck behind a very slightly slower car.
In NASCAR they now have the races split into three parts with the winner of the each part given points as well as points for the race winner at race end. That would at least help the Renault and Honda powered cars to get points during the race before their engines expired.
The reverse grid idea continues to be raised but how about a partially reversed grid as is used in the Toyota Racing Series here in NZ? Just the first six, eight or ten cars, randomly selected, after qualifying.
We just love to see the likes of Hamilton, Ricciardo or Verstappen coming through the field don’t we?
In some sportscar racing and the British Touring Car Championship, the use of a ‘success ballast’ acts as a performance equaliser with the most successful cars getting ballast added to their cars on a sliding scale, depending on results.
That would slow those Mercedes down a bit!
Formula 1 could get very complicated and introduce an IndyCar style of points system.
1 point for pole position, 1 point for leading at least one lap, 2 points for the most laps led and then points all the way down to thirty-third position, or in the case of Formula 1, twentieth position.
Oh yes, then double points for two ‘flagship’ races during the year, the Indy 500 (perhaps in F1 that could be the Monaco Grand Prix) and the last event of the year.
That would all be easy to follow wouldn’t it?
Perhaps Brawn should take a look back to the future and re-introduce refuelling mid race.
That would certainly spice things up a bit but that activity was dropped from the sport for good reasons and not all of those reasons were centred around cost. With the much maligned, unattractive, and clumsy ‘halo’ cockpit protection device coming to a race track near you soon, refuelling should take a big step back into the history books and remain there never to be seen again.
I fully expect none of the above to be a part of Formula One Racing of the future and for that I am eternally grateful.
The points system, the race tracks (by and large but with the occasional exception) and the general health of the sport is doing just nicely thank you.
Without doubt some measures have to be taken to address the power unit reliability situation, the subsequent grid penalty system and the lack of overtaking, but those things are obvious to all, despite the wrangling and horse trading, the threats and tub thumping and the carefully worded press statements from some quarters.
One leaf that Liberty Media, as the sports owners, should take from NASCAR is the simple fact that they ARE the owners and as any owner of any franchise or business things should come down to the “My Way or Highway” method of management. A method that has worked for many years for the France family, owners of NASCAR.
Call me a seditious rebel if you like but I do have one more novel, perhaps radical, even revolutionary idea to improve the sport.
How about Ross Brawn, Liberty Media, the FIA, the Technical Working Group or whichever is the relevant organisation charged with such things, going about introducing compulsory aerodynamic design parameters that allow and demand that drivers can actually overtake each other, while racing in close quarters and without the use of a flappy opening device on the rear wing.
This last race of the season has major implications for at least three teams.
The last three Grands Prix have been a little bit like a getting to know you period for Brendon Hartley (more accustomed to an aircraft seat than a Formula 1 car seat) and Toro Rosso but this weekend there is a very definite job for him and teammate Pierre Gasly to work on.
The all important Constructors championship may be done and dusted at the sharp end of the grid but there is a very serious battle going on midfield and one that is potentially worth many millions of dollars in end of season earnings.
Sixth place in the championship, currently held by Toro Rosso, is a mere six points away from eighth place currently held by the HAAS team with the Renault team sandwiched in between but the difference in dollar terms is huge.
Some fifteen million US dollars to be more precise.
In the last five races Toro Rosso have scored just one point and it will be up to both Hartley and Gasly to turn that situation around to ensure that their new team remains mid table with the benefits that will bring in the future.
Providing of course that their respective Renault power units decide to show up for the entire weekend and not cry “enough” before the battle is over.