Saturday, June 20, 2015

The sad state of Formula 1

I've been a passionate fan of Formula 1 for over 30 years. I've been to F1 races at Spa, Monza and Indy. I've walked the track at Monaco. When I was in hospital last year and woke up from a three month coma, the first thing I watched were the F1 races I had missed. I worship the drivers, engineers and teams that make those magical cars work so amazingly fast. Like many I've frequently been challenged to understand the mercurial leadership and hazy rules. As those rules have increased in scope with each season we now find ourselves in a sport where 11 different teams spend hundreds of millions of dollars and toil to build cars that that are essentially identical to each other. Innovation is stifled and the show suffers accordingly.

This year I've reached the end of my rope. Between the useless fuel limits and draconian penalties to the senseless prohibition on "Driver coaching" over the radio, Bernie and the team have lost the plot. And they have finally lost me. For tomorrow's Austrian GP some drivers must serve a 25 grid spot penalty for changing engine components. A stiff penalty for sure, but a little silly given that there are only 22 cars in the race.

As a replacement I'm really enjoying watching the World Endurance Championship. It offers the close racing and the engineering innovation that makes racing worth watching for me. The cars are the stars and the rules are open enough to encourage teams to try all sorts of different approaches. At the 24 Hours of Le Mans I watched the V6 turbo diesel Audis dice with the gasoline powered 4 cylinder turbo Porsches and V8 Toyotas. Add to that mix the craziest car in years, the front engine/front drive Nissan and you have about every possible vehicle configuration covered. I love it.

It's taken a few events and a little research to understand the classes, specification and teams but I'm now pretty much up to speed - so to speak. I can't wait for the next event.


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