Is it time to give up on Formula 1?

Monday, 18/05/2009 ≅10:28 ©brainycat

Formula 1 bills itself as the pinnacle of motorsport. At various times during it's modern life it has featured the most advanced technology, the best drivers, the highest prizes, the largest exposure, the most hallowed venues, the best racing, the best teamwork and the best engineering. But how many of these crowns can F1 claim today?

The world is facing an economic crisis. F1 is not immune to it's effects, and we see fewer sponsors on the cars and some more longtime sponsors will be withdrawing after their contracts expire this year, leaving some teams (especially Renault) in a very real lurch. The fact is, racing costs money, and racing at the very tip of the pointed end of the stick costs the most money. The sport cannot deny that changes must be made to support "the circus". The owners of the brand, Bernie Ecclestone and his compatriot at the FIA Max Mosely, have a vision of a show where a minimal (in relative terms) investment gets you a couple of spots on the grid, hoping the mix'n'match approach creates interest in the fans.

The teams want to spend as much money as possible, shaving every hundredth of a second off the laps in their pursuit of victory and glory. The drivers want to make the same multimillion dollar salaries that drivers have enjoyed for the last several years. The manufacturers teams want to employ vast armies of engineers and technicians to crank out parts machined to the specifications of each track. When their cars are winning, they are in front of the cameras, making the investment payoff for the sponsors.

Ultimately, any sport is doomed if it can't appeal to the fans. Max and Bernie seem to be taking a cue from the United States and the popularity of Nascar, and trying to turn F1 into an open wheeled, twisty track schizoid bastard child of Nascar and A1. They say that the racing is too technical, that too much of the final results are the result of "invisible" technology the fans never see. I'm sorry Bernie, but would could possibly be more visceral than the tones of two unique engines screaming life while the two cars, each representing a different set of engineering comprimises, twist over and under each other fighting for the apex of the final corner before the straight? I am going to agree in principle, that too much of what the teams are doing is kept secret. But there are ways to make the details real to the users. Explain the differences in aerodynamic comprimises with graphic overlays showing the airflow over the straights. Use the telepens and slow motion replay to show the different suspension setups as the cars brake and dart around the corners. Spend time with the pit crew before and after the race, letting working class folk like myself learn about what life is like for the working stiffs in the paddock.

The technology isn't invisible, the producers of the TV show don't want to jeapordize their precious profit margin to make them visible. They don't want to pay for broadcasters who can make it real, and graphic overlays to explain what's happening. What good is having a favorite team if they all drive the same car? F1 fans want to root for the esprit d' corps that matches their own values, the cars that make the same comprises they'd make, and the drivers that remind them of the best of themselves.

Limiting the budgets would irrevocably dilute the brand. The sponsors who put their sticker on an F1 car are paying to have their name associated with the pinnacle of technology. By limiting the amount of development the teams can do the sport will become a parody of itself and the laughingstock of the racing community. Neither are conducive to good brand building. If a team can't drive the technology forward, they shouldn't be racing at the top of the heap. If this limits a certain number of teams, so be it. Let the remaining teams race more cars - which will create the added benefit of reducing the cost per car.

The technology used in F1 needs to be relevant to what the manufacturers can export to their consumer brands. Additionally, technologies focused on fuel efficiency need to be allowed. This means turbos and/or superchargers, electronic fuel injection and timing, traction control and emissions control. While some of these technologies will certainly speed the cars (as if there's something wrong with that), requiring filters on the exhaust will take a lot of the speed back. While it's probably a good idea that the Electronic Control Unit is homologated, the teams need to be able to develop their own software for it. What do all these 'driver aids' mean? It means that at the pinnacle of the sport, being a racing driver means a lot more than pointing the wheels and stomping the pedals. At the pinnacle of the sport, a driver is required to track more information and make more adjustments while handling extreme physical stresses.

Creating a two-tier system would dilute the competition. Would we need to put asterisks next to all the results in the record books? *DriverA won the championship, with bigger engines and more revs. That's not a path that's done any sport well, especially motorsport. The two-tier system would be even more complicated to the "vast, illiterate, uncaring" masses of fans to which Ecclestone keeps referring. If the drivers are supposed to be the most important, why does he keep looking for technical solutions?

If Ecclestone and company get their way, F1 won't be worth watching, for me at least. I will probably start watching FIM and touring cars instead. I hope F1 works itself out; the other races don't have the ancillary magazines, tv coverage, etc that allows those of us in .us to keep up with what's happening in leagues that turn both directions.

FIA rules on diffusers

Wednesday, 15/04/2009 ≅09:10 ©brainycat

I've already said everything I have to say about the diffuser issue.

I'm ECSTATIC that the FIA ruling has finally come down on the side of common sense. This does little for "cost saving" - but oh well. Plenty of really smart and talented people get to work overtime redesigning cars this year. We get to see some big money and big talent struggle to keep up, which will serve to flush out any weak links in their respective chains and really show us what all that money is good for.

It's like a cataclysmic asteroid hitting a planet: kinda sucks until the new equilibrium is established, but it's anyone's game while the whole system is shaken up.

The Melbourne Race

Sunday, 29/03/2009 ≅01:52 ©brainycat


After seeing BraWn GP's pace all weekend, the only really surprising part of their performance was Barrichello's stall at the beginning. Piqued? Read on...

45 minutes until the spectacle begins…

Thursday, 26/03/2009 ≅21:50 ©brainycat

F1 TV season in .us begins in 45 minutes. I will probably be asleep; I have to be at work stupidly early in the morning. I'm so excited; it's funny how at the end of a season it feels like it's going to be forever until the racing starts, but when it does finally start it seems like last season just ended a couple of weeks ago. Piqued? Read on...

the first good reason to buy an iphone

Tuesday, 17/03/2009 ≅14:44 ©brainycat

I finally found the killer app for the iphone.

More New Rule Changes for F1

Tuesday, 17/03/2009 ≅10:41 ©brainycat

The FIA has changed the rules for winning a championship. The driver with the most race wins gets the championship, ties decided by points. This is basically a flip from the former system based on points and ties decided by victories. The constructor's championship still works strictly on points.

I feel mixed about this. Piqued? Read on...

2009 F1 Rule Changes Explained, Again

Monday, 02/03/2009 ≅16:52 ©brainycat

So what do you do with a world class serverfarm that's prohibited by "cost cutting measures" from working on the fluid dynamics you bought it for? You make CGI! Kudos to Red Bull for putting this beautiful little gem together. Being the sort of kid who was great at painstakingly taking things apart, but not so good at putting them back together, I really appreciate the exploded views. Piqued? Read on...

F1 2009 Links are up

Monday, 02/03/2009 ≅12:42 ©brainycat

Well, I was trying to hold out until Honda had a buyer, but it's not happening fast enough.  So I've finished my Formula One links for 2009.  You should definitely check out the video for the new Yas Marina circuit in Abu Dhabi.

Ecclestone Admits to Hemorraghing F1 Money

Saturday, 14/02/2009 ≅00:07 ©brainycat

Bernie Ecclestone has done an amazing job for the F1 sport. Unfortunately, that work was all some time ago in an era long past. While there are still several people involved in various aspects of F1 management who have been around as long as he has, these other people have had to prove their mettle every race day. Bernie has the luxury of sitting on his throne, accountable to the FIA but unchallenged by competition. Ruling by fiat, he has long been both complacent and a force of stagnation and boring, orthodox thinking and outdated business acumen.

In an article posted at, he finally admits one of the grave mistakes he's made recently. He's sold all the local distribution rights via any medium to the TV broadcasters. What a fool. Only someone as out of touch with the world as he is could have made such a grave mistake. Whatever you feel about Mosely, at least he has enough brain cells to make a synapse:

"Just think for one moment - on the one side you could have all the archives, all the practice times, all the four (timing screen) pages and everything that is available to the teams. A camera in every garage, a camera in every public area of the motorhomes, a camera in all areas of the paddock. They would be all there and there on site.

"On top of that, if you have some good software writers you could sit at home and join in the race. And there would be the race, and you would be in the middle of it...socking it to Lewis Hamilton for pole position. It is all there to be done.

That is exactly what I've been talking about for years. The data is generated, the bandwidth exists to distribute it from every track. I would pay much money to have those feeds available, and more if they're archived so I can access them at my convenience and review past races at my discretion. F1 is the greatest worldwide spectacle in sport, and with so many facets: the technology, the personalities, the financing and best of all the racing, there's no reason why the FIA can't be making bank from fans like me.

Great F1 clip

Friday, 30/05/2008 ≅18:18 ©brainycat

Smithers found a fantastic clip of the mealy-mouthed short guy from Top Gear spending a day working up from the ranks of Formula Renault's impressive array of championship cars all the way to F1. He hangs out with the Renault team and they put him in a series of progressively faster cars until ultimately he does two laps in an F1 (circa early 2k). All the assists are clearly running at at 100%, and he still manages to let it get away from him a couple of times. I never see him hit 4gear, but he's screaming like a little girl down all the straights nonetheless.

This is THE clip to show non-F1 people why F1 is such an amazing sport. It so clearly demonstrates just how amazingly advanced those machines are, while highlighting the superhuman effort it takes to squeeze the most out of the machinery. Simply brilliant.