Well – it has been a long time since my last blog entry, but now, with all the assignments and assessments for my nursing degree course firmly behind me (thankfully), I can now get back to spending some time writing F1 again…
And what an eventful year it has been! Starting with the absolute shambles of ‘elimination qualifying’ which had all the excitement of a Bernie Ecclestone Christmas party (I can only speculate about that to be honest), through some more awful, knee-jerk responses to problems as they arise, to an exciting climax to an absorbing Championship battle, finally culminating in the switch of ownership to Liberty Media and Chase Carey in December.
Now first thing I will make clear, no matter what is said here about Bernie, I still hold the utmost respect for him as a businessman – he is a shrewd operator who took Formula 1 and moulded it into the sport that I know and love today, and for that I salute him. However, as I alluded to several years ago in a previous blog, a change of personnel at the top was long overdue and absolutely vital to continue the progression which Formula 1 has seen over the last 50 years.
The era of Bernie is over. Unfortunately for him, the world has moved towards an internet age of digital and social media, and Formula 1 – the pinnacle of innovation and technical advancement – is still miles behind in this respect. This is because Bernie rejected its value and importance, which ultimately has to be considered as his downfall.
But this is not the only reason, and 2016 had so many decisions typical of the faults in F1 recently. For me, the ability of the FIA to change rules and regulations more often than they change their underwear has just made the whole thing farcical. The constant rule-changing has led to far too much power from the top teams with the most money and the most to gain from strategically changing rules. As soon as something doesn’t go their way, its straight to the stewards and the media which, as the press and Sky Sports in particular is so good at, gets over-dramatised and sensationalised to the point that every minor detail is up for debate and alteration. What other sport changes its rules so much during a season? Not one. Yes, this is a highly innovative sport which benefits from a certain level of regulation alteration, however the line must be drawn somewhere.
The buck must stop with the FIA. But in order for this to happen, they need to stop pandering to pressure from teams – don’t get me wrong, it is important for teams to speak out as they are experts so there can be a lot of truth in their arguments, however the FIA must take anything said with a pinch of salt. At the end of the day, this is a sport and all teams have an agenda to win at all costs, and they will always argue for what suits their team best – and so they should! It is up to the FIA and the owners to separate these agendas from the real issues and do what is best for Formula 1, not just the top teams.
It is also important that the FIA stop preaching safety in Formula 1 and start acting on it holistically across all decisions. They have made a big splash about this ‘halo’ cockpit protection (which many doubt the effectiveness of) and then they limit radio messages to the point where at last year’s European GP in Baku we saw Lewis Hamilton trying to drive an F1 car through a tight street circuit whilst frantically pressing every button on his steering wheel trying to restore power. Yes, this tests the driver’s ability, but if the FIA want to improve safety, they must start with doing the basics right before jumping to more complex, poorly thought out solutions. Granted, the radio ban has since been lifted, but only after a great deal of pressure, and my point is that these knee-jerk reactions of introducing unsafe regulations at a time that they say they’re trying to make the sport safer are symptomatic of the problems in Formula 1 right now.
And then there’s the tyre arguments. Continuing to put drivers on tyres which drop-off far too quickly when they are pushed, extreme wet tyres which (judging by the number of safety car starts and red flags seen in 2016 for rain) do not work in the extreme wet – it only reinforces this twisted logic that we have been living in for the last few years. I am 100% behind safety in Formula 1, but I am for effective, well-thought out, pioneering solutions. Not a glorified thong. NB – I would say yes to the aeroscreen, if proved as effective as it looks.
But – to the future!! This blog is not going to be a big whinge as at the end of the day we have just had a change of ownership and there is hope on the horizon. I just wanted to point out some of the failings which I hope are addressed by the new owners. My biggest hope, however, is for a backtrack on the move away from any free-to-air races from 2019 – this will be the biggest test of my faith in the sport since I started following. I, like thousands or even millions of us, got into Formula 1 because I was able to watch it for free on terrestrial television. Nobody in my household growing up paid the slightest attention to F1 or even motorsport, so if it were not for the accessibility of it I never would have even noticed its appeal.
Regular readers of this blog know I have long moaned that Formula 1 is more interested in gaining more viewers than pleasing the new ones – at the moment, I worry for both! But I still believe that the product and the entertainment factor of Formula 1 is as strong as ever, and also believe that this change in ownership is a positive one which most definitely keeps me tied to the sport, at least until 2019……………
Keep your eyes peeled – I shall be blogging again about actual cars, teams and drivers (YAY!) before it all kicks off in Melbourne on 26th March. Anything to take my mind off what is actually going on in the world!
Peace and love.