Here we are in 2015 looking ahead to the car launches and counting down to the season opening GP. Its time for optimistic speeches from team principals / owners / drivers / engineers and a period of waiting for fans, desperate to see their heroes take to the track in their new machinery for the first time.
In the mean time, F1 needs to get its house in order, to dispel the negativity from 2014 and the problems that have been so widely publicised. So the aim of this post is to highlight the changes I would make if I was in Bernie's shoes for the day. A wake up call to the world of F1 that things can be made much better, with some very simple steps:
Rule number one - Don't Fix what isn't broken!
Firstly, before we look at fixes, we should celebrate what isn't broken and ensure that these stay untouched with changes later on:
The racing on track this year has been fantastic, some would call it a vintage year of on-track battles. Just look at the USGP last weekend, there was some fantastic wheel to wheel action all through the field, and that's without the fight for the lead between the two Mercedes drivers
The Power Unit's
Yes they're expensive and quieter, BUT, they are more fuel efficient, they allow for a new strategic element to racing with choosing when to harvest / deploy energy & when to use the most power. They are also the future of motoring, look at the exciting new road cars already using this technology. they have also encouraged at least one more engine manufacturer to the sport (namely Honda)
Pirelli haven't had enough credit this year. They have bought a good selection of tyres to most events giving us varying strategy options and multiple (but not crazy) pit stops. Also no tyres have gone pop & the extra set in qualifying has made sure that most drivers at least take part in Q3.
So what needs fixing and how?
The de-facto number one issue with Formula One at the moment it Financial. With Caterham and Marussia in administration it certainly looks like a bleak picture, and there are two trains of thoughts with this:
1) If you can't afford to take part in F1, you shouldn't waste your time trying
2) Even small teams deserve to be in F1 and deserve help to stay there
whichever side of the fence you sit on its clear that things need to change. I personally sit somewhere in the middle. Firstly you shouldn't spend more than you have (basic business principal no.1) and you should be more prepared to take on a championship like F1.
The issue here is that the goalposts are too frequently changing. The new teams arrived with the new Budget cap of $40m, this never happened. They also had free tyres from Bridgestone and cheap-ish engines of $7-10m. Since then Pirelli charge for tyres and of course the engines have increased to more like $35-40 per year. This is not a sustainable increase. Imagine signing a 6 month rental contract on a house for £500 per month, to then move on and be told that actually its going to be £700 but then again in month 2 being told its actually got to become £950 etc etc, you wouldn't stand for it would you?
The sport earns $1.8bn (roughly) per year, and only dishes out $900m in prize money, split between the teams. Ferrari also get a 5% bonus (of the $1.8bn) just for being Ferrari. The big teams are never going to give up their commercial deals, but if a new deal was to be negotiated it should certainly be more equitable. All teams should get the same 'turn up bonus' and of course prize money should be transparent.
The easy fix within the current agreements and constraints is to control some costs. Perhaps F1 should share some of its pie with the engine manufacturers. Give all of the engine manufacturers $50m in exchange that they have to supply PU's for $10m per year to anyone who wants one. This immediately impacts budgets and makes F1 more affordable, it'll also entice engine manufacturers to the sport if they are going to be paid to turn up and build an engine. Engine manufacturers should also be encouraged to re-badge engines in the customer cars, to spread the marketing reach of their efforts, So you could have an infiniti powered Red Bull or a Force India Smart etc etc and Ferrari have a wealth of brands including Fiat, Chrysler, Dodge, Maserati, Alfa Romeo, Jeep. etc etc. It would mean that Ferrari could build one engine but assign the costs of marking it to marketing more than one brand.
Tyres should also be supplied Free of charge in exchange for increased sponsorship.
Lets stop dragging F1 through the mud! Bernie keeps putting the sport down and making it look ridiculous in front of the public - crazy for the promoter and rights owner! Drivers and team owners also need to take a long hard look at themselves as the public face of F1 needs to be promoting the brand and the amazing advances in technology in which F1 is having a great impact. How can we expect more fans to arrive when the product is being so publicly trashed by those at the top?
One of the biggest criticism's of F1 this year is that F1 doesn't do anything to interact with the audience or move in the 'new media' circles. F1 of course needs to be bought out of its shell and into this new world of interactivity and 'content' in order to entice younger viewers who spend more time on social media than in front of the TV watching sport.
Once again this is a fairly easy fix, F1 should send an official social correspondent to each event, tweeting behind the scenes pictures of the world's fastest sport., perhaps getting scoops from the stewards office and info from behind the wall in which TV just can't go. Guaranteed to get followers and provide a revenue stream as you can advertise your partners through twitter. This can include conversations during the races and breaking news in between events.
Content is also an important part of this, teaser video's and best bits should be on youtube on an official account to entice people into watching the races. Archived seasons should be available on
the F1 website for a small fee (oh and youtube video's can easily be monetised too!!)
Points should be increased to award for every finisher, This will give the fight at the back a lot more interest and will make a lot more sense to the casual viewer rather than trying to work out who has the most 13th places etc..
Drivers not heroes?
Personally I don't really buy this, as I understand how fit you have to be, mentally and physically to be able to wrangle the best out of modern F1 car. However a casual viewer may not appreciate the fitness level required, or how much thinking has to go on behind the ever complicated steering wheel of an F1 car.
Whilst the team radio ban helps slightly as we don't get blatant on-air driver coaching any more, this needs to not go to far as the F1 team radio can be highly entertaining and does help to narrate the story of the race in some cases.
So the answer here is to be more open about how hard it is to drive these cars, maybe make them even harder to drive and get rid of audio gear change beeps as surely they're pretty much cheating right?
Whilst the introduction of penalty points and the 5sec stop go penalty have really helped this year, the stewards are having a crisis in terms of consistency. Why is driving off the track punished at some tracks but not others etc etc. this is serious as it does undermine some great racing at times. Also more incidents need to be investigated during the race, rather than adjusting results and applying retrospective penalties as its tough to explain why things have changed a few hours after everyone has turned the TV off.
Whilst not an extensive list I feel that we've touched on some issues that desperately need fixing and easy ways in which to do so! F1 is not in crisis, there is plenty of amazing action to discuss, but some fundamental tinkering needs to be done behind the scenes in order to increase the potential of this amazing sport, make the sport fairer and move the sport into the future.
Now, someone get Bernie on the phone, its time to talk common sense.