I know this seems to contradict everything we know about F1’s supreme leader. He usually is Trump-ian in his statements. Bold, brash and very rarely based in any form of sense or logic. But Bernie has some thoughts on how to improve Formula 1 and they’re not completely terrible. In fact, if you listen to the underlying message and remove his typical bluster, I’m willing to bet you agree with him. The base of his position is that Formula 1 has become too complicated. Over regulation has lead to confusion among fans, confusion that is leading them away from the sport.
“The rules must be changed: all of them,” he added. “They are too complicated. We are in the entertainment business. But how are we supposed to entertain people when the audience doesn’t understand a thing any more? Even the drivers don’t know anymore what they can and cannot do on track. Sometimes I think the rule book just says: “Don’t race!” But let them touch from time to time, so what? Let the drivers handle it themselves.”
He has a point, the list of what a driver can’t do is pretty extreme when compared to F1’s various golden eras. In theory, simplifying them would make it an easier spectacle to watch. Plus the added clarity will allow for drivers to take more risks as they clearly know where the boundaries of the rules are. But Bernie extends the idea of simplification to include the regulations surrounding the cars themselves.
“Red Bull believe they can beat Mercedes with better aerodynamics,” said Ecclestone in an interview with Sport Bild. “However, I’m not so sure about that. Mercedes’ advantage on the engine side still is large. Because of this we have to introduce new engine rules as soon as possible. It doesn’t matter what kind of engine rules. The important thing is to rule out the hybrid engines.”
“(FIA president) Jean Todt thinks they are the spirit of our times, and this may be true for normal road cars. But in F1, people want to see something special.”
“They want to have noisy, powerful engines that can be managed only by the best drivers in the world. You don’t put orthopedic shoes onto your pro football players, do you, just because these kinds of shoes are popular in everyday life?”
Calling for the removal of hybrid engines is not the crazy it sounds like. Many in the sport believe in F1’s trickle down effect. IE Tech in today’s F1 cars will push the tech in road cars forward. So lessons learned in F1 will enhance the hybrid drives in normal road cars. There is an element of truth to this but the pace at which it moves is glacial slow. Often it is decades even longer before a tech arrives in F1 and finds its way into road cars. So why not allow LMP1 take the reigns on hybrid tech and let F1 get back to screaming engines with titanic power?
I understand what Bernie wants and what we as the fans want don’t often align, but in this instance I’m with Mr. Ecclestone. I don’t watch F1 because they’re the technical wonderthings that they are today. I watch because F1 has always been the fastest circuit (non-oval) racing series on the planet. Yes to achieve this you have to advance technology but the speed, the sounds, the power is what makes me watch. Say what you will about the technical achievements in the modern hybrid power units, they just don’t excite me. A turbocharged V6 is hardly an exotic arrangement. They are exotic in their construction and design, but V6 doesn’t hit you like V10 or V12 does. Plus just google any video from F1’s crazy eras and the engines sound glorious, screaming to insane redlines, this is what we want.
So while he usually spews verbal nonsense to the masses, this time hes correct. I think F1 can be improved by making it simpler. Make the engine regs simple. Engines can not exceed a certain size and can not exceed a defined fuel flow. This way we get the crazy noise of crazy engines and we still show some acknowledgment of the times by making them some what efficient. Let the teams go crazy with suspension and Aero as long as its safe. Make sure your tire supplier(s) makes a quality, lasting product. Reintroduce refueling. Yes this adds a complication of in race refueling but you can simplify it from the crazy complicated rigs used in the past. This will bring F1 back, mark my words.