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GP Week : Issue 222
OPINION cHrIs lamBDeN I met Alex Wurz , gosh, 10 years ago now, sharing an evening pasta with he and Mark Webber at a pre-season F1 test. As an aside, it was one of the funniest evenings ... Alex is a genuine storyteller and his tales of some of the quirkier moments of his motorsport career were hilarious. Anyway, he’s an intelligent dude and it is no surprise to see the Grand Prix Drivers Association emerging again into some relevance under his leadership. The latest initiative is a GPDA- backed F1 survey, which you can Google and take part in online. It’s quite comprehensive for a ’tick-the-box’ style of survey and you can see where they are heading – looking for some general views into what ‘the punters’ think and feel about current F1, even, for example, asking if the wide bitumen ‘run-off’ areas on most circuits nowadays are making it too safe; providing little consequence for driver errors. The results will no doubt be interesting, as will the degree to which they are publicised. Also revealing will be the degree to which F1’s power brokers take any notice. Either way, it will add to the debate – of which there is plenty going on at the moment. But what really matters, though, is the answer to the question ‘what happens next?’ – which isn’t really addressed in the GPDA survey. ‘What F1 Needs’ is actually pretty obvious (read on), but the problem is that the power to make those decisions lies with people who are either totally conflicted or who can’t see past their own narrower interests. The team- based F1 Strategy Group, for example, is high among the self-interested wastes of time. As Mr E commented recently, the current decision-making process is just too democratic to make much progress ... while at the same time FIA President Jean Todt has recently opined that he doesn’t see much wrong with current F1. So what real hope is there? Oh for the beneficial dictatorship ... But assuming there was the potential to initiate change to reinvigorate F1, and soon, what should it be? For me, what’s dumbing down F1 is pretty clear, simple, and relatively easily fixed. It’s not rocket-science and, deep down, I reckon much of F1 would, in their moments of honest reflection, agree: 1. Cars too slow and easy to drive. We’ve discussed this before – when the difference between F1 and GP2 in lap times is bugger-all, something is wrong. F1 drivers need to be genuine heroes, controlling a weapon of a car, with horsepower to burn and a power- to-weight ratio to take your breath away (remember the 1200+ qualifying horsepower of the early 80s?). The fix: Forget V8s or any other retro engines – no-one’s going to get rid of the current generation of high- tech engines (the investment has been massive), so we have to work with them. Fuel in equals power out (and noise), so the current random fuel ‘consumption’, controlled by fuel flow at a maximum 100kg/hr needs to be doubled, along with the amount of fuel available for a race – now 100kg. Let’s make it 200kg. Yes, double it. If that means double fuel tank capacity, so be it, or refuelling. Either. Four engines a year? Forget it. Double it too. Or make it 10. F1 needs race engines, not sewing machines. 2. Safety gone just too far. While no-one is advocating a return to the horrendous days of the 70s, driving an F1 car is now safer than the trip to the supermarket. The heroic aura is disappearing. The cars are now very safe and capable of protecting the driver in a decent shunt (as per Alex W himself, Japan 2007 above), so why not let them go racing? No more huge, sealed runoffs – let’s go back to sand. And while we’re at it, no more woosy single-file Safety Car race starts on damp tracks (a big personal frustration of mine). No more interminable delays to starts in wet weather. As long as there’s no serious standing water and the weather is on the improve, put ‘em on full wets, line ‘em up, and let them go. These are racing drivers, for goodness sake ... It’s quite simple really. And all do-able for 2016 if there was the collective will to make some positive decisions soon. But ... In the meantime, good on the GPDA for at least taking the initiative. The outcome will be interesting even if, ultimately, commercial and self-interest factors will determine the way forward. There are parts of the survey which don’t mince words – even offering a selection of descriptors of F1 races including the word ‘boring’. Wow. Columnist Doodson, an F1 journalistic doyen if there ever was, doesn’t like that word being applied to the sport. “Call it predictable, or anything else, but never boring,” he once chastised me. Look out Alex ... 17 GPWEEK.com // 17 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: OPINION will the punters' view make a diFFerence?