Just when you thought Bernie might be slightly humbled after FOTA and the entire F1 following public voiced such a huge outcry against his ‘medal system’ idea at the beginning of last season, the ancient billionaire has reared his head again with a new idea sure to make him the but of the same type of jokes again.
Bernie has made his ideas known on increasing overtaking in Formula 1, “I think it would be very easy for us on each circuit to have an area where you could gain a bit of time so you could overtake, a shortcut if you like, which a driver could use five times during the race, so it would stop people getting stuck behind somebody.”
Wow, why didn’t anybody else think of this before now? Clearly this would be the best idea ever. Maybe they could even hide the shortcuts behind big paper signs or blind corners and the drivers would have to try and find them as the race went on. This would add to the spectacle of the race when Heikki plows headlong into a solid wall that he thought was the secret passage. Heck, while they’re at it, maybe they could install smoke machines and oil guns on the back of the cars that can be used 5 times each as well.
As silly as it sounds though, the FIA, FOTA and FOM need to get on the same page and get something done on overtaking in the sport. Rossburg’s criticisms after Interlagos last year were very well founded. The FIA has allowed drivers to aggressively defend their positions by making double moves and running people off the track for far too long. Real rules need to be written and real penalties need to be enforced to defend the passing car from the abuse they are receiving now.
Unfortunately, the design of the car also needs to be looked at. It is in the best interests of the teams to design the rear end of their cars to disturb air to the following car, thus making it more difficult to overtake. With poorly written rules, such as the diffuser rules exploited by Braun in 2009, there is no way to keep teams from continuing that practice.
Lastly, track design has to figure into this equation. Too many of the hairpins and low speed corners have been neutered by the addition of chicanes and other whimsical jots and tiddles which have destroyed the best places for overtaking on the tracks. Instead of spending money adding in ‘shortcuts’, maybe the tracks could instead remove some of these Tilke trademark hazards.
Bernie also blamed the efficiency of modern brakes for the lack of overtaking today, “The other thing I’ve been pushing like crazy with people is that brakes these days are so efficient that, I’ll say this and it’s probably wrong, I could brake as late as anyone else if I saw the braking markers. In the seventies and eighties, all the overtaking was done was under braking going into corners. That doesn’t happen anymore.”
Maybe what is more necessary than anything else right now is to develop processes for the introduction of new tracks that highlight overtaking opportunities and develop new technical regulations and rules which promote overtaking, instead of discouraging it. Overtaking without the use of gimmicks, shortcuts, option tires and KERS.
As F1 moves forward and tries to define the future of the sport with green technologies and cost cutting measures, at the forefront should be the on track product. Too long we have excused F1 for the lack of on track action by talking about its technical appeal and the purity of the sport. As the sport moves towards “spec” style racing, they should embrace some of the benefits of the realm they are dabbling in and spec overtaking into the future design.
What is clear is that we head into another new year of Formula 1 with an entirely different rules package than the preceding year. With the removal of fuel stops, the teams will be delighted not to be using the mandated garbage fuel rigs. But with qualifying going back to low fuel runs, that extra bit of strategy for turning the grid upside down based on fuel loads ran in Q3 is gone. Lets hope the return of straight-up starts doesn’t result in the return of Schumacher-esqe finishes.