How Would You Fix Formula 1?
More Americans are watching F1 thanks to Netflix, but the on track package makes for boring races like Baku last weekend.
Let’s be real: Formula 1 is the pinnacle of motorsports because it’s the richest, not because it’s the best. Aside from a handful of races in the past five years, F1 hasn’t fielded the best racing product out there by a longshot. For the newly converted fans, that might not make much of a difference; the drama that sustains “Drive to Survive” mostly comes off the track. For the fans who’ve known F1 before the turbo-hybrid era, it’s a shame. And it's an opportunity wasted. Last weekend, Mercedes boss Toto Wolff accurately summed up the Azerbaijan Grand Prix as a “boring race,” which is true (but also something he didn’t say during Mercedes's reign at the top of F1).
Not all that long ago, the racing could be spectacular, and it was spectacular for multiple driving styles. Swashbuckling Fernando Alonso could improvise his way around clinical Michael Schumacher and vice versa all the time. Rain wasn’t merely an inconvenience for the leaders who would’ve won the race anyway; rain legitimately threw everything into the air, and the finishes were wild. What made F1 great in the past is debatable, and opinions will probably vary based on age.
But this is not a retrospective on what era of F1 was better than this one. It's a call (or even a shout) for a fix in the current era to make a better product on track. Some fixes could be simple: reverse grid, push to pass, long lap penalties, or removing tire blankets. Others wouldn’t be so simple: more design freedom, spec chassis, reworked payouts, or making all teams use all three tire compounds in a dry race.
Personally, I’d get rid of tire blankets tomorrow and add long-lap penalties. Both are employed in other series—IndyCar and Moto GP, respectively—and immediately change driving habits. But what do you think? Sound off in the comments and check back Thursday to see the answers.