It’s hard not to feel a sense of relief that the 2018 Formula One season has finally finished. There are those frantically tweeting about being bereft without F1 until March, others counting down the days to the 2019 Australian Grand Prix, or pre-season testing, or the first car launch, but I’m just glad it’s all over.
The final race of past seasons has often brought with it a feeling of gloom, even if it was title-decider and impossible to predict. Once the chequered flag waved and the fizz had been sprayed, the withdrawal symptoms kicked in and you knew the next hit was months away. No longer. There’s simply too much F1 and it’s pretty poor quality.
I don’t know exactly when the sport started to go wrong, but the problems have been around long enough for the fix to be long over due. And Will Smith is not the solution, neither is Vietnam or eSports. The answer lies in rediscovering what made a kid tug on his dad’s sleeve and say “Please can we go to the grand prix?” or beg his or her parents to delay Sunday lunch so that the race can be watched. No one got into motor racing because they saw an A-list “influencer” wave a flag or a boxing announcer do the driver introductions. The passion came from the cars on track.
F1 is not about road relevance and scientific research, it’s sport and to work as a sport it has to entertain. It has to be the main event, not the sideshow to a Taylor Swift or Bruno Mars concert. F1 should sell itself and anything else is a bonus. One senses that under the current commercial rights holders that has been lost.
In the past few weeks we have seen just how safe the modern single-seat racing car is. Sophia Floersch and Nico Hulkenberg are still with us and pretty much unscathed after what would have been unsurvivable accidents not that long ago. Keeping that in mind we can still go back to a simpler time of lightweight cars, fat tyres and raucous engines that put out more power than the chassis and aerodynamics can handle. There should be restrictions on the size and complexity of wings and other devices that are purely there to make fast cars, not racing cars. F1 needs more Brawn and less Bratches, it’s as simple as that.
We’ve got two more seasons to get through when seven of the 10 teams can’t win, with races blighted by engine penalties and track-limit abuses, with an expanding calendar and a diminishing product.
Not so long ago, a leading F1 designer bemoaned that, “F1, as we know it, won’t exist after 2020.” Right now, F1 doesn’t exist as many people know it. Yes, the science and engineering are amazing, but the sport is treadmill dull. In football terms, F1 has all the excitement and unpredictability of the Scottish Premiership. There are two years to save the sport, in the meantime, enjoy the break.