Most people in the United States are barely aware of its existence, but Formula 1 is the pinnacle of motor sports. Formula One Grands Prix have the best drivers in the world with the most technologically advanced cars in the world. Michael Schumacher is second only to Tiger Woods on the list of highest paid athletes in the world. Reigning world champion Fernando Alonso is younger than I am, yet he was smothered by so many fans in his native Spain he was forced to move.
Despite all this, F1 racing has two major problems. First, as I said, it is almost entirely unknown in the United States. I’d rant about that, but Formula Pod does a sufficient job of it. Instead I want to discuss what I feel is the most pressing issue in F1, the rules.
F1 is both a sport and a game. As in any sport or game there are rules which describe how the game is played, how you win, how you lose and what happens if you cheat. Because F1 is also incredibly dangerous, there are a large number of rules which exist only for the purposes of safety. In fact, most of the rules deal specifically with the engineering of the cars themselves. I haven’t read all of the rules, but most of them can be summed up in one sentence: “Engineers, please don’t make a car that hurts the driver.”
F1 does do one thing right with its rules. They have the marketing body completely separate from the rules-making body. On paper this is a good thing. It should mean that the rules are made in the interest of the sport rather than the interest of the wallet. The problem is that the rules-making body isn’t the greatest. The rules they have made are too complicated and force F1 to be less exciting for the fans that it could be.
Rather than continuing to bitch and moan about some rich assholes and their F1 snob games I’m going to come up for my own F1 rules. If you really want to have the premiere motorsport in the world, this is what your rules should be. I’m not going to talk about the reasons for, or the consequences of, these rules. I’ll leave it up to you to think about what the rules I propose will mean for the sport. I’ll also leave it to the comments to discuss the pros and cons.
First, the rules of the Grand Prix weekend. Not too many rules should be changed here, just simplified. There should be two practice sessions where drivers may choose to freely drive their cars around the track as little or as much as they want. They may modify and fuel their cars in any legal fashion during this time.
Next, qualifying. At the beginning of qualifying all cars should be inspected to make sure they are race-legal. Then each car shall be filled to the brim with whatever fuel it uses. Each driver shall go around the course for two complete laps. The times of the two laps will be averaged together. Drivers with the fastest average time shall start on pole, slowest starts in the back. Only the fastest 20 cars will qualify. Other cars will not advance to the race. Failure to complete the two laps also results in disqualification. After qualification all qualifying cars shall be parked and may not be touched at all until the race begins.
At the race all drivers shall be given access to their cars at the same time. All engines will be started and all cars will immediately go on a formation lap behind the safety car. After all cars have lined up on the grid the lights will signal the start of the race. Drivers will then attempt to complete the specified number of laps in the shortest time possible. On any lap drivers may choose to go to the pits. The same pit-lane speed limits we have now can stay. In the pits any part of the car other than the chassis, motor and transmission may be replaced. Any amount of fuel may also be added to the vehicle at any safe speed, but no lubricant or coolant may be added to the car. You may not change drivers, motors, transmissions or chassis at any time during the entire race weekend.
Whoever completes the race in the shortest time wins. The top 7 positions will score points in the same fashion as Mario Kart DS: 10,8,6,4,3,2,1. The driver with the fastest lap shall receive a bonus point as well. The driver who leads the most laps shall also receive a bonus point. Only drivers completing the entire race are eligible to receive any points. Cars that are multiple laps behind at the end of the race must complete the specified number of laps if they wish to receive points.
Now for the part that is very different what we have now, the rules for the cars. The cars may use any motor, any chassis, andy fuel source, any tires and any technology they wish as long as the cars meet the following requirements. The chassis must be a four-wheel open-wheel design. The car must be safe enough that a licensed F1 driver is willing to drive it. The car must be safe enough that it does not pose a significant increased level of danger to any other driver in the race.
You might now be thinking I’m a nut. Obviously with these rules the rich teams will build the best cars and the poor teams will fail. Not so. I have two more rules to even the playing field. First, there will be a cap on R+D spending. No team may spend more than $X on R+D per year. Anyone caught doing so is disqualified from the season. All accounting for R+D costs must be made public. Secondly, all results of R+D and complete vehicle blueprints must be made public. Everyone will know how everyone else’s car works.
I think this is a really great idea. While individually each team will spend barely any money relative to what they spend now, collectively the teams will spend a lot. Also, all the cars will be constantly changing and trying out new technologies to get ahead. If you really want the fastest most technologically advanced cars in the world, then all the teams should be sharing all their technological advances with each other. No longer will their be a problem of some cars being ludicrously slower than others. No longer will money make a difference between winning and losing. What will matter is which team can use the collective knowledge of F1 to create the fastest car and get the best person to drive it.
I think that’s all I’ve got to say about that. It’s just that F1 claims to be, and is, the pinnacle of motor racing. It is still better than other forms of racing, but it could be so much more. I don’t really think that rules like this will ever be implemented, but it’s nice to think about it. Maybe a new racing league or a video game can do something like this.