I see that Formula 1 has lost a boatload of UK viewers ever since they moved from free TV to subscription TV. Time for Ye Olde Cluebatte:
If you’re going to require people to pay for something that they’re used to getting for free, it has be something they can’t live without, or else something which is “new ‘n improved” — i.e. that justifies the cost.
And Formula 1 has managed to go down ever since they stopped using loud, balls-to-the-wall engines, and pricing Everything F1 into the stratosphere. In other words, the product has become tamer, less passionate and shittier, ergo not worth paying for.
I love Formula 1, love it with a passion, always have — but not always will. The plain fact of the matter is that after the first corner of the first lap, F1 races are nothing more than a 66-lap procession, where races can be decided on the time and number of pit stops, where refuelling midrace has been outlawed, tire types are restricted, and so on. F1 has also become technocentric, and techno is expensive — which limits the number of teams which have the money or desire to participate. As a result, there are essentially only three teams — Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull — who have any consistent chance of winning a given race. Here are the teams’ points position at the end of the 2019 season, and note the points disparity between the top three and the rest:
It was more or less the same in 2018, and 2017, and 2016… and there are only four actual engines used (Ferrari, Mercedes, Renault and Honda) by all the teams.
I have some suggestions.
- Ban all team-driver radio communication. Let the driver figure out what’s going on with the car, and signal to him only from the pit wall. Right now, the whole thing is just a techno-chess game, where race decisions can be made in Maranello, Woking or Surrey rather than at the track or in the car. In fact, very few decisions are now made by the driver, which means that at some point, driverless cars are going to be suggested (and upon that change, all F1 fans will disappear from sight.)
- Ban remote engine changes from the garage. Right now, the team can make changes from the pit wall to the amount of power a car can generate. Screw that nonsense — let the driver use as much or as little as he’s got.
- Dump the dual-engine (hybrid) formula and stick to fast, powerful (and loud) 3-liter V6 or flat-six gas engines. Leave all the electronic stuff to Le Mans prototype cars. Here’s the thing: not every auto manufacturer can afford to build a modern F1 engine — but all of them can make a fast, powerful and reliable 3-liter six-cylinder one, which opens up the race for other car manufacturers to participate. (And the louder, the better: F1 fans just love the noise.)
- Make the races longer — 80 laps (or 150 miles) minimum — so that the cars have to stop to refuel their (mandatory) 100-liter / 26-gallon (US) tanks. (Ignore that “safety” bullshit: if the sports car teams can manage refueling safely, so can F1.)
- Let the teams choose whatever tires they want, and drop the “two-type per race” mandate. If a team wants to race the whole thing on one set of hard tires, and another wants to use three soft sets (for higher speed) or two medium sets (compromise), then let them.
- Ditto engine changes. Right now, F1 teams can only use three engines per season (without penalty). What bullshit. Let them use a new engine for each race, if they want. The problem is that engines now cost so much that only a couple teams could afford to do that — which is part of F1’s problem.
There’s a reason that I’m suggesting all the above, and it’s not just a hankering for the old days (as is my general tendency). As racing becomes all the more technical and much less human, people get turned off by the loss of human interaction.
In gun terms, it would be like watching a rifle-shooting competition between remote-controlled gun platforms made by only Mitsubishi and Honda. I wouldn’t cross the street to watch that, for free. And nor would many others.
Now hold a competition, in any format, between humans shooting Remington, Colt, Ruger, SIG Sauer, Blaser, CZ, Mauser, Winchester and HK rifles… oh man, sign me up now.
That’s the problem, and all F1 needs to do is to bring back the human element into racing. You heard it here first.