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Why Not a Flexible Calendar?

It looks as though Singapore have got their GP for next year. Valencia, too, is making a strong bid for a race and may be allowed as the “Mediterranean GP”. That would give the lie to Bernie’s stated aim not to let one country have more than one GP (which was always going to be overlooked in the case of a second US GP anyway) and should give Imola extra encouragement to get their alterations done quickly, if the organizers still want the circuit to return to the calendar.

Start

Then there is India waiting in the wings and rumors of a return to Mexico, not forgetting South Africa who want a race too. A quart of races and a pint pot of a calendar to squeeze them into. Add to that the reluctance of the teams to take on even more GPs and it seems an impossible situation. But there might be a way.

Suppose, for instance, the calendar were extended to include twenty-five GPs but teams could only take part in twenty of them. One could make fifteen of the races mandatory (preferably the old ones that no-one wants to lose) and then have a rota system for the remaining ten to ensure that the teams don’t all go for the same races. Numbers of competitors would be down in the “optional” races but this could be compensated for by allowing (or enforcing) new wannabe teams to participate in the extra races for their first year or two. They would be allowed to score points but barred from the mandatory races until they had proved their ability to compete at the level of F1. The sport would be spared the embarrassment of another farce like the Andrea Moda saga therefore.

The advantages of such a system are many. Great and time-honored circuits that are now under threat would gain some security while new races get the chance to prove themselves. Teams would not have the expense of participating in more races than logistics and economics allow but would still be on view everywhere at least once every two years. Every race venue could have a GP each year and we would no longer have to hear of possible “sharing” of GPs between Britain and France (okay, France has taken itself out of the equation for 2008 but I’m sure it will want to return thereafter). And the fans would get an increase in the number of races, something they all seem to want.

It would be similar to the occasionally-tried system of only permitting points scored in a number of races less than the total, except that the teams would not have to travel to the races where they were not going to score. The inclusion of new teams would increase the number of concerns willing to give F1 racing a try and sort out the wheat from the chaff at the same time. If they were to score a few points now and then, that could even spice up the battles between existing teams and make the championship a little less predictable. Plus it would be an excellent way for new drivers to gain a foothold in the sport and show their worth.

No doubt this idea would involve a lot of calculating to see which races should go where and how the teams are allocated optional races to ensure fairness. It might be necessary to make it slightly more complicated by shaking up the allocation every now and then to ensure that certain races do not become the domain of a team whose prime competitor does not race in those GPs in the same year – although the other team would presumably have a similar advantage in the GPs it was attending.

It seems to me that this might be a way of solving several problems at the same time so a little complication in designing it should not put us off. It might even work.

Of course, I’m sure Bernie and Max don’t read Formula 1 Latest so there’s no danger of them considering the matter. It’s okay, you can relax – just another of my wild ideas…

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Does the FIA Need Stability Control?

There is some talk of stability control being introduced into F1 in the future. This, of course, is a direct result of the manufacturers being involved in the sport – already they have used such systems on production cars and it makes sense for them to get their own private testing ground, F1, to help them develop the idea further.

FIAworld

This should be anathema to anyone interested in seeing F1 continue as a sport; the fans look forward with hope to the standardized ECU as a means of getting rid of traction control and now it emerges that the FIA is talking to the car industry about allowing stability control in F1. Nothing could more clearly illustrate the way in which the FIA has sold its soul to big money in the form of the manufacturers. Stability control will do much more than traction control in reducing the influence of driving skill as a factor in races – it will make the driver a mere passenger without opportunity to demonstrate his skill. Where is the sport in that?

It is quite apparent that the aims of motor sport and car manufacture are mutually incompatible. The primary intent of F1 must always be competition between drivers and nothing the FIA can do or say will alter that fact in the minds of those who care about the sport. The manufacturers, however, are in F1 only to demonstrate to potential customers that their designs are the best – a marketing exercise, in other words. They do not care about the sporting aspects and would be betraying their company’s interests if they did.

The irony lies in the fact that, as the cars become laden with driver aids in the cause of “relevance to the production of road vehicles”, the fans will drift away because the human element, the drivers, are no longer competing in any meaningful way. Once the viewing public has dwindled to the point of insignificance, the manufacturers will leave and put their money elsewhere.

At which point we might, just might, get our sport back, if there is anything left to salvage. My fear is that a governing body as blind to the obvious as the FIA is showing itself to be will find a way to make things even worse.

In a way, it is good that these matters are becoming apparent now, rather than later. As sanity at last begins to make an appearance in the global warming debate, the FIA’s commitment to “green-ness” will be shown up for the subservience to the manufacturers that it is. Once their credibility as a governing body is destroyed (and it is fairly rocky already), it might become apparent that the only change that is needed is in the way F1 is governed and by whom.

Hopefully, that will happen before all the idiotic rule changes they have lined up can come into effect.

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The FIA Gods Challenged

There is no doubt about it, the FIA do not like to have their decisions questioned. Way back in October last year, David Coulthard was smacked down for daring to put forward the GPDA’s view on safety matters and there are many other examples of the governing body reacting angrily to criticism.

David

David Coulthard

Now I see that even mighty Autosport magazine has had to print a retraction of earlier FIA-related statements made in a column of theirs. The fuss revolved around just how many teams were unhappy with the FIA’s sudden reduction of the engine formula from 3 liter V10s to 2.4 liter V8s, although I find it hard to see what was wrong with Autosport‘s columnist pointing out that not all the manufacturers were in favor of the change. Perhaps the problem really lay in his earlier assertion that the FIA had yo-yoed a lot – to hint that the FIA might be a tad indecisive would definitely be heresy.

The whole episode illustrates the FIA’s increasing tendency to see itself as infallible and above criticism. Which is a silly attitude to strike in a sport as contentious and full of differing interests and opinions as F1. The governing body would do wonders for its image if it were to accept criticism gracefully and listen a bit more. No-one has ever said that their job is easy and it is only to be expected that some will disagree with whatever they do; you can’t please all of the people all of the time.

The FIA would like us to see it as a forward-looking body that prepares for the future – hence their sudden fascination with green issues and the interests of car manufacturers. But they seem to be missing something very important about the brave new world of tomorrow: that in the information age, everything becomes known and is examined ad infinitum. They may be able to prevent the traditional media from voicing any uncomfortable opinions but the internet is a different matter entirely. Even governments have failed in their efforts to keep a lid on that beastie.

So the FIA would do far better if it were to act with more consideration of the views of those involved in the sport (and that includes the fans) and to be a lot more transparent in their actions. Except, of course, it can’t. So many of its decisions are driven by financial considerations and shady deals that it dare not explain some of them.

You may think that is a rather wild assumption; but it seems that Michelin agree with me – they are taking the FIA to court over the way in which Pirelli was selected as the sole supplier of tires to the World Rally Championship. Which brings to mind the odd way in which Microsoft MES were chosen as the suppliers of ECUs and Magneti Marelli’s doubts over the process.

The love of money is the root of all evil…

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Honda’s New Livery

I am trying very hard not to enter the Great Debate on Honda’s silly new color scheme, honest. All the expected criticisms and plaudits are flying around anyway, so there is little point in adding to the fuss – that would be giving Honda exactly what they want: news coverage.

Honda

Honda RA107

It is becoming quite difficult to keep silent, however, especially when a little-regarded news item about changes in the FIA regulations for the future floats across my screen. The World Motor Sport Council is delaying until 2011 introduction of some of the green rules for engines. Well, that is no surprise, in view of the fact that they sound good but are almost impossible to put into practice.

Perhaps I should explain why it is so difficult for me to bite my tongue over these ridiculous issues. My problem is that I do not accept the first premise of the global warming theory – that humanity is causing the planet to heat up and will ultimately destroy civilization through climate change and the melting of the polar ice caps. Since I am actively involved in another site, Global Warming Latest, that points out the lies and misinformation propagated by the global warming activists, I can hardly go along quietly with all the lip service paid by the FIA and Honda to a theory that depends much more on the scare-mongering of politicians than the actual findings of highly-qualified climatologists.

But I am trying to remain silent, I swear it, and, if sometimes I cannot help myself and shout “Baloney!” at some ignorant and preposterous statement from anyone in charge of the future of F1, please remember that it was not I who introduced the subject in the first place.

So, ignoring the alleged green-ness of the Honda paint job, I should point out that it is, in fact, mostly blue. The black bit at the back is obviously to indicate the curvature of the earth and is not for sponsor logos – they have made other arrangements for those, it seems. Overall, I have to say that the look of the car is not bad; it’s a bit too fussy for my tastes but a whole lot better than the other pictorial representation on the grid – Toro Rosso’s cartoon bull. But it leaves the BMW Sauber in undisputed top spot, regardless of the result of F1 Fanatic’s survey of opinion (yes, I voted – you can guess for which team).

I admit that the Williams is pretty tasteful too, almost a negative version of BMW’s scheme, but then it comes down to whether you prefer dark blue or white as the predominant color. And the thing about white is that it allows you to see the shape of the car underneath – dark colors hide interesting bits in shadow.

To return briefly to the Honda, however, I cannot resist pointing you to the best comment I have seen so far. Have a look at this.

Now that puts things much more into perspective I think!

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