A known and respected Formula 1 commentator, broadcaster, presenter and journalist Jonathan Legard shares his take on what he would do if he ran the sport of Formula 1.
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They always say that if a car looks good it goes good. Well, however Lewis Hamilton and his rivals talk up their cars and their chances for the new season, any challenger with those hideously over-detailed and overburdened front wings (so all of them) will never get a sniff of victory. They all look ugly. Indeed, it’s very hard to like many features of the current identikit designs that will take to the grid in 2018. So can we ban these front wings with immediate effect? And at the same time, can we also cut the teams out of the decision-making process over the technical rules and regulations?
How many other sports allow the players to decide how to play the game? No wonder there’s consistently such an impasse among Formula 1 teams on how to improve overtaking or how to promote the sport. The formation of the rulebook should be given over to a group of experienced Formula 1 people, not only engineers with no current vested interests within the pit-lane.
This is 2018, not 1950.
Perhaps Liberty Media has stumbled upon a solution in the form of hugely knowledgeable and successful Ross Brawn whose future vision for Formula 1 is that “for 2021 we will have great-looking cars which can race each other”. But will the bigger teams allow him to proceed with his plans if they see their supremacy threatened? That should not be allowed to happen. They should play by the rules decided by the governing body.
Similarly, the guidelines governing the financial payments to the teams should be redrawn based on performance in the previous season like the English Premier League. Do away with historical payments dating back to the start of the world championship and even more so scrap Ferrari’s veto on regulations that the team objects to. This is 2018, not 1950.
There has to be competition with a more level playing field. That means the structure of payments cannot be so skewed in favour of those with longevity in a sport. Prizes should be won by those who glory in the greatest competitiveness rather than enduring participation.
As much as possible, the sport should be unpredictable. There’s a limit – even more so in this content-driven world – over how much people will hang around watching the same teams winning relentlessly again and again. That challenge becomes even tougher if the access to viewing the sport disappears behind an expensive paywall instead of being free to air on terrestrial television.
Viewing habits are changing with the growth of online streaming, but less eyeballs on the sport notably among the more mature, moneyed casual fan base does nothing for Formula 1’s profile. A younger, more technically-minded following may relish the growing access on mobile devices, but they don’t return the kind of big numbers to keep advertisers and sponsors happy. A terrestrial presence until digital platforms overtake traditional broadcast channels is vital for the continued health of the sport.
Nothing beats watching sport live at a venue, especially a stadium or circuit where the passion and knowledge of the spectators matches that of the competitors. They feed off each other. Seeking new markets and locations in which to go racing is essential for a dynamic, outward-looking sport but so is staying true to core venues with history like Silverstone, Monza, Monaco, Spa, Interlagos and Suzuka. The list of promising but ultimately dusty, unused tracks like Sepang, Mokpo and Istanbul Park grows longer by the year.
It remains to be seen how much the popularity of the French Grand Prix in a country with such a strong motorsport tradition has stood the test of the wilderness years until its return to the calendar at Paul Ricard this summer.
One final point. The halo. Did Formula 1 really have to rush in with such an ugly contraption without giving more time and effort to a windscreen prototype that IndyCar, in contrast, is happy to try to develop and streamline?