31 Jul 2012

What if F1 was like MotoGP?

Formula 1 has, over recent years, improved its show massively.  In Red Bull we have a stunning, newish team who have already won 2 constructors and 2 drivers titles.  The McLaren Mercedes split has gone well and McLaren seem to be able to perform just as well as an independent as a manufacturer.  New teams in Marussia, Caterham and, slightly less so, HRT are behind schedule in terms of performance but still contribute to the show and have massive fan bases.  Mercedes and Force India have both come from slightly troubled backgrounds but are now stable teams with a bright future.

The whole F1 field is stable.  24 cars, 12 teams and unquestionably the best drivers in the world.  Indeed 2 retired champions have come back to test themselves against the younger generation and are both performing strongly.  The Pirelli tyres, DRS and KERS are contributing to strong racing, without being too random - and TV audiences are ever upwards.

F1 is flourishing.  Contrast that to the dire state of MotoGP which we discussed in our precious article which you can read here.

In order to contrast the two series and demonstrate how the MotoGP organisers have made a series of strategic errors we now imagine what F1 would be like in 2013 had they chosen to make the same decisions as MotoGP has over the past few years.

The following report is dated 10 March 2013 and is written just before the first race of the season.

2012 was a fantastic season for World Champion Sebastian Vettel in his Lotus but, following his departure on the grounds that he was sick and tired of Formula 1, all eyes will be on his successor at Lotus, Lewis Hamilton.  

Ferrari, Lotus and Mercedes all bring us two teams each and, as for 2012, under the HRT rules we have a full grid of 21 cars.  Hopefully the HRTs won't prove to be so slow this year.  Formula 1 organisers have been reportedly speaking with Red Bull and Williams but there seems to be no chance that they will be rejoining F1 following their departures in 2010.

The grid for 2013 looks like this:

Ferrari (manufacturer) - Fernando Alonso, Paul DiResta
Mercedes (manufacturer) - Nico Rosberg, Heikki Kovalainen
Lotus (manufacturer) - Lewis Hamilton, Romain Grosjean
Ferrari Sauber (satellite) - Valteri Bottas, Sergio Perez
McLaren Mercedes (satellite) - James Calado, Gary Paffett
Force India Lotus (satellite) - Nico Hulkenberg, Charles Pic
Go Venezuela! Caterham BMW (HRT) - Jenson Button, Pastor Maldonado
Marussia BMW (HRT) - Daniel Ricciardo, Vintantonio Liuzzi
Sauber Cosworth (HRT) - Pedro de la Rosa, Michael Schumacher
888 Racing Cosworth (HRT) - Kamui Kobayashi, Esteban Gutierrez
Prodrive Cosworth (HRT) -  Kimi Raikonnen

The first race of the year will be at Donington Park, one of four British tracks we visit this year.  The weather may not always be good for Donington in March but as per usual we should see some good racing in the wet, as long as it doesn't snow again.

It will be interesting to see if Alonso can bring the Ferrari back up to speed following a couple of seasons in the doldrums.  As we all know Alonso nearly walked away from the team midway through last year but Ferrari's dollars and the promise that the takeover of Ferrari by Tata would reap dividends in the long run persuaded him to stay.  

Kovalainen in the Mercedes is looking forward to a good season.  He needs to perform well.  His predecessor, Mark Webber - who left for similar reasons as Vettel, struggled with the car.

Bottas has finally got his chance in an F1 car.  Ferrari have reportedly had their eyes on him for some time and have placed him in the Sauber for a season before moving him up to the main team.  DiResta is on a one year contract and the rumour mill is that he will be moving to one of the HRT teams for 2014.

We were surprised to see Kimi Raikonnen back in the Prodrive Cosworth following his outburst last year that his car was an 'undriveable piece of sh*t'.  But the flame never goes out.  Let's hope Kimi can do better than last seasons best result of 14th.

Button and Maldonado in the Go Venezuela! Caterham BMW will be a combination to watch.  Maybe they will go one better than last year and be able to finish a race without being lapped.  The third British race at Oulton Park was the teams 2012 nadir when Button was lapped five times and Maldonado took Vettel off at Knickerbrook whilst he was being lapped for the second time.

And what of Lotus?  F1 changed the rules two years ago in order to accommodate their desire for a 2 litre turbocharged engine but, after the FIA realised that was just too slow and changed the rule back, Lotus have failed to adapt to the new 3 litre V10 era.  Can they come back in 2013.

With budgets rumoured for the top teams to be reaching £1billion will F1 have a future after 2013?  Well, the addition of the HRT class has filled out the grid but the racing needs to improve to stop the spectators walking away in their droves.  Most races are now shown in one hour packages a few hours after the race on pay-to-view TV and with countries such as America and Australia receiving no coverage at all something needs to be done to sustain our great sport.

And will we see any overtaking this year?  With traction control, ABS, ground effect, assisted steering and braking and electronically adjustable ride-heights we can't see how 2013 can improve on 2012.  Remember, we had fifteen overtakes through the whole season last year, not including the 1045 times the HRT cars were lapped.

But despite all that we are looking forward to the 2013 Formula 1 season.