4 Nov 2012

Why, after 18 years, I find F1 boring - and what I'd do to make it fun again

The 2012 Formula 1 season visits 20 races and increasingly visits new tracks.  Despite the on-track racing being quite good in the first part of this year, is the sheer monotony of back to back races in danger of becoming a bore?

Where did it all go wrong?  For the first time in 18 years of watching F1 - of not missing a single race or qualifying session, of enjoying everything from the sights, the sounds, the technical side, the intrigue and the personalities - I find myself wondering if I can be bothered to watch tomorrows race.

The Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix is the 18th round of the 2012 Formula 1 season and I'm really struggling to give a damn.  It is yet another back to back race and, to be honest, I felt the same last weekend.  The Indian Grand Prix was the first time since 1994 I had recorded a Grand Prix, watched it on Sunday evening and found myself fast forwarding the entire second half.

Yawn.  Another Vettel win.  Another vast, Hermann Tilke designed track with empty grandstands and the cars lost amid a humungous sea of tarmac.


But why did I find it boring?  F1 cars are the most exciting cars on the planet.  F1 races are the most exciting on the planet.  The championship is yet to be decided.  It could be Vettel, it could be Alonso - it could even be Hamilton.  In fact, the first two thirds of this season was one of the most exciting in all of F1 history.  A different winner in every race for the first seven races and masses of overtaking.

Because, like Augustus Gloop, Bernie Ecclestone has become far too greedy and shoved so much F1 cake down our throat that I, and many others, have had enough of it.  It has gone on too long and too many of the tracks are just rubbish.

I've watched, fascinated, through the great seasons and the dire seasons.  I've watched championships won with four races to go and I've watched a full F1 race take place in real time with only six cars and not a single overtaking move.  And I kept watching because F1 cars and the entire circus entranced me.

The 2005 F1 season, when that infamous US Grand Prix took place, featured 19 races - but most were at traditional tracks.  Of the new tracks that bore me so much only Shanghai, Kuala Lumpur, Sakhir and Shanghai existed.  The rest were real circuits with character, history, proper corners and grandstands full of enthusiastic fans.

The enormous grandstands and massively wide tracks of the new locations impressed the F1 community who visited them because they got huge, brand new, garages and shiny, bespoke buildings to play in, and Bernie Ecclestone who was glad they could afford to pay him lots of money, but they didn't impress us - the fans.

Since then we have lost more and more real circuits and visited more and more Tilke-dromes.  The fact F1 doesn't even hold a race in France - the birthplace of Grand Prix racing - should be met with howls of anguish and outrage rather than a shrug of the shoulders and an acknowledgment that if they won't or can't pay then they won't get a race.

F1 has always been about money.  Money is one of the vital ingredients that sets it apart from other racing series.  But the organisers now seem to focus on money to the detriment of everything else.  Bernie recently said that we would soon only see four European races - Silverstone, Monza, Monaco and Hockenheim.

This is madness.  Europe was the birthplace of F1.  Europe is F1's one true friend.  Malaysia, India, China, Abu Dhabi, Bahrain are only friends with F1 because it has money and glamour and when something goes wrong (which it will) and F1 is losing viewers and fans in droves all those countries will drop F1 like a stone.  They will not care.  They are fickle friends.  Meanwhile, the Europeans, who stuck with F1 through thick and thin, will continue to care and will welcome it back into the fold - despite the fact F1 spat in it's face.  But a little of the love will be lost.

I mustn't forget Australia who, in this regard, should be regarded as F1 diehards as much as Europe is.

I've made it pretty clear what I think is wrong with F1 and why it is becoming boring - too many races at too many boring tracks.  But if I'm to criticise then I should do so constructively.  This is how I would love to see the 2013 F1 season to look.

Get rid of the following tracks - Malaysia, Bahrain, Korea, India, Abu Dhabi.  Reinstate - Turkey (which is the only decent track Herman Tilke has designed in his entire life) and France (Magny Cours).  China is such an important market it cannot be ignored.  The German race should only be held at Nürburgring - the neutered Hockenheim should be killed off.  The season would look like this:

  • Australia - Adelaide
  • Turkey - Istanbul
  • France - Magny Cours
  • Spain - Barcelona
  • European Grand Prix - Brands Hatch
  • Monaco - Monaco
  • Canada - Montreal
  • US - Road America
  • British Grand Prix - Silverstone
  • Germany - Nürburgring
  • Hungary - Hungaroring
  • Belgium - Spa
  • Italy - Monza
  • Singapore - Singapore
  • Japan -Suzuka
  • Brazil - Interlagos

This would give us a sixteen race championship which is plenty.  It would start in March and end in October with a month's summer break and no back to back race weekends apart from Canada and America.  It visits the Americas, Australia and the Far East but it also celebrates F1's European heartland where most of the fan base is located.

The tracks are all fantastic.  Just being historic doesn't entitle a race to it's place on the calendar but all of the above give us great tracks which require bravery, skill and commitment to succeed (Malaysia's 20 metre wide track has no place in Formula 1) and, most importantly, the grandstands would be packed.  Each race would have an atmosphere - which is lacking at all the tracks I'd drop.

Also note the inclusion of Road America and Brands Hatch.  Brands is such an iconic circuit that provides such great racing it should, and must, be on the F1 calendar.  F1 has flirted with America for so long and yet the Americans have never fallen in love with it - and that's because they've never raced at a proper track.  Road America is one of the best tracks in the world and it is incredible that F1 has never even talked about visiting it.

I found it quite easy to come up with solutions to F1's increasing inclination towards being boring.  But then again I am not a money grabbing vulture motivated by nothing more than personal gain.  The way I see it those who run F1 have no more reason to continue to do so than greed.

Bernie Ecclestone should take his multi-million pound houses, his multi-million pound divorce, his multi-millionaire children who flaunt their wealth (gained via the race tickets we bought) and retire.  And he should be replaced by someone who has F1 flowing through their veins.  Who has passion for racing and not just money.

Maybe Eddie Jordan should apply for the job.