Overtaking: Formula One’s Biggest Problem?
Ever since Formula One made serious regulation changes for the 2017 season which saw the cars become longer and wider, the quality of racing in the series has reached new lows. The wider cars occupy a greater amount of space on the track, making it difficult for cars to go side by side through corners, thus reducing the opportunities for overtaking.
Also, these cars take corners at a faster speed and consequently, following a car has become harder than ever, let alone overtaking them. This regulation change has evidently made Formula One races dull and featureless.
In order to encourage overtaking and to make races more exciting for the fans, Formula One came up with the idea of the Drag Reduction System or the DRS, which would open a flap on the rear wing to make the chasing car go faster on a straight. Although this idea has theoretically improved the scope of overtaking by a small margin, it is not a foolproof method as the racing lacks any sort of excitement and drama offered by wheel to wheel battles.
In an attempt to improve the racing, Formula One also tried to increase the number of DRS zones on the track at Melbourne this year but this move failed to yield any positive results, with the racing still being very dreary. Yes, Formula One is still offering occasional drama in its races; we saw the Haas team botch their pitstops in Australia and Max Verstappen colliding with Lewis Hamilton in Bahrain and only such moments are keeping Formula One from being the most boring televised sporting event.
A racing series A Car show?
Last week’s Bahrain Grand Prix was very uneventful and dull, just like every other Formula One race for the past few years and I was so stultified that I just had to change the channel. If Formula One cannot excite a true racing fan, let alone a general person who has no idea whatsoever about racing, it is headed in the wrong direction and it needs to make amends quickly. Drivers themselves have criticized the lack of overtaking opportunities with these new breed of cars and they too believe that a permanent solution must be found.
Today, Formula One has simply become a car show where 20 talented drivers drive some of the most complex race cars in the world around a racetrack with no trace of wheel to wheel battles that racing generally offers.
The possible improvements
Instead, Formula One should learn from their issues at present and find out better ways to improve the quality of racing.
One way could be by narrowing the wheels, which would mean sacrificing cornering speeds for potentially close racing, a move which I feel would be worth the risk taken. Yes, the cars will not be as captivating as they currently are and they will lap around racetracks slower than they do at present but if this move offers better racing, I don’t see why it will be a bad idea. Racing is what Formula One should be all about and this move would ensure a step towards the right direction for F1.
Another controversial way to help have more exciting racing would be by making the cars less complex and by having more common parts. By doing so, Formula One could lose the support of the manufacturers, who would be looking to establish their technology on all grounds and not only the engine and that would go against the very ethos of Formula One but on the brighter side, this would lead to a greater number of privateer teams whose sole focus would be racing and not promoting their road cars. It would greatly go against Formula One’s longstanding structure but if executed correctly, it may pay off.
Another possible option could be by re-introducing refueling into the sport; it was eradicated back in 2009 and since then, Formula One cars have been running races without having to stop for fuel. With refueling, we will see drivers and teams opting for alternate strategies and that way, we may witness great overtaking opportunities, with some drivers opting to go on a heavy fuel load and some on a lighter fuel load, with a vast difference in speed occurring as a consequence and giving drivers the opportunity to pass each other this way.
You may argue on the fact that this may be a backward step for Formula One as the manufacturers must prove that their cars are very efficient on fuel consumption and so they would like to go the whole distance without refueling but I believe that the quality of racing may very well make up for it. Also, safety may be a concern with refueling but if some preventive measures can be devised, I strongly feel that it will be a successful way to improve the quality of racing in F1.
the need to act urgently
Whatever Liberty Media and the FIA decide to do, they must do it urgently; other racing series such as Formula E, Indycar and MotoGP are delivering sensational and invigorating races and as the pinnacle of motorsport, its time for Formula One to deliver.
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