Monday, 3 September 2012

#F1: good unpredictable, or bad unpredictable?

I remain unconvinced by this idea that Formula 1 needs to be made unpredictable.  Of course, I'd hate it to be too predictable - but the idea of trying to force unpredictability is something with which I still struggle to come to terms.

I wrote about the issue of tyre wear in the new Pirelli tyres over a year ago, and explained how I didn't feel it was right to try and "plan" the so-called "excitement" of high tyre-degradation.

I love to see smaller teams taking the fight to the big boys as much as the next fan, and I'm always keen to see new, young driving talent coming through the field, challenging the old order - but this excitement and competition should be a result of huge driver skill, and inspired engineering vision, not because of dodgy tyres which have been made specifically to be dodgy to give these kinds of results.

When I saw Jake Humphrey and Eddie Jordan ask "is F1 becoming too unpredictable?" at the beginning of the BBC's coverage of yesterday's Belgian Grand Prix, I surprised myself by answering "yes".  Eddie Jordan went on to say he believes racing "can never be too unpredictable", but I disagree.  Or rather, I disagree if that unpredictability is for the wrong reasons.

So, what are the "wrong" reasons?

Well, the "right" reasons would be lots of closely-matched, highly competitive racing drivers, fighting wheel-to-wheel to win races.  But, as I've mentioned, tyre wear is now a big factor - in my opinion, too big a factor.  So are recent developments like KERS and DRS.

However, I don't believe it is right when these other factors have a bigger influence on race results than the skills and commitment of drivers, team engineers and mechanics.  When a top driver wins one race, and then finishes outside the points in the next race - and similar things are happening to other top-level drivers - that can't be good; it's consistency which wins races, and by forcing this type of inconsistency on the racers you take the results out of the remit of driver skill, and leave the races down to the luck of whose equipment will fare best on the day.

We often praise the design of modern-day F1 cars for their hugely improved reliability (many fans will, I am sure, still remember the days when it was not uncommon for engines to blow up, gearboxes to fail, and so on, during races, and several retirements a race due to mechanical issues was not an abnormal sight) but that praise can seem slightly hollow, when the regulations practically institutionalise unreliability, in the form of tyre wear, etc.

Just my opinions, of course - but I worry that we may get a stage (if we haven't already!) where we are not allowing the true skill of these drivers (the best drivers in the world!) to shine through, because we insist on giving them sub-standard equipment, in order to "make races more exciting".

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