There has been a lot written about Formula 1 as of late. With all of the drama between the Mercedes teammates, unreliable power units, and Bernie Ecclestone’s spiraling insanity, it seems a lot of focus is being taken away from what made F1 such an exciting prospect for so many years. For decades, the series was a hotbed of innovation and cutting-edge engineering solutions with the sole purpose of being competitive. Due to this relentless progression of technology, the racing was exciting, the cars were cutting edge, and teams traded blows as they fought for dominance of the sport.
Perhaps I am oversimplifying the situation, but I believe slow progression of regulations in the sport are what drove this pursuit of perfection. Whereas a completely unregulated racing series is doomed for irrelevance and cancellation, as has been seen with FIA Group B and Can-Am, the inevitable tide of regulations prevented one team from being dominant for too long. However, despite consistently keeping the playing field as level as possible, engineers could still come up with solutions to the problems they saw and their teams could thrive because of them. Key examples are BMW’s turbocharging in ‘86, Benetton’s traction control and McLaren’s CFRP monocoque to mention a few, and all of those have found their way into passenger vehicles. And the outlandish loopholes like the second brake pedal, fan cars, mass dampers, and 6-wheeled cars added some freaks to the show that livened things up.
But no longer. The restrictions in F1 are so tight in their current form that it is unrealistic to expect these kinds of developments. Simply put, the teams with the most money, this season being Mercedes, win because they can afford to develop the best permutation of the given Formula. Hamilton and his team have dominated two seasons now, with little chance for smaller teams or other drivers to make a name for themselves. Regulation is so tight that the unorthodox innovations that made the series what it is are no longer possible, and it shows in the final products. Formula One has regulated itself out of relevance.
And to counteract this, the coverage of the sport has been made into a caricature. Instead of fascinating articles about the newest tech, the bitter rivalries between teams, and races that kept everyone on the edge of their seats, we have a bunch of hybrids racing, with two Silver Arrows at the front every time, and the rest of F1 being made into a soap opera. Hamilton’s #blessed personality has become more important than the speed, and Bernie’s comments about Putin being a great guy mean more than the racing. How have things gone so wrong? How has one of the fastest endeavors in the world become stale?