Change is what drives the F1 show
So, the feel of the steering was the only thing I didn’t like about my experience of driving a modern grand prix car. I think making the wheels bigger, and tting lowprole tyres, is exactly the right direction to go in. It will create some challenges for the engineers because it will have a big effect on car dynamics, and it may also create some opportunities for invention because there will be a greater volume of space on the inside of the wheel in which to package aerodynamic devices – if they’re allowed!
It’s also more relevant to the kind of wheels and tyres you see on current performance cars. They have 19-or 20-inch tyres and the rubber is almost directly against the metal. And, with less stress through the carcass, there may be less degradation, so the tyre supplier can be a bit more adventurous with the compound. Most of the current drivers I’ve spoken to say they would prefer more mechanical grip, so I think it’s a very good idea.
There has been a lot of fuss about the removal of the interconnected suspension systems that all the teams have been using. Why do it in the middle of the season? Well, as Ferrari’s technical director James Allison said, it was a gentle warning from the FIA that these systems were of uncertain legality and would be banned in future. Then, when one team publicly announced that they would take theirs off, everybody else had to follow. Though it seems sudden, I’m 100 per cent in favour of any move that reduces costs and helps smaller teams become more competitive – because it makes for better racing and gives young drivers the chance to demonstrate their talent. Equalising performance will help the future of F1.
“I wonder if we can do more to get people through the gates or to stay tuned to the TV”
People have asked what I think about the change to the Safety Car procedure that’s coming next year, in which action will begin again from a standing start instead of the cars already rolling. For the spectators – both trackside and watching on TV – this is going to add great excitement and it will make the show even better. I like it. For the drivers there is more risk, and, depending on how long the race has been going, the possibility that it may spoil their strategy. But it will even out over the course of a season – people who have been disadvantaged by one restart may nd an advantage in another. When you assess the impact of any change you have to look at the positives as well as the negatives. Maximising the impact of the show is important because sport is entertainment, and F1 competes for our attention with other forms of entertainment. Sometimes it needs to change to engage with the next generation. For me, nothing can compare with a grand prix in terms of the spectacle, the sound and the smell. When you bring young people to a race – I brought my youngest daughter to Silverstone – they become fans.
But we live in an information-rich age where young people have so many more distractions, it’s harder for them to concentrate on long sporting events. It’s good to see so many teams reaching out to engage fans via social media, but I wonder if we can do more to get people through the gates or to stay tuned to the TV. We should not be afraid of change.
Lotus tested 18-inch wheels for Pirelli in July: “current drivers say they would prefer more mechanical grip, so I think it’s a good idea”