Start, Sepang, 2002

2002 to 2012: Ten ways F1 has improved in ten years


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Fernando Alonso, Sebastian Vettel, Montreal, 2012The standard of racing in Formula One has been a hotly-debated subject for several years.

Those who write the rules need to satisfy often contradictory demands. Such as embracing high technology, yet controlling costs. Or, providing an exciting spectacle – but one which is also safe.

This has led to changes in how tracks and cars are designed, and provoked the introduction of technologies such as KERS and DRS, not to mention the current generation of tyres.

The merits of these individual changes have provoked considerable debate, not least on this website. But if we take them all together, and look at the big picture, F1 seems increasingly to be getting it right.

Turning back the clock ten years, we had a one-sided championship, dreary races and a shrinking grid. Here’s how F1 has improved since then.

Slick tyres

2002: Grooved tyres
2012: Slick tyres

In an attempt to cut cornering speeds and improve safety, grooves were added to F1 tyres in 1998. How successful the experiment was can be gauged from the fact that no other major series copied the move – bar GP2 for a single season in 2005 – and the plan was scrapped ten years later.

Multiple sports car champion and former F1 driver Derek Bell summed up the shortcomings of the tyres when watching the Canadian Grand Prix in 1999: “They’re some of the most uncomfortable looking racing cars I’ve ever seen.”

The tyre war gave the drivers some of their grip back, but this also served to undo the point of grooved tyres, which was to slow the cars down. Happily, F1 has since navigated its way out of that backwater and reintroduced proper racing slicks.

No tyre war

Jarno Trulli, Renault, Magny-Cours, 20022002: Bridgestone vs Michelin
2012: Pirelli control tyres

The ‘tyre war’ was a big part of the reason why the 2002 season was so one-sided and dull. Because it wasn’t a “war” at all, it was near-total domination by Bridgestone.

That in itself might not have been a problem had Bridgestone’s development not been centred around a single team, who in turn centred all their efforts around a single driver.

The team was Ferrari and the driver was Michael Schumacher. Ferrari swept the board, winning 15 races. The drivers’ championship came to its earliest ever conclusion – the title was decided in July with six races left to run.

In 2006, the FIA decided F1 needed to have a single tyre supplier so tyre performance and cornering speeds could be controlled for safety reasons. Pirelli took over as tyre supplier in 2011 and, at the urging of the teams, have supplied tyres designed to challenge the drivers and technicians.

This they have certainly succeeded in. The result has been more exciting and unpredictable races. The tyre have also lessened the importance of sheer downforce in car performance, and allowed cars to race closer together.

The result has been closer, more exciting and less predictable racing. Would I go back to the days of a single driver enjoying bespoke tyres and crushing the field every weekend? No chance.

Refuelling banned

Mika Salo, Toyota, Sepang, 20022002: Refuelling
2012: No refuelling

The introduction of in-race refuelling to F1 in 1994 was a classic example of a knee-jerk introduction of a concept that worked well in another series (in this case, IndyCar), without adequate thought being given to whether it would work in Formula 1.

In-race refuelling works in IndyCar racing because safety car (caution) periods are more frequent, encouraging teams to pursue risky strategies in a bid to gain track position. That usually isn’t the case in F1, and other factors such as longer tracks and one pit box per team mean that in-race refuelling made F1 races more predictable, not less.

The necessity of refuelling also gave teams the luxury of avoiding having to make passes on the track. Instead of trying to pass they could hasten or postpone their inevitable pit stop, allowing them to find clear space on the track where they could lap quickly without the inconvenience of having to overtake anyone.

Happily, the refuelling ban in 2010 largely did away with that.

More teams

2002: 22 cars at the start, 20 by the end
2012: 24 cars

The escalating cost of competing in F1 took its toll on the world championship in 2002. Despite the arrival of the new Toyota team, the season ended with fewer competitors than the year before.

The Prost team folded before the season began and Arrows disappeared after the German Grand Prix. On both occasions there was no-one ready to stump up the cash to take over the teams and keep them going.

The situation today is better, if not ideal. There are more teams competing, but those at the back are still under pressure – note Marussia and HRT’s failure to appear with their new cars in pre-season testing.

However we have had a stable entry list for the past three years and the teams are still working to keep costs down and increase their share of the sport’s enormous earnings.

Hopefully in the near future another entrant can be found to finally get F1 back up to a full grid of 26 cars – something which last happened 17 years ago.

More competitive teams

Start, Suzuka, 20022002: One team far ahead of the rest
2012: Top nine covered by a second

Formula 1 is much more competitive now than it was ten years ago. At the 2002 Spanish Grand Prix the Ferraris had nine tenths of a second in hand over their rivals in qualifying.

At the same race this year the 15 fastest qualifiers from nine different teams were covered by less than a second.

While the 2002 season was all about one driver in one car, now F1 is closer the talents of the drivers count for more – as Red Bull’s Helmut Marko admits: “In times of stable regulations the cars become more and more alike – and when that happens the driver becomes key again to make the difference.”

More top drivers

2002: Two champions, seven race winners
2012: Six champions, eleven race winners

Two years ago Jackie Stewart hailed the current group of drivers as the best F1 has had since the sixties.

Since then it’s got even better – the return of Kimi Raikkonen and the ascendancy of Sebastian Vettel means we now have six world champions on the grid – more than any other season in F1 history.

Back in 2002, Mika Hakkinen’s retirement (or “sabbatical” as it was called at the time) meant there were just two world champions in the sport and one of them, Jaques Villeneuve, was lumbered with the disastrously uncompetitive BAR.

Nico Rosberg and Pastor Maldonado’s maiden wins this year means almost half the field are race-winners.

Better points system

2002: Points for the top six
2012: Points for the top ten

It’s not uncommon to see 20 or more cars finishing the races now, so it makes sense to have a points system that reflects that. If anything it could do with being extended further.

Ten years ago the value of winning was proportionally higher: A win was worth 66.6% more than finishing second, today it’s fallen to 38.8%. I preferred to see winning rewarded more highly, but the system we have now remains a (minor) improvement.

Better calendar

Sergio Perez, Sauber, Buddh International Circuit, 20112002: 17 races
2012: 20 races

The best thing the current F1 calendar has going for it over that of ten years ago is that it’s longer. The world championship has become more worldwide, with China, India, Singapore, South Korea and others joining the roster of venues.

When it comes to the quality of the tracks on the calendar, it’s hard to choose between the two. The short, compact A1-Ring produced some good races (though not in 2002) and Imola was a superb setting for a race, although the track had been infested with chicanes. Magny-Cours had little to commend it.

The new additions since then are, at best, a mixed bag. Valencia and Yas Marina are particularly poor but Singapore is at least distinctive and the Circuit of the Americas looks promising.

Other tracks have been tweaked in the interim, usually for the worse. They include the Circuit de Catalunya, which has lost some of its charm, and Spa-Francorchamps, which sprouted a truly horrible new chicane in 2007. The upgraded Silverstone is an exception.

On balance, I’d take the calendar of 2012 but it’s a matter of quantity over quality.

Less testing

2002: Unrestricted testing
2012: Limited in-season testing

This year teams will cover around 75,000km of testing. That’s a fair amount, more than ten Grand Prix distances per car. But it’s dwarfed by the amount of ground being covered ten years ago – over 267,000km, according to Forix.

The restrictions placed on testing in recent years means that the sessions which do take place have much better coverage. This doesn’t just include the test sessions themselves, but also practice sessions at race weekends, where fans can rely on seeing much more activity on track.

Testing restrictions prevent teams from spending their way to success, the positive effects of which we have already seen in closer field and fewer teams dropping out of the sport.

Limited testing is a big part of the reason why Formula 1 has improved in recent years, as Lotus team principal Eric Boullier explains: “Part of the unpredictability is coming from the fact that we have no more testing. You have to come with new parts and new ideas in Friday testing. You cannot do it one week [earlier] somewhere in Spain; you have to do it on a race weekend.”

Improved stewarding

Start, Sepang, 20022002: No drivers on stewards’ panel
2012: Stewards panel includes drivers’ advisers, more information given on some rulings

Stewarding has always been and probably always will be a contentious issue. But in recent years the stewarding process has become clearer, the rules more transparent, and the decision-making progress improved by the addition of drivers’ advisers to the stewards.

One moment from the 2002 season which sticks in my mind is Juan Pablo Montoya’s penalty in the 2002 Malaysian Grand Prix, quite one of the most astonishingly egregious verdicts ever to come down from the stewards. Even Schumacher, who had collided with Montoya at the first corner at the start, felt it was the wrong call and said so.

At times these days it still feels like some decisions take too long, the rules are not sufficiently clear or the punishment does not fit the crime. But do I have more confidence in the stewards now than ten years ago? Yes.

…and a few things F1 is still getting wrong

Heikki Kovalainen, Caterham, Montreal, 2012F1 has got more things right than wrong in the last ten years but it’s not all rosy.

I’m no fan of how the rules have forced a strange look upon the current cars, with out-of proportion front and rear wings, oversized rear endplates and (for the most part) stepped nose.

I like the current ‘knockout’ qualifying system more or less the same as the simple hour of free qualifying used in 2002. However the rule forcing drivers who qualify in the top ten to start on the tyres they qualified with does nothing for the racing and strikes me as rule-making for the sake of it.

The quality of F1 broadcasting has clearly improved, but here in Britain its pricing has become a significant concern. Although ITV’s ad-ridden coverage in 2002 was nothing special, it was at least live and free-to-air. Those who wanted more in-depth coverage had the option of subscribing to F1 Digital+ on Sky.

If ever a service was before its time, it was F1 Digital +. In Britain at least, digital television coverage was far from widespread when the service was canned at the end of 2002. Today only half the races are live and free-to-air, and viewing figures have slumped by around one million. F1’s television model in the UK in 2002 was surely a better deal for the viewer.

Finally, there’s DRS. An ill-conceived and grossly unfair gimmick which has done more to harm racing in F1 than improve it, as the Canadian Grand Prix surely proved.

Over to you

Were you watching F1 in 2002? How does the sport now compare to ten years ago?

What’s changed for the better, and what’s changed for the worse? Have your say in the comments.


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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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  • 153 comments on “2002 to 2012: Ten ways F1 has improved in ten years”

    1. Completely agree with you on the DRS, it’s a gimmick and makes passing a car way to easy at times (especially in certain circuits), completely removing the fun and excitement that comes with two cars battling for position. Some of the drivers in the previous Canadian Grand Prix seemed to just give up defending when they had a car behind them with their wing open.

      The other points are all valid and as you say while there are significant improvements, there is still room for more in F1.

      1. Hamilton may not have won the last race had it not been for drs. after the first stops, hamilton did an easy drs pass on alonso while his tyres were getting warmed up from exiting the pits, had he had no drs, its likely alonso would have held him up, then control the pace from next lap onwards, and potentially the strategies too. in situations like that, where tyres are still warming up after a stop, i hate really hate drs – it is an unfair advantage to one driver over another, and is artificial racing – it it makes it worse seeing a driver celebrate a win after being gifted positions because of drs. its happened a few times now in the sport. i think they should have drs disabled at the start of races, and for 2 laps after each drivers pitstop – since its a system that works automated, it would not be hard to implement.

        1. Whilst I’m not a huge fan of DRS as it can make a lot of races artificial I would argue that Hamilton would have most likely still won in Canada if he didn’t have DRS. His tyres were fresher and after making the pass he easily pulled a 2-3 second advantage over Alonso.

          They both had DRS and so both can benefit from it if they have the right race pace.. Alonso could have closed the gap against Hamilton and then tried to use that same tool against him and Hamilton would have not had any defense.. So why didn’t he?

          Don’t get me wrong I think Alonso is pretty much the best driver on the grid right now so I’m not doubting it was his abilities but simply highlighting that McLaren has the race pace and made the better 2 stop strategy.. It was not DRS that was the defining factor of Hamiltons win, it was great driving and making a 2 stop strategy work! Where as if Ferrari had done the same and it could have been either Vettel, Hamilton or Alonso on the top spot..

          1. Vettel 3x WDC
            16th June 2012, 12:34

            > They both had DRS and so both can benefit from it if they have the right race pace.. Alonso could have closed the gap against Hamilton and then tried to use that same tool against him and Hamilton would have not had any defense.. So why didn’t he?

            Because the Mercedes engine is the most powerfull of the field. Vettel was behind Alonso and even with DRS open he could not pass him because off the Renault engine

            1. The reason Vettel was unable to pass Alonso even with DRS is simply because RB are renowned for having a high DF set up which impacts their top speed.. If you look at the FIA speed trap data RB were pretty much had the lowest top speed hence DRS pretty much gave them almost no advantage! It’s pretty much all aerodynamics my friend..

        2. PaulyT1973 (@slimboyfatpauly)
          14th June 2012, 15:30

          It is disabled for the first 3 laps.

          1. @slimboyfatpauly drs is disabled for the first 2 laps from the start and from a safety car start.

        3. DRS was brought in to help boost the number of overtakes. Prior to DRS, the driver who overtaked most, and most spectacularly, in recent seasons was Lewis Hamilton. Fact. I’m totally in favour of dumping DRS, and have been since its introduction, so all those only wailing that DRS sucks after Hamilton won this year can have the pleasure of seeing him and a handful of others, on a good day, overtaking.

          And yes he would have got past Vettel and Alonso on their worn tyres, as he has various numerous times in the past.

        4. jimscreechy (@)
          15th June 2012, 10:48

          It is pointless to say if “this” were different then “That” would or would not have happened. It simply doesn’t work like that. Teams, drivers, cars, react or respond based on all the characteristics of a situation, removing one element means the a complete re-evaluation of the situation as a whole, it doesnt mean that the circumstances remain the same but for that one particular factor. You can’t have it both ways, ‘IF’ you favour of one argument you have to recognise the same “IF” against your argument. In this case “IF” there was no DRS then not just Mclaren but every other team would have taken that into account and employed an entirely different strategy suitable to allow them to win the race.

      2. I don’t completely disagree with DRS, but maybe it could be used in a similar way to KERS in that a driver can only deploy it for a certain amount of time during the race, so he can decide wether to save it for an attack and also so it can be used defensively.

        1. I thoroughly disagree – DRS is great. Before DRS, i.e. 2010, we had few passes for the lead when cars behind were clearly faster. Overtaking up the front occurred primarily in the pits. Sure, we had a few on track passes but mostly it was done on strategy. I don’t think Alonso was crying about the thought of having DRS as he bemoaned his WDC loss following the race in Abu Dhabi, having been stuck behind Petrov for most of the race…

          DRS allows cars which are faster past those who are slower. And we as an F1 fanbase have shouted loud and clear over the years that F1 needed more overtaking at the front! I cannot think of one DRS enabled pass where the car who went past was slower in terms of laptime as the car they passed – if they were, the other car would DRS past on the next lap, which is no different to slipstreaming battles of years ago or currently in Indycar.

          We are in the midst of the closest season ever, with the most competitive field ever, with the most number of winners at this point in the season ever, and yet we are whinging about DRS?

          1. +1.

            DRS was brought in to fix the issue where slower cars were holding up faster cars because they couldn’t follow closely around the corners leading to the straights due to the huge amount of turbulent air that comes off a modern F1 car. Sure, this is less of an issue at places like Montreal where the straight is preceded by a hairpin, but to complain about DRS now is, I think, a bit unfair.

        2. Everyone who is aginast DRS, can you come up with a better solution? At the moment its FIAs bandaid fix to something that is a huge issue in F1. So as its not going anywhere, the FIA need to improve it. Maybe the defending car can be allowed to defend with it 3 to 5 times per race? That way in the last race after the first stops, Alonso could have used it to stay in front while he gets his tyres warmed up. Then if Hamilton had more pace, Alonso would have used up all his DRS defends and Hamilton would then make the pass.

          1. @ivz @jsc @clay
            I dont like DRS because it makes passing too easy.
            IMHO, passing is supposed to be hard. If I judged the quality of racing by pure pass-count alone, I would would watch Nascar.

            Football is a low scoring sport, yet fans are enthralled by every minute, and it makes the ultimate goal (pun intended) all the more exciting.

            1. @javlinsharp Nascar!? All they do is slipstream the whole race, that is entertaining?
              DRS is there for a reason, obviously they don’t have a better solution at this point in time, which is why I suggested maybe the defending car is allowed a certain amount of use per race.
              The ideal situation would be to lower an F1 cars dependancy on aero and increase mechanical grip to allow them to follow closely through corners, and there bring back the real racing. But its not as simple as that.

            2. @ivz

              Nascar!? All they do is slipstream the whole race, that is entertaining?

              His point was to highlight that higher quantity of passing doesn’t always equal higher quality racing.

            3. Ah, much easier to read now when not on a phone haha.

          2. The tyres and closer field we already have?

      3. Ian (@valkyrassassin)
        15th June 2012, 11:47

        I quite like the DRS/KERS combo for overtaking – races are alot less processional, and I remember races often finishing in the exact same order as they started in a number of races. I don’t find that interesting to watch at all, and I’m a long term F1 fan, been watching it for 20 years. So unless you really love those boring races, with very few actually interesting races, then stop moaning about DRS.

    2. Great article, Keith. I think the negativity surrounding certain aspects – which is genuine, and I’m glad you touched on it – can make us forget how far the sport has come recently. I agree with pretty much every one of the ten improvements you listed.

    3. Interesting article, Keith. Often you forget all of the improvements that have been made in the past ten years until they’re listed like this.

      One area where F1 has gone downhill in recent years is the number of engine suppliers. In 2002 we had eight (Ferrari, Mercedes, BMW, Honda, Renault, Cosworth, Toyota and the Asiatech-badged Peugeot engines); now there are only four (Renault, Ferrari, Mercedes and Cosworth).

      I’m sceptical about whether the new engine regulations will attract more manufacturers to the sport, but it’s clear that the current formula isn’t working either.

      1. Well there’s PURE at least, VAG have been sniffing around too.

        1. ‘vag’ and ‘sniffing’…surely i’m not the only one who got a chuckle out of this?

          1. Ian (@valkyrassassin)
            15th June 2012, 11:49

            That’s not very Pure of you….

      2. I’m loving this season so much that I feel empty when we have weekend without a GP.

      3. @red-andy

        One area where F1 has gone downhill in recent years is the number of engine suppliers.

        Great point, hadn’t thought of that.

    4. I actually started watching in 2002, so this is really the evolution of F1 for me.. I pretty much agree with all that’s been said about the improvements, even though I quite enjoyed watching Michael Schumacher command races from the front, it seems to make my enjoyment of the close races (such as Canada last weekend) even greater.. I just hope they can iron out the creases with the things that seem to get the fans irritated (although in my opinion, I think the fans are just being silly and trying to find something to moan about)

    5. I think the “look” of the cars has stayed at pretty much the same level over the 10 years. I like the wide low look of the cars 10-15 years ago but the extent of the aerodynamic aides/devices/bodywork at various points spoiled them. The McLaren of 2008 springs to mind. The Brawn is one of the best looking F1 cars in my opinion.
      However the blandness and consistency of the liveies now, is disppointing. When I first started watching F1 15 years ago there seemed to be at least 2-3 chnages of livery from one year to the next and teams were much easier to identify at distance by their livery. You could never mistake a Jordan (except for when Minardi went Hi-Vis yellow)

      1. I would like to have a few more striking liveries back: Jaguar green and Jordan yellow, for example. I know I keep whingeing about it, but the Sauber is an embarrassment this year.

    6. I started watching F1 in 2002, though I didn’t start watching every single race until 2007. Most of Keith’s point I agree with, however there are some I disagree with.

      The reason the sport has more teams, seemed to me because the FIA brought in the three new teams for the sake of it. I would kind of take a field of 20 or 22, where the entire field is close. Rather than the top 16 or 18 are close, and the bottom three a few seconds of the pace. For me, more teams is only better if every team is up to speed.

      Also the current calendar isn’t necessarily an improvement. Some of the new tracks are good like Singapore and South Korea. But tracks like Abu Dhabi and Valencia are bad and shouldn’t be on the calendar. Calendars consisting of 19 or 20 races is good, but only if the extra tracks are actually good themselves.

      1. I don’t quite get why Valencia and its races always receive so much criticism from the fans. It’s not like we have to drive around the place, and if we did, I think we would quite enjoy ourselves (providing we could keep whatever car we were driving out of the wall). As for the races, 2009 saw an interesting battle between Hamilton and Barrichello; in 2010 there was Kobayashi first holding the field up a bit and then moving forwards again on fresh tyres towards the end (and there was that famous radio communication: where was he before his drive-through, and where is he now; and in 2011 we had an interesting battle between Webber and Alonso. In fact, I’m quite looking forward to this year’s race as well.

        1. I like the third sector in Valencia, but the rest of the track isn’t very interesting. I agree the each the races at Valencia had one or two moments, but generally speaking, most of the races have been dull. The 2010 race was the only half decent race there so far.

        2. Just needs a decent hairpin at the end of one of the straights, instead of all the chicanes. The last corner’s pretty good, but you have to be Kobayashi, or on much newer tyres, to pass someone there.

          It’s frustrating that, like Abu Dhabi, they’ve done nothing to change the layout. Some of the old street tracks that were panned (Phoenix and Detroit) at least tried some different layouts to improve the racing.

        3. It looks like a carpark, as well as boring, monotonous and unchallenging to drive around. That is why I also dislike Abu Dhabi and Singapore (which at least is a bit more visually interesting). Visual stimulation is the biggest thing lacking in a lot of the more modern tracks.

        4. xeroxpt (@)
          14th June 2012, 21:29

          Valencia it’s simple, it’s ugly at least from Tv it looks like a shipyard or docks whatever, it’s hazy there’s no nature at sight. F1 is 50% about gorgeaus cars and sightings.

      2. Caterham’s getting there, and HRT may start to improve with the better stability they seem to have. These days new teams need to start off the pace before graduating towards the midfield unfortunately. But I prefer to have more cars knowing that there’s potential.

      3. I can only agree with this.

        My problem with the 3 new teams is that it’s 3 years down the road now, look at other teams after 3 years: Stewart won a GP, Jordan had a pole position, Toyota was about to break into the top 4, Sauber were picking up strong points finishes etc.

        I like some of the new tracks on the calendar, Bahrain is all right to drive around, and Singapore has provided a couple of good races, and COTA does look pretty sweet… But there are some tracks which do let it down a bit… For Monaco and Canada, there has been so much build up by BBC and SKY, yet for Valencia there’s no build up at all. Magny-Cours has gone, which was a track I liked, as has the A1-Ring. The Korean International Circuit looks dull and lacks character, Yas Marina is a pretty light show and nothing more, the Indian Circuit is fun to drive and needs more time to make a name for itself however.

        1. @craig-o It is a fair point regarding the new teams, but if you look at Jordan’s record in their 3rd season while they might have been qualifying round halfway up the grid, only on 2 out of 32 occasions did they manage to qualify within 3 seconds of the driver on pole. And that isn’t far off what the new teams are currently managing.

      4. @slr

        The reason the sport has more teams, seemed to me because the FIA brought in the three new teams for the sake of it.

        That’s not what happened: the FIA proposed new regulations for teams competing under capped budgets, which attracted three new teams (while one, Toyota, was leaving). These three teams have remained in the sport despite the budget cap regulations not materialising. That they have managed to do this and stay within the 107% rule more often than not – something many of their predecessors at the back of the grid would not have managed – is, I think, commendable.

        I would kind of take a field of 20 or 22, where the entire field is close. Rather than the top 16 or 18 are close, and the bottom three a few seconds of the pace. For me, more teams is only better if every team is up to speed.

        That being so, surely you must prefer today’s level of competitiveness? So far this year five teams have won races on merit. In 2002 the opposition only got a look in when Ferrari dropped the ball.

    7. 2002 was one of the worst seasons in history, but improvements were made for 2003. The result was one of the best seasons ever. And the racing was just as good as today, but with no KERS, DRS, crappy tires, etc. Just look at 2003 British GP, for example.

      So in my opinion, you should compare 2012 with best, not the worst seasons of the past to see the difference.

      1. This is true – and if you look back to last year/the year before, we had the Red Bulls miles ahead in qualifying at Barcelona in the same way the Ferrari’s were in 2002.

        I do in general agree with most of the points though, aside from how the cars look, DRS, the calendar and testing.

        1. I preferred that though- you got the sense that Vettel was doing more off his own back without specially made tyres. And last year did have close racing, despite the championship not reflecting it. Other than DRS I think I would take 2011 over 2002 any day (although it is hard to say for sure, not having watched before 2004).

    8. dysthanasiac (@)
      14th June 2012, 13:27

      How have the control tires “lessened the importance of sheer downforce in car performance”? If neither the tires nor the engine can be improved, where do teams look for improvements? Aerodynamics.

      The refueling ban has done little more than stifle strategy to the point that Pirelli had to be asked to provide silly tires in order to regain some semblance of a strategic element to F1.

      More teams? HRT, Marussia and Caterham are moving chicanes. I don’t even know what they’re doing in F1.

      And if nine teams are within a second of one another in Formula One, it means that Formula One might as well be a spec series. Innovation has been crunched to death by increasingly narrow rules. Hell, weight distribution is standard.

      Better calendar? We’re about to lose Spa every other year, and most of the new circuits produce dull racing.

      I guess it’s safe to say that I disagree with a few of the points made here.

      1. Innovation has been crunched to death by increasingly narrow rules.

        2012- double DRS
        2011- extreme EBD
        2010- F-duct
        2009- Double diffuser

        Since the rule change there has been at least one big interesting innovation per season, so I can’t agree with you there, although I do agree that it would be nice to see some regulations a little less restrictive.

        1. dysthanasiac (@)
          14th June 2012, 14:29

          DDRS is almost irrelevant, EBDs have been around for a long time, and the other two were subsequently banned. Sports car racing has stolen F1’s technology thunder, so to speak. Actually, F1 gave it away.

          1. DDRS is nevertheless an interesting innovation, EBDs haven’t been around quite like they were last year, nor in such an extreme fashion where they were so integral to performance, and the other two being banned is typical of most innovations in F1’s history.

            1. dysthanasiac (@)
              14th June 2012, 15:01

              EBDs were very tame last year compared to the past. Teams have previously exited exhaust under the car, directly into the diffuser, and such an implementation was not exclusive to F1. That it was so important last year just reinforces my point that the rules are simply too narrow. There used to be multiple areas for performance differentiation. No so much anymore.

              F1 is on the precipice of cost-cutting itself into a spec series.

      2. disgruntled
        15th June 2012, 1:48

        More teams? HRT, Marussia and Caterham are moving chicanes. I don’t even know what they’re doing in F1.

        what could be so hard about starting from scratch in Formula 1 to rubbing shoulders with McLaren & Ferrari a few years down the track aye? nothing that a guy with good business nouse and tens of millions of pounds like yourself couldnt tackle. Show’em how its done champ ;)

        1. dysthanasiac (@)
          18th June 2012, 17:20


          If having the ability and the means to actually compete in Formula One were requirements for having an opinion about Formula One, we’d all be silent. Even you, tiger.

          That said, in Caterham, Marussia and especially HRT, I see three teams that have not made any significant progress toward the mid-field since their inception. I don’t know what else to make of that, especially this year when the regulations have produced chassis of virtually identical performance from every other team, and Pirelli are seemingly giving every team a shot at glory.


          There’s a significant difference between Williams and the new teams, and it’s called heritage. Williams have proven themselves. Caterham, Marussia and HRT have not. At all.

      3. @dysthanasiac
        I have to disagree with you. I like having the slower teams.
        Just 2 years ago, the same could be said for Williams. Even worse, the are team that was once at the pinnacle of F1, but slipped down into the bracket of embarrassment.

        Today, Williams is doing good, and I am happy for them.
        Part of F1, for me, is seeing how teams work and (usually) improve

    9. for me theres one subject that i have found that has made the sport far better in the last ten years for the fan. that is the accesability. be it through team-radio, more abundent press releases or Twitter acounts, i do rather have more of a sense what a team is about, unlike the much more secreter attitude of teams of the early 2000’s. It nearly impossible to keep much secret in F1 anymore, and so us fans can draw our own conclusion of whats going on in the paddock much more easily.

      1. Yes, definitely – F1Fanatic, and Twitter taking off among F1 people, have probably done more than anything to get me interested in F1 again. Everyone can choose their favourite ways of getting information online and feeling involved with F1. All the best writers and commentators now have a blog or some kind of regular online presence, while 10 years ago they were just writing in specialist magazines.

      2. Completely agree with you! Also the access to real time stats is something I especially love, particularly in qualifying it makes everything much more exciting because you can see what drivers are doing without having to rely just on the tv coverage.

      3. @blunt

        be it through team-radio, more abundent press releases or Twitter acounts, i do rather have more of a sense what a team is about, unlike the much more secreter attitude of teams of the early 2000′s.

        Another excellent point definitely worthy of conclusion. Great to see Ferrari have got over their Twitter phobia recently.

    10. I watched F1 in 2002, but I can’t remember much about it, in part because of the shortcomings listed above that made it pretty boring at times.

      I am of two minds about your view on the tyre war. On the one hand, we F1 fans enjoy the engineering side of the sport, with teams cleverly finding innovate systems to make their cars go ever faster. Why shouldn’t the tyres be part of that package? And if not, why stop at fixing the tyres? The engines are very expensive, so perhaps there should be a single engine supplier as well. Aerodynamics are largely irrelevant to the road car industry, so perhaps there should be a standard aero-kit as well.

      I guess the only way to minimise the chances of one team or driver running away with all the races is to have a very constrained rule book – which is what we have now, but many people complain about the lack of freedom the engineers have in designing their cars. And it’s not just F1 that’s struggling with trade-off between engineering freedom and parity, as in touring car series there are (or were, I haven’t kept in touch) these silly rules that the winners have to take extra weight on board, and in IndyCar with 3 (if you count Lotus anyway…) engine suppliers, parity is also a topic of discussion.

      I suppose what I’m trying to say is that I would welcome another tyre supplier back in F1. It would be a good opportunity to get rid of all the silly tyre rules (having to race both compounds and starting on the Q3 set), it would improve the purity of the racing (even if that sounds a bit silly), and we might still see some interesting racing (for instance if one tyre supplier is better for qualifying, and the other(s) for the race). What happened in 2002 with one guy completely dominating was unfortunate, but by no means the only logical outcome of having multiple tyre suppliers, nor is domination ruled out with a single tyre supplier. Last year, for instance, it may have been that Vettel’s domination was partly due to the fact that he got on with the Pirellis better than his nearest rivals.

    11. jimscreechy (@)
      14th June 2012, 13:35

      Hmmm I would agree with most points, but not the “Less Testing & Improved Stewarding”
      I think there should be More testing perhaps at every 3rd event (so maybe 6 times a year) where an additional practice period of 1.5 hours is added just for testing. This would do away with the high costs involved for dedicated testing excussions as used to be the case, while providing an oppotunity for improvment and for up and coming talent, something which we don’t currently have. As for the stewarding, I think it has a long way to go before it is anywhere near acceptable in terms of consistency and equality. I am very much opposed to the leverage Stewards have on a race outcome, and think better defined actions need to be in place for infractions as well as on track behavior in general.

    12. I think they need to scrap DRS, the tyres work well enough to induce overtaking, and with DRS, it makes it almost impossible to overtake a train of cars who have all got DRS, and I think also it stops people overtaking in areas that aren’t in the DRS a lot of the time as they are worried they will just get re-passed (most recent example, Hamilton/Alonso at Canada, Hamilton could have overtook at the hairpin, but decided to do it down DRS straight so Alonso couldn’t do it himself and get back passed.

    13. There are a few things I miss from that era: The bigger and better engines, classic tracks like Imola, the higher retirement rate and the greater points importance of the win.

      Also although I agree with the vast majority of the article, some of the stuff said would have not been applicable if this article was written last year. I get the feeling that the points made in this article can be slightly be undermined by comparing an extremely competitive season to one dominated by one team and one driver.

      One could argue that the ‘better’ rules produced a similarly dominant year in 2011 and the only difference between 2011 and 2012 is the ban on the blown diffuser.

      1. i wouldnt call the engines better. they sounded better that is all.
        but i liked them too, and what i liked was how they acted in combination with the car, not as fast through corners as now, but when they pointed them in a straight line, they were so fast in a straight line. when i watch old races now, i notice the different body language of the cars, but i quite enjoy the body language of that era of f1, makes me think of the comparison in a similar way to comparing a big bore superbike compared to 600cc bikes.

        also, i remember during early 2000s, a lot of people actually disliked the Imola track, with the chicanes it wasnt as fast as in its glory days, and a lot of the races on the new layout were boring, and not very much overtaking, remember alonso and schumacher in two races there not being able to pass each other.

        1. You were able to sum up why I liked those engines better than I could!

          To be honest, and it’s probably the nostalgia talking but I only remember the exciting races from the late 90’s at Imola and the 2005 & 2006 races. Although there wasn’t an overtaking move in those two later races I thought the nose-to-gearbox racing was so intense I always remember them as classics! But I can see why others would find Imola painfully dull.

    14. the thing i disliked most in 2002, was watching Schumacher celebrate after each victory, in which he seemed almost oblivous to the fact that he had an unfair advantage over every one else, he celebrated like the wins were actually hard, like he tried harder then the other drivers – maybe after this hard season he will realise that was an easy time back then. the sport was setup in a way which made it hard for other great drivers to have regular wins – the FIA wanted Ferrari to win – Ferrari is an evocative brand that lures people into the sport just through its name and pedigree, it was a corporation led onslaught – Ferrari, Bridgstone, Malboro – money equalled wins more then ever. it is different now when someone like Vettel dominated last year, at least it is now a more even playing field, and no one team gets a special tyre advantage, but back then the sport really did stink. back then schumacher was expected to win every race, now we have a handful of drivers that are expected to fight for the victory and more often then not they do. but back then there was also as many great drivers just as now, just many of them didnt ever get a chance like schumacher did with ferrari.

      1. in which he seemed almost oblivous to the fact that he had an unfair advantage over every one else

        He didn’t win unfairly, he had the best car and made the most of it. The one race he did win unfairly (Austria), he didn’t celebrate it at all.

        1. +1 @slr

          it is different now when someone like Vettel dominated last year

          Oh yeah, then people still complain when he celebrated.

          but back then there was also as many great drivers just as now, just many of them didnt ever get a chance like schumacher did with ferrari.

          The likes of Hakkinen, Alonso and Raikkonen were indeed great, got their chances to win championships and took them. The likes of Coulthard, Ralf and Montoya all drove cars capable of winning championships, but failed to make the most of those opportunities since they were not as good as Schumacher or the other three I mentioned above.

      2. I take it you’re not a big Schumacher fan then?

      3. Agreed, dkpioe!

    15. F1 really should drop:
      1) Mandatory tire change rule
      2) The top 10 starts on the same tires rule

      And make a change for DRS – enable it everywhere (except rain – like it is now) like in qualifying – if you are the best of the best driver, then you can manage the DRS thingy too and use it to your or your car advantage – current system with “you are allowed to press button here” is plain dumb.

    16. I think I agree with just about every point (particularly DRS and one tyre manufacturer), although I won’t make a decision on the quality of tracks until we see how the promising COTA actually turns out, although I look forward to both that and particularly New Jersey next year.

      Other points:
      Although frozen engines and the change from V8’s has good points, I prefer it like it used to be. 1000bhp engines were much more exciting, and engine development is in my mind an integral part of F1’s history. I probably wouldn’t have minded about the loss of V10’s if the V8’s had been developed properly, with less restrictive rev limits. I hope they don’t freeze the new engines soon after they’re introduced, although it unfortunately would make economic sense. I just hope that they find other areas to save money to justify loosening up engine rules. I also hope something can be done in the future to loosen up more of the technical regulations, but that will rely so much on whether budget restrictions are used or if costs in other areas are significantly reduced.

    17. 2002 wasn’t a great season, but some seasons in that era were great, such as 2000 and 2003.
      Personally, I don’t like the look of the current cars or DRS, I’d prefer the Bridgestone slicks and the 2003-2009 points system, and I wouldn’t mind a bit more power and downforce.
      I do, however, like the lack of refueling, and the control tyres.
      My dream for Formula One is just to have close rivalries at the top, such as 2007, where the top 3 were seperated by 1 point, or 2000, where the top 4 were separated by 10 points, 2/3rds of the way through the season. Also for limited strategy, I prefer it when the best driver wins.
      I think 2010 was the best season I have watched in the last decade.

    18. I was watching every Grand Prix in 2002 just as I do now and I can basically agree with all 10 points. However, I think that 2002 was particularly dull and that we need to turn the clock only some years back or ahead to find a very good season. In 1997, one of the very best years in the F1 history, you would see a different picture:

      1) Slick tyres
      2) Healthy tyre competition: All the leading teams were using Goodyear but the Bridgstone teams managed to score some podiums, too.
      3) 22 cars (there would have been 24 if Lola had managed to get their project running)
      4) Good competition: 9 of 11 teams managed to get on the podium at least once. The 1997 season saw 6 different winners and 15 different drivers on the podium in 17 races.
      5) I don’t think that a high number of world champions on the grid neccesarily means it has a relatively high quality. Nevertheless, there were 4 existing or upcoming world champions and 15 existing or upcoming race winners on the 1997 grid.
      6) Pretty good-looking cars
      7) High unreliability, which increased the excitement and probably helped the weakest of 19 different drivers to score points even though only the first six got them then.
      8) A couple of good circuits that I miss now were then still on the calendar, like Imola or Spielberg.
      9) A championship battle that went down to the wire and an epic finale at Jerez
      10) If I remember correctly, there were less penalties for ‘causing avoidable collisions”, which, in my opinion, should mostly be avoided.

      I agree that more races, testing restrictions, the current qualifying format, probably also no refuelling and a couple of other things make the 2012 even slightly better than the 1997 was. But F1 changes, goes up and down all the time. I believe that 2002, 2004 and 2011 were low points but I think that the sport has been in a healthy shape for most of the time during the last 15 years.

    19. Nick.UK (@)
      14th June 2012, 14:47

      Just something i noticed regarding the coverage in the UK. The BBC highlights for Canada only cut out 11 minutes of track action, so you could argue that it was just as good as it was before minus a few of the tedius laps in the middle. When you consider Monza is only an hour and 20 minutes anyway (in dry condictions) it’s possible to think that we may end up able to watch the whole race, just a couple of hours delayed.

      What does annoy me though, is that Eddie Jordan no longer attends races that are not live by the looks of it. He was in Australia, probably just as it was the first one, and maybe he chose not to attend Bahrain for a different reason. But to my knowledge he wasn’t in Malaysia or Canada; and I’m quite dissapointed in his apparent lack of effort this year.

      1. Yeah, it was great to have a two-hour highlights show (I hope they do it again with the US Grand Prix) but I suspect the highlights show from Monza won’t be as long because it’s prime time.

        They’d have had to cut more laps out if Eddie Jordan had been on the show, just to fit him in… but at least he wasn’t writing a blog that gave the impression he was there, unlike James Allen.

    20. Well we can say that the tyre situation turned around in 2005 and maybe 2006, except obviously Indy 2005…

    21. Ten years ago when one team dominated it was actually good for Formula One as they reaped the rewards of getting it all right, and the competition simply couldn’t keep up. This what GrandPrix racing has always been about… unlocking the key to that competitive edge where the advantage gained by clever usage of talent throught that team resulted in race victories. I call it the Chapman affect.
      The seven driver victories in seven races this season pales in comparison to when Schumacher was wiping up all who came before him in the F2002.

      1. While I don’t disagree with the sentiment of a team reaping the rewards for getting it all right, and that being what F1 should be all about, I am vehemently opposed to how FIA/MS/Ferrari went about their effort…by selling out and “foregoing the spirit of racing for the sake of share value” as Patrick Head put it way back when.

        To me what MS did was prove what an F1 driver can do when given a designer car and tires and a non-competing teammate by contract, the team an extra 100 mill just because they were Ferrari, and veto power on rule changes as well as the power of 3 seats on the board vs. everyone else’s one. So for me, while their numbers compilation looked impressive, it was not an apples to apples comparison of MS to the other drivers on the grid, to an extreme unprecedented before and I predict never to be repeated again.

        I can appreciate much more the domination of SV last year without all the extreme treatment that MS had.

      2. I have enjoyed the 7 winners in 7 races, but I otherwise agree Ted Bell!

      3. Ferrari were able to dominate due to their vast resources and funds as much as anything else. Schumacher did help significantly though, there is no denying he was a great driver.

    22. Good timely piece. As a victim of Ferrari domination in the 90s—getting up at the crack of dawn to see Schumacher romp to another 30 second victory, I agree that this is a bright new day, relatively.

      I still disagree about the refueling. I don’t know how people say that taking it away forced people to pass on the track. It’s no different than now as you have to stop to change tires. The Lack of refueling didn’t compel Alonso to try to pass Hamilton and Vettel on track on Sunday instead of trying the undercut. It’s safer, is all. If there is a real advantage to getting rid of refueling its that it makes pit stop performance more important. There is now real drama there…to see whether McLaren will screw up again.

      The other key point is the quality of the drivers. Why is this? It could be because careers are longer now. 6 of the drivers from 2002 are on the grid now. 3 of them are champions. I find that fairly amazing.

    23. 2002: V10’s
      2012: V8’s

      2002 wins by miles for me.

    24. Brabham invented refueling in F1 in 1982. (so long before 1994)

      My oppinion on refueling (or racing in general) is give teams the freedom come up with interesting solutions to win races (like the idea that a lighter car is faster and even alowing for a pitstop you can win a race like that). The less rules we have telling teams what they can and cant do the better. Why do teams have to use both types of tyre for example?

    25. The necessity of refuelling also gave teams the luxury of avoiding having to make passes on the track … Happily, the refuelling ban in 2010 largely did away with that.

      I think there’s still a stink around in F1 from this.
      The teams seem unwilling to depart from what their simulations and strategy programmes tell them to do, and risk extra tyre changes late in the race. Hopefully Lewis Hamilton’s success in Canada will encourage teams and drivers to wing it a bit more. Easily said in hindsight, though.

    26. Tom (@newdecade)
      14th June 2012, 15:09

      The tyre degradation also gave teams the luxury of avoiding having to make passes on the track. Instead of trying to pass they could hasten or postpone their inevitable pit stop, allowing them to find clear space on the track where they could lap quickly without the inconvenience of having to overtake anyone.

      Also which year had the predictable dominant winner and finishing orders: 2001 or 2011? It is a little unfair to pick on the early 2000s, especially when 2003 was one of the most exciting seasons of the decade. If someone goes on to dominate next year, will that still be compared favourably to 2003?

      1. Well said.

    27. I remember that back in 2008, when I learned about the rule changes, I said I wanted to change the height of the front wing (more close to the floor), keep its width, keep the rear wings as they were, and clean up all the bodywork, no flaps. And of course, slick tyres, with the rear ones a bit bigger than the front ones (this become true in 2010). For me that would’ve helped get rid of the turbulence while still mantaining a good look of the cars.

      Still, I always think, what would F1 have been like in 2002, if Pirelli was the only tyre supplier (regardless of whether they were slick or grooved)? It’s interesting to think about that…

    28. I agree with most of the list, but there are few “improvements” that I disagree with:

      I don’t think the new point system is any better than the old one. It’s great regarding the mid-field battles, but it does little to encourage winning. Not only does the second driver get propotionally more points compared to winner than before, but so does every driver from 3rd place to 10th. This might artificially keep the fight for the championship up longer for more drivers than before, but it also makes winning races less significant and retiring a catasthrophe. Winning three races in a row doesn’t give a driver a huge advantage over other drivers, but if a driver retires three times in a row, he’s in big trouble.

      I also like the look of the 2012 cars. I don’t know if they’re better than the cars ten years ago, but I don’t think they look worse either.

    29. The first thing I thought when I saw this article was the one thing we currently have wrong but didn’t back then.

      The ugly out of proportion cars. Glad it got a mention in the end. Haha :)

      Great article as always Keith. Keep up the good work.

    30. Chris (@tophercheese21)
      14th June 2012, 15:54

      Great article and a great read. Although I think DRS. Is ultimately a force for good, in hat, it’s still a work in progress, yes the passing in Canada was too easy, so for next years race they can make it shorter so it’s not so easy next time. I guess it’s more or less a process of trial and error; what works asunder what doesn’t.

      But at the same time you have people who hate DRS because they think it provides artificial overtaking, and I guess it’s a case of: “everyone likes shooting, but no one likes getting shot”. So if you love overtaking someone with DRS, but at the same time, you don’t like it when someone does it to you.

      At the end of the day you just have to accept the rules, because that’s just the way it is. And let’s face it, my opinion, and 99% of anyone else’s opinions make 0% impact on what the FIA choose to do with the sport.

      1. William Brierty
        14th June 2012, 15:58

        Exactly, well said. F1 is what it is at the moment so watch it, enjoy it, and if you’re a purist just wait, because, inevitably, the F1 regs will change again with the eternal evolution of the sport.

    31. William Brierty
      14th June 2012, 15:54

      I agree about how dull the 2002 season was, in fact my policy was watch qualifying, the first lap and then see who won on the news later that evening. I adopted that policy as of the second race of 2001 until the second race of 2003, because I was quite disappointed to have missed such an exciting race as the 2003 Australian Grand Prix. However I don’t agree with this negative view on DRS. In 2002 track position and a long 7th gear would have won you the race, even if you were doing Minardi speeds through the corners, but now genuinely faster cars can pass using the DRS. Remember how many races were ruined by front-running cars getting traffic after pitting and being unable to pass, or having to wear out its tyres to pass? Does that happen now? No. And remember what the FIA said? The length of DRS zones would take several seasons to perfect, because of course the aim is just to get the cars side-by-side in the breaking zone. OK, that was not the case in the rather DRS-extreme Turkey ’11, Abu Dhabi ’11, Korea ’11, Canada ’11/’12, but at races like China ’11/’12, Spain ’11, India ’11, Australia ’12 and Britain ’11, I think DRS was perfect, simply allowing a greater chance of an overtake.

      1. Imho I see nothing wrong with doing away with the phenomenon of faster cars being held up by slower cars ad infinitum due to aero dependancy and the handcuffing that goes on when one is in dirty air, but I do not like an artificial gadg