🇧🇪 F1'23: R12 - Track Changes

A Microsoft Word joke in an F1 blog? That'll bring in the subscribers.

So, that’s the end of the first “half” of the 2023 season, as F1 careers into the summer break, with really more questions than answers.

Look beyond Red Bull’s unrelenting domination, and no one knows a damn thing about who is second best, with McLaren’s resurgence stopped in its tracks, Mercedes are quite literally bouncing back down the Kemmel straight, Ferrari can’t convert pole positions into wins and Aston Martin definitely still exist. 

Then there are the bottom five teams, with Alpine making yet more management changes, risking turning into the Watford of F1, Williams and Haas both as likely to luck into points as they are to run around in 18th for a weekend, Alfa Romeo look like a create-a-team from a video game and Alpha Tauri are dead last, although things might be looking up for them with Yuki Tsunoda taking his third point of the season while Daniel Ricciardo relearns what it’s like to mix it with people who (inexplicably) might not want him to succeed.

But, if the teams on the track have got questions to answer, some of the tracks themselves need to take a long hard look in the mirror. With Belgium in the spotlight, maybe it isn’t the only circuit that needs a change.

🚧 IT’S TIME TO CHANGE EAU ROUGE

There are some very obvious reasons why this should change. I don’t care about your romantic “oh, but the fact you might die is part of the sport’s appeal” arguments like some sort of 70s Facebook meme about “proper” bin collectors.

Wake up. It’s 2023, and you’re not meant to die - or watch someone die - on a race track, for literally any reason.

I didn’t watch the race where Anthoine Hubert died, or when Dilano van ‘t Hoff died, and it was bad enough watching Romain Grosjean’s car ignite. People enjoy the danger of motorsport, sure, but no one is actively watching because someone might die. And if you are watching these sports for that possibility… why?

If you look at Eau Rouge (and Radillion actually, you edgy memelords, you), you shouldn’t be able to take it flat out. Sweeping uphill dramatically, flicking to the left and bowing to the right, it’s the middle section from La Source hairpin to Les Combes where your brakes become an afterthought and even a minimal lift becomes a sign of weakness. Modern F1 cars have simply outgrown the corner, and there’s nothing wrong with killing a little bit of speed, especially if doing so means drivers are near enough guaranteed to live.

Make it slower by making the first part of the corner an uphill deliberate left before allowing drivers to roar out and head down the long straight. The progress made by motorsport to protect drivers’ lives is in danger of being outstripped by the risk, and it just isn’t worth it.

🥉 MAKE MONACO A THREE COMPOUND RACE

This also comes down to modern F1 cars simply being too big to handle a famous, historic circuit. Monaco worked when the cars were maybe 100kgs lighter and a foot shorter. Races become processional, with on-track overtakes becoming rarer and rarer as the number of viable places dwindles.

However, Monaco is the jewel in the crown for the sport. A true major for the sport, winning in Monaco simply means more than winning at almost any other circuit. Celebrities battle each other to get to Monaco, bringing their audiences to F1. The issue is if that’s your showcase and it turns into 20 cars following each other, then why would those fans stick around?

The solution becomes to make it a special race, in every sense of the word. Monaco should become the only race on the calendar where drivers have to use all three dry weather tyre compounds, adding another layer of strategy. adding jeopardy and some thought when drivers are trying not to hit the wall at any given moment.  

Add the prospect of at least one new team, if not two, joining the grid, and at some point, Monaco is at risk of no longer being big enough for the sport.

↪ THE CHICANE IN SPAIN IS NOT MOSTLY A PAIN

Look, I appreciate the fact that you click, or get sent this blog. But this is the hill I will die on. I like the Spanish chicane and replacing it with the slingshot down the long straight was literally paving paradise and putting up a parking lot. 

🏃‍♂️ DIFFERENT SPRINTS

This one is just fun. I don’t mind the F1 Sprints. There are certainly ways to improve the one-day format, and it feels like a fun made for TV activity, but one of the more sneakily annoying things is that it’s run on the same track layout as the main event 24 hours later.

In the COVID season in 2020, Bahrain had a unique idea for a double header by running one race on its outer loop. A 2.1 mile near oval of a track where a good lap was around 55 seconds. Pure chaos over 87 laps. The idea here is to hand Bahrain a sprint race and run it on the short version. Do the same with sprints that can exist on other tracks, or variations (COTA reverse, anyone?) and suddenly there is a point of difference to the sprint other than it being Formula fun-sized by distance.

So where else would this work? Bahrain outer loop, Silverstone National circuit, Interlagos reverse, Austria reverse, Monza reverse, and Qatar reverse, maybe? 

One concession would have to be made for the teams to be able to adjust their setups to ensure their cars were able to work effectively across the dramatically different layouts.

👏 CLOSE THE F2 GAP FROM MONZA TO YAS ISLAND

There now follows an old man rant. Formula 2 is currently brilliantly exciting, with maybe 5-6 drivers (almost all of whom are in different driver academies) competing for the title and with it, the potential of that golden ticket to the pinnacle. Whether its 

Frederik Vesti is starting to make his case to one day replace Lewis Hamilton at Mercedes (with a placement year at Williams, maybe?). Theo Pourchaire continues to impress and leave Valtteri Bottas or Zhou Guanyu wonder about their future at Sauber. Ayumu Iwasa the latest Japanese talent to make a name in motorsport as part of the Red Bull Juniors, and former Red Bull junior Jack Doohan competing with Alpine Academy colleague Victor Martins.

And don’t sleep on Ferrari’s Ollie Bearman.

There are three rounds left, but it’s silly for there to be a nearly three-month gap between the penultimate and final rounds. Abu Dhabi becomes far too late for F2 drivers to make a mark, and with the sport looking to grow internationally, there’s no reason why maybe Texas shouldn’t be the finale of the season. Either that or add a US leg as another round so there isn’t so much of a gap to Yas Island.

There is one reason in mitigation. By the time Abu Dhabi rolls around, Formula 3 is long finished and some of the better drivers are parachuted in for that final round, giving them a small taste of the step up before doing it for a full season. I quite like that.

If you haven’t caught any F2, I highly recommend it by the way. Especially with Zandvoort and Monza coming up.

Given that this blog has literally never attracted a comment, I’m going to leave it with a question… if you could make a change to a circuit, what would you do to make F1 better?

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