• The Inside Line

Accentuate the positives

Kate Walker July 9, 2014
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When Charlie Whiting speaks, the F1 world listens. And on Thursday afternoon in Silverstone, the FIA race director took advantage of the heavy media presence to talk through some of 2014's technical changes at the (near) midpoint of the season and to explain some of those agreed for 2015.

The full transcript of Whiting's Q&A can be found on the FIA website, but from the perspective of someone who was sitting front row and centre for the duration, one element in particular stood out from the rest: in 2015, the FIA has found a myriad of ways to "improve the show" without spending money.

Opinions on the need to improve the show vary - in a season that gifted us with a thrilling Bahrain Grand Prix I see no need to fix what certainly ain't broke - but there can be no hiding from the need to reduce spending where possible. While the changes agreed by the F1 Commission and ratified by the F1 Strategy Group aren't going to make much of a dent in anyone's outgoings, the good news is that new initiatives designed to shake up the spectacle aren't going to add to the financial burden either.

Coming in at no financial cost in 2015 are the standing Safety Car restarts, a scheme not popular with everyone but almost certain to bring back a bit of the Safety Car excitement of the days of yore. Already here and free to impose is the decision to relax the stewarding stance on racing incidents, something which should see drivers take more risks in overtaking without adding any financial burden to the team unless the move goes wrong and involves replacing metres of carbon fibre.

The introduction of titanium to the existing skidplanks is a safety move that should lead to showers of sparks, something that may well liven up the spectacle for some, and as it is a matter of changing materials rather than introducing entirely new technology any difference in cost will be minimal.

All that double points is going to cost us, meanwhile, is our dignity…

But to return to the positive position, the FIA - plus the teams and other stakeholders - have managed to come up with a number of ideas that meet three clear objectives that also happen to be buzzwords in modern Formula One: they are low-cost, safety-positive, and designed to improve the show.

In his briefing, Whiting deftly dismissed a number of safety concerns relating to the standing Safety Car restarts. "I have heard some drivers express concerns but I think we can allay those fears," he said. "There was … some concern about taking a standing start on worn tyres. However, until you get to the point where there is a standing start, the Safety Car procedure will be exactly the same as before. As happens now any driver on worn tyres is likely to pit. If you've just made a pit stop then you probably wouldn't do it, but anyone else will, as they will want to take the advantage of what is effectively a free stop. I think the chances of any driver resuming the race from a standing start on very badly worn tyres is very low."

With a possible higher-cost change arising from the in-season test currently taking place in Silverstone - a move to 18-inch tyres and all the redevelopment of suspension such a change would lead to - any initiatives that will improve the show for spectators yet come at no additional cost to the teams should be welcomed with open arms.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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Kate Walker is the editor of GP Week magazine and a freelance contributor to ESPN. A member of the F1 travelling circus since 2010, her unique approach to Formula One coverage has been described as 'a collection of culinary reviews and food pictures from exotic locales that just happen to be playing host to a grand prix'.
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Kate Walker is the editor of GP Week magazine and a freelance contributor to ESPN. A member of the F1 travelling circus since 2010, her unique approach to Formula One coverage has been described as 'a collection of culinary reviews and food pictures from exotic locales that just happen to be playing host to a grand prix'.