Formula 1 is undoubtedly going through many changes recently, some we might agree to and some not, but a recent statement by the sport’s Managing Director of Motorsport, Ross Brawn caught my attention, and not in a positive way.
These have been a frustrating few days for me, especially in the aftermath of the 2022 Singapore Grand Prix, where we were served with another inadequate management of the race, be it with the start in rainy conditions, or having to wait for over two hours to confirm whether Sergio Perez won or not.
What went down in Singapore, and in Monaco earlier this year, not to mention Spa in 2021 was extremely exasperating but I won’t go there again now as I have said enough here.
This Editor’s Desk was inspired by some recent statements from Mr. Ross Brawn, the Managing Director of Motorsport in F1, and the spiritual father of the current ground effect regulations that debuted in 2022.
The new regulations may not have been a ground-breaking success in terms of close racing, but it seems the situation is better, so we should give the new rules some time and see how they mature.
On the other hand, the new regulations should be lauded for delivering the best-looking F1 cars we have seen in years, as I think the clean and simple designs for these cars are a sight for sore eyes after the previous generation’s overcomplicated bargeboards and bulky looking front wings. For that, we thank Mr. Brawn.
It all started at Silverstone earlier this season
But here’s the thing. Recently Sebastian Vettel did a demo run in his Williams FW14B at Silverstone, the same car that Nigel Mansell piloted to his 1992 F1 Title.
The German drove his V10-powered Williams using sustainable fuel, which seemed to make little or no difference to the car’s sound or performance, which convinced him that it would be better to invest in sustainable fuels with V10 engines instead of the overcomplicated and extremely expensive power units we have now.
“I love the cars. I love to have the sensation for the V10,” Vettel said after his run in the historic Williams. “For the history going forwards, I don’t know that’s a separate another discussion to have, what is the better way?
“What is the cheaper way as well? Because these [turbo hybrid] engines cost a fortune, their development costs a fortune up to this point,” he added.
Some might agree with Vettel, and some might not, which is the case with Ross Brawn, who told Motorsport.com in an exclusive interview: “I understand what he is saying.
“I think we are keen that a number of OEMS supported the philosophy of a very efficient hybrid because there are other factors here: there is fuel consumption, the type of fuel we are running, the efficiency of the engines.
“Efficiency is still a big factor,” Brawn added. “So even if you are running fully sustainable fuels, you still want efficiency. So we’re sticking with a hybrid solution.
“It is appealing to the OEMS, the OEMS are putting their backing behind it and funding the research. I don’t think there is one OEM at the moment who would put money into a V10. That’s a different formula actually. It’s F2, not F1,” the Briton explained.
Up to now, it’s fine, and as much as I dislike the fact that the engine of the Safety Car sounds better than that of an F1 car these days, I have to admit that efficiency and road relevance are factors to consider, the latter being given more weight in the 2026 power unit rules by removing the MGU-H.
But then Brawn says this about V8 and V10 engines: “There is a new demographic out there who think they are a bit of an oddity.
“People like different things, and there are a huge number of fans out there who probably quite like the idea they can have a chat in the grandstands while the cars go around. It is not so important to them.
“We came from an era where we liked to hear a V12 scream, but it was painful. You forget how loud they really were,” he concludes.
What Brawn said undermines F1 and its loyal fans
And now I have a problem… So F1 is now about cars going around a track while people have a chat in the grandstands???!!!
Is it just me, or did Brawn just insult every diehard F1 fan while undermining the sport itself, the sport that has given him especially so much and made him who he is now – not ignoring his achievements here?
It’s unfortunate that F1 is now so desperate to attract fans, any type of fans, even those who do not understand the history of the sport and don’t care for it but are just following it because they binge-watched Drive to Survive during Covid-19 lockdown.
If so, why is Brawn working so hard to improve the racing and the show if he acknowledged and accepts that fans would rather have a chat in the grandstands while cars “go around”?
Has football or soccer – whatever you may want to call it – become the most popular sport on the planet by attracting fans that sit in the stadium chatting while “22 blokes kick a ball around”? Do you think that’s how FIFA refers to its sport, blokes kicking a ball around?
How about movie theatres start lowering the volume while showing a movie, just so people can chat instead of watching the movie itself?
I am all with building F1’s fanbase, but that should not happen at any price. The new fans we attract should understand the history of our F1, what makes it so special for many, and the screaming engines happen to be one of those elements that have made F1 so special.
What type of fans should F1 attract?
F1 should not attract fans that are just interested now because it’s is the trendy thing to follow, they have such a short attention spans that they will be taking their selfie sticks to whatever trend comes along next.
F1 needs fans that are able to understand and soak in its magic and fall in love with it as we did over the years because that is the only way it will survive in the future. Fans who attend races just because they want to look cool are no good for the sport. Just remember the Martin Brundle/Megan Thee Stallion incident…
I am not saying that we lock out fans that are not so diehard about F1, but what I am saying is that we should not develop our sport around such followers while alienating the true supporters. They should not dictate how the sport should evolve.
I am all into inviting new people into our F1 home, but that doesn’t mean the homeowners i.e. hardcore F1 fans should be kicked out.
What hurts, even more, is that these words are coming from a person like Ross Brawn, who you would think appreciates F1 and would be a good custodian of its history and legacy as he plans its future. But it seems the bottom line is just what matters these days… Just sad…