Mike Gascoyne has suggested that if F1 is serious about spicing up its spectacle and genuinely increasing overtaking, then the sport needs to dispense with what he describes as a raft of 'boring' new desert circuits in the Middle East.
Although F1 2010 – with a five-way title chase down to the penultimate race, and four drivers entering the finale still in contention to clinch the crown – was widely hailed as a classic, it was bookended by two of the dullest and most humdrum and processional grands prix in living memory, in Bahrain and Abu Dhabi.
So soporific was the former, indeed – dubbed 'Bore-rain' for its complete dearth of overtaking – that crisis talks were called for to urgently address the lack of action under the new regulations. As the remainder of the campaign went to prove, however, it was not the regulations that needed amending.
“You can make an argument that says, 'we had a cracking season last year and why would you want to change anything?'” Team Lotus chief technical officer Gascoyne told Reuters
during testing in Valencia this week. “Then you could say, 'yes, but we had three or four incredibly boring races'. If on certain circuits you have cracking races every year, then why don't we stop going to boring racing circuits?
“The shame is that, Monaco apart, a lot of the races now that are really boring are all the purpose-designed tracks built in deserts where you could have done absolutely anything that you want. Bahrain and Abu Dhabi were the two most boring races [of 2010]. It's pretty disappointing that you've got two massively boring races on circuits where you had literally carte blanche
to do anything you liked. You could have had elevation change or moved sand wherever you wanted it.”
Another measure designed to encourage more overtaking moves has been brought in for F1 2011 in the form of the steering wheel-operated adjustable rear wing that briefly increases straight-line speed when a driver is less than a second behind another car at one of several pre-determined points around a circuit – but Gascoyne claims the jury is still out on the new concept.
Concerns that have been expressed to-date include the fact that there are now so many buttons on the steering wheel – with KERS (Kinetic Energy Recovery Systems) making a return to-boot – as to distract drivers' attention from the track [see separate story – click here
], and that if first and second places are running together heading into the final lap of a race, you would not want to be the driver in front.
Gascoyne argues that whilst more overtaking is desirable, it should not be made too
easy – pointing out that some of the most nail-biting races in F1 history have been when a driver in a slower car has held off a competitor in a faster car for lap-after-lap-after-lap, à la
Vitaly Petrov and Fernando Alonso in Abu Dhabi last year, or Ayrton Senna and Nigel Mansell around the tortuous streets of Monaco in 1992. He proposes that one solution might be to impose a limit on the number of 'push-to-pass' moments available during a grand prix to make it more of a strategic game.
“I think the governing body has to be willing to change how it's implemented to ensure that it works in the way it's meant to,” the Englishman expressed. “Very often, we've done things like this and they've done more harm than good.”