Believe it or not, these were genuine ideas from Bernie Ecclestone to help improve the sport.
Bernie Ecclestone’s departure as the CEO of F1 will probably have most F1 fans breathing a sigh of relief. He did an awful lot to help the sport reach the popularity it enjoys today but there was always a worry that Bernie would end up pushing through some crazy idea to try and improve ‘the show’. Here are 7 of his most bizarre suggestions.
Ways to improve overtaking are always a subject for debate in F1, and while the answer seems obvious (less aero!) the powers-that-be always seem to try and think of different options.
In 2010 Bernie suggested that each track should have a shortcut which drivers can use a certain number of times per race. “It would stop people getting stuck behind others and be good for TV,” he said.
It sounds a bit insane, and it is. However the following year DRS was introduced, and that’s not really any better, is it?
Everyone loves a wet race, don’t they? They’re unpredictable, they shake up the order and when the cars aren’t behind the safety car, they’re damn exciting to watch.
The problem is that no one can control the weather, so in 2011 Bernie suggested that some races have sprinklers which artificially wet the track.
“There are race tracks you can make artificially wet and it would be easy to have such systems at a number of tracks” Ecclestone said. “Why not let it ‘rain’ in the middle of a race for 20 minutes, or the last 10 laps? Maybe with a two-minute warning ahead of it. Suspense would be guaranteed.”
Would it be suspenseful knowing when it’s going to rain and how long it’s going to rain for? No. But whatever you say, Bernie.
Ecclestone was probably the only person in the world who didn’t think the title decider at Interlagos in 2008 was exciting. Apparently he didn’t like how Hamilton only had to cruise around and finish 5th to win the title – he’d have preferred it if he had to push for the win.
As a result he proposed a controversial ‘medals’ system, which would have meant doing away with the points system altogether and crowning the world champion purely based on how many wins they’d have got.
While there was some merit to the idea it was generally met with a negative reaction. But there was nothing to worry about, because this was just another one of Bernie’s wacky ideas, right? Wrong! The idea was actually going to be implemented for the 2009 season but was quickly dropped, and he tried to gain support for it a number of times afterwards.
Extra pit stops for winning drivers
Bernie’s ideas aren’t just restricted to recent times – we’re going back a few years with this one. Back in the late 1980s when McLaren were dominating, Bernie suggested making things more even by introducing mandatory pit stops for winning drivers.
If a driver won one race, they’d have to make at least one pit stop in every remaining race that year. If they won twice if they’d have to pit twice; up to a maximum of three extra pit stops per race throughout the season.
The idea was that the fastest drivers and teams would have to do more overtaking and push harder throughout the race to beat the cars that didn’t have to pit (remember that pit stops weren’t as common at the time), making it more exciting to watch.
One of his more recent ideas, Bernie said he’d like to see race weekends feature two shorter races with a break in between. “Cars would qualify on a Saturday as usual for the first race and that would set the grid for the second. It would shake things up with lighter, faster cars” he explained.
While that doesn’t sound especially bonkers, his reasons for wanting the change were.
“All American sports have time-outs built in, mainly because American audiences can’t concentrate. They grow up with everything in 15-minute segments on TV. People are the same everywhere now.”
The qualifying rules in F1 seem to change all the time, even though they don’t really need to. While reverse grids always seem to be something that gets talked about, back in 2003 Bernie suggested something much worse: lottery qualifying.
The idea was that the top 10 drivers would be given points for where they qualified, and then put into a draw to decide who started where.
Explaining his reasons for the concept, Bernie said at the time “You would have a different grid for sure and all the guys who are in the top 10 would have a good chance of being on pole”.
Ahh, right, ok then.
F1 should be more dangerous
In a time when Formula 1 is looking at improving safety with things like the Halo device, Bernie piped up with the well-timed suggestion that F1 should be made more dangerous and play up to the theatre of big accidents. What?!
First he suggested that walls be built around every track to stop people from exploiting track limits and punish mistakes more heavily. A little extreme, maybe, but you can kinda see where he’s coming from.
But he didn’t stop there. Oh no. In 2016 Fernando Alonso had one of the most spectacular accidents seen in F1 for years and he instantly crawled out of the car. Bernie didn’t like that though, and said it should have been more dramatic.
“When you have a big shunt like Fernando’s we ought to put up big sheets around the scene, bring in the ambulance and take him away. He goes to hospital and later on you announce that, thank God, he’s out. A bit of showbiz. People like that.”
Yeah, Bernie, people love not knowing whether someone is ok or not.
Now that he’s no longer in charge we hopefully don’t have to worry about extreme ideas like these making their way into the sport, but I hope he keeps coming up with them. It’s good to have a laugh every now and then.