In a bid to better define Formula 1’s future, Pat Symonds has highlighted that the use of virtual environments is key to experimenting with potential changes to the sport. No, you’re not likely to find a “P4TSSYM0NDS” flying into the back of you in the lap one chaos of F1 2017 online, but they are taking influence from the highly successful eSports interest developing around F1.
Symonds pointed out in a recent talk to the MIA’s Entertainment & Energy-Efficient Motorsport Conference that experimenting with the current format of the starting grid can be achieved in this environment. He said:
“We’re keen to use virtual environments to test some of these regulations. What we can do then is look at statistics. I’ll give you an example of something we’ve been thinking about this year. For a number of years, the starting grid for F1 has been a staggered formation.
We know one of our problems is that we put the fastest car on the grid and not only do we do that but we separate them.
It used to not be like that, there was a time when cars started two abreast, there was a time when - we’ve got a photo in our boardroom in London where I think it’s Monza - there are four cars on the front row.”
Experimenting in this format in this particular case is helpful, as the decision makers in F1 can simulate the opening three laps with various alterations to the starting grid and then have the data at hand to make an informed decision. They can determine whether there is a higher collision rate with cars starting without a staggered formation, or look into whether there are more or less overtakes with cars starting four abreast. The point being, utilizing a virtual environment allows for a statistical approach to decision making, something Symonds wants to practice more in light of the terrible 2016 decision to tamper with the qualifying format. Symonds added:
“Some might remember that a couple of years ago, someone who is no longer involved in F1 decided it would be a good idea to change the qualifying procedure and at a whim that was done.
There was no simulation of it whatsoever. A few people with an IQ that ran into double figures did look at it and decided it was going to be a disaster and sure enough it was a disaster but nevertheless it went ahead and sure enough it was a disaster.”
Ecclestone shots fired. Whilst Symonds reloads his vitriol rifle, it’s worth highlighting his point that with a virual testing environment, there may have been the foresight and data to recognize the nightmare that was that infamous Quali session of confusion. Whether or not we get a revamped starting grid format remains to be seen, and we will only get an answer after sufficient simulation.
With Brawn’s call to make F1 cars more video game-like, and Symonds singing the plaudits of virtual environments, we’re sat here wondering how long it takes before F1 drivers have to submit their gamertag rather than a race number and what’s the timescale on replacing Charlie Whiting with a hologram created by Codemasters?