It's not just fans that are fed up with dull races and Mercedes domination - the media and even the drivers themselves are worried about the direction in which Formula 1 is headed
When we complain that a race is boring or that X, Y, and Z is wrong with the sport and needs to be changed, it’s not because we don’t like the sport and that we enjoy rinsing it. Quite the opposite, in fact - we utterly adore F1 and want to see it be the best version of itself that it can be. Unfortunately, cars that can’t follow each other, huge gaps between teams, the same team winning for the sixth season in a row and genuine concern that Mercedes could possibly - and realistically - win every single race this year is not the Formula 1 many of us want to watch.
For a while now, the 2021 regulations appear to be this magical light at the end of the tunnel which will fix everything, but that’s still 18 months away - a long time to wait, especially if races like the French GP become the norm. But even when those regulations do appear, it’s starting to look less and less like the great cure-all that was predicted, and more and more like simply a bigger sticking plaster to cover up fundamental problems.
The risk is that even when the 2021 rule changes come into effect, everything stays pretty much the same as it is at the moment. And at the moment, many people withing the F1 fraternity are concerned about the sport they work in, have competed in, and love.
Sports Writer for The Telegraph, Oliver Brown, wrote a damning article saying that the French GP “did a disservice to the very concept of motor racing.” With Formula 2 and 3 putting on excellent races at the same circuit and IndyCar treating us to gem of a race at the fabulous Road America (yes, Alexander Rossi won by half a minute, but it’s still in nowhere near the same league of boredom as the French GP for a multitude of other reason), it’s hard to disagree.
Even after winning the race himself, Lewis Hamilton admitted that he understood why the situation was boring and that something needs to change, saying to Motorsport.com:
“We don’t write the rules.We have nothing to do with the money shift and all that stuff. You should put the pressure on the people that are at the head, that should be doing the job. I think they are trying to. But for many, many years they’ve made bad decisions.”
These ones [the French GP] are not the ones people enjoy most. I think it’s important for people to realise it’s not the drivers’ fault. This is a constant cycle of F1 for years and years and years, even before I got to F1. It’s because the way Bernie [Ecclestone] had it set up, the decisions they were making back then. It’s still the same and until that structure changes it will continue to be the same in my opinion.
Nobody is saying that F1 isn’t allowed to have boring races. Every single season has had bad races. The problem at the moment is that the scales have tipped heavily in favour of the snoozefests - and to make things worse, it’s the same order of teams in each boring race. We might be less inclined to moan about the bad races if the results were at least different, therefore contributing to a championship battle (see: the 2007 season), but it’s just not happening.
For me, the worst thing about the French GP wasn’t that it was a dull race. It was that by the end of the first lap, you knew it was going to be bad. Yeah, there was some action in the midfield, but no matter how good a battle for seventh is, it’s hard to get even a fraction as excited over that as it is over a battle for a win or even a podium. Therefore, you just spend an hour and a half watching, hoping for something to happen, but secretly knowing that without some sort of massive left-field interjection, like a rainstorm, multi-car pile-up or a random Maldonado insertion, it just won’t.
And it’ll be the same thing at 80 per cent of the races for the rest of this season. And again the following year, rinsing and repeating the same scenarios and expecting something different. All of which is broadly similar to the old cliché about the definition of insanity.
What adds to the frustration is that F1 has all the right ingredients. The fast cars, the historic teams, the exotic locales, the engineering excellence, the reputation as the pinnacle of motorsport, and many of the best drivers in the world.
All the ingredients are there to make a delicious cake. At the moment, we’ve got a collection of stale leftovers covered up by flashy decorations. It’s time to start again - and it has been for quite some time.