What's the antidote to 'boring F1'? Charles Bradley has some ideas, some of which you will either agree with or get angry about!
There has been plenty written about 'boring Formula 1' recently – until a decent race occurs, and then everything seems fine. Until the next snorefest, then it's a disaster again…
While the recent British GP was good-but-not-epic, F1's true problem is that it's perceived to be too easy and 'samey' right now. Even though we're only in year two of a radical rules reset, focused on amazing hybrid turbo engines, people can't seem to wait for the promise of new-look cars in 2017 as they look frantically for an emergency exit from Mercedes dominance (tip: it may be behind you).
Merc's supremacy only follows on from that of Red Bull and Brawn in previous seasons, and some of the times that people cite as 'great eras' for the sport were also pretty dull. For example, the so-called 'glory days' of when F1 was at its fastest, in 2004, Michael Schumacher won 13 of the 18 grands prix, with Renault, McLaren and Williams only winning one race each.
It was interesting that in the recent GPDA survey fans thought F1 cars of the noughties looked the best – even though, at the time, there was a great outcry that they had too many wings and aerodynamic appendages. I have to say, during a recent tour of McLaren's Technology Centre, it was Lewis Hamilton's 2008 title-winner that really stood out for its swoopy, purposeful-looking beauty.
Even in the 1980s – in the midst of that golden Senna/Prost/Piquet/Mansell generation with fearsomely high-powered (ahem, turbo-charged V6s), wide-track cars – we had '88 when McLaren won all but one race. They banned turbos because, it was believed, atmospheric engines would provide better racing… Hmmm, make your mind up guys!
People still look back on those turbo years fondly, a time when there was much less overtaking than there is today. And before you shout 'DRS!' at me, I'll heckle you with 'turbo-boost button!'
More power, less grip
Time to tell you what I think: Yes, great looking cars are a must. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, sure, but go too radical and you end up with a DeltaWing or IndyCar that people quickly change their opinion from 'wow!' to 'urgh!' over time.
What I really want to see is cars that look difficult to drive. Even with the downforce levels slashed over the pre-2009 era, current F1 cars look 'easy'. When the drivers tell you they aren't physical to drive any more, then that's just plain wrong.
I want drivers to finish races looking knackered, like they've earned their millions. Heck, I desperately want to see them change gear with their hands and not their fingers again. If people want variables that will shake up the order, give them the chance by making it possible to miss a gear, make the cars harder keep under control.
To change tack, if not subject, I loved what I saw in the NASCAR Sprint Cup at Kentucky at the weekend. Kentucky has gained a terrible reputation for decent stock car racing, but Saturday night's race was a real stormer. And what did they do? Reduce the downforce.
It was worth the admission fee alone to watch the drivers really working hard behind the wheel. When one of the best out there, Kurt Busch, simply loses it all on his own and spins coming off the final corner, you know that car control was at a true premium – they were on the edge.
One of the daftest suggestions I've heard in a long time in F1 is "bring back ground-effect". Are you serious? Ground-effect racing was terrible, and corner speeds would go through the roof, which is asking for trouble. What F1 needs is less downforce, not more.
I'm not obsessed by the laptimes, and how they compare to 2004, but I do want to see the cars move around again, so they look like they're being driven on that edge.
Give them more power – they can definitely turn up these engines and they'll sound better too – take away the downforce and place the skill back on to the driver.
And if we must have high-deg tyres, for the sake of the show, what is the point of having a supersoft that can do half a race distance?
And who needs eight flippin' gears? While F1 should always have an element of technical progression, let's get back to some basics for the sake of the racing and go again.
Get them revving again.