Formula 1: What Happened To The Action?

F1

Since its inception in 1950, Formula 1 has been considered the pinnacle of motorsport; no other racing class is more prestigious. Characterized by the glitz and glamor, the stars, the historic venues, and of course the expensive, sleek, fast, and monstrously loud cars, Formula 1 is the series that every racing driver dreams to be a part of. However, over the past few years, rule changes have created conditions where the sports lost some of the characteristics that makes it so attractive to both fans and drivers. What used to be intense and action packed races have become, at least a majority of the time, mundane and stale.

The first thing I would like to discuss is the change in the overall style of the car. Formula 1 cars were becoming more aerodynamically complex starting around 2005/2006, reaching its peak development in the 2008 season where they looked aggressive with many pieces of aero work all over the car. However, in 2009 the FIA, Formula 1’s governing body, changed the rules and many of the aerodynamic pieces were dropped from the car. Now cars have a dropped and wider front wing, and a tall and narrow rear wing, taking away some of the car’s aesthetic beauty. Not to mention, starting in 2014 the FIA mandated that Formula 1 cars switch to hybrid power units (engines), meaning that the once sharp and roaring engines were now emitting low, yet still loud, buzzing sounds. These changes have taken away some of the essence of Formula 1, as the cars are known to be beautiful pieces of work with an aggressive look, and engines so loud that your jaw will drop in utter amazement.

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One of the biggest changes to happen in Formula 1 was the banning of in-race fueling starting with the 2010 season. This was mostly done to prevent pit lane fires, which can be very dangerous for the pit crew and the drivers. What this rule change means is that cars must carry a full race fuel load from the start of the race, and it takes fuel strategy out of the race equation. Teams used to fuel their cars differently, allowing cars to either run longer stints or shorter stints, and it also put less stress on the tires since the cars were lighter. In my opinion the fuel strategy was one of the most exciting parts of the race, and now since the cars stay on track the whole time, except to change tires, most of the passing is down to just having a faster car than the driver in front. The debate to bring back refueling has been going on for a while, but it looks like the rule won’t change anytime soon.

The next big change that happened in Formula 1 in recent years is the ban/reduction in testing. In 2010 the FIA banned all out of Grand Prix testing to reduce the cost of the sport. As a result, teams were not able to test out technical innovations ahead of races out on the track, and had to rely on simulations, calculations, and wind tunnels instead. This rule ultimately reduced the action in the sport, as cars would never have major developments throughout the season, and the same 2 or 3 drivers would be winning every race. In recent years, due to dull racing, the FIA has gone back and allowed some out-of-season and in-season testing, but in my opinion it is not enough for teams to dramatically change their cars.

Mercedes Winner

The 2015 Championship winning Mercedes AMG F1 W06 Hybrid at the Detroit Auto Show.

The final change that has happened in F1 is the banning of certain technologies that teams developed to make their cars faster. While not a specific written rule, there have been numerous times when a team on the grid has designed a piece of aero work, or some other feature on their car, that makes their car faster and more competitive. These developments are great for teams that are in the midfield or back of the pack because it allows them to catch up to the front runners. However, the FIA has decided to ban technologies like the double diffuser, the F-Duct (although teams agreed to ban this one), and sidepod-mounted wing mirrors, all just to save costs and “improve the sport” by “leveling the playing field”.

The drivers also aren’t very happy about the constant rule changes and technological bans that the FIA are implementing. The GPDA (Grand Prix Drivers’ Association), which is comprised of all drivers driving during a Formula 1 season, had this to say regarding the current situation:

“Formula One is currently challenged by a difficult global economic environment, a swift change in fan and consumer behaviour and a decisive shift in the TV and media landscape. This makes it fundamental that the sport’s leaders make smart and well-considered adjustments. We feel that some recent rule changes – on both the sporting and technical side, and including some business decisions – are disruptive, do not address the bigger issues our sport is facing and in some cases could jeopardise its future success.”

There is hope for the future however. The 2016 season has started off with plenty of excitement, building from the previous season. The current main Formula 1 rivalry has been between Mercedes teammates Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg, which has gotten very heated at times. For most of last season, Hamilton was able to edge out Rosberg, winning 10 out of the 19 races compared to Rosberg’s 6 race wins. However, the start of the 2016 season has seen Rosberg winning the first 3 races, while Hamilton’s races have been hampered by bad starts, technical issues, and crash damage. This past weekend’s Chinese Grand Prix is yet another example of a promising future for F1 as the race was filled with plenty of overtaking, collisions, and interesting race strategies; I hope this trend continues.

Is Formula 1 still the pinnacle of motorsport? In my opinion it is, but it is nothing like it used to be. Races used to be filled with tons of passing and changes for the lead. The new era of Formula started off as just a train of cars following each other around the track with very minimal passing and the same 1 or 2 drivers winning every Grand Prix. Races have slowly started to get more exciting, but that is more due to rivalries, weather, crashes, and risky strategies. There is still a lack of thrill that the fans and drivers are accustomed to. If the FIA wants to level the playing field between teams in terms of spending, then my advice to them is to blend the past two Formula 1 eras together and just let them race.

 

Corrupt, Unethical, Scandal: FIFA

FIFA, or the Fédération Internationale de Football Association, is the governing body of association football, futsal and beach football. In terms of football, they have done great things over the years to host amazing tournaments, and expanded the beautiful game all over the world. However, in recent decades FIFA has grown untrustworthy among football fans and officials. Several controversies regarding key FIFA officials and the selection of host countries for major soccer tournaments had people all over the world calling for a change in leadership.I first noticed this when Qatar was selected to host the World Cup in 2022. Qatar, which only has 1.7 million people, is located in the Middle East where it is extremely hot, doesn’t have many stadiums and is still an emerging football scene, has several human rights violations, and was selected to host over countries like the US, Japan, Korea, and Australia. That didn’t seem right.

Qatar relies heavily on migrant workers for the construction of their stadiums. However, the construction companies confiscate their passports and force them to work in +40º C weather for long hours to build the stadiums. According to the Daily Mail, 4000 workers are expected to die before kick-off of the opening game. Qatar also has laws that make being homosexual illegal, and FIFA President Sepp Blatter responded to the issue by saying: “I would say they should refrain from any sexual activities.” This is not an appropriate response for a FIFA President. In addition, due to the high temperatures in the summer, the 2022 World Cup will have to be held in the winter, which will create serious problems for domestic leagues around the world.

For more information on the human rights violations regarding the 2022 World Cup in Qatar check out this recent report by Amnesty International.

Blatter - Money

Everyone saw FIFA President Sepp Blatter as the source of all of FIFA’s problems (who had been in office since 1998). With someone in power for so long, it would have been easy for Blatter to  forge strong ties with various FIFA committee members to coverup anything he wanted and to keep him in power. We all knew something wasn’t right, but how deep did the corruption go, and how much did everyone know? There have been numerous other signs and allegations that have come up over the years regarding FIFA corruption, but the turning point for FIFA came in 2015.

On May 27, 2015, Loretta Lynch, the United States Attorney General, held a press conference where she stated that the US will be indicting several high ranking FIFA officials and corporate executives for various corruption charges including, racketeering, wire fraud and money laundering conspiracies spanning two decades. Blatter’s reign was starting to crumble, and the world felt very optimistic that Blatter would not be re-elected to office in the FIFA election held several days after Lynch’s announcement. However, to everyone’s surprise, he won. If these corruption scandals couldn’t stop Blatter, what would? Again to everyone’s surprise, just several days after being re-elected, Blatter announced that he would step down as FIFA President until a new President would be elected.

The world cheered when this announcement was made. FIFA was at a point where real change could be implemented with the right person in charge. On 25 September, 2015 an investigating  was launched regarding payments Blatter  made to UEFA President Michel Platini (who was most likely going to be the new president). As a result, both were later suspended for 90 days and then banned for 6 years from footballing activities by FIFA’s Ethics Committee. The door was now wide open for FIFA President, and the less of a connection to Blatter, the better.

On February 26, 2016, FIFA held the election for the new FIFA president, and 45-year-old Gianni Infantino was voted into office. Having served as UEFA’s General Secretary and having helped enact many policies that are ethical and will have a positive impact on football during his tenure, I am confident that Infantino will restore FIFA and football back to the prestige it is known for.

45 days into his presidency, Infantino was interviewed by Fox Soccer’s Alexi Lallas, and many of FIFA’s ethical issues were discussed. When asked whose responsibility it is to ensure that the corrupt individuals and entities in FIFA are discovered and removed from the organization, Infantino said that it’s everyone’s responsibility who loves fútball to spread the message of legal and ethical behavior, and that we must each start with ourselves. He also added that if corrupt officials don’t come forward they will eventually be discovered by FIFA or by justice systems around the world. Infantino and FIFA have taken a zero tolerance policy to corrupt activities by filing a restitution claim in the United States. By doing so, the new FIFA President hopes that all offenders will be forced to payback any money they stole from football.

Infantino

Alexi Lallas (right) interviewing new FIFA President Gianni Infantino (left) on Fox Sports 1.

While Infantino’s plans to ensure that FIFA is rid of corruption doesn’t seem very concrete, and may unsettle some soccer fans and officials, he ensured his constituents that it will take time to make significant changes. In regards to other skepticism, Infantino played down any involvement in the Panama Papers, saying it was coincidence that his signature was on a UEFA commercial document discovered among the leaked files,  and that UEFA and its marketing partners handled everything legally. He has however, made some bigger strides in terms of the Qatar World Cup by declaring 3 out 4 construction firms ineligible to build the stadiums, and having the 4th construction company amend improper operations.

To me it seems like Infantino has already made some initial groundwork in fixing FIFA’s problems. Like he said, it will take time to get certain processes into place to make sure FIFA is transparent and ethical, and I am confident he is the guys who will make that happen. We all know it is no easy task and that the new President will face some difficult challenges, but one thing is for certain, the whole world wishes him good luck!