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  Tuesday, 29 October, 2002, 18:13 GMT
Uncertainty the key for F1
BBC Sport's Rob Bonnet

The announcement of changes to Formula One's regulations for the 2003 season has brought a collective revving of dissatisfaction and cynicism from correspondents to the BBC.

Anyone will tell you the public more readily accentuates the negative than the positive (we live, after all, in a culture of blame and abuse), but there's nevertheless a common thread.

"What," doubtfully asks Mr Blown-Gasket, "will a new points system and flying-lap qualifying really do for overtaking?"

Oily-rag purists may argue that F1 has much more to offer than the passing of one car by another.

Williams driver Juan Pablo Montoya tries a risky manouevre at the first corner of this year's Italian Grand Prix
Overtaking still "defines the whole sport"

But those precious few moments of anticipation, acceleration, daring and braking are those which allow us to define the whole spectacle as a race, and therefore as a sport.

Without them we have a commercial procession. Nice for close-ups of high-performance cars, good for global sales of top international brands.

But competition? Excitement? Unpredictability? Forget it!

Motor racing has an insoluble problem.

In order to be successful, the drivers and their teams seek qualities which might excite your bank manager but not your average thrill-seeking spectator. Namely reliability, consistency, safety.

The best route to the chequered flag is from the front of the grid via the open road where the only incident is in waving aside the back-markers.

But we want more uncertainty, more bumper-to-bumper action, more confusion. Which is why more people watch the dodgems at the fun-fair than the traffic from motorway bridges.


Driver rotation was always a non-starter, weight handicapping too complicated

Other forms of racing allow greater variety, which in turn means greater drama.

Paula Radcliffe may be the marathon's lead-from-the-front equivalent of Michael Schumacher but her exception proves the rule that the human (or the horse's) engine must be coaxed through its miles or furlongs.

If F1 cars were run on oxygen and lactic acid, then we would have a different spectacle. But they are computerised and de-humanised with lap times that vary only by hundredths of a second.

When did you last see a driver tactically concede the lead like a 5,000m runner (unless his name was Barrichello or Schumacher?)

There's no percentage in it - when could you ever reliably reckon to get it back again?

Which brings us back to your e-mails and that craving for more overtaking.

Rubens Barrichello and Michael Schumacher celebrate another one-two at the Japanese Grand Prix
Schumacher (right) and Barrichello dominated the season for Ferrari

Think about the circuits as well as the cars. Monaco can never change without billion-Euro compulsory purchase orders.

But elsewhere there must be scope for greater width in places combined with better blend of straight and curve?

And go one further than FIA president Max Moseley in the changes to qualifying.

If you really want to guarantee that the fastest cars go to the back of the grid and have to fight their way through the traffic, then put them there as a matter of routine.

Their incentive would be championship points for the fastest qualifiers.

Driver rotation was always a non-starter, weight handicapping too complicated.

Maybe these latest measures will marginally redress F1's imbalance of power.

But there will always be an artificiality in trying to contrive extra excitement from a race which has the length of a marathon but the strategy of a sprint.


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Jonathan Legard

Rob Bonnet

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