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Editor’s Note: IF you’re new to F1B (formula1blog.com), we offer a series called “Marbles” which is a reader’s opportunity to send us something they’d like to share with the community. We’ve had some great posts offered by many of our readers/listeners and this week’s edition is no different. Ryland emailed me asking why I was being such a bore regarding the new regulations and the 2014 spec Formula 1 (and with good reason because I’ve been very vocal of late) and he explained that he was brand new to the sport and loved it. We’ve always touted ourselves as a safe harbor for new and veteran fans alike and I thought this would make a great story for the rest of you who may be new to the sport or like the current F1 specification. What better way to shut us “old guys” up about how our sport is being destroyed et. al. than to get a new fan to tell us why he loves the sport after just 22 days. I hope you enjoy Ryland’s piece as much as I do. Here is an opportunity for some of you F1 anoraks to help Ryland out with his questions too…because that’s what we’re all about here at F1B.

Just 22 days ago I knew nothing about Formula 1. Now I can’t get enough.

It started with an innocent looking Wired headline. “Watch: F1’s New Rules Explained in Three Minutes.” (link: http://www.wired.com/2014/03/red-bull-f1-new-rules/) Red Bull’s ridiculously slick graphics told the story of super powered machines employing the very latest in hybrid engine technology to transfer as much power to rubber as possible on a limited amount of fuel. Restrictions such as number of “power units” (love that term) over the course of a season pointed to a playing field that while level in March, could look like a war zone by November. And if the Red Bull video lit a spark, the race in Melbourne poured high-octane fuel on the fire.

Do I really need a new sport to spend my precious DVR disk space on? Between following the Premier League religiously, watching enough golf to make my grandpa weep, and owning the polka dot jersey for king of the cycling-watching mountain (not to mention the upcoming World Cup and NFL season for my defending champion Seattle Seahawks), there simply aren’t enough hours in the day for this all-American sports fan (no, I’m not from England). Alas, I’m unable to resist the turbo-whine’s siren’s call.

And speaking of whines, here are a few observations I’ve made in my first three weeks in the spectator’s seat.

1. Who Cares About Sound?
My thirst for more F1 info during the interval between Melbourne and Kuala Lumpur lead me on a tour of F1 sites and podcasts. While this brought me the pleasure of discovering the excellent F1B podcast, it also meant I was overwhelmed with pundits decrying the execution of their sport because the cars sound different.
Huh?

Now this is simply one newbie’s opinion, but I couldn’t give a downshift about what the cars sound like. Perhaps there is a big difference in person, but on television, I just don’t see (or hear) how it matters. For me, the excitement comes from the competition, not the visceral experience of an engine roar.

2. The Race Is Just Dessert
There is no doubt that just like a nice chocolate lava cake, the race is the sweetest part of the meal, but so far I’ve been just as enthralled by the practice sessions and qualifying as any of it. This points to the real strength of F1: the narrative. Dueling teammates, constructors battling with restrictions, drivers and bosses transferring between teams, and all sorts of rock star personalities (short rock stars, that is) make up a tapestry of story lines that play out from the first televised practice to the post-race interviews. It’s all fascinating, and any moment from a malfunctioning sensor to a slight bump on a crowded chicane can be the week’s biggest plot twist.

3. What Happens Monday to Thursday?
This leads me to one thing that definitely feels lacking in the sport. Maybe it’s just the US coverage, but it seems like F1 doesn’t exist once the box doors close Sunday afternoon. Even in soccer-hating America, there are almost-daily shows on ESPN, BeIN, Fox (actually, what happened to that show?), and enough NBCSN to at least keep Rebecca Lowe employed. I was shocked there wasn’t a single episode of F1 Extra for 12 days after Melbourne and there certainly isn’t coverage on the other networks. What are the teams up to? How the hell do they get all the equipment from Malaysia to Bahrain? Come on NBC. I need my fix!

4. I Still Have A Ton To Learn
Granted I could just spend some time researching all of this (come on, the Champions League is on), but here are a few of the elements of F1 that are still mysterious to me two races in:

– DRS. When can it be used? Why isn’t it used more often? Why don’t they talk more about it if it’s such a game changer? How do the DRS detection zones work?
– How do the teams operate structurally? How do they choose drivers? How does the pay structure work with sponsors and prize money?
– How are the courses chosen and why is it one race per country? Why does everyone seem to dislike Bahrain? What is up with the US Grand Prix?
– How are the “minor leagues” structured? What is Formula 3.5? Do teams own cars in all “leagues?” Do they race the same tracks? Do I need to follow all of that?
– Do teams face relegation and promotion? What happened to other engine manufacturers like Toyota and BMW? Is there a consequence if a team (like Sauber) never completes a race?

5. Why So Much Animosity?
In all my reading and listening so far, one thing seems pretty consistent; everyone hates the changes to F1. From the engine sounds (see #1) to the fuel restrictions to the severity of penalties for driving out of your pit minus a lug nut, if something is different, it needs to be decried. I get it. You liked things better before. But please, give it a chance. The fuel efficiency standards are a great way to put some of these millions in R&D money towards technology that could have positive impact on the city streets. And even if not, the restrictions seem like a smart way to increase the challenge, make it more about the driving, and give us even more narrative threads to follow.

You guys have got a really cool sport here. Don’t lose sight of all the great parts of it in the race to complain the loudest. Hell, I’m happy to be on board. Now I have to go clear some space on my DVR.

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When not glued to the TV, Ryland Aldrich is a filmmaker based in Los Angeles where he also functions as Festivals Editor for movie website TwitchFilm.com. You can find him on Twitter at @RylandAldrich. (link: http://twitter.com/RylandAldrich)

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An F1 fan since 1972, NC has spent over 25 years in the technology industry and as a CTO, he focuses on technology integration in commercial workspace design, AV systems integration, digital media strategies, technology planning, consulting, speaking, presenting, sales, content strategy, marketing and brand building.
  • Welcome to the fantastic world of Formula1. We could spend so much time answering your questions but that would take so much of the fun out of your learning journey.

    I must say a few things though: Rebecca Lowe is awesome; Fox Soccer Daily and Fone-In were terrible and it serves the world better that they are extinct; and the sound of engines past was always a visceral and emotional connection for most fans.

    Live every day expecting something to change. When nothing happens, those days are surprising if not dull. F1 seems to think the same.

    • Ok, I’ll admit…I like Rebecca Lowe! She’s terrific.

  • Truly, excellent post. Thanks for shutting some of us blowhards and our partisan beliefs up w/ your refreshingly honest, unencumbered observations. I’m envious, you’ve discovered an ever-deepening well of intrigue/drama in F1; no matter what, I hope you enjoy the ride.

    Some comments on your observations:

    1. To some, there’s a visceral energy or excitement in the prior engine’s sound that’s sorely missing in the new Power Units. I’ll reserve judgement until my first race, but until then, I enjoy the various whirs and whistles made by the PU’s Energy Recovery Systems and the more-mechanical note, but do wish for more volume.

    Like you, the Man and Machine drama is far more compelling than the noise debate, engineers pushing hard to update their cars race by race, drivers testing themselves w/ increasing power/decreasing grip and thus more difficult to handle cars, strategists working out how best to overcome weather/limited fuel/race events to best position the team.

    2. The sport already has you deep in its rabbit hole :D Soon you’ll be watching lap time deltas on the (crappy but improving) F1 live timing app, watching various videos of analysts breaking down a new front wing cascade/driver cooling duct/other tiny little tweak, and watching forecasts to see whether rain really does come for Quali or the Race. We’re talking Fantasy Football levels of Time-Suckery.

    3. Well Said; our coverage here is in its infancy. Try “The Racer’s Edge” on Youtube, and countless other forums/websites/podcasts. A few I like: ScarbsF1/Somers for the technophiles, Autosport Magazine/podcast (pay site, but good stuff), Motorsport magazine (amazing, and a wider perspective on European motorsport) BBC and SkyF1 content (podcasts/web content/specials… I’m fond of the “Legends of F1” series on Sky).

    4. Leaving #4 for a 2nd post, as this one’s already too damned long.

    5. The endless debate. I believe many of us don’t like change, that many claim ownership rights on F1 w/o the responsibilities inherent in such. Perhaps most key, I believe many romanticize our view of F1, looking at the past through rose-tinted glasses. Roaring engines, kissing the podium girls, the devil may care attitude; there’s a certain sex appeal, and what some perceive new technical/sporting regulations as neutering of the Formula.

    I agree, the general media is sensationalist, and does little service to the sport, but as long as the debate remains civilized, both sides respecting the other, I enjoy it. You’ve found a great place for commentary here at Formula 1 Blog (read all the editorials and resultant responses from Austrailian GP on; GREAT discussions and viewpoints).

    Hope you enjoy F1’s ride.

  • Drew

    Excellent post and an equally great reply!

  • DRS
    *Used at an FIA-prescribed zone (generally 1-2 per race track depending upon layout). FIA monitors yearly results and modifies the length/number of DRS zones to promote its Intended usage (see below for connotation)

    *There are GPS sensors on each car: In the detection zones, the systems measure the time-distance from 1 car to the next; if the following car is within 1 second of the chase car, DRS is enabled for the associated DRS zone.

    *Only used on straights. By opening the rear wing, the car cuts drag, but also loses a large % of it’s aerodynamic grip i.e. Downforce. That downforce is needed in the corners, where G-force loadings and grip demands highest.

    *DRS conceptually is a tool to help a naturally-faster car get close enough to the chased-car in order for it to be passed. Throughout the 2000’s, many complained that due to aerodyanmic/air turbulence off the cars, passing them was becoming impossible. A faster car could close up to another, but due to the “wake” coming off the leading car, couldn’t exploit its advantage.

    DRS, introduced in 2011, was thus conceived to get a car “Close enough” for a faster chasing car to exploit its advantage. It’s not supposed to be a “Push to pass” tool. In operation… Well, let’s say some fans don’t like it :D It oftentimes is too easy to pass the chase cars on the straight, lending an artificial nature to the racing in some’s view (me as well.) Some feel a driver in a faster car should be able to pass a slower one despite the aerodynamic qualities i.e. “show me how much better you/your car is” and thus DRS is denigrated.

    TEAM STRUCTURE

    Wow… Too big a question for my abilities :D It’s rapidly evolving, but the following graph gives a look at the general layout:

    I chose to think of the teams as thus: Sporting/Logistics/Technical/Marketing. You have those concentrated on securing sponsorship/selling the brand, those concerned w/ transport/feeding, those at base developing the car and systems, and the sporting team, those that race the car, including the drivers, on Sundays. This includes the Team Principal or Sporting Director as the conductor, Chief Engineer for systems, Race Engineers for each of the 2 Drivers, and drivers themselves. The Technical portion of the team, from the director to the mechanics in the garage, will have an influence on the sporting’s sides race strategy as well (in many teams’ cases dictating strategy.)

    There are many other positions and intricacies, from testing/development drivers (usually aspirational race drivers), The Pit Crews being the garage mechanics, how each Driver’s crew of mechanics is Partisan, and so on…

    DRIVERS

    Ideally, chosen for speed, oftentimes in smaller teams chosen for marketability or outright funds provided the team via personal sponsors or cash (Pay Drivers)

    It’s not always the absolute fastest over a single lap. Regarding talent/speed, the teams surely asses a driver’s mechanical sensitivity (does he note change in setup), consistency over multiple laps, and race intelligence i.e.; ability to multitask while driving the car. Some drivers can drive the car. Some can drive the car while assimilating tactical information from his Race Engineer. A race can be one by a perfecty-timed Pit Call, an observation on another driver’s line through a corner, by knowing how is car reacts to a certain corner and, say, adjusting his differential lockup percentage accordingly. All pretty involved.

    Besides speed, the driver’s individual throttle/steering adaptability and suppleness, there’s an engineering leaning needed for F1 pilots. Unlike the NASCAR/Indycar we’re exposed to, Formula 1 is a development Formula; as each car is unique, and in fact changes throughout the season, the drivers are a critical cog in the development race.

    They must confirm/deny correlation to engineers’ simulations for new parts, give feedback on what’s working/not, suggest development avenues/handling improvements, etc. A technical literacy is a must.

    RACE VENUES

    Cynically, they’re chosen by the Commercial Rights Holder for maximum financial benefit. Ideally, a potential host (Austin for example) solicits F1 for a position, for economic gain or exposure. F1 powers-that be decide whether the venue is/can be made safe, is profitable, and promotes F1’s various messages, then is ratified into the calendar.

    There’s no limitation to races per country; as noticed, there is a movement to provide more races to the US; it depends on potential financial growth; there’s lots to be had here :)

    Bahrain is an example of a flat course layout with slow corners and little history. Elevation on a track loads the car differently, emphasizing/de- traction and braking, making it harder for drivers, particularly in corners with elevation. That increased challenge leads to more mistakes and more examples of sublime driving. Plus, it makes the cars look AWESOME. Same w/ high speed corners; F1 cars are amazing because of the lateral grip they can produce; no racing machine made can corner like an F1 car.

    MINOR LEAGUES

    This is a convoluted mess best left to others more educated. Suffice to say, a sticking point of many is that there’s no clear cut route to F1, for drivers nor team. Conceptually, GP2 is the premier Bush leagues, but that’s changing; the most recent F1 grads such as Kvaat have come from GP3. Some F1 teams have junior category teams, but not all.

    Hope some of this helps.

  • jiji the cat

    welcome and very good post.

    us older gen folks have grown with F1. when i started following F1 it was 1300hp turbo’s, then came the v12, v10’s, and v8’s now the v6 hybrids.

    you have to excuse us older folk harping on about the volume, you see, over the past 30 to 40 or so years, all the engines in all there different specs have been loud, very loud, bone rattling loud…now they are muted. so for us the mute button on the volume of the engine has become a bit of a sore point. i for one am not against change, F1 has to move with the times, and indeed it does, albeit a little slow on some issues.

    one of the greatest challenges and spectacles in F1 circles (for me) is to see how all those talented people that make an F1 car, can overcome the regulations, and design restrictions to create the fastest car possible and see it play out over a race weekend, strategy, strategy, strategy….

    welcome, and i hope you continue to enjoy F1 for many years to come.

    jiji

  • Wonder how loud formula E will be?

  • Wonderful responses everyone, thank you. Wow Jeff that’s some incredible detail. Part of #4 was just a sort of report on what is still mysterious to me at this early stage, The level of detail you’ve provided will greatly increase my knowledge and enjoyment. Thanks all!

    • Like the other responders, it’s all opinion, so hope my musings were relatively unbiased/factual. Take what you want and discard the rest; your thoughts will undoubtedly be interesting reads as this silly season unfolds.

      Sorry I couldn’t find the flowchart re: teams. Saw it in the Australian GP free practice show a few years’ back, but it’s nowhere on the inter webs.

      Unsolicited Advice: Attend a race; both Montreal and Austin are fantastic venues in great towns. I personally think F1 is slightly more involving on TV for the sporting aspect, but there’s an undeniable energy in being there. Like an NFL game (Seahawks???? UGH. Niners!!!!).

      Thanks again for an illuminating new-fan perspective.

      • You’re dead to me, Jeff. But it’s not too late. Renounce SF. Join the champs. Go Hawks!

        (Thanks for all the info nonetheless.)

    • Rapierman

      Greetings, Ryland. Welcome to the site.

      I suspect that you are probably the ying to a lot of yangs, myself included. A lot of us grew up with the things you either didn’t know about or cared, and that’s okay. Like evolution, things change with the passage of time, and you’re at a very different starting point that will color how you view the world, and every starting point is simply just that. No good, no bad, just exists. Those of us who had a very different starting point are afraid, and maybe it’s justified, that we’re losing the world we once knew. For some of us, it could very well be a reminder that we, too, shall pass, since we’re not immortal and we’re constantly reminded of this fact by the changes and events that affect us through time and space.

      For you, the world is brand new, and there are new discoveries to be had. The things you haven’t seen are the things we have already seen. For us, life would not be the same without those things. They are as integral to our existence as our DNA. When we first started, it was brand new to us, and those who were before us had the same issues. For us, the loss is akin to death, because we are psychologically fixed to those things by time. You have a new chance to discover new things, those things that start to herald our passing.

      No, don’t weep for us. We’ve had our time. We have to acknowledge that we are coming closer to the end of our lifetimes. Yours is just beginning. I hope you find your psychological universe as exciting as we found ours.

  • MIE

    Welcome to F1B, thanks for posting your experience. F1 has an aging fan base, and needs to attract new fans, so it is interesting that you were attracted by an article on the changes.
    Don’t forget to register on the forum if you haven’t already, there are plenty of people there who can help answer your questions.

  • F1_Knight

    Rather than give a long explanation here. I’ll point you to some significant Grands Prix and scandals that have shaped the sport:

    1994 San Marino GP, 1997 European GP @Jerez, 1998 Belgian GP, 2002 Austrian GP, 2005 United States GP (Oh boy…), 2008 Singapore GP, Mclaren-Ferrari espionage scandal.

    there’s many more.

    also easy does it on Sauber there. Its Caterham you should be concerned with.

  • PM

    Welcome. By any chance, have you managed to watch the racer’s edge podcast by Peter Windsor. The clips are free and Windsor has great insight and often brings guests with specific knowledge about f1, Bob wilson for how to drive a car, Zac brown on the financial side of the sport, Scarbs for technical know how etc. Also, he releases new content everyday so its good for us fans who wait Mon-Thurs twiddling our thumbs.

    Just a heads up from one fan to another

  • Danfgough

    Not sure how to type the sound of applause but thank you! All the long term, die-hards (I count myself as one of them) need to be give a wake up call every so often.

    What a well written, well reasoned piece.

    And welcome to F1 and F1B

    • Bravo indeed. I too count myself as a diehard, and can be mired in what I think F1 is/should become. It’s a wonderful reminder that it can be many things to many people. I’ve already commented here, but think it bears repeating how all our opinions should be respected (including yours Todd :D)

  • Brian

    As a bit of advice, don’t get mired in all the nationalism and tunnel vision that seems to cloud most die-hard viewers on the blogs and news sites.

    I recommend picking a teammate at every team and then a team to root for in each of the three/four tiers. That way, you always have an exciting race to watch and sometimes multiple exciting races to watch.

    I think its easy to forget that there are many teams and drivers that keep ticking away with no hope of winning the WCC and WDC and their battles with eachother can be just as exicting, if not more exciting than the front of the pack.

    Also, you owe it to yourself to watch some older seasons. I just finished 1994, a month ago, and it certainly puts a whole new spin on many of the sport’s big names. The 2012 season is phenomenal if you’re allergic to watching stuff in SD.

    • Tom Firth

      Yes watching some of the sports history is well worth doing, F1 thrives on referring to it’s history and comparing it to the modern day so I absolutely agree that watching older seasons is well worth doing.

  • Tom Firth

    Hi Ryland, Welcome to F1 :)

    The Minor leagues are confusing and depend on geographic location, whether the driver is picked up by a team at a young age and brought up through the ranks with funding, or have to find sponsorship on the way up. The route used to be clearer but today a rough structure for quite alot of the drivers in F1 currently would be, will focus this on Europe and the USA is very different, as is Japan.

    Karting

    Karting in run throughout europe in organised events and has long being the starting point for drivers in all types of circuit racing. The top drivers in F1 currently started winning Karting championships at 8 years old.

    Junior series formulae

    First level

    Formula Ford, Formula Renault 1.6 and F4 are all quite common at that first level after karting, these are specification identical cars for all drivers in the series and races are generally short, around 20 minutes, generally don’t include pitstops and it’s all about learning racecraft, sponsorship presentation and commitments. These are run nationally or perhaps across 1 or two countries dependent on how many circuits the country has to run them on generally.

    2nd level

    F3 – F3 are more powerful cars, run in national or regional championships however the competition is generally stronger, Most countries have an F3 championship of some kind, Today most F3 championships run a Dallara chassis although other manufacturers can produce chassis for F3 competition. Engine competition is generally added at F3 level too with Mercedes Benz – Volkswagen and Toyota among others creating F3 engines.

    It’s quite often the case that a driver will spend one than one year in F3, Doing a national series first before moving onto the FIA F3 European Championship. Other options at this level include GP3 , Itself running Identical Dallara designed cars with identical engines.

    GP3 costs between $500,000 – $750,000 season budget.

    3rd Level

    Ok so Formula Renault 3.5 is one option at this level, the other is Gp2. Others do exist but it tends to overcomplicate things so will just stay with those two main options, this is the final level before Formula 1. Formula Renault 3.5 is a championship run by the Renault car company and the highlight of it’s World Series by Renault events which run across europe and the far east throughout a set calendar. GP2 meanwhile runs alongside Formula one as it’s support event for a majority of the F1 season.

    Some drivers will do both, if an opportunity in F1 doesn’t exist at that time or the driver needs a little longer to develop.

    This level really depends on who is supporting your effort to make it into F1, very few drivers actually do make it to F1 from this point with a number of drivers taking alternative routes into other forms of motorsport after Gp2/3.5

    If the driver is for example part of Red Bull’s Junior team programme, which ultimately aims to provide a ladder to create the next generation of Red Bull racing and Toro Rosso’s F1 teams drivers, The driver will go to Renault 3.5.

    Meanwhile Caterham’s driver programme takes the drivers into GP2. Mclaren and Ferrari vary on the choice at this level. F1 teams tend to watch both championships for the next driver to sign, especially those that don’t have a scholarship programme so it doesn’t particularly matter which series the driver is in so long as the success and for those not part of a scholarship, the budget is available too. If the success isn’t happening at this point, its also often the point when F1 teams can drop drivers that have seen the careers to this point as part of that scholarship programme.

    With teams at this level particularly in GP2 lacking sponsors often outside of the drivers that race for them, it’s often expected that the driver will have to bring €1 – 1.2 million in funding to secure a drive at that level.

    The lucky few

    Ok so unfortunately even winning all these titles doesn’t always secure you a drive in F1 and at times drivers have jumped various steps on the ladder. If you do make it to F1, generally with exceptions. The driver will move into a team towards the back of the grid, with progression through the field throughout the F1 period of their career making it to the top teams if the teams can see the potential. The whole ladder effectively is drivers proving themselves to teams and even when those drivers make it to F1, are continuously proving that one day they can achieve the ultimate goal of F1 World Drivers Champion.

    So basically to sum it all up, Money, Talent and being spotted by an F1 team at a young age will help substantially make a way through to F1, Alternatively large backing and making money from winning championships will go along way.

    I hope this answers your question and doesn’t confuse you too much, Your welcome to join F1B’s forum too – http://www.formula1blog.com/Community/index.php

    Tom Firth.

  • Tom Firth

    Sorry , maybe that was abit information overload. Basically if you want to watch those series, it will give you a better understanding of when drivers enter F1, the history of the driver but it isn’t required that you watch it, alot of F1 fans will watch the drivers F1 career and no more. That’s fine too.