Opinion: Nostalgia and overreaction risk derailing F1's 2021 overhaul

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Ah 2021, the year everyone hopes Formula 1 will, to steal a certain catchphrase, be great again.

Talks have dragged on for years to shape the sport's future, with Liberty Media wading through the political mire for solutions to problems that have left to grow out of control for years.

And now, drip by drip, the first details of what those talks have produced are coming through.

A budget cap of $175m to address F1's chronic financial problem is a good start as is a return to a ground effect car design to improve the racing.

However, with two months left to still decide the final regulations, it does feel like the old guard have been watching a few too many races from 1999. 

FIA president Jean Todt wants refuelling to make a comeback, while Pirelli is expected to return to the Bridgestone days in terms of tyre wear.

And when those kinds of changes are suggested, it does feel like what has always been a legitimate attempt to try and improve the show, could veer off course.

The problem straight away is F1 has already had eras when one or the other or both were in effect, and the complaints about poor racing were still the same.

With refuelling, the field spread out as drivers ran different fuel loads and the vast majority of overtakes were done in the pits.

Therefore, F1 doesn't need the expense of reintroducing refuelling, along with the extra equipment and manpower it would require, if there was no guarantee it would improve the racing.

And that's before you think about the fuel efficiency debate and whether refuelling would undo the hard work in that area during the hybrid era.

As for the tyres, look back to 2010 when almost every race was one-stop and, because the drivers could push every lap, there was also very little overtaking.

Instead, the sport needs to keep the current approach of at least some degradation to maintain the element of strategy.


And if F1 does want Pirelli to change their tyre philosophy, the focus should be on creating bigger performance gaps between the compounds, creating situations where teams decide between running a softer tyre for longer or pit for fresh but maybe slower rubber.

Don't get me wrong, taking ideas from the past is fine if they add something, but more often than not, the reason why those ideas are from the past is that they didn't work as expected.

Then there's another thing, why change things just for the sake of it?

Yes, F1 is currently undergoing a tough year with Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes destined for yet more championship success, but the regulations aren't fully to blame.

The past two races have proven that when teams are competitive and the gaps are small, even the current cars are more than capable of producing plenty of action.

On the engine front, there is a convergence of the four manufacturers, and there's no reason a competitive midfield can't be seen as the front of the grid if Ferrari and Red Bull got it right going forward.

The point of 2021 is to fix the flaws of today's F1, the two-tier grid, the unbearable amount of stewards' interventions, the uncontrollable grip of manufacturers on the political structure and recreating that awe which made us love F1 in the first place.

That is how Ross Brawn and Co. will make the sport great again, and I'm sorry, but no refuelling rig in any pit-lane anywhere will ever do that.