Atlas F1

Readers' Comments

Updated: 11 July 1997 French Issue

Dear Atlas,

It is with great suprise that I read the comments of Fabio Balenzano concerning his allegations of bias in Atlas. For example...to claim that one should favour Williams over Benetton because Williams are British ignores the fact that Benetton are based in Britain too (hence the reason that when Benetton win races the Union Flag is raised for the winning constructor). In 1994 Benetton used the British Ford Cosworth engine, whilst Williams of course used the French Renault engine (something one would not expect to endear them to the more nationalistic members of the British tabloid press). In addition of course, Benetton employed the services of the British Johnny Herbet in 1995.

Further, to claim that the Williams was a better car than the Benetton in 1994 is completely untrue. Benetton had been quicker in pre-season testing, and every comtemporary article I have read agreed that the Benetton seemed smoother than the Williams. Williams were obviously having difficulty adjusting the car to the 1994 rules with the banning of driver aids, which probably explains why Schumacher won the first 4 Grand Prix's and finished a mere 24 seconds behind Hill in the 5th race of the season (Spain) despite being stuck in 5th gear for nearly all the race. Clearly at this time the Benetton team was not inferior (although their performance did seem to drop of when they had to alter the car so it would actually meet the 1994 rules). In Addition Fabio Balenzano appears to be claiming that by saying that Schumacher is overpaid you are saying he is not the best driver. Obviously this is not necessarily the case - it is possible to argue that any sportsman who earns 16 million is overpaid, regardless of how good they are.

Oh - and while we're on the subject of nationalism...the Union Flag you are using it up-side down!

Gary Paul Slegg
G.P.Slegg@bham.ac.uk


Re: Talking about rules, missing the point

Having watched the cynical Williams management approach to F1 technology and drivers and the appalling FIA management of the sport itself, are they modelling themselves after Don King and boxing intentionally? I can only thank the spirit of Ferrari management and Michael Schumacher yet again.

Would it be so bad if they abandoned FIA and set up their own series, per the recent observation in a print publication?

Dana Peck
kcrd@gorge.net


Let the controversy over the approved 98 rules begin! Yet again the FIA (as well as CART) is talking about slowing down the cars. This happens every couple of years, and every time the complaints are the same (unsafe, hard to overtake, etc). Every time the rule changes are the same (reduced downforce, smaller tires, less power). And, usually the immediate complaint the following year is "the cars are unstable".

Matthew Reading's article on the 98 rules is wonderful because he touches on the three most important issues in car speed and safety. First is the total grip of the car; second is cleaning up the air behind the car (so that following cars don't lose as much downforce); and third is bigger tracks more appropriate to the capabilities of an F1 car. Hmmmm, let's think about this.

Consider overall "grip" of the car. Grip determines a cars speed through corners, and ultimately how quickly the car can get around the track. For the sake of argument, I am going to define grip as being a function of 3 components: mechanical grip (how well a chassis uses the tires); aerodynamic downforce from ground effect; and aerodynamic downforce from wings. Reducing the size of a tire or adding grooves will reduce the amount of mechanical grip available. A few years ago the FIA reduced tire size in F1 to slow the cars. Reducing the size of the tires does reduce grip, but it also dramatically reduces drag. The F1 teams wasted no time in putting on more downforce, and actually went faster with the smaller tires! In the case of 98 rules, adding grooves will reduce grip WITHOUT reducing drag. This is actually a new and untried aproach to slowing cars down. With less rubber on the road, it will increase tire wear compared to a full slick tire. And you think drivers have trouble blistering tires this season! I for one am interested in seeing the results!

Many people are suggesting removing downforce to slow the cars. Downforce can be reduced with smaller wings or less ground effect. The FIA has tried both. Ground effects produce downforce with very little drag, but are very sensative to pitch, yaw, and ride height. Wings produce downforce with high drag, but are relatively insensitive to ride height, pitch, or yaw. For 94 the FIA reduced the size of wings and banned active suspensions. With less wing, more of the car's downforce came from ground effect. Without active suspension to carefully control the cars pitch, yaw, and ride height, the cars became extremely unstable. So unstable that in a high speed corner, hitting a bump or bottoming the car could cause loss of control. Let's learn from the mistakes of 94, and stop suggesting the FIA eliminate wings! Eliminating wings will mean 100% of a cars downforce will come from ground effect--the cars will be lightning fast in a straight line, and extremely unstable in the corners.

For 95 the FIA required the big underbody plank. (Also recall that CART mandated smaller underbody tunnells at about the same time!) The plank effectively reduces ground effect with a negligable change in drag. Although much maligned, the planks have been quite successful, with two big added features. In 95 spectators were treated to the sight of F1 cars sliding (intentionally). Secondly, cars were losing less downforce when following another car closely. Indycars experienced the same effect. Next, consider the the quality of racing in both F1 and Indycar for the past 2 years--close tight fields, big powerdrifts, cars that are controllable and stable. In hindsight, these causes and effects make perfect sense. Ground effect upsets air near the ground, right at the level of a cars front wings. Insert a plank to upset the ground effect, it cleans up the air immediatley behind the car. Cars can follow without losing as much downforce from the front wing! The lesson here is that reducing ground effect downforce will reduce overall grip, it will cause a minor reduction in drag, and it will help the car following close behind. To really make it interesting, maybe the FIA should allow bigger wings, or mandate "minimum" wing. Higher draw will slow the cars on the straights, but there might be enough grip to make some corners 2 cars wide!

The third issue Mathew Reading brought up is type of track. F1 cars are the fastest road racing cars in the world. Why does the FIA keep running them on tracks more suited to sedans and club racers? Consider the two best traks in F1: Spa and Suzuka. Both tracks are fast, feature long straights, and high speed corners. Overtaking at these tracks has never been a problem. On the other hand, slow windy tracks offer very few passing opportunities (Monaco, Hungary, Spain). Fast corners need runoff, not chicanes! Long straights force a compromise between downforce and top speed. Technically difficult tracks bring out the best drivers, even in bad cars. Big wide tracks encourage passing. Hmmmm, think about that.

Let the great rules controversy continue.

Tachi Callas
ptc@guidant.com


Dear Atlas,

It seems it began again! People like to say that Damon Hill is a poor driver. This is easy to say since he is driving a garbagebox with wheels now. But, I'm sure that if he was still driving a Williams, he would be the leader of the championship. Of course, everybody has his or her favorite driver or team (most of the time only because they are from the same country). People are very nationalistic! I believe that there are more "good" drivers than we think, but just look at Damon. The car does 95% of the job! Good car equates to pretty good results; bad car means poor results. So, is it possible for people to stop the same story like if they were 7 years old; "my father is stronger than yours"?. Mr. Balenzano forgot that the Benetton of Mr. Schumacher was not as bad as he said. Strange that I remembered something... how can you explain that Senna, who was not mediocre, was unable to follow Schumacher without going off the track. Let me bet: the Benetton was lot better than the Williams! Finally, what I want to say most is: can we appreciate the good drivers, Schum, Hill, Villeneuve, Coulthard, Alesi, etc., without tring to humiliate the others? We are all sharing the love of the sport, no?

Patrick Verdant
Immobilier@webnet.qc.ca


Dear Atlas,

Keep up the good work on your web site! Living here in the United States, it is very difficult to find any information on F1. Your site is the only way my friends and I have access to the latest information on F1.

I do have a question for you. Reading all the articles and reader's mail, there seems to be an abundance of driver favoritism and complaining going on. I think that every one is entitled to there own opinion, and should respect the opinions of others. My problem is why is every one against Ferrari?

I have spent years watching F1, and too many years watching races were the Mclaren or Willams had almost a lap lead from the start of the race. Being an intense Ferrari fan, it has been difficult. Now Ferrari is making great strides, it seems nothing is being written about them. Everyone is still talking about Villeneuve, or still talking about Mclarens great come back.

It has been years since Ferrari has had a decent car and a fabulous driver at the same time. I hope in my heart that it is now their turn! Please give the Tifosi some articles about Ferrari, Schumacher and Irvine.

We have waited long enough for their rise back to the front of the pack. Instead of being so anti-Schumacher, or pro Frentzen or Villeneuve, just give a team that deserves recognition a little coverage.

It's been a long time coming!

Paul Miller
Paul@desktopsims.com


With regard to the situation Hill now finds himself in. Everyone seems to be very concerned for him. To me he seems relaxed in himself and realises that his performances are due to the machinery, or more accurately the engine. Tyrrell have recently shown the difference a decent engine can provide. But it seems Arrows have run out of options on that one.

As an example of how a driver can recover from these bad seasons I remember Nigel Mansell's truly dreadful season of 1988. The Judd powered Williams was so bad that he barely finished any races. Four years later, he won the championship with, in my opinion, the most dominant performance ever both by himself and Williams. Maybe Damon should drive for Ferrari for two seasons, fall out terribly with Schumacher, go back to Williams and wipe the floor with everybody. Then, perhaps in the year 2000 Damon will be back in the best car in the field and win the championship in style.

Williams could do a lot worse than swallow their pride and take Hill back. I'm not impressed with Frentzen and increasingly less impressed with Villeneuve.

As far as the rest of this season goes I'm bitterly disappointed to see Panis out of action. I just hope he returns in top form. My money is now on Schumacher for the title.

Richard Bibb
rbibb@uwic.ac.uk


While everyone is playing with the problems of speed and safety, here's another idea to add to the din: noise reduction. After you pry your jaws off the pavement, consider that regardless of commentators' odes to the sweet sound of the (abandoned) Ferrari V12, no one has ever won a race by making the most noise, or even the best noise. Muffling exhausts would, for a season or two, reduce race speeds. Rules could be based on a dB level consistent with safety and hearing loss concerns -- say, 90 dB at top operating rpm at 10 meters from the rear of the car. MEANWHILE, team engineers would be scrambling to find a sound reduction technology that produced the minimum horsepower loss. And that technology, for once, could be directly adapted by car manufacturers to improve the performance of the hulks rusting in our own driveways. See you at the track. I'm the one with the earplugs.

Matt Chew
mchew@pr.state.az.us


While I want to compliment you for this great website that allows me, a European transplanted in No-F1-land (read US), to follow what is happening before and after the races, I cannot help pointing out something that has been bugging me for a while.

I remember quite clearly how some of your writers were shocked, or maybe just jealous, by the enourmous amount of money Ferrari was going to pay its then new driver Michael Schumacher. Also, I clearly remember an histerical article that was trying to convince the readers that no driver was worth that much money, that Michael was good but not THAT good, that in the end he always had the entire team's attention and the best car devoted to him.

I was furious to read such a rediculously biased point of view. Michael had just managed to humiliate Williams and mediocre Damon Hill with a clearly inferior Benetton car for two years.

While I accepted your bias, probably caused by the fact that both Williams and Damon are from the UK, I find it very hard to read over and over that apart from Michael Schumacher, who clearly is on another level, most of the other drivers are on the same level, with some young blood finally coming into the F1 ranks.

Since when did you change your mind? Why was Michael overpaid in 1996, while now you refer to him as the driver in a league of his own? Is it just because the obvious evidence of his superiority (Spain '96 probably must have been very painful for some of you) doesn't allow you to be biased in favor of the next young scarcely-talented driver from across the Channel? Now it's Michael Uber-allez in every article. Which is where you should have been already two years ago. You need to forget nationalism and biases when you are in front of talents like Schumacher, Senna, etc. Otherwise, you are going to look stupid in the long run.

Fabio Balenzano
balenzano@bbdo.com

Fabio:

The "team" of Atlas F1, its readers and writers, are from all over the world. Hence, its name. Atlas F1 is not from, nor has any bias toward one country, driver or team.

Nevertheless, I believe you are referring to a Max Galvin article. He does think that Michael Schumacher is overpaid. I, on the other hand, do not. However, I'm not going to censor his opinion. His stance is completely valid. So is yours. Stupidity has nothing to do with it.

Paul Kaizar
kaizar@atlasf1.com


Dear Atlas,

This is in reply to Martin Espinosa's letter about the race coverage in Canada.

No, Mr Espinosa, "other Canadian readers" don't agree with you. I find the ITV commentary facsinating and there's absolutely no preference towards one driver or another from neither Murray Walker nor Martin Brundle. If Brundle said some things about Villeneuve which you didn't like, they were only true. The fact is (and I'm sorry to say that) that Villeneuve prefers to create scandals around himself with ridiculous and offensive comments about the FIA, the sport and his fellow drivers, than concentrate on his driving and the World Championship. As a Canadian, I am ashamed of the way Villeneuve has behaved so far this year.

Victor Perelman
perelman@ica.net


Dear Atlas,

Regarding Martin Espinosa's comments about bias against Jacques Villneuve, I have to agree. But the bias isn't just against him, there is seems to be an increasing 'nationalistic' entrenchment, both in the media and the general viewership.

I believe the bias against Villeneuve may be partly due to his rivalry with Hill last year, but more due to him honestly and bluntly stating his opinions - always a dangerous thing.

But this nationalistic seems to be increasing too. Look at the furore over the Irish flag being raised over Irvine's head. (Without making this into a geography debate, Irvine - thought born in and a citizen of the UK - wasn't born in Britain, doesn't live in Britain, and doesn't hold a British racing licence. So why do the British media call him British?)

Of course, I'm biased being Irish, all of which goes to prove my point about bias and nationalistic entrenchment, doesn't it? For further evidence of this, see Peugeot/Prost/Panis relationship, Ferrari as always, Mugen Honda's 'adoption' of Nakano etc., etc.

Mike Whooley
whooley@technologist.com


Dear Atlas F1:

I want to put forward my views on the new 1998 regulations. I recntly read that JC Bouillion, who is really the only person to have a lot of time in the new 1998 Williams, actually enjoys driving it contrary to most reports. Although he does harbour some reservations over the power (which he claims is too much for the grip the tyres have to offer) I feel it is a fantastic prospect to look forward to -- a Formula One car that will be sliding under throttle out of corners, oversteer galore. I personally cannot wait for 1998 in many ways, except one.

All the teams are now no longer in favour of these new regulations (which they drew up) except one team. Why is this. Well I believe I have the answer. At places like Williams, the realization to drive these cars and win, you are going to need a driver who actually does just that -- someone who can balance the car on throttle and brakes, someone who can do that and find the limit quickly. Who is the best at that? Michael Schumacher, of course. And which team will he drive for in 1998? Ferrari. The only team who is not complaining about the 1998 regulations. I think Schumacher will be on for his fourth world title in 1998, assuming that Williams continue to throw away the 1997 title.

However, that's not all folks. Because the '98 regulations offer more than just grooved tyres, the fact that the tyres will be closer in to the chassis, disrupting the airflow over the wings and reducing downforce, we will definately get more overtaking next year. It is interesting that neither of these points have really been hit on in readers' comments.

I am not sure if they will make F1 safer. And, yes, the big 5 will probably widen the gap again for a while. Goodyear's advantage through experience will be seriously eroded and this is going to make for some interesting races and pit stop strategies.

Why is it that they have never considered banning the semi-automatic gear boxes and returning to a gear shift? This would require more input from the drivers again and make them work a bit harder for their millions.

Whatever happens it cannot get worse than what it is now. People are saying this is the most exciting season for ages. Why? Because the race outcome seems to be more in doubt. Unfortunately it is an artificial scenario where the pit stops are still dictating the outcome of the race instead of real wheel to wheel racing. An example is the fact that Panis surely had a chance to win in Spain, but early on was held up and could not pass a Tyrell. Ridiculous. Compare that to the artificial (as stated by the FIA) Indy race won by Mark Blundell, now that left me breathless, and it certainly was not made by yellow flags. Congratulations Mark.

Simon Wiseman
sparcomm@form-net.com


I was startled that among all the drivers that expressed surprise at Ferrari's new-found speed, including His Quickness King Michael of Motorsport, nobody seemed to mention that Magny-Cours was in fact the first they used the new engine in both testing and in the race.

Three cheers to young Master Reading for his concise and accurate analysis of next years rules. But of course as long as sponsors are picking up the tab, there must always be billboards/wings to peddle their wares.

Rod Cornell
RCornell@sj.bigger.net


Dear Atlas:

Has David Coulthard become the new Nigel Mansell of the Grand Prix world? Not only does he undoubtedly possess a great deal of talent, he also unfortunatley seems to whine when things aren't going his way. I didn't see the tangle he had with Alesi during the last lap at Magny Cours... but having listen to his criticism of the superb overtaking manoeuvre that Ralph Schaumacher pulled on him, it sounded to me like sour grapes. If Coulthard doesn't want people to overtake, then he should defend his line better and not leave gaps big enough for double decker buses to pass through. Come on David... stop sulking and get on with driving, the World Championship is there for the taking.

Gary Paul Slegg
G.P.Slegg@bham.ac.uk


I watch F1 races from Toronto, Ontario. I believe that the Canadian channel leases the race coverage from a british network.

Well I'm very tired of hearing bad comments about Villeneuve. They basically don't like him and they make it very obvious during the whole coverage. Why do we pay them to hear garbage about our own Canadian driver???

Among other episodes, during the Grand Prix of France, when R. Schumacher and Coulthard go past Villeneuve (who was just coming out of the pits), the commentator showed a tremendous joy. Minutes later when Villeneuve takes over his lost 4th position passing both cars at one shot (what I believe was the only ingredient of exciment in a boring race), he was a very quiet man as if nothing had happened.

I understand that everybody has their own favorite driver and is free to speak up, but a TV commentator must leave his own preferences behind when he is "at work".

Hope other Canadian readers of this Web site agree with me.

Thanks

Martin Espinosa
martin@interlog.com


Erich Markert's comments on drivers in the last issue is "smack on". Unfortuantely for poor old Damon, he's not a race drivers bottom. He clearly showed in second year with Williams that, when put under pressure in a passing situation, he was unable to make a good clear incisive judjemnt call which invariably caused him to spin or take the other driver off. What Damon is brilliant at is car set up & that for no other reason is why Tommy Walkinshaw has hired him. I think he knows that Damon can get the car to the front 6 in the qualifying grid, but I think he also knows that Damon is unlikely to get past the front 6 in the race. I must say I like the guys personality, but I'm pretty sure Frank Williams could see that he wasn't a good enough racer.

Allan Rhodes
arhodes@ihug.co.nz


Regarding "1998 Rules: Pros and Cons" by Matthew Reading (Canada Issue):

I read your article on the 1998 changes. Everything you mention seems to be correct, but you don't answer to Jacques Villeneuve's question saying that cars will be far too slow and this will allow less skilled drivers to compete easier.

I think the magic of Formula 1 is when skilled drivers manage to overtake others in very difficult ways or when you don't expect them to do it. That makes you say, "How did he do that!!!". Opportunities for overtaking must be due to a driver's skills and not due to a car or a track.

However, a Formula 1 fan would not notice the differnce in speed if a car is 3 seconds slower. Neither would he notice any difference in corners. So, whether those changes take place or not, don't worry, Formula 1 will still be amazing and spectacular. P.S. If the cars are slow in 1998 then in 2002 they will have to make new safety rules, for they will be fast again. We considered Goodyear tyres to be the best and the faster. But, Bridgestone comes with tyres that are faster in the rain than Goodyear. Who expected that there could be something better than the best. What I mean is that technology in Formula 1 evolves so quickly that even with the new rules, engineers will find something to make those cars be faster for once more.

Beratlis Nikolaos
bera@hol.gr


Regarding "1998 Rules: Pros and Cons" by Matthew Reading (Canada Issue):

First of all, nice article. I wish I had that much to say about F1 when I was fifteen. I agree with what you said, especially about using wider tracks to allow different lines around a track. As a kart racer, I know the problems of racing on a "one grove track" first hand.

The one thing I would really like to see implemented, would be a throw back to the old cast iron brake disks. My wife and I were in Canada weekend before last for the F1 race (my 4th, her 2nd visit), and we saw the Ferrari Challenge race on Sunday morning. It is only a 30 minute race, but after 20 minutes, some of the drivers brakes had faded severely. It requires several talents as a race car driver to handle brake fade.

First, they have to treat the brakes with respect so that they do not go away, or if brake fade is inevitable, so they stay around as long as possible. Second of all, it requires the driver to realize that the brakes are going away and to compensate for that.

What it provides for us as spectators is an extra variable that would allow a driver to late brake and possibly pass, but also at the expense of brake fade later in the race if this is attempted too often. I recall the days of Mansell making some incredible late brake passes that are impossible to make today.

We watched the morning warm-up on the de-acceleration side of the hairpin. The drivers do not get on the binders until the 100 meter mark, and not hard until near 50 meters. There is no way to pass with those breaking distances. I have heard reports that the G forces are so strong when braking like that, the tears leave the drivers eyes and splash on the inside of the visor.

I am aware that cast iron brakes are not the cutting edge and I do believe that formula one should be the place for such developments (see the 1993 season). However, they took away traction control and active suspension, so I don't see why they can't take away carbon fiber brake disks. There development in formula one has run its course, just like the traction control and active suspension have, and if you want one more, take away the semiautomatic gearbox.

Again, the development has run it's course. "Thank you very much, now take your hand off the steering wheel and shift." I don't know if you caught the CART race from Portland this past weekend, but seeing the drivers from the in car camera taking their hand off the steering wheel and shifting gears in the middle of a rain drenched track, with next to zero visibility and controlling a slide with one hand, earned them new respect.

Okay, I'm off my soap box now. I didn't intend to write this much, but my conclusion is that the way to get more passing and to HELP decrease speeds is by increasing the braking distances, and cast-iron brake disks would force this.

T. Brian Lassiter
blassiter@mail.asmr.com


Dear Atlas,

Love the spirited discussion going on about the proposed rule changes. What they should be doing is simple:

Pull off the wings

Put the engines out in the open where we can see them, no airboxes.

Bring back crossply tires with a hardness that approaches tungsten.

The cars would look, better, they would be more spectacular to watch and they might even RACE each other instead of using the pitstops to make up places.

All the best,

Duncan Payne
chequered_flag@spirit.com.au


Hi Atlas!

I would firstly like to congratulate you on such a fantastic site. It is very impressive and I check for the lastest news here first as I know that it will be there!

Being a huge Ferrari fan I was wondering if you or any other F1 fans know where I could get my hands on a Ferrari screen saver(s) as I am finding this a difficult task.

Keep up the good work,

Denise Mc Donald
t-denism@microsoft.com


The grooved tire rule seems like a bad dream that everybody hopes to wake up from. Don't the constructors have any say whatsoever in the rule changes?

O.K., Mosley wants to slow down the cars and make them less expensive. How about going back to normal valve actuation and steel brake discs.

The only engines that have pneumatic valves are F1 cars, a few motorcycle factories have toyed with the idea, but there has been nothing released to the public with pneumatic valves. This would bring down engine costs, and more than likely make them more even, since everybody likes the V-10 configuration.

The steel brake discs would make the braking sections longer, effectively making the straights shorter, and help with overtaking.

Would everyone please stop changing the tracks by putting in "safer" corners and chicanes. If a corner is dangerous, it is because of a structure off the track, not the corner itself, so why not move the structure instead of ruining a historic track.

How about ending pit stop refueling, this would cause a slight decrease in speed because the setup would have to compensate for constantly decreasing fuel weight, and would add greatly to safety in the pits.

Rich DeYoung
RichDe@webtv.net


Dear Atlas F1,

I must take respectful exception to Marko Petek's comments in the last issue of Readers' Comments about safety in the comparaive American/F1 context, which I believe is still a bit of unpolished snobbery on the part of some F1 fans.

First of all, I do not think that a driver who continues to compete after an accident is necessarily showing a lack of respect to the driver who wrecked. For that to be true, surely all the cars at Imola in 1994 should have immediately stopped after that tragic moment at Tamburello. Jim Clark similarly should have packed it up after both Bristow and Stacey were killed at Spa in 1960. I could continue chapter and verse of drivers who have gone on with the business of racing even after terrible tragedy, but my point is made. Racing drivers understand the risks they take, and they accept them. So while the podium drivers were very respectful in their refusal to celebrate, I think no other show of respect is necessary.

Also, while my information may be incorrect (seeing as how it came out of the ridiculous ramblings of ESPN's Bob Varsha) it was my impression that the drivers actually wanted to restart, but officials were unsure if they could replace the tire barrier into which Panis crashed so that another unfortunate driver would not come off even worse. As such, the race ended on the spot. Again, this may be incorrect and my apologies should it prove to be so.

I must also take exception because I believe that the comparisons Mr. Petek makes are not valid. Drivers are of similar mentality, despite coming up through and racing in very different formulae. Fernandez's Toronto celebration may have been excessive (and, by the way, the race was stopped immediately) but to say that CART drivers were not respectful of Fittipaldi after his Australian shunt is ridiculous. Were everyone simply supposed to pack up after just a few laps and go home? Could we see a point in the future where startline shunts end a race for good, should this logic prevail? That, I think, would be a terrible blow for the sport, worse even than the dreaded "narrow-track" F1 cars slated to begin next year.

Furthermore, some F1 fans try to draw any minor distinction (no matter how inconsequential or circumstantial) between it and American racing formulae such as CART or IRL. Mr. Petek's comments seem to exemplify this "We're much more sophisticated than you people are" attitude which is utterly wasteful. As an American F1 fan, I must ask why.

Compassion? If you want compassion, look to the five CART drivers waiting at hospital for Fittipaldi to recover from surgery. Look at the friendships that develop in the paddock. When (except for Villeneuve and Coulthard's friendship) have we seen real camaraderie between F1 drivers in the last ten years? Do we ever see Schumacher and Frentzen discussing Bundesliga football results? Do the two Mikas even speak to each other? Saying that F1 has compassion where CART et al. do not is similar to the mother who smokes two packs of cigarettes a day telling her son not to start: "Do as we say, not as we do".

I must also say that I am in full agreement with Mr. Petek that there are misconceptions about F1 (especially here in the States) and that we should endeavor to change that. But again we cannot do that at the expense of racing in general. F1 must be lifted up - other formulae should not be dragged down.

Do not get me wrong, though. I am as passionate about F1 as other sport and more, but if F1 is the pinnacle of motor sport then the governing body, the drivers, and the fans must act accordingly. To insult the excellent athletes of CART et al. only makes the accuser look like a jingoist. It's all a bit of snobbery I'd like to see go the way of the ground effect.

Chapman B. Rackaway
tapscicr@showme.missouri.edu


The 1994 season was packed with accidents and we all know the outcome. Sudden rule changes were implemented for 1995. But yet again, at the end of the season, Hakkinen reminded us that the drivers' head and neck area still lacked protection. Rule change.

I think that 1996 was about as safe as Formula 1 can get. This year, with Panis and Morbidelli already injured, it seems that the frequency of injuries is increasing again - an indication that the cars' package is once again past the "safe limit".

Formula 1 is fast and dangerous and although it can never be made completely safe, it can be made less dangerous. This is why occasional rule changes which keep cars within "safe limits" should be welcomed by all.

Robert Vassallo-Agius
are9531@s4201.tokyo-u-fish.ac.jp


I have been reading for some time the very lucid and intelligent comments made by ordinary enthusiasts concerning the way that the FIA is emascualting our sport and I agree wholeheartedly with the sentiments expressed.

Yes, we need closer racing. So, as has been suggested, limit or remove aerodynamic aids. Yes, F1 should be the technological cutting edge, but surely 99% of what can be learnt and achieved through aero aids hase been learnt and applied already.

We want F1 to be a DRIVER'S formula. Many current F1 drivers are already expressing the opinion that it is an ENGINEER'S formula and I think they're right. Let's build on the technological progress that has been made, but let's put the emphasis on the DRIVER winning the title through being the best driver, not just having the bext car.

Sure, some cars will always be better and I'm not talking about a CART/NASCAR "parity" situation where the closeness of racing is artificially controlled. That would be just as bad as what we have now. But let's put the emphasis back where it belongs, on the performance of the driver.

By far the most sensible suggestion in this regard is the limiting of wings, in my opinion. What do others think?

Phil Hall
webby@netinfo.com.au


Sir,

The American philosophy of entertainment through the enforcement of tightly controlled and monitored regulations may upset sections of the Formula 1 fraternity, but I do not think that Bernie and co. can afford not to look at the actual Racing in the CART/ IndyCar series.

Yes, yes I know, "the Americans use full course yellows, which in turn..etc.etc", but surely when the flags are green, on road courses, there is actually overtaking, dives up the inside, people "having a look" for a way past. When did that last happen in F1?

I personally believe that if Formula 1 is the pinnacle of global motor racing, then we should have manufacturers working important parts of their anatomies away in order to beat the competition, but at the same time under regulations which encourage racing (and by that I mean two cars overtaking each other while both are on the circuit, not in the pits).

The various factors influencing the current problems with racing (a lot of which also applies to the Super Touring cars as well) I feel are as follows, (here comes my 50p's worth).

1. Brakes.
A reduction in braking force will increase the overtaking window before each corner. Simple solutions like banning carbon brakes lead to Ferrari developing brakes costing a million pounds per corner developed from moon dust, so a clearly designed set of braking regulations needs to be developed in conjunction with technical consultants.

2. Circuits.
What ever happened to a long straight ( with plenty of run off) and a tight, but passable-in corner? Also, can anyone suggest a way in which the racing line could be made wider? By this, I mean it seems the current cars are

3. Downforce.
Rothmans, West et al. will not sacrifice their space, period. If you are only allowed a single flat plane wing, (without the multi-elements, the little winglets and barge borads), with a set variance in height from the rear of the wing to the front of (for examples sake) a difference of only 5 degrees, the space would be maintained but the effectiveness of the wings would be reduced.

4. Tyres.
Formula Ford run on slicks, as the top of the sport, so should Formula 1, unless there is a hidden agenda to convert all racing cars back onto treaded tyres? Mechanical grip needs to be drastically cut in order to allow the cars to continue on slicks.

5. Safety.
A heavier car is slower in acceleration and deceleration thus leading to slower lap times The extra weight should be added around the driver cell as part of a regulation requiring a minimum of 20cm protection around the entire driver cell, in turn increasing the levels of driver safety.

Finally, congratulations to Mark Blundell and the PacWest team on a superb race (and a superb finish) in Portland.

Dave Hughes
DHughes@TARMAC.CO.UK


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