Aerodynamics rules need to be changed to make overtaking easier

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 27 July, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 27 July, 2005, 12:00am

Fernando Alonso is 24 on Friday. I'm not sure what you could buy a young man who has enough money in the bank to buy anything he desires himself. But last Sunday he was gifted a present that was worth more than anything that money can buy. His sixth win this season at the German Grand Prix means he is waiting for the world title more in expectation than hope.

Poor old Kimi Raikonnen. Leading the race by a country mile in the fastest car before the machinery let him down - again. He was so distraught that he crept out of a kitchen back door to avoid the waiting press.

Such is the nature of Formula One that many within its ranks will have mentally handed Alonso this year's honours and will already be pondering changes for 2006. With this season more than half way through it's becoming clear which of the new rules were strokes of genius, and which need to be dumped as soon as possible.

Tyres have been the most hotly debated topic. There are legions that hate the regulations, but I for one am a fan. It's opened up the racing and ended Ferrari's grip on the sport. Keeping an eye out for tyre wear has added extra excitement to the latter stages of races.

Of course concerns have been raised over safety. People point to Raikonnen's big accident at the European Grand Prix and the farce at the US Grand Prix when Michelin's tyres weren't up to the job over a whole race. But let's be honest, these are failings of the teams and tyre companies, whose overwhelming desire for a competitive advantage can take them beyond what is sensible.

One thing that is a mess is qualifying. I've lost count of the number of changes we've had to the system over the last couple of years, but we surely need another one at the end of the season. My simple solution - scrap one-shot qualifying and go back to the system that worked for decades. One hour of free qualifying with some way of making sure cars have to do an early lap, to spare us looking at an empty track for the first quarter of an hour.

At the moment, if you have a bad result in the previous grand prix, you are punished twice. Kimi Raikonnen's retirement at Hockenheim means he will have to go out first on the dust bowl that is the Hungaroring. He's guaranteed not to qualify well. How is that going to give fans a battle between the two championship rivals.

The punishment for changing an engine before its two races are up is a 10-place grid penalty. That's way too harsh. This is the pinnacle of motorsport for heavens sake, things will go wrong. The FIA may want to punish teams but it's also punishing fans who want to see the fastest cars racing at the top of the grid, not fighting their way through the also-rans while seeing rivals disappear into the distance. How about an engine to last one race weekend, with a five-place penalty for any mishaps?

The biggest change needed though is perhaps the least obvious to the naked eye; aerodynamics. The FIA brought in a raft of new rules at the start of the season designed to reduce downforce and slow cars down. It's becoming obvious that it's having another unforeseen effect - stopping overtaking.

The new design of rear wing is producing so much dirty air it is hard for cars to get close enough to make a move. Even if the car behind is much quicker it can be held up for many laps. At Silverstone, Kimi Raikonnen couldn't find a way past a dawdling Michael Shumacher. Shumi frustrated a charging Jenson Button in Germany. In the end, it often becomes a game of pit-lane roulette. If there is one thing that frustrates fans it's the lack of overtaking. After all that's what racing is about and above all else that's what needs to be sorted out for 2006.