Herbert: “Saturday for F1 teams, Sunday for F1 drivers”
Sky Sports F1 panellist and former British Grand Prix winner Johnny Herbert believes Formula One needs a revolutionary new concept to appeal to the needs of both the fans and the manufacturers: make Saturday about the constructors championship and Sunday about the drivers championship.
While speaking to Downforce Radio’s Jake Sanson at the Autosport Show, Herbert revealed what he believes would be a new and exciting way to keep the teams’ interests within the sport met, and give the fans the no-holds barred racing they are demanding.
“It frustrated me earlier this year when drivers started expressing their dislike at driving on Fridays,” he told us. “Their argument was ‘it’s just data gathering for engineers, I don’t enjoy it’. When I was in F1 I wanted to drive as much as I possibly could and we were testing in those days! So how do we make that more entertaining for fans and drivers? What about an hour and a half session on Friday, then a half-hour qualifying straight away. Then on Saturday a warm-up for half an hour or so, then an hour long race for the constructors points. That can be the team race.
“Sunday could be what I think everybody wants to see: the driver’s race. They can be given a strategy on a page, but then into the race you’d go. Let the drivers dictate it. Let’s have those great gladitorial races we used to have with Senna vs Prost in the same team. The drivers can make those decisions and it will make things more variable. It should be their choice. We are human, we should be allowed to be. These are the best drivers in the world, let’s see them go head-to-head and let’s see them battle. Making Friday mean something, giving Saturday to the teams and giving us what we want on Sunday could be just what Formula One needs.”
The ex-Benetton and Stewart race winner in Formula 1 was also very candid about the current budget problem in the sport and believes that money is not really the main issue in Grand Prix racing.
“Formula One is only more expensive than it used to be because they said no to Bernie Ecclestone’s original concept in the 1980s,” he continued. “The manufacturer’s job is always to promote a brand, and they don’t want a price cap because it allows a team like Sauber or Force India to close the gap. Some have more to spend than others and I don’t know if we can really ever change that. It’s always been what Formula One is about.
“America is very good at getting fans close access to the sport,” he told us. “Formula One used to do that a lot. Nowadays, the consistency of fan access is not really good enough for the fans. Bernie seems to be of the mindset that he wants to get the fans close but not too close. But when the pits are opened for pit walks, it’s nice to see the response and appreciation from the fans. BTCC works more as a form of entertainment but it does so very well, even the battle between Porsche and Audi at Le Mans is extremely compelling. But with the 2017 rules, the big teams are still the ones who are dictating the regulations. Maybe we need somebody to dictate those rules, but not somebody from within that group.”
Following the recent discussions about refuelling as a possible way of improving the sport, Johnny expressed his disapproval at the idea and at his frustration when grooved tyres were introduced at the latter stage of his Formula 1 career.”
“Refuelling is a terrible idea to bring back. Damon (Hill), Martin (Brundle) and I all agree that it wasn’t good for the sport. Having Felipe Massa losing a world championship because his refuelling hose got stuck at Singapore ’08 is a great case for the lunacy of it. It seems crazy that it’s on the agenda again. Grooved tyres were a horrible idea too, so I’m glad we’re back to sticks. But we don’t need the rulemakers to make silly, crazy decisions. They do need to control the future of the sport and the direction we’re going in.
“I think of Barcelona ’91 with Senna and Mansell dicing wheel to wheel. That’s how it used to be. There’d be an uproar if that happened now! People in the sport would complain it’d be too dangerous. But that’s what I and a lot of people want to see again. We can get that back if we just make one or two tiny tweaks, and I hope eventually we get there.”
You can hear our interview with Johnny Herbert in full later this month on Downforce Radio.