Originally posted by paranoik0
I'm not seeing many people defending modern F1 here.
Here's my take on it: I've been recently watching the races from the 1985 season (one year before I was born) and the idea I get from the races is that Prost is right about the "strategy" sense having been lost. I really like the fact the drivers had to manage their tyres at least (to try avoiding having to pit), and not rely on knowing the tyres will be changed in the pretty much mandatory refuel stops nowadays. Also it's great how the cars behaved very differently in lots of fuel and little fuel, both situations that had to be managed in a race. Nowadays cars never run with fuel for more than 50% of the race.
The level of uncertainty in 1985 races is much higher than nowadays which makes it much more entertaining. However I'm not sure if it's possible to bring back that level of uncertainty under any regulations - it happened not only because of the ban on refuelling, but also because cars were WAY more unreliable. I think the current regulations on 4-race engines, 4-race gearboxes, etc, are stupid and contribute to this, but even if you remove them, the cars won't suddenly start blowing up - teams are simply far more professional these days and technology has advanced a lot more. It's a natural evolution.
Overtaking was clearly much easier with actual slipstreaming happening, although I was very surprised to watch how it often was too easy! Most drivers just let the other pass and wouldn't try too hard to block, fearing contact would happen and ruin their races (not to mention ruining their bones, vital organs, spinal tissue...). Nowadays the safety element IMO made drivers much more aggressive wheel-to-wheel, however the dirty aero problems defeats this good point as it's gone completely the other way, it's impossible to pass.
Continuing to talk about the good points of modern F1: sense of speed is definitely a major point, even if modern circuits often look like huge parking lots. Modern cars just look much faster most of the time. Although I think this is heavily connected to how much coverage has improved: in 1985 races I don't see onboard shots. I see too many boring shots from helicopters or from very far away. I get very annoyed at how there's no info at all on anyone below 6th place. Not to mention the extra laptop with live timing next to the TV that I use nowadays. We're too spoiled and don't realise it.
As much as I agree with him on the "strategy" side, there is one thing I think Prost is talking bollocks - which is what I think most people have criticised here. I don't think it's right to glorify the past drivers over current drivers just because they had to focus on different skills. Sure, Kimi, Alonso, Lewis, etc don't have to look after their tyres and balance their strategies in the way Prost and his generation had to in the past. They'd probably be shit at it. But then again Prost didn't have to go flat out almost every single lap back then, like these guys do nowadays. I'm not sure he'd be able to keep up in the same way, without committing any more than 1 or 2 mistakes per season like these guys do... Different eras, different skills, same merit. Except on the danger side, those old guys were simply crazy to sit inside those fragile cars and drive their wheels off.
Connected to this is his criticism on how "it's too easy for young guys" and how that is "wrong". That's nonsense. I believe the reasons for having young drivers come into F1 and immediately impress are the following:
a) they are far better trained nowadays, in terms of fitness, mental preparation, and starting single-seaters from an young age
b) detailed telemetry is now instantly available and it's possible for them to see exactly where they're losing time to the experienced driver. Does Prost want to ban telemetry? Might as well ban all computers from F1 then. Since we're there, ban electricity from the F1 paddock too.
c) all the technology available outside of a racing team environment, like very realistic computer games and widespread tv coverage of every single move of professional F1 drivers when they sit in a cockpit. Kids starting karting can learn how to take the correct lines and the correct techniques from early on.
d) lower difference in power and handling between series like GP2 and F1. Ok, I can see why people think this is bad.
e) not every single young driver coming into F1 performs like Jesus Christ on a steering wheel. Some of them fail. Some of them are genuinely talented and this isn't any different from the previous era in F1. Rookies have sit in a F1 car and immediately impressed since... ever? There's just too many examples, Emerson Fittipaldi, Ayrton Senna, Michael Schumacher, Jacques Villeneuve...
Apart from d) which is debatable, how is any of these bad? It just allows a higher driving standard and professionalism standard in F1. We want to see the best fighting out on track. Sure there's been a bit on an exaggerated focus by the media on trying to get anyone reaching mid 30s to retire immediately, but if they can't keep up with the young guys on speed anymore, should they really still be there? The reason they kept going into the 40s in the past was that experience gave them a huge advantage back then. If the same happened nowadays we'd be far worse - because there's far less seats available for people to get into F1 and accumulate experience. Remember there were 40 cars trying to get into the F1 grid at one point.
Sorry for the huge post, I felt like writing a lot about many things at the same time.
Very interesting analysis - it is not a huge post, it is a substantial one.
In fact, I agree with much of what you say. The question is that we cannot bring back the 80ies because cars are much more professionally built and drivers do have a different kind of preparation.
But strategy could be brought back. For one thing, making pit stops more costly in terms of time would make for uncertainty because drivers would think twice before making one or two (or no) stops.
Also, making refueling impossible would be a good thing. Giving back the point for best lap (perhaps only half a point) might be interesting, too.
Now regarding the old days, I think drivers had to mind not only tire wear but also gearboxes and engines. With the current rev limiter this is impossible; and with the current gearboxes that is also meaningless (I would favor manual gearchanges). If the engines were stretched to the limit we would, again, have strategy in that department.
Another point is the circuits themselves. Nowadays people are racing flat circuits and vertical elevations (vertical curves, as Taruffi called them) are absent. This means that racing is two dimensional; in the past a car's path was actually three-dimensional, which meant that drivers had to cope with constant changes in adhesion. It was also extremely beautiful to watch a car as if in space: the very fast downhill and uphill curves made the cars look like rockets in space.
Nowadays, there is eau rouge and not much else. The reason is, I think, that with all the aero, vertical curves do not exist anymore, so it is useless to build them. However, this gave all the beauty of old racing. If you look at the Villeneuve-Arnoux duel (in You Tube there are a lot of clips) you will find that the beauty of the fight was actually enhanced by the beauty of the racing lines: up and down through corners.
Most circuits had this feature: the Ring, Spa, but also a 'modern' circuit as Zeltweg or Brands Hatch, all had this feature. If aero rules change and if cars are made more dependent on mechanical grip and less on aero grip, this beauty might come back.
While I agree that modern day TV coverage is better, there is the problem that there are too many takes of what I call 'the driver's helmet'. By this I mean that you do not see the car in the curve, just a small part of it. As I think the beauty stems from watching the trajectories, I do miss the old days perspective of a whole curve or of a series of curves. Partly this is due to the lack of curve combinations (one, two, three corners in quick succession).
This is a huge post and not a particularly informative one - but I am very short on time, and it is this or nothing, really.