Tuesday, 18 July 2006

Not the first formula you'd pick

Formula One is boring. It used not to be, but it is now. There's no overtaking, innovation is mostly concentrated in aerodynamics (which you need a wind tunnel to appreciate) and tires (which are anyway supplied by one of two companies). Moreover how you are treated depends on who you are - Schumacher and Ferrari usually get an easy ride from the stewards. But irritation aside let's look at this from the game theory perspective: how would you set up the rules of F1 if you were starting from a clean piece of paper to make it as exciting to view as possible?

Kimi's Maclaren in the window of a furniture shop near my office recently.

Clearly one issue is the amount of competition, and that is driven by money. Fine: cap all the team's budgets at $100M including the driver's salaries. Then people would be forced to chose between spending on the driver and spending on the car. Ferrari are commonly supposed to spend roughly four times that amount, so it should be a good leveller. Next, make the circuits more overtaking-friendly. The last grand prix at Magny-Cours was a great example of how not to do it. Finally, let's encourage some innovation in making fast, energy efficient cars: put a limit on the total amount of fuel that can be used for the whole weekend, including qualifying, and set it at around 75% of the current usage. Finally, actually enforce the rules on bad driving: if a driver is judged to endanger or end the race of another deliberately or through lack of skill or care, dock him ten points and make him start the next race at the back of the grid.

And can we ban race radios and indeed any other communication from the team to the riders in the tour de france at the same time?

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