GPDA to meet, discuss ways of improving F1
By Chris Medland | RACER magazine and RACER.com F1 correspondent
The Grand Prix Drivers’ Association (GPDA) is to meet at this weekend’s Brazilian Grand Prix and discuss ways of improving Formula 1.
Through the GPDA in 2016, drivers asked for an improvement in safety — including the introduction of the Halo or similar cockpit protection — and tires that they could push harder on while racing. The Halo was initially scheduled for implementation the following year before being deferred until this season, while there are now a number of one-stop races as drivers favor track position over extra pit stops.
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The GPDA — which hit full membership among F1 drivers at the end of last season — will meet on Friday in Sao Paulo to discuss ideas, including what the drivers want from tires in future.
“We have not had a meeting in a while,” Daniel Ricciardo said. “We have GPDA tomorrow. It is a topic we are going to bring up. I think ideally the less pit stops you can do in a race normally the better your strategy is going to be, or the quicker your race time is going to be.
“If we feel we can get by on one stop we will drive to the pace of a one stop, and that is normally better than pushing for a two stop. This year for whatever reason that has been the way the compounds have been set up at the races. It is just managing a one stop and that is a quicker race.
“I don’t think anyone ever seems to be satisfied. They wanted a tire we could race on harder for longer, and now we are nearly getting that. I don’t know how to have a tire we can push hard on, that is going to degrade so we can still do a two or three stop, we will just drive slower like we are doing now.
“If we push hard on this tire from the start, we’d do a two-stop instead of a one. But the drivers see that cruising on a one stop is going to be quicker, so we are doing what is best for the strategy.”
Romain Grosjean, a GPDA director, says tires are a central topic to the overall desire to try and improve the style of racing.
“Not only tires [is on the agenda],” Grosjean said. “I don’t want to speak for everybody else but I feel we need to give our feedback and then maybe try to do a bit more because the race is not fun. P6 in Mexico is two laps down. How do you want to see a midfield car getting on the podium once or twice if they are already one or two laps down?
“The delta between the big and small teams is too big. The tires being so complicated to understand and drive, if you don’t have the downforce you just destroy them, meaning you open the gap more…
“Some races we have been driving [so slowly] … The enjoyment is when you go out there and push and try to be able to follow the guy and overtake him, pushing hard or at least making him make a mistake so you get a chance. At the minute as soon as you get close you lose the downforce and overwork the tires. Singapore, Russia the first stint, Mexico, they were really not fun.
“It’s something we need to discuss with all the drivers and get all the feedback. We all may have a different point of view but then if we discuss it we will get to somewhere. In the end we are here to race, we know what we want and what we need to get good racing, so I think our feedback could be very helpful.”
And Grosjean says the discussion will likely lead the drivers to present their thoughts publicly to F1 owners Liberty Media.
“If we get to somewhere where everybody is happy with what we’ve discussed and we’ve got bullet points then we should move them forward, to you guys [media], to Liberty or whoever. Just at least we don’t sit back and not do anything for the sport we love.
“Don’t get me wrong, it’s not all wrong. I still am very happy to come on a race weekend and race the car … but it’s a bit frustrating to know that it could be better.”
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ABOUT CHRIS MEDLAND
While studying Sports Journalism at the University of Central Lancashire, Chris managed to talk his way into working at the British Grand Prix in 2008 and was retained for three years before joining ESPN F1 as Assistant Editor. After three years at ESPN, a spell as F1 Editor at Crash Media Group was followed by the major task of launching F1i.com’s English-language website and running it as Editor. Present at every race since the start of 2014, he has continued building his freelance portfolio, working with international titles. As well as writing for RACER, he contributes to BBC 5Live and Sky Sports in the UK as well as working with titles in Japan and the Middle East.