What is the DNA of Formula 1?

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Talks of Halos, Aeroscreens and a b-class engine have provoked comments regarding the so-called DNA of Formula 1 over recent weeks and months. The term has been thrown around quite a lot over the past couple of years by people in all areas of the sport, yet no clear-cut term has been defined. A quick search of “DNA of F1” or “DNA of Formula 1” brings up some interesting reads on sailboats, cell regeneration or nucleotide sequences however nothing relevant when it comes to going motor racing comes up. Therefore is it really justifiable to claim something is not within the DNA of Formula 1 when such a thing is not even defined? Just what is the DNA of Formula 1?

What is the DNA of Formula 1?

From a personal point of view – Formula One must be the pinnacle of all open-wheel motor racing, in terms of speed, drivers, technology, teams and circuits. That is what defines the DNA of Formula 1 from these eyes and ears. The danger is an aspect of the sport, but as Fernando Alonso showed at Australia – drivers can and still get hurt, enhanced cockpit protection or not.

Formula One cars are generally still the quickest machines out there, despite the heavier cars in the modern era. They are still quicker than GP2 cars wherever they go (and GP2 cars are quicker than Formula 3.5 V8 cars) and whilst they would likely be dwarfed by an IndyCar on a superspeedway, F1 has a much bigger edge in the corners. The fantastic LMP1 cars have come close and are perhaps quicker in race pace than F1 cars, but across one lap, they are still beaten by F1 cars which are going around three seconds quicker this year than they did in 2015.

F1 cars are perhaps no longer the most technologically advanced racing cars about, as the hybrid LMP1 cars can certainly boast that crown. But the technology in the F1 cars of now is still mighty impressive – almost jet fighter-like. Arguments that hybrid power units are against the DNA of Formula 1 are simply unjustified; the sport has always been about evolution and advancements in technology and hybrid technology has really taken off in the last ten years or so.

It would be easy to go on all day about this, but that is just one interpretation of the DNA of Formula 1. Things which perhaps are not within the DNA of Formula 1 are unfair overtaking aids such as DRS, which have unfortunately filtered down into other categories, and scarily almost seems normal these days. Something else which arguably would be entirely against the DNA of Formula 1 would be some sort of gimmicky qualifying race to determine the grid, as qualifying has almost always been about how fast you can go across a single lap across between one and three sessions. Then again, with unusual things such as having a point for fastest lap, dropped scores or a race not even run to F1 regulations being part of the championship, it could be argued that gimmicks have always been a part of F1 and therefore forms part of the DNA.

Some fans cry for a return to the so-called “glorious ‘80’s”, and was everything which formed F1 back then within the DNA of the sport? In more recent years, there have (somewhat strangely) been calls for a return to how things were in the mid-2000s, which saw very little racing, processional races and domination by a single driver. Is that the DNA of Formula 1? Was the racing seen back in the 1950s, with cars as heavy as possible, shared drives and so on the true DNA of Formula 1?

Perhaps what forms the so-called “DNA of Formula 1” is how we, the fan, perceive the sport to be. And how drivers, team principals and other figureheads perceive the sport will differ from how the fans do. However as time progresses, how we remember getting into the sport and our own ‘glory days’ will almost certainly differ from that of the younger generations. We all have a different view of how the sport should be, and there is no clear-cut answer as to what direction the sport should be going – and it is very difficult to predict how things will be five, ten or 15 years down the road, so perhaps there is no right answer. However, to shun something simply because it is apparently “not within the DNA of Formula 1” and to try and use that as an argument when no such term is defined and is perhaps not able to be defined is quite frankly ridiculous.

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