Formula One’s decision to require teams to have larger, more visible numbers in their cars was rooted in good. We’ve all had trouble telling these cars apart sometimes! But fining poor Force India for failing the new numbers rules after telling them they were OK is everything wrong with F1 in a nutshell.
F1 has a bad tendency to lose the plot in its regulations. It’s the reason why their response to boring racing was to make the cars look cooler, or why grid penalties for using too many powertrain components in a season can still rise to comical levels even after it’s proven that a team just doesn’t have it together.
But F1's latest snafu with Force India’s car numbers is perhaps the most asinine one of them all, in part because Force India wasn’t even told there was a problem until after the race.
Teams had to put larger numbers on that would be visible from the front of their cars, and Force India kept theirs in the same location it’s always been—on top of the nose, just like Red Bull’s car. Yet Force India wasn’t told there was a problem in scrutineering or anywhere else during the race weekend, as their sporting director Andy Stevenson explained to Motorsport.com:
We clearly we thought we were in compliance. Because we showed the FIA our intentions at the race in Sochi, and they weren’t questioned. [...]
The sporting regulations say the number has to be clearly visible from the front of the car. If you were to stand in front of the car and just about to be run over, you would see the number!
Despite this, they were given a €25,000 ($27,457.50) fine for not having visible enough numbers after the race. What?
It’s a classic example of F1 missing the point of why it even exists. Bigger numbers are nice to have, but that’s just it. It’s not like Force India was found to be cheating the technical regulations or driving poorly on track, which would actually affect the competition. This is a mere aesthetic nuisance. The racing is why we tune into F1 in the first place, remember?
If anything, this merits a fix-it ticket, like having a taillight bulb out on the road. The red numbers on pink are a little tough to read and could be bigger, but a car number in the high tech world of F1 matters about as much as what Raph’s hair looks like when he writes blogs. (I don’t work in the same office, so I rarely even see his hair.)
Fortunately, F1 suspended the fine for 12 months as Force India wasn’t informed of any issue before the race, and the team has vowed to fix the problem, reports Motorsport.com. That’s good, but why is does this even merit a small fine in the first place?
The point of what you’re doing is out there somewhere, F1. I, a person who loves to watch the forefront of open-wheel technology running flat out, would rather be reading about F1 cars doing sweet donuts somewhere than F1 screwing up its own aesthetic regulations. Just give me the donuts.