British Grand Prix: F1 might have finally got the sat nav working

A new five-year plan will be unveiled ahead of Silverstone spectacular

The definition of insanity, so they say, is doing the same thing again and again and expecting a different result.

Well here I am. Again. Hoping against hope it will be different this time.

On Thursday afternoon Formula One has another jab at reinventing itself with a new five-year plan.

A day later at the British Grand Prix a promising new format kicks into life. Then on Saturday we will have the first sprint race in the sport’s 71-year history.

And, just to add extra zest, on Sunday, world champion Lewis Hamilton, goes looking for redemption in front of the faithful with the world title slipping from his grasp.

Four days of revision and rebirth? Well maybe.

After five defeats on the bounce - his longest in eight years - Hamilton must win on his home turf, as he has six times in the last eight years, or you can start reading the last rites on his chances of a record eighth championship this year.

And maybe forever.

With Red Bull on the rise the lingering fear in Mercedes hearts must that their time as top dogs is done.

Of course Hamilton has been written off many times before. And still he rises.

It’s almost Shakespearean that it should come to this. And here. A shoot out on this blasted Northamptonshire heath, this altar where 100,000 fans come to worship their hero.

Will Hamilton be denied the title that would statistically establish him as the greatest of all time?

But then he is not the only one with his future on the line.

Thursday's launch comes in a social media blitz across Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube.

Platforms that had no real significance to F1 even five years ago are the foundations of its reinvention. How ironic. F1 has adapted.

And I’m hoping caution has been abandoned and the vague shadows we have already seen, tantalisingly, on Twitter presage revolution rather than evolution.

I want the talk in 2022 to be of dramatic cars and dramatic racing rather than pit stops, strategy, undercut and overcut. Cars and drivers going wheel to wheel, lap after lap after lap. Real sport.

After 30 years of trying to open the eyes of those in the paddock to the fans’ despair I came to the conclusion that, much as F1 needed to change, those who held the power didn’t want it to.

Despite a wide range of vested interests real power is concentrated in very few hands.

And to be fair, if you were winning races, attracting sponsors, smothered in television coverage, would you want things to change?

My cause for renewed hope is centred in the character of Ross Brawn and Stefano Domenicali. Brawn has won world titles as a designer, team boss and team owner. A pragmatic and principled man who knows all there is to know about car design. Now the sports’ technical director, the future is being carved in his experienced hands.

Alongside him is new F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali, another former Ferrari high flyer, who is highly respected within the sport. A principled, well regarded, nice guy.

And then there is the nebulous third element: owners Liberty Media with an American penchant for the show as much as proper competition.

Until now race weekend schedules have been based on nothing more than historical precedence.

Liberty have pushed the button on historical change and a format that offers a voracious media something to feed on every day. Vacuous Friday practice is replaced by evening qualifying to tie in with the average working day. Saturday has the drama of a sprint race and Sunday is, as ever, the denouement of it all.

Liberty have surely made the changes with tremulous hearts because so much is at stake. But credit to them for long overdue changes. I, for one, am excited at what lays ahead.

Damon Hill, the 1996 champion, nailed it when he said: ”There’s plenty of room for jeopardy.”

He was talking about the sprint race format but it equally applies to the tinkering with the schedule and, effectively, the sport’s very soul.

Critics point out audiences in America’s Nascar series have halved since 2002 because of continual tinkering.

The grapevine suggests V6 1.6L engines will remain for 2022  along with energy harvesting from the brakes (MGU-K) but reusing heat from the turbo (MGU-H) will be ditched, potentially promising the return of the spine-tingling roar of F1 engines.

While different tyres and remodelled aerodynamics promise a far more equal competition.

After many years at the crossroads maybe, just maybe, F1 has finally got the sat nav working.

Updated: July 14th 2021, 7:26 AM
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