The FIA, Formula One’s governing body, has a fascinating effect on its sport. Because racing is determined by advances in technology, slight changes to rules about that technology can drastically affect results from year to year. And, as we are seeing this year, they can also have tremendous impacts on driver safety, for better or for worse. F1 introduced new aerodynamic regulations in January that were designed to allow racers follow each other more closely and allow for them to overtake one another more easily. This would certainly make the sport more exciting. But one unintended consequence has been dubbed “porpoising”, which is when a car moves up and down violently as the airflow beneath the cars stall. This effect also causes cars to bounce off the ground more often, which is a nightmare for drivers.
Since the drivers do not have suspensions, these bounces directly affect the drivers’ spines. It leaves drivers and teams in a tough spot. If they make concessions that preserve their health, they make aerodynamic concessions that worsen their results. Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton, who has been utterly dominant until the new aerodynamic changes came into effect, had to be physically helped from his car after the Azerbaijan Grand Prix because his back had taken such a beating. Other drivers have complained about blurred vision and microconcussions. Any decision by the FIA will feel political, of course. If they reverse aerodynamics regulations, they will be accused of bending to the interests of teams that are now underperforming. If they do not make any changes, they will be accused of ignoring driver safety. From an outsider’s perspective with no affinity for the sport, the complaints about driver safety seem quite genuine. No matter what decision the FIA makes, large swaths of the F1 community will be upset.
The Top Two
In College Football, the top conferences in the league are known as the Power 5. But with consolidation of the SEC and the Big Ten, the Power 5 is starting to look more like a Power 2. The first consolidation occurred a few months back, and we reported on that shift. The SEC, undoubtedly the best conference in the sport, poached two of the country’s best football programmes, Oklahoma and Texas. Because of that, a middling SEC team would be expected to dominate just about any other conference. The rest of the country saw the writing on the wall, and it became apparent that it was either consolidate or be left in the dust. As such, conferences throughout the country scrambled to add top schools to bolster their portfolios.
Just recently, the Big Ten came out on top of that national scramble. They were able to add UCLA and USC, two storied football programmes, to their conference. Even though the Big Ten schools are entirely in the northeast of the country and UCLA and USC are in California, the conference has done a fantastic job of preserving its future. Where does that leave the rest of the conferences? Well, as sad as it sounds, they will become less and less relevant. College football relies heavily on rankings, and rankings are determined not just by wins and losses, but opponent quality. That is why an undefeated team in a mediocre conference will still be ranked below an SEC team with multiple losses against great schools. And rankings matter for playoff games, recruitment, and television earnings. If the remaining Power 5 conferences do not consolidate further, they will likely be left out of the top echelon of college football, and all the benefits that come with that.