The Editor: F1 must remember that fans crave sensory overload

Goodwood’s thrilling spectacle contains a lesson for Formula 1’s rulemakers

The Goodwood Members’ Meeting always arrives as a blessed relief. After the gloom of winter and an enforced absence of domestic racing the drive to the Sussex track is as welcome as the first daffodils that line the route. And you have to hand it to the Duke of Richmond and his team, they keep coming up with the goods.

As Andrew Marriott reports on our website in his review of the Goodwood season opener: “The Members’ Meeting may be the ‘little brother’ of the Revival but that status brings a less frenetic atmosphere with smaller crowds compared to the autumn offering, there for races and attractions to excite members of the Goodwood Road Racing Club.

“Consider each year’s programme as a menu in a fine-dining restaurant, with new dishes that make each one unique alongside old favourites that thrill year after year.”

This year’s highlight was undoubtedly the rumbling display of Can-Am cars that appeared to thunder out of the pages of a 1970s back issue of Motor Sport. The display was headlined with a stunning collection of seven Shadow cars covering all the iterations, including the early Mk 1 as well as the 1974 championship-winning DN4 reunited with its driver Jackie Oliver.

In last month’s magazine [The Motor Sport Interview] Oliver spoke candidly about how he nearly didn’t join the team: “Don Nichols asked me to drive for him but I refused because the car was too innovative. I told him he needed a new car designed and he did – and we won the championship in ’74”. It was wonderful to see that history come full circle.

There were monster Porsche 917/30s in their technicolour liveries, Lolas and a static Lotus 66 – the stillborn Chapman Can-Am project, which James Elson has documented for us since it was ‘rediscovered’ and re-engineered as a £1m track day special. As Marriott points out perhaps the most poignant car was noticeable for its absence: although there were McLaren M6s, an M8C, a customer M8E, with ex-McLaren employee Warren Briggs at the wheel, an M8F and the 1972 M20, there was no M8D. As readers will know this was the car in which Bruce McLaren was killed testing at this very circuit in June 1970. History hangs heavy over Goodwood for good and ill and as ever it is the attention to detail by the team that puts these events on that elevates it above the normal.

Seeking refuge from the cacophony I hunted out the newly erected Tyrrell Shed secreted behind a Bonhams tent down by Woodcote. The shed – as readers will know, and as we report in Matters of Moment in this issue – has been moved at a significant cost, from its original location in the village of Ockham up the road in Surrey, after it was threatened with demolition. In the flesh it doesn’t look like much, which, of course, is exactly the point. Milling around the dark, dusty interior – complete with a few peeling period ‘safety at work’ posters – it was hard not to feel a pang of nostalgia for a bygone age of motor racing.

But as any historian and evidently the curators at Goodwood know, the past should not be set in aspic. It should be a living, breathing entity. That’s why seeing the cars run around the track is such a thrill – and why Goodwood itself is about as far away from the idea of a museum as it is possible to get. And of course the past can also inform the future.

As I write Formula 1 appears to have got itself into a bit of bother over the new 2026 regulations. That’s because although the engine regulations have been nailed down the chassis regulations which must be moulded around them have yet to be fully defined. And the reason for that is because of the unique properties of the engines, which for sustainability reasons must have a near 50/50 split between hybrid battery and internal combustion power. Early simulator runs appeared to show that using these units would render the cars almost undriveable without sophisticated active aero systems to keep them stable at both high and low speeds. The full details of the changes and challenges contained in the 2026 regs are explained by Mark Hughes on page 23. But I can’t help feeling such complexity risks alienating fans already feeling bamboozled by the hybrid era’s tech and its lack of on-track aural drama.

A solution to this presented itself at Goodwood. It came in the form of Gerhard Berger screaming around the track in his 1989 Ferrari 640. Not only were the crowd on their feet but the atmosphere was electrified by the sheer sensory overload of the sound and spectacle – exactly what F1 should be doing.

It brought to mind a discussion I had with our columnist Karun Chandhok on the subject, and a favourite theme of his: “I think it’s time for F1 to ditch the hybrids with the heavy batteries,” he says. “Light cars with V10s screaming on sustainable fuels would be brilliant… Le Mans is pushing hybrids, FE is doing electric, F1 can lead development in sustainable fuels.”

If FIA representatives were at the Members’ Meeting soaking up the sound and fury of that 640, they surely couldn’t miss such a spectacular lesson from history.

Joe Dunn, editor
Follow Joe on Twitter @joedunn90

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