June 17, 2015

F1 vs WEC: Can We Keep Apples, Apples and Oranges, Oranges?

The beauty of highlights is that they include only the good parts...and dramatic music!

It has become fashionable of late for journalists, pundits and fans on the internet to slam F1 while proclaiming Endurance racing, WEC specifically, as the saviour of all motor racing.

F1 is boring, nobody can pass, the tires are garbage, the cars sound like crap,  there is no technical innovation, one team dominates, rules are arbitrary.  Those are the usual complaints, some quite valid.

This past week end we watched the amazing spectacle that is the Le Mans 24 Hour.  What an event it is,  huge crowds, big manufacturers, tons of guests, the pomp, the circumstance, the ACO really puts on a great event.

But can we talk?

The race itself... not so exciting.  

This year's highlight reels is mostly cars being serviced and a couple of crashes.

There were very few,  if any, on track  passes for the lead over the whole 24 hours.   The GTPro  class saw good action but fans were robbed of any excitement at the end when the leading Ferrari's gearbox broke.   The race was decided mostly by crashes and failures.

Of course that is generally what happens in endurance racing,  it's normal.   Apples are Apples.

But if we look at it in terms of it being what F1 is not,  then one would would point out that even at what was generally considered a particularly boring Grand Prix of Canada,  we saw Massa and Vettel make more passes in an hour and a half than happened in the totality of the 24.

For sure the recent WEC race at Silverstone had an exciting ending but the 24 was, from an action point of view, a bit of a let down.

All the talk of endurance being "better" than F1 is silly,  apples and oranges.

WEC is followed by a comparatively small number of hardcore endurance fans,  if anything because few have the patience or time to sit through watching a six hour race, much less a 12 or a 24.   A majority watch edited highlights.   It's a measure of how badly F1 is doing its fan relations that comparisons are even made.

Let's take some of the common points of contention:

WEC is technically superior?    Indeed WEC currently has a variety of different hybrid technologies and its regulations allow different approaches to get to a specific power/emissions compromise.
It's interesting how this year's winning Porsche's power unit was conceptually identical to the current F1 engines, with and MGU-H helping spool the turbo and MGU-K driving not the rear but the front wheels.  
As for technical innovations, you could make the case F1's been there, banned that,  From active suspension, 4wd, traction control, bizarre aero, turbos, small engines, big engines.     To say one is way ahead of the other is unfair to both, at best.

Another complaint against F1 is sound, do I really need to go there?  Audi's turbo diesels shut that down.

But WEC has more passing you say, their drivers can push full tilt from start to finish.
It's true drivers in WEC  can afford to push longer but this is doe mostly to tires which are designed to last for hours.
Still, this does not guarantee on track action,  even on a track as wide as Le Mans.

F1 runs on much softer, less durable tires by design which is one of the reasons why it's considerably faster.  When F1's had to run on a single set of tires, racing was mostly terrible.

Another complaint against F1 has been that cars are both too complicated and too easy to drive.  Bipolar nature aside,  how come nobody complains about WEC cars with 4WD and traction control?

Photo Rajan Jangda/Flickr

Finally let's address the complaint of one team dominating F1.
Not to single out Audi again, but....Audi.  The Volkswagen group has won 13 out of the last 14 editions of the 24.  The have essentially outspent the competition into submission.  Sound familiar?

Does this mean WEC is worse than F1?   Absolutely not,  F1 has much to learn certainly in terms of content distribution, social media and especially ticket pricing.   A top of the line VIP hospitality ticket for the upcoming WEC Lone Star Le Mans week end at COTA cost $799 and includes food and drink.  A similar package for the USGP is about $3000.  

But let's drop the snob pretensions of WEC having the only "real" race fans.  You may prefer the taste of one over the other but apples and oranges don't really compare.


  1. I dunno...
    I watched the in car feed from one of the Corvette's for an hour or so. It was a night time stint so maybe that contributed but it was great entertainment.
    The Vette and a Porsche were going back and forth, swapping position several times.
    All the while, P1 cars fairly disappearing as they blew past at warp speed.
    I could have watched the entire race from the dash of that Corvette.

  2. While I agree with the comparisons being silly, you fell apart backing up all of your points. Races leading up to the 24HR, especially this year, have had a large amount of back and forth. Le Mans typically has a reduced concentration of this, due to the nature of the race. For years it has been won on strategy and the ability to react, not the one with the fastest car or the best qualifying position. Do yourself a favor and watch WEC Silverstone 2015.

  3. The reason I bring up WEC stuff - specifically the Audi and their quiet turbo-diesel drivetrains - is just to illustrate how thin many of the "F1 IS DYING" arguments are. There is no direct comparison but overall you'd have to say that the two series are, in fact, overlapping on certain formula points.
    I enjoy both formats very much. I figure both types of fans would be a blast to camp/party with.It's just that one group parties during the race, and the other group parties before and after the race. Having a free Saturday night tends to lead to that sort of thing. Someday I hope to find myself face down in the woods somewhere around Nurburg as GT cars blast through the forest, at which point I'll try my best at comparing the different fan sets.

    Until then...you're right. Lets knock off the weak comparisons and focus on the parts of these series that we like and that can truly translate between different formats. I want to see an F1 car thrashed for 24 hours, and I want to see the WEC cars full-out sprint racing for a couple hundred km at full tilt. Lets make that happen - and then we can compare ;D

  4. Brilliant. I'm glad someone wrote about this F1 x WEC nonsense. And wrote very well. Thank you very very much. Those journalists should stop whining, shut up read.

  5. Well, I'm sure you noticed the Silverstone race was specifically mentioned in the article...
    The point is those who would offer up WEC as an alternative to F1 are just dreaming. the two should be complementary and to that end, it's great a couple of F1 drivers have found success in P1.

  6. I don't agree mainly because to me the point of comparison is missed.

    Of course you can't do a direct comparison and this is due the nature of the cars what are supposed to be design for.

    To me the point of comparison is the search of racing and rules that allow someone to thing outside the box.

    That is not happening in F1.

    To me Le Mans was incredible, with lots of strategy, something that you expect on 24hs race... and yes there was a team that dominated... So WHAT? that is what happened in the F1 since 1986.. Let say:



    Don't know if ppl remember but with Senna and Prost.. they were able to take a lap everyone. Still but many ppl are remember as the BEST years if F1...

    Williams with active suspension was able overtake and do trail braking that was impossible in the past.
    And please let's not talks on the Ferrari times with MSC ....

    IF needed we can go into the past and talk about Lotus with skirts, DFV engines...

    What made it great was that those who were not leading was able to develop a technology that then put them on the lead...

    Now you only can develop an monkey seat the gives you .050 in a lap that could be used if you don't have someone in front.

    BTW.. not only Silverstone was great, Spa was also great with more overtakes take I saw in many F1 races....

  7. I think you've uncovered something about this article. While well written and some excellent observations I think including comparisons to GT cars would bring it to a whole 'nother level. I realized it's technology and outright speed that drives the top P and F1 classes but if we're discussing the quality of racing, the various GT/GT3 classes should be factored in. I've stopped reading the headlines on autosport and have since turned to sportscar365 (and of course Axis) for daily racing stuff.

  8. I'm a big F1 fan, but you know how long it's been since I've sat down and watched an F1 race from start to finish? Two years. Mostly because the cost is outrageous to watch it, and it's been a foregone conclusion who will win every weekend for the last five years. The order is decided in qualifying. The WEC actually has *progress* in car design. They have *options* to go faster. They have far superior coverage. F1 is boring as far as new ideas and good engineering goes. The TV coverage is utter shit and too expensive. It cost me more in one month to pay for the channel block that F1 resides in with my cable provider (the only one I can get) than it costs for FULL coverage with live timing and multiple camera angles for TWO SOLID YEARS. F1 will die a very slow death until they get their heads out of their asses and start making it interesting again. There's too much infighting, bitching, complaining and Beenie sucking the money up while providing a shit product through the FOM for me to care enough to watch when it's on. I'd rather watch the highlights. I watched as much of the 24 as I could, I haven't watched more than the start and the finish of an F1 race in two seasons. It's boring and formulaic. (Forgive the pun)


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