COMMENT:

Formula One has seen declining fan numbers in recent years to the stage where the once mighty sport is in trouble.

The United Kingdom is a pretty good yardstick to go by, and with F1 doing a deal to take the sport away from free to air and hand it over to Sky UK, there has been a 58 per cent drop in viewership from 2108 to 2019.

Agreed that if you remove free to air viewing, figures will of course drop, but if you have a look at who's turning up to the events, it's also obvious fans have turned their backs on the sport.

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Despite what you may think of Bernie Ecclestone, the former F1 maestro, at least he could put on a good show on and off the track and knew his audience. It has been all downhill since Ecclestone sold out to Liberty Media, who appointed Chase Carey as F1 chief executive.

Carey also happens to be on the board of Sky UK, which by the way is now F1's biggest sponsor.

So what's gone wrong? Loads, you'd have to think. The sport has lost its way, become an engineering challenge, like watching paint dry, and sounds as interesting as a Formula E race.

To add injury to insult, most of the tracks are snooze-fests with run-off areas bigger than the track itself, meaning drivers aren't punished for a mistake.

F1 cars can't pass each other anyway (more on that later), and if they could, the tracks don't really allow it.

Following on from boring races, you have boring drivers, but for the possible exceptions of Kimi Raikkonen and Daniel Ricciardo. The drivers today are nothing like the characters of the past.

They are mostly cookie cutter types who have had personality bypasses forced on them by team principals, media managers and public relations wonks.

The dominance of one team is not a particular issue, as over the decades, F1 has had the likes of McLaren, Ferrari and Red Bull ruling the roost, and dominant drivers over that time as well.

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The 400kg gorilla in the room is the lack of passing.

So what's F1 going to do about it? The bigwigs have been playing their cards on how to fix the problems close to their chests for a while now, and at last have announced chances for 2021.

Apparently, we're going to see a new car that will rely on ground effect downforce rather than aero, which will allow the cars to race nose-to-tail. It has always been a curiosity how IndyCar can race up to three wide and about four deep but not F1.

Tyre technology is being looked at to allow drivers to race more closely and reduce tyre degradation. For now, they overheat if cars get too close together.

Interestingly, tyre blankets will be banned (should make for interesting watching after a pit stop for a tyre change) and 18-inch rims will be introduced.

What will be music to many fans of humans racing a car, rather than a propeller head in the garage, will be the possible removal of some driver aids and a reduction (removing it totally would make things really interesting on track) in pit-to-car telemetry.

Other changes include banning hydraulic suspension, simplified radiators, standard brakes, standard wheel hubs/nuts and pit equipment and gearbox specs frozen for five years.

No mention on how to make the cars sound like, well, real race cars though.

Anyway, I wish the category luck because this could be the last roll of the dice to fix an ailing sport.