Formula One: Sparks will fly, literally, but will it drum up interest?

Formula One race cars will have titanium skid blocks to make sparks. Will it be entertaining, or silly?

Darko Bandic/AP
Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg of Germany steers his car during the first training session at the race track in Spielberg, Austria, Friday, June 20, 2014. The Austrian Formula One Grand Prix will be held on Sunday.

Bernie Ecclestone continues his march toward becoming a James Bond parody villain with his latest move: adding titanium skid blocks to the race cars to make sparks like the cars of the 1980s did. The cars currently use a resin-infused wood-based reference plank, or skid plate.

It’s akin to Austin Powers’ Dr. Evil wanting sharks with (frickin’) lasers on their heads.

Despite the obvious silliness of the idea, it should make for a good show—one we’ll get a preview of at the Austrian Grand Prix Friday practice, reports Autosport. Ferrari and Mercedes will run the new titanium skid blocks in an effort to test locations to produce the best spark show.

Fans are likely to be divided over the completely performance-unrelated light show. To many, it will demonstrate the desperation of the FIA and Formula One Management to drum up new interest in a series that has had waning interest over the past decade, from fans and potential teams alike.

Although a US F1 effort is underway for 2016 via Gene Haas, Ferrari—to many the core of F1—has threatened to take its dollars to the WEC and Le Mans instead.

The spark plan is still only in testing phases, and must yet be ratified by the FIA’s World Motor Sport Council before it will become mandatory in the 2015 season.

Aside from the inanity of the idea (and aside from how cool it would look) one has to wonder how the desire for sparks on track reconciles with the decision to limit fire risks by eliminating refueling (refueling had been mandatory most recently from 1994-2009), a decision made for the 2010 season.

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