Formula One drivers: an endangered species?

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I read an interesting article recently in which former Williams and Ferrari engineer Rob Smedley, who is now an 'expert consultant' for Formula One, claimed that humans will always be a crucial element in the sport. However, he also stated that in the not-too-distant future, with the rapid advances in autonomous driving technology, it will be possible to conduct races between driver-less cars!

This got me thinking about the future role of the F1 driver. I have often heard that their role has evolved into being more of a robot than a driver, whose primary role is to push an ever-increasing number of steering wheel-mounted buttons during a race - as instructed by an army of engineers in the pits and back home at HQ - to manage all of the modern F1 car's electronic systems to maximise performance.

However, when we reach the point where F1 races can realistically take place without drivers, what is the future of the sport? Will the drivers just became effectively passengers, as engineers perfect a car's self-driving performance without their input? Or do the teams just do away with drivers altogether and concentrate instead on showing the world who is the world champion of autonomous driving?

Either way, I can see the driver's input become increasingly irrelevant in F1. After all, a human driver is a major variable that engineers can't control - and they hate that. And let's face it, team engineers are now making all the rules and effectively running (and to my mind ruining) the sport. Your thoughts?
1 week ago