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On the eve of the second Formula One weekend in India, it's clear that despite the novelty wearing off, this race is going to be much more exciting than last year's. The reason for this is that by the time last year's Indian Grand Prix came around, Red Bull Racing's Sebastian Vettel had already won enough points to win the Driver's Championship—nothing rode on the result of the subsequent races. This time around, the season is much closer, with Vettel leading Ferrari's Fernando Alonso by only 6 points. There's no doubt F1 has become more competitive, with more drivers in with a chance at the Championship. But this wasn't always the case. In fact, Michael Schumacher's 5-year (2000-2004) victorious run at Ferrari, during which both Schumacher and his team were inseparable from their respective championships, did substantial damage to F1's fan following. Reports from around the world record declining viewership during that period, with the most cited reason being viewers getting bored with predictable results.
From 2005 onwards, the sport's governing body, the Federation Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA), started changing its rules to ensure that the richer teams didn't win solely because of their bigger budgets. First came the changes to the points system, which, from disproportionately awarding the top 3 drivers, became more fair, giving more points to racers down the order. This did little to break the top teams'—Ferrari, McLaren and Renault—dominance. The FIA then mandated strict rules on the use of engines (only 8 per season) and tyres, which further put a crimp on big-budgeted teams' spending opportunities. Bernie Ecclestone, the owner of F1's management, even sought to cap team budgets, but this wasn't accepted by the teams. Much like the introduction of Powerplay and various leagues like the IPL in cricket to make the sport more interesting, F1 is still undergoing yearly rule changes to ensure competitiveness. At a time when F1 has been criticised for being too extravagant, ensuring competitiveness is its only hope for survival.
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