Here is a guest article from rpaco – a TJ13 reader.
In the last few years the rules have curtailed much of the primary development in F1, if you want to see innovation at it’s most spectacular and you are starting to look now, you were born too late, it happened and it was revolutionary in all sorts of exciting ways and then it was banned. Now what we have left is “aero effects” and electricity, oh and the new power units in 2014. There is some room for development there but if anyone makes a leap forward in design it will be banned. As the rules get tighter each year so innovation is stifled.
Thus the new “xyz” with 6 wheels, double chassis, or active suspension or ground effect or abs or anti dive will not be providing the interest and excitement for fans. We are now looking at innovation bringing a lap time advantage that cannot be measured with an analogue stopwatch any more, you need a digital one and a digital finger (a digital digit!)
So unless reasonable development of the new engines and ERS is (KERS and HERS) allowed, we cannot rely upon the technology to hook the mass audience, the devotees yes, but are there enough of them? Or does it matter?
The setup now is that the circuits and the tv companies pay FOM each year for the right to stage a race and put it on tv in some form or other. Bernie has tied up those deals for the next 8 years (I think, it may be 7 for some and much longer for others) so FOM is guaranteed that income. This was the package to be offered in the partial float last year, a viable guaranteed income for a given period. Just exactly what was to be floated was never revealed, whether it was Delta Topco or Delta Prefco or both or another new non voting holding instrument. But all that was postponed due to the poor state of the market.
We know that tv audiences have fallen In the UK with the BBC coverage cut by 50%, but the whole series now being on Sky. In 2013 the same move to Sky happens in Italy, land of the Tiffosi, I predict a strong reaction when it hits home there.The paltry Sky viewing figures can surely not be attractive to advertisers.
The ruinous cost of entry and grandstands at the circuits, a necessity to help towards the gigantic FOM fees, is putting off a lot of the low to middle income fans who would love to go but simply cannot afford it. With F1 moving to countries further away, even the hardcore fans must have second thoughts about the cost.
Eventually the total audience will be permanently reduced. Will sponsors, who are themselves, tightening their belts, see any benefit in chucking vast amounts of promotional money at a reducing and ever more distant sport? A sport which is about to be brought into disrepute in the German courts and whose very ownership is about to be questioned. It could be a slow death, with sponsors gradually realising that their message is reaching a shrinking target. Unless something is done I would offer a guess at 5 years before teams have to withdraw for lack of sponsorship.
Then there is the new F1 Strategy Group formed of 6 team representatives, 6 from the FIA and 6 from FOM. This, one could speculate, is the “Number of the Beast” (excepting QI fans, who know it is 616 and AE Van Vogt fans who know it is way different)
This new group which replaces both the technical and sporting working groups will decide, well, “everything” including the rules. not only that, but only a straight majority is required, looks like Ferrari have lost their rules veto.
The worrying thing about this is that as far as the rules are concerned it virtually gives Bernie a free hand, he needs only to persuade 4 FIA people and the teams are scuppered. We all know how good Bernie is at persuading people. He has already said there will be no “electric only in the pit lane” which was of course contrary to what was written in 5.19 of the 2014 technical regs. Until they were updated, now both “pit lane electric only” and “driver engine starting” have been removed in the 11/12/12 version!
So he has already brought about a rule change in the first meeting of the F1SG. This is stifling an interesting feature of the new era before it has been born.
The F1SG is very dangerous for F1 and for the teams in particular. It fundamentally changes the balance of power in Bernie’s favour, (which he no doubt sold as 3 way equality) and could it be contrary to one of the conditions imposed by the EU commission?