Written by: James Parker, TJ13 Chronicler
Formula 1 has entered a very painful stage over the past couple of weeks. With the first of the “mini breaks” coming into force so soon after the start of the season it has left fans yearning for the action to start once again – something thankfully which will be fulfilled this weekend.
News has been painfully slow and sporadic in the Formula 1 world during this 3 week hiatus, and it has meant there have been just scraps to fight over. But one story which I felt was quite interesting which came to light was Christian Horner’s comments regarding the RRA or “Resource Restriction Agreement” and why it potentially is not the right way to ultimately secure the sustainability of Formula 1 in the future.
It must have been a breath of fresh air to talk about something outside the underpinnings of the dreaded “multi 21” debacle, and let’s be honest; we have all pretty much had enough of hearing about it in the build up to the Chinese Grand Prix.
Horner’s comments were as follows, which were quoted from the corresponding Autosport article:
“We have been talking about a budget cap for about five years now. The hardest thing in the world is to police what a company spends,”
“A resource restriction is an agreement that is fundamentally flawed because of the structures of different companies: Ferrari operates in a completely different way to McLaren or Mercedes or Red Bull.
“The best way to control costs is through stable regulations”.
“For example the biggest impact on Sauber’s costs next year will be a change of regulations with the drive train, so really the most sensible way to contain costs are stable, clear and concise regulations – both sporting and technical.”
Now it is easy for the Team Principal of a Red Bull team that boasts the biggest budget in Formula 1 (in excess of £300 million), to state that a cap on that budget that they can operate within is not the way forward in regards to Formula 1, after all a budget cap would see the money pot dwindle hugely from that £300 million per season.
But taking all into account, I do believe he does have a point here, and I think the current regulations have proved that somewhat.
In a world surrounded by the homologated engine freeze, slashed price customer engine deals and no major aerodynamic revisions (2009 aside) the Formula 1 paddock has only got stronger, more competitive and with that, produced some of the best racing in modern history. In essence, a period of stable regulations has given Formula 1, on the track at least, the biggest lease of life – that of course will all change next year potentially.
Now, one could argue that with the current economic climate as it is, with triple dip recessions and a worldwide monetary crisis set to dominate for a further 3-5 years at least, the only way Formula 1 can stay sustainable would be to restrict the resources available to all teams on the grid. With the big teams limited when it comes to utilising their resources it would allow, monetary challenged teams further down the field such as Marussia and Caterham a fairer chance of an even playing field.
But are major regulations changes more at risk of causing a sustainability risk to the sport?
It is true; Formula 1 did need to change its ethos when it came to road relevance. Turbo charging and hybrid technology are the dominant forces within the current car market at the moment, with small low pressure turbo engines being favoured by the majority of car companies with new models.
The sport in general has always been heralded as the key to unlocking new technology for road use, take both traction control and ABS as stark examples, but the question really is….. is the change mistimed?
With large Independent teams like Williams and Sauber having to focus their driver selection process solely on the amount of cash in the drivers wallets (take Maldonado and Guttierez for example) due to the incredibly difficult economic conditions being experienced, the 2014 major regulation changes have only compounded the problem when it comes to their long term future and sustainability.
Without the teams, Formula 1 would not be a sport, so to see so many struggling definitely does cause me quite a lot of stress. A perfect example of the measures teams have had to take is Marussia, who, whilst picking Bianchi on his obvious talent, were almost forced to bring the young man in to secure Ferrari turbo “power units” for 14 (highly speculated and generally accepted, almost gauranteed).
Now the reason a RRA has not been agreed over the past 5 years is solely down to the disagreements amongst teams when it comes to the allocation of resources. The idea in essence is a good concept; however can it ever truely be properly policed by the FIA?
Measurement is key, and clear concise aspects need to be clarified in order to police such an agreement. Tangible aspects which are easy to control such as wind tunnel usage and CFD (when it comes to car design) are incredibly easy to measure, and in that regard it can be policed in the same way as in season testing.
But with a grid that compromises both Independent teams and manufacturers, alongside a variation in seasonal allotted budgets, the waters definitely start to muddy. With certain teams on the grid associated with fairly large motoring organisations such as Ferrari and Mercedes, it would be incredibly difficult to track how the resources would be split up, in comparison with Independent teams like Sauber who have far fewer pies to bury their budgets and therefore would be a lot easier to manage.
This is where I feel Horner does have a point when it comes to the RRA. Unless it can be properly policed, which will always be very unlikely due to the power of Manufacturer backed teams, an agreement such as this could never become a reality. We have seen that over the past 6 years in the sport, when stable regulations have been at play, Formula 1 has become hugely prosperous.
Gone is the Schumacher/Ferrari dominated era where costs were no object. Homologated engines and limited testing alongside strict aero regulations has seen the Formula 1 paddock rise to its peak in competitiveness and potentially, that may be the answer when it comes to future sustainability of the sport until a clear concise and realistic agreement can be met by ALL teams.