Updated 23:03 GMT
Today saw 2 monumental meetings in Paris. One was of the F1 strategy group and the other the F1 commission. The resulting announcements have set the F1 social media world on fire with reactive comment.
Firstly, it should be noted that the big decisions are at present most vague. However, we’ll come to them shortly. It has to be noted that there is something new going on here. Rule making on the hoof. Today’s agreements have been waved though by the F1 Commission and as a note in the FIA statement states, “These changes are immediately applicable, given the mandate assigned to the FIA President at the last World Motor Sport Council meeting, held on 4 December in Paris.”
Wow. Are we to see a new decisive Jean Todt wielding this new kind of power?
Anyway, first up, the Pirelli 2014 tyre test in Bahrain next week. “The F1 Commission agreed to a change to the 2013 Sporting Regulations, on safety grounds, allowing the Formula One tyre supplier to carry out a three-day test in Bahrain from 17-19 December, 2013. All Formula One teams have been invited to take part in the test and six have accepted: Red Bull Racing, Mercedes, Ferrari, McLaren, Force India and Toro Rosso”.
The other teams are allowed to send observers and all information gathered by Pirelli will be available to all the teams.
It has to be said, despite Crashtor’s reputed $ millions, Lotus are notable absentees as are Sauber which confirms the stories that both teams have serious financial problems. Further, despite a severance deal from PDVSA, it appears Williams are still tight on cash and are choosing to stay away.
As reported in the news today, drivers will be allowed to choose a number for life.
“Drivers will be asked to choose their race number, between 2 and 99, for the duration of their career in the FIA Formula One World Championship. Number 1 will be reserved for the current World Champion, should he choose to use it.
If more than one driver choses the same number, priority will be given to the driver who finished highest in the previous year’s championship”.
This is designed to give drivers the opportunity to market themselves in association with their number. Though why a world champion would elect to take the #1 is unclear. The point is for the media, race footage and photograph’s taken to promote the driver via their number, so doesn’t switching to No. #1 for a year defeat the point of having a unique number.
Then there’s the question of whether numbers will be retired. Twitter is rampant suggesting which driver may elect for the number 27, associated with the late Giles Villeneuve. Then again, the superstitious may choose to avoid the number believing they may differ a similar fate.
What number will Kimi choose? – is a raging topic. If true to his image, the Finn will probably refuse to pick a number and force the FIA to decide for him. Then again in James Hunt style he may choose the number 69.
The debate over which driver will select which number may entertain us all during the Northern Hemisphere’s winter, but in essence that is all this is – froth and none sense.
To this end the next decision taken today will be considered equally facile by many F1 fans.
“Double drivers’ and constructors’ points will be awarded at the final race of the Formula One season in order to maximise focus on the Championship until the end of the campaign.”
This is an inevitable decision which may be just the first step F1 takes to ensure the title deciders are as late as possible in the season. There are many sports that contrive their end of season rules of play to keep the competition alive as long as possible, which in turn keeps TV audiences interest high for longer. After all, F1 these days is all about the buck.
Out of interest, double points last race would’ve meant in 2003, Raikkonen would’ve been the champion not Schumacher; in ’08, Massa not Hamilton; in ’12, Alonso not Vettel.
Other changes would have been:
1956 – Moss 35, Fangio 33
1958 – Moss 50, Hawthorn 49
1970 – Ickx 49, Rindt 45
1979 – G. Villeneuve 56, Scheckter 51
1981 – Jones 55, Piquet 52
1984 – Prost 80.5, Lauda 78
The twittersphere is outraged by this idea at least by 9 to 1 as epitomized by Jonathan McEvoy of the Mail. “Formula One is meant to be the pinnacle of motor racing not a circus of gimmicks. That is why the more outlandish ideas of that great showman Flavio Briatore – reversing the grids, applying the sprinklers – were resisted by saner and more traditional thinkers”.
TJ13 predicts that this will be just the thin edge of the wedge. F1 will end up with some system like – the top 5 drivers with 4 races to go – all reset their points and have a 4 race shootout for the title.
F1 fans are up in arms over this proposal almost to a man/woman – yet just as the teams have done nothing we have too ignored the impending doom upon us to our peril. It is time to petition our teams and drivers for a cost controlled F1, where neither the TV companies nor anyone else is not calling the shots over how the sport is run – because the necessity of their dollars means they get their say and their way.
However, there are 2 more decisions taken today which are best described as vague which may be far more reaching than double points for the last race.
“The principle of a five-second penalty for minor infringements was agreed. In what form such a penalty will be applied will be discussed with Formula One’s teams in order that a new regulation be introduced for 2014 season”.
Mmm. The possibilities are endless. Unless this is strictly defined, we’ll see a plethora of subjective decisions made because the perceived penalty is ‘slight’.
What is certain is that a 5 second penalty applied to the time of a driver during the race can in no way reflect by their position on track. This may require the retirement of a host of old school race commentators, who struggled this year to cope with the ‘confusion’ of 3 stop+ races where cars were out of position, but on fresher rubber.
however, the biggest decision by far is defined as yet only as a ‘global’ concept.
“The principle of a global cost cap has been adopted. The limit will be applied from January 2015.
A working group will be established within the coming days comprising the FIA, representatives of the Commercial Rights Holder and Team representatives.
The objective of the working group will be to have regulations approved by the end of June 2014″.
The fascinating part of this proposition is the idea of a ‘global’ cap comes straight out of left field. So the initial focus will not be initially upon individual teams, but the global spend of the teams combined. However, the subterfuge behind this idea could be to drive up the value of an individual unit of sponsorship spend and could have the effect of reducing the impact of the pay driver.
The current pot of cash distributed from the commercial rights holder among the teams is around $750m. So if the global cap was set at say $1.25bn, the opportunity for sponsorship and by definition the sponsors of pay drivers becomes restricted. This could result in a bidding war between sponsors to be allowed to be part of the nominal additional $500m.
Of course this is a nebulous suggestion at present, and the 6 month deadline on fleshing the idea out is utterly unreasonable. The debates will surround how much each team will be allocated of the additional funding to be raised above the prize fund and how this is policed.
Yet by highlighting the total cost of F1, this will deliver an intrinsic number for agreement which may force the teams to justify the spend of the sport as a collective, as against its income. At present it is unclear just who is behind this suggestion – Ecclestone, the FIA or the teams. The complete lack of previous debate over a ‘global’ cap would appear to suggest this is a very recent addition to the debate.
If this is an Ecclestone suggestion, were the cap to be set below he current additional voluntary sponsorship which funds F1 teams over and above the prize fund, it could have the effect of driving up the value of the sponsorship arrangements with FOM.
However, the teams vehemently opposed to any kind of cap are Ferrari and Red Bull and Ecclestone is particularly close to the latter. This would suggest this move originates with the FIA and after years of burying his head in the sand and demanding the teams agree unilaterally on cost cutting, Todt has awakened from his slumber.
But what of the Ferrari veto? It appears this is enshrined until 2020 for any technical or sporting regulations, except if they are made on the grounds of safety OR as TJ13 has been briefed today, if if they are “prejudicial to the traditional values of the championship or the image of the FIA”. I guess it could be argued just 6 or 7 teams entered for an F1 season or the majority of teams being unable to compete would be “prejudicial to the traditional values of the championship”. BINGO!
Then again the whole thing could merely end in deadlock unless the FIA and Todt act with decisiveness – as many attempts to control F1 spend in the past has done.
UPDATE: The FIA are inviting on twitter @FIA any complaints about the 2014 changes.
TJ13 recommends if you want to make a difference, don’t just bitch about double points – press the point hard over cost control and the subsequent competitiveness of the field of competitors.