Voice of the #F1 Fans: Hippo’s View From The Waterhole – Why #F1 missed the Boat on really cutting costs

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Several times in recent weeks I’ve been dismayed with one of our team members regularly badmouthing DTM. This is, because DTM is everything that F1 isn’t. It faced the same problems, but instead of the gerontocracy that is F1, they actually solved them.

All except the, what appears to be a border-line imbecile, octogenarian can see that F1 in its current form can hardly survive a couple more seasons, to what the DTM people will say: ‘Been there, done that’.

In the early 90s, DTM was a huge success. Mercedes, Audi, BMW, Ford, Opel, later Alfa-Romeo as well provided more than enough variety on the grid and with drivers like Bernd Schneider, Jacques Laffitte, Keke Rosberg, the Winkelhock brothers, Alessandro Naninni, Nicola Larini and a young Frentzen there was no shortage of talent and household names.

In came Max, Bernie and their cronies, named the whole thing ITC, let them drive all over the world and started bleeding it for money. Costs went through the roof and the manufacturers ran screaming. After only 2 years they had killed DTM off for good and the series died after the 1996 season.

Four years later, a reformed DTM restarted itself with the express goal of keeping costs in check and making sure that the toad from Suffolk stayed the heck away from it. As a result long-term technical regulations were put in place that should remain in place with only minor adjustments for fourteen years.

It started out with only three manufacturers – Mercedes, Audi and Opel (that’s a slightly less sh*t version of Vauxhall, for those on Her Majesty’s Island). It even survived some years with only two manufacturers when Opel walked out as the cash-strapped company couldn’t even afford the new el cheapo version of DTM. MG was slated to fill the gap, but in the best tradition of British car manufacturers, it went belly up.

With the arrival of BMW in 2012, the DTM was back to three manufacturers and the powers that be thought about luring in other manufacturers without causing spiralling costs. The biggest obstacle was, that DTM was basically a better version (in my opinion) of NASCAR without the pre-historic technology and a hell of a lot more right hand turns. The cars are silhouette cars with a naturally aspirated 3l V8 engine. It’s an insular solution.

While F1 solves such problems with engine-freezes and what not, which a manufacturer can abuse to buy himself a huge and almost guaranteed competitive advantage, they had the idea of changing the rules in a way that a manufacturer could use a once-developed car for more than one series with little to no modifications.

In several steps the rules of Japan Super-GT, DTM and an American series to be established under the guidance of Grand-Am, will be harmonised until 2017, opening the market for current manufacturers Mercedes, BMW, Audi, Toyota/Lexus, Nissan/Infiniti and Honda/Acura, as well as potential new entrants like Chevy, Ford, Alfa-Romeo/Maserati and others. Japan and Germany will have this process mostly completed by 2015 and a first race fielding both DTM and Super-GT cars built to identical specifications is planned for August 2015.

Surely, even the biggest pessimist can see that any manufacturer is more likely to join if he can develop a car once and then use it on three continents to plug his wares.

And that’s where F1 missed the boat.

When they came up with the new engine rules; why didn’t anyone say ‘look, don’t WEC use a similar formula? Why not harmonise with them?’

In my opinion the most obvious answer is ‘because it makes too much sense’. Had they done that, we could see cars with Nissan, Toyota, Audi, Judd and Porsche engines in F1, while at the same time the likes of Renault, Ferrari and Honda could have a whack at Le Mans either as a factory effort or as an engine supplier.

Does anyone really think that if the engine formulae were the same, Porsche would hesitate a single minute if they could sell the same engine with perhaps minor adjustments to an F1 team? And if not WEC, why not Indycars? Sure Ferrari would not need to think twice if they could try their hands at both Monaco and the Indy 500 without having to develop two engines for it?

Alas, they went for ‘cost cutting measures’ that Mercedes made a mockery off by spending more on engine development than any other manufacturer in the history of the sport.

Welcome to the world of #F1 Logic.

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22 responses to “Voice of the #F1 Fans: Hippo’s View From The Waterhole – Why #F1 missed the Boat on really cutting costs

  1. Ahhhh. You’re finding it a bit quiet lately, too, Hippo?
    Think I’ve understood it correctly – far too sensible as it is though….
    Now to let the rabble have at it….

  2. I like DTM, but I think the Aussie V8 series is a lot better, even though it’s being dominated by Redbull.

    Just a couple questions though hippo….

    Had Ferrari and Renault done a better job with their engines, do you think there’d be this big hoopla about engine cost and unfreezing of the regulations?

    Wouldn’t F1 then not become similar to GP2?

    • Fortis, we’ve talked about this before. It is easy to say ‘you should have done better’ if you threw have a billion at the job ‘to lower costs’

      • That doesn’t seem a hugely fair assessment of things in the sense that quite a large part of Mercedes’ competitiveness seems to stem from things like their engine/gearbox/turbo configuration, the decision to go for a smaller/lighter battery system and so on. Those concepts aren’t necessarily going to be solely derived from the amount of money thrown at a project in the same way that it wasn’t just pots of cash that meant Adrian Newey was able to come up with all the ‘inventions’ he has done over the years. To look at another example, Ferrari opt for pullrod front suspension as it suits their ‘concept’ for how to build the best possible car, yet it seems that throwing money at that would do little to bring it level with Red Bull/Mercedes.

        Undoubtedly the extra finances for deeper research into linking together all the various parts of the power unit will have helped Mercedes, but it still seems like Ferrari and Renault haven’t chosen the best possible solutions and I don’t fully believe that doubling the money they spent would mean that their chosen concepts would be as good as/better than the system Mercedes use. Similarly, Red Bull being quite late into things to start really working with Renault and trying to integrate the power unit with their car more effectively won’t have helped (I seem to remember a Renault rep mentioning that Red Bull hadn’t fully adhered to their info/specs for cooling, hence the tight configuration used on the Red Bull exacerbating the overheating issues in the early tests?).

        Again, I’m not making any kind of judgement on who’s right/wrong in terms of engine development, freezes and so on, but I just don’t fully agree with your constant assertions that it was just Mercedes’ spending power that caused them to be so far ahead.

    • Stick with DTM Fortis, V8 Thupercars is like F1 – in danger of becoming extinct by it’s own effort (or should that be lack of?…)

  3. Your best article yet, FH.

    Bit unfair to toads, though – unless it’s the cane toad from Suffolk: poisonous, unfathomably greedy, and almost impossible to eradicate.

  4. F1 is all about cutting edge tech. Part of the attraction. That’s never been cheap. Yes, the new engines mean the big manufacturers now have the small teams over a barrel, but the problem can be solved by more equitable distribution of the commercial revenues, and capping what can be charged for the engines.

    Capping this means that the R&D the big manufacturers do on the engines will be limited, rather than the basically unlimited as it is now. Now they can go crazy because they know they will recoup a lot of it from customer teams.

    None of this would have stopped HRT, Manor and Caterham going out of business though. That was always on the cards because they came in on the false hope promise of a 40 Mil cost cap, which now frankly, looks ridiculous…

  5. Hippo-
    If only you’d continue to write on topics that truly matter to the sport! Vision and insights sharp, wholly and unforgivingly accurate. Thank you for this piece.

  6. I thought this was the original plan for the new V4: adjust it and use it in rally or WEC. But then Ferrari went bereserk and the idea became compromised by a compromise: V6 engines. Goodbye Volkswagen and possibly BMW, Hyuandai and Toyota. Smart move from the extortist.

    (Note: I think Bernie deserves blame but not all. Selfishness and shortterm thinking by teams, manufacturors and FIA is also part of the destruction of the sport)

    • This was also my understanding as well. I wont pretend to know why this is no longer the case, however I speculate that certain latin contingency did not fancy either A) losing customers to new engine suppliers, b) the increase in risk of getting their arses kicked by said new suppliers, and c) same as A&B, but in more than 1 series. Getting shown up in F1 is bad enough, but WEC as well?

      No Bernie , non ci piace questo e si chiuderà F1 se succede!!

    • It wasn’t a V4

      the original plan was for a straight four engine

      which of course would have been usable in rallying, touring cars etc too

  7. @Hippo

    This same lunacy has been going on for decades. In the mid 70s we had 4th generation Group 5, think of Porsche 935. Much like current DTM/BTCC rules. This seemed to be going quite well, and it was turning into a fairly global series. Many manufacturers and teams, and sponsors liked it. It was even thought that it might be an alternate to F1. A short person became involved, and it died. Surprise surprise. But DTM has some problems, with it being almost closed to new entrants. Why were Zakspeed not allowed to enter a Volvo C70 shape?

    • Volvo veto’ed the use of the car for whatever reason. Zakspeed had built in on their own initiative without asking Volvo beforehand – which was probably not clever.

      • @Hippo.

        So in reality, no small private teams doing their own thing. Where have we heard that idea recently……..

          • @Hippo

            Thanks. I didn’t remember that. I have more interest in the turbo Capri. There is a story to tell, and I might write it one day. Shame on you Allan A….d and Ford.

  8. Nice analyses and a good suggestion on how the FIA should have handled the new engine formula, unfortunately making decisions based on logic and past experiences is something that is rarely done in F1. And as such I don’t believe that Fat Hippo’s suggestion will ever happen, even if it was Max Mosley’s original idea to make the new engine formula the basis for other series too. But the main reason I think it’s not going to happen in the foreseeable future, if ever, is because of the way F1 is different from other racing series and that is that the FIA is not in control. There is too much influence from FOM and the teams. This influence must be greatly reduced and I hate to say it but the only way I think that is possible is when more teams go belly up at the worst time possible (so that there is no time for teams to supply a third car) and thereby return control of F1 back to the FIA.

    Now don’t get me wrong I don’t think it will fix everything, mainly because I don’t have enough trust in the small one from France his ability to make the right decisions for F1. He has not shown so far that he has the presence and persuasion skills needed to run F1. JT has done some good things with reviving WEC and assigning the right person to make the European F3 championship the breeding ground for young talent again but he has also shown with F1 and WRC that he makes mistakes. Making mistakes is human but do I trust him and his skills enough to be assured that if he gets control of F1 everything is going to be alright? No absolutely not! Does anyone for that matter?

  9. A very good piece, and has sparked new interest in DTM for me. I’ve passed the link on to a few friends.

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