Voice Of #F1 Fans : Another Attempt At Squaring The Circle

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Even though it was only the first winter test, the indications are hard to miss that we might be looking at another year of utter malaise courtesy of Mercedes-Benz. Nico Rosberg drove more than half as many laps on the first day as the team did over all four days last year and by the looks of things, he did so with relative ease.

Mercedes 2015 Launch JerezAnd the explanation is not really that hard to work out. Mercedes were – depending on the track – two seconds, sometimes even closer to three seconds ahead of even their own customer teams last year. They could easily afford to give some of that advantage away and only invest tokens in reliability upgrades while still maintaining a sizeable advantage. Nobody can close that kind of gap without risking to show up with a contraption that has all the durability qualities of a 1980’s Polski Fiat.

A certain portion of the audience will automatically come up with the “like the last four years?” rubbish line, but that argument crumbles like a cheap suit, if you look at the numbers:

2010: Poles (5 drivers from 4 teams), Wins (5 drivers from 3 teams), decided in last race

2011: Poles (3 drivers from 2 teams), Wins (4 drivers from 3 teams), decided early

2012: Poles (7 drivers from 4 teams), Wins (8 drivers from 6 teams), decided in last race

2013: Poles (4 drivers from 2 teams), Wins (5 drivers from 4 teams), decided early

2014: Poles (3 drivers from 2 teams). Wins (3 drivers from 2 teams), (artificially) decided in last race

None of the “Red Bull years” were as one-sided as last season and it becomes more damning if you consider that the singular non-Mercedes pole was scored by a Mercedes customer and that all three Red Bull wins were gracious gifts from Mercedes. It could easily have been (2 drivers from one team) in both categories.

And that’s where the problem is – instead of implementing some real cost cutting measures – the powers that be sent out a huge honking invitation for a spending war. Mercedes said ‘thank you’, threw twice as much men and dough at it than the competition and ended up with an advantage that even with the law of diminishing returns is insurmountable for years.

Could that have been avoided? Hippo says “yes!“. Unless Mercedes waste tokens by bolloxing up a development, the current development restrictions make catching up a Sisyphus ordeal until Mercedes have reached absolute perfection. And it’s not like Merc are a first-time offender in causing spiralling costs. They propelled themselves to the business end of the pack within 3 years in the mid-nineties by introducing materials that would have appeared too futuristic and unaffordable to the Romulans.

Had FIA been serious about cutting costs, they would have made it unattractive to outspend the competition for an advantage. Since the Hippo Resource Management found no takers in Paris, I came up with another proposal that makes too much sense:

The HBDS or “Hippo Balanced Development System

Instead of the current over-regulated rules, the rules merely say:


Renault Formula 1 V6 TurboWe don’t care. Build something that makes a noise and creates forward motion – Diesel, Methanol, Petrol, Electricity, minced kittens – we don’t give a toss.

Instead of components, the resulting engine is defined by four performance categories: Power, torque, fuel use (measured in energy consumed to make up for different fuels), reliability.

Fuel economy and reliability development is unrestricted. Each engine – comparable to chassis crash tests – is FIA tested before the first winter test. The best engine in power and/or torque is “development frozen” in the respective category (they can still develop further but not introduce on track), while the others are allowed to develop at will up to within +/- 2% of the best engine’s value. That doesn’t prevent anyone from gaining an advantage, but it avoids such advantage to be cemented for a long time.

That freeze model remains in practice until all others have caught up in both categories. Then the development is “unfrozen” for all until pre-first-winter-test of the next season the next year. To prevent any manufacturer deliberately sandbagging on power or torque because they have a significant advantage on reliability or fuel economy, the unfreeze happens after two seasons at the latest, regardless of catch-up status, because if someone can’t make significant progress in 2 years – that manufacturer is hopeless.

That way you don’t summarily punish those, who do a good job, because they still have reliability and fuel economy at their disposal to stay on top, but you have some measures to avoid a complete runaway leader and greater advancements in fuel economy is something that massively benefits the road car. Huge spending for an advantage is less attractive with less ROI, except if someone wants to spend a gazillion bucks on making the car run a hundred miles on a drop of lavender perfume and a breath of lukewarm air, which would instantly convert all ecomentalists, tree-huggers and horse riders into huge F1 fans – shrinking viewership numbers solved…

As an added bonus you don’t have to change the engine formula every few years as there isn’t an engine formula to begin with.

So let’s look at a hypothetical example:

The engines are tested and it turns out, the Merc engine has the most power and the Ferrari engine has the most torque. That means, Fezza can’t increase their torque while Merc isn’t allowed to increase their power. But Merc can increase increase their torque to within +/- 2% of Fezza and the same goes for the power of the Maranello power plant in relation to the Merc. Development is limited, but not forbidden. The others can catch up wherever they manage to, which in Renault’s case most likely means – nowhere.

With development not artificially reduced the others are allowed to gradually catch up.

But Hippo,” I hear you say with a stern face. “That will just open up another spending war.

In theory, yes,” I counter. “But who says that the current model is better?

Force-India1The current situation has killed off two teams already and with Force India a third one is in dire straights. The exploding costs for the complicated hybrid PU’s are a major factor in that. Given free choice about their design, I doubt the manufacturers would have gone for the current formula. It is more likely that some would have gone for a turbo or twin-turbo layout with a ‘conventional’ KERS, which would have meant that even with all-out development going on, the costs would still have been lower than what Merc sunk into building the current breed of engines.

To save the teams from being the financiers of over-spending projects the engine costs are capped at 10 million, adjusted every two years for global inflation.

The key to this whole concept is the absence of an engine formula. Everyone is free to do what they want. It could perhaps motivate VW to give up their reluctance – Bernie’s removal assumed – and showcase their prowess in producing high performance turbo diesel engines.

It could also change the nature of racing. You could end up with one team relying on a power advantage of its Mercedes engine, while another one starts a little further down the grid, but with its cars 20 kilogram lighter, because its Audi turbo diesel units use much less fuel.

Every manufacturer could showcase their preferred concept, as long as they can make it reasonably competitive and I doubt anyone could secure such an insurmountable advantage as different approaches are going to vary in their suitability to certain tracks.

It may all just be romantic dreaming by a Fat Hippo, but in the current state of the sport, dreaming is much more rewarding than watching reality.

28 responses to “Voice Of #F1 Fans : Another Attempt At Squaring The Circle

  1. Man your bias cannot be more evident….

    You keep talking about Mercedes outspending everyone last season, but conveniently choose to ignore that they complied with the RRA agreement (which was intended to control cost), which saw them winning only 4 races from 2010-13; whilst Redbull, Ferrari and McLaren continued to spend as they please. Didnt hear much ranting whilst Redbull were running away with quadruple WCC and WDC titles. So now Mercedes has decided to flaunt the rules like everyone else, it’s now unfair?

    ” And it’s not like Merc are a first-time offender in causing spiralling costs. They propelled themselves to the business end of the pack within 3 years in the mid-nineties by introducing materials that would have appeared too futuristic and unaffordable to the Romulans”

    Isn’t that what F1 is all about? Being imaginative, exploring and developing new technologies? Was it not Redbull who invested vast amount to develop a new way to weave carbon fibre with other space age materials which allowed their front wings to flex massively under load and still able to retain its strength and at the same time pass the FIA load test?

    Interesting point to note, of the 2 teams who went belly up recently, both used a Ferrari and Renault engine. So sure Mercedes outspent everyone, but they still provided their customers with far cheaper units. You sound like Marchione with his twin turbo engine with standard KERS unit. Giving a F1 free reign to do what they please will in no way reduce cost, especially with engines.

    I doubt you’d be this apoplectic had Renault provided Redbull with the engine that Mercedes produced. This rant boils down to one thing only, someone came and knocked Redbull off their throne and the fact that it was Mercedes, makes even harder to deal with.

        • Fortis, for christ sake. You’re starting to bore the shit out of me. This is an article about F1 in General and you somehow manage to rage-wank over the fact that someone might not pay Lewis the due respect. Seriously. Sometimes I wishe you’d contribute or just [MOD]!

          • it’s dressed up as an article about f1 in general, but in reality it’s about voicing your displeasure with vettels lack of competetive material.

          • @FH, do you not get how it seems weird that you launch into the “pay Lewis the due respect” spiel, when Fortis said nothing about him in his original reply?

            Plus what did you mean with the “(artificially) decided in the last race” for 2014? Surely you don’t mean the double points, as it would’ve gone to the last race regardless. So then I’m guessing it’s your ‘Mercedes stage-managed the entire WDC’ hobby-horse, which is just stupid beyond words. From those two things, you don’t get how it might overwhelm whatever else you had to say? You don’t help yourself with such things.

          • The artificially decided bit goes for the fact that without double points Rosberg’s chance would have been but theoretical, while the double points made it quite a realistic one.

        • Touche anijs……:-)……..

          FWIW I skimmed thru the Fortis post then read Hippos. When I saw the Lew word mentioned I thought uh-o missed something so backed up and took another look.
          Lewis may be tacit but by Hips OTT reaction anijis is spot on.

          • And that’s where you are both wrong, Fortis in particular. First of all – as far as I can see – Vettel was never even remotely mentioned. It is Fortis, who has a go at just about everyone, who suggests that Merc should have it made harder for them to dominate. In that he joins a growing number of utterly hypocritical people, who at the end of 2013 were screaming bloody murder about RB winning everything and destroying the sport by their domination. Fast forward one year and a Mercedes dominance that is by far greater than anything RB ever achieved is suddenly okay. I’d call that ‘speaking out of your arse’.
            And on top of that, and the reason why I reacted rather badly to Fortis’ whining. Had he taken the time to look though the archives (for instance by entering ‘Hippo’ in the search bar) he would have easily found out that this article is just one of several that dealt with the topic of how to avoid run-away leaders in favor of better racing and avoiding the death of smaller teams. And that’s why I was PO’ed. Because I am accussed of all kinds of villainy by people, who deduce my behaviour by looking at their own. For Fortis, everything revolves around Lewis. Everyone else is inconsequential and saying anything critical about Lewis is not only blasphemy, you are usually accused of underlying racism for good measure while he’s at it. And since I never made a secret of the fact that I’m a Vettel supporter, in his eyes and anijs’ eyes as well, it must be the same with me. Everything I write is ultimately meant to be in Vettel’s favour.

            People like the two I mentioned cannot understand that you can support a driver without losing sight of the sport as a whole. If they had used the archives, they would know that some of the more critical news items and articles at the height of the RB success were written by me.

          • you can support a driver and not loose sight of the sport as a whole hippo, but YOU can’t. you’re among the most biased persons on this site. that’s ok, we all have our faults, but please admit that to yourself instead of crying bloody murder everytime somebody points it out.

          • What a load of crock!!!

            You’ve been whinging from last season about Mercedes. You’ve been having ago at the team for doing the exact same thing that the other tops teams have done, out spend their competitors.

            Mercedes has had only one good season, sure it was a dominat one, but Redbull did it for 4 years straight! Also my comment has nothing to do with Lewis, I argued my point based on your bias towards Mercedes and incase you’ve forgotten, Lewis drove for McLaren during the time they were out spending Mercedes.

            Your article is not about how to offer better racing, that’s bull! Because you started your piece by covering Redbulls period of dominace. No one is saying Mercedes domination last season was ok, but rather stop making them out to be the scapegoat for the others doing a poor job themselves.

            In 2013 Lauda was asked about Redbull dominating the sport, to which he replied…

            “Don’t blame Redbull for doing a better job than everyone else, it’s for us (Mercedes) and the other teams to do a better job and catch up”

            I’ll stick to my opinion and I could careless whether you or anyone else likes it or not, you’ve got a personal dislike for Mercedes the brand period.

          • And you have a like for Mercedes the brand? Seriously, Fortis…
            I indeed do criticize Mercedes, because they mocked, what the new engine formula was supposed to achieve. The progressive freezing was meant to reign in spiraling development costs. What did they do? Drive them to unprecedented heights so that they can now keep an advantage on the cheap. They did what Red Bull has done since their inception – ignoring the so-called spirit of the rules and both teams have rightly been criticised for that.
            We have seen an precedented lack of competition last year. Even in 2011 and 2013 there was at least a race for second place. Last year there was not. And like the Schumacher years damaged the sport, the Mercedes years will too and that is what the article is about.

          • But Hippo – if I was going to build an engine I will build the best one I can. The engine Mercedes build have put them in a place where they can slap “hybrid” on their road going cars and sell them.

            Spirit of the rules? You know as well as I do that people only use that phrase when they have been caught napping. Renault and Ferrari had the same brief to build and engine. It is not Mercedes’ fault that Renault and Ferrari were caught with their pants down.

          • @fortis not completely true. Of those four years vettel had to fight two of them. The other two where in dominance. But not of this current level. This is like the schumi era. Before it begins you still know who’s going to win. Remember vettel won a championship in a year that we had 7 different winners for the first 7 races… and in the dominant years they were only dominant by a big margin on the typical circuit in which the red bull suited best. Mercedes has it everywhere. But i agree with the fact that you can’t blame mercedes. They just do their job. It’s just that iit’s not big fun for the viewers… not the fun that 7 different winners gives

          • Again that’s crock!

            They did exactly what the engine reg intended, they built a power unit that was better than everyone elses and they did so by investing.

            When the rules were drawn up, there was nothing there relating to spending, so you can’t say they went against the spirit of the rules by spending more.

            I have no love or affection for any brand on the grid, what my problem with your article is, you’re basically saying its Mercedes’ fault for why they had no competition and for that they should be vilified.

            If cost was such a major problem relating to what Mercedes spent, then it’s their engines that should cost the most, but instead its not. It’s not Mercedes who Marussia owes the most money to, it’s not a Mercedes unit that was in the back of the Caterham.

            The fact still remains, when the issue of cost was being discussed and an agreement was reached with the RRA, it was the top 3 teams who ignored the rules.

          • Nobody is villifying Mercedes for how good their engine is. It’s the how it was achieved that attracts criticism. To explain that to you: In 2013 Red Bull hat obviously the best car from an aerodynamic point of view and were therefore doing a lot of winning. But every other team had the chance to bring updates to catch up at any time. And Red Bull had not spent more than the likes of Ferrari or McLaren.
            Mercedes spent about as much as Ferrari and Renault put together. I would really have liked to see your reaction had the RB9 been the result of spending 400 million to Ferrari’s 200. You would have complained the loudest.
            The prices that Merc charges are irrelevant. They simply make a huge loss on each unit. Their customer prices are not related to their R&D spending and the manpower they invested.

          • Red Bull and Ferrari killed the RRA which Mercedes abided by, so how on earth is it Mercedes fault that that costs are not under control? The whole decision to buy their own team was made on the basis of promised cost reduction through the RRA. Ferrari and Red Bull killed the agreement, because at that time, they were the two teams spending the most, and they wanted to keep it that way. Mercedes then adapted and showed the rest of F1 that they were able to throw more money on a problem than everybody else. If Red Bull and Ferrari would have been able to think long term, they would have realized that Mercedes is the biggest corporation running an F1 team and was therefore comfortably able to outspend everybody on the grid. Instead, typically for F1, they shot themselves in the foot for short term gains. So stop blaming Mercedes for a problem they did not create.

      • Last seasons budget was the biggest Mercedes had since they returned to the sport. I posted a link to an interview Lauda gave last year, whereby he stated the Mercedes board increased their budget because they couldn’t compete on the same level as the other 3 teams, because they weren’t complying with the RRA agreement. This is not something everyone wasn’t aware of.

        • You do realise that Mercedes didn’t abide by the RRA when building their new engines and what Lauda was talking about was just the “race teams” budget?

          They simply syphoned money into different channels in the Mercedes organisation that were not traceable within Formula 1 or by the FIA, in order to pay for the development of the engine. They did this for almost 4 years!

          Mercedes as a global company have more money than god, so I don’t think the RRA really worried them too much, they threw as much money at the problem as possible AWAY from the official “race teams” budget.

          They reportedly spent more than 3 times more money on their power unit than the other two manufacturers so your argument breaks down quite quickly about them doing it within the rules.

          This is what I don’t understand about your points. You are a Lewis fan, not a Mercedes F1 fan as far as I can tell? I can’t imagine you were singing their praises when they entered the sport in 2010.

          So if Lewis were to be driving for another team in 2014.. say Ferrari, and Mercedes held the kind of advantage they did, would you still be defending their spending habits and the mammoth advantage they hold over the rest of the field?

          I would suspect not… but I could be wrong?!

  2. “Hippo says YES!” Love it.
    Would also like to see the engine that runs on minced kittens……..that would be something.

    Seriously, I don’t think their is just 1 solution to problem, as all solutions have pro’s and con’s it’s just a question of what can be agreed upon, and there lies the heart of the problem. F1 is full of me, me, me’s and one upmanship. We need the laviathon that is the FIA to wake from its slumber and kick some ass into shape. But that won’t happen either!

    • Halt! Tis I, Kohl! Peer into my seemingly benevolent visage in the avatar below. There is to be no further discussion of ‘minced kitties’. Sadly, not all small cats grow into the type of fearsome feline of which I am the epitome. But we are not to be trifled with. Indeed, any further discussion of this nature will ensure that you have a Clear View of the havoc I will inflict on the Hippo! Oh my, here comes the human.

    • That Leviathan has been bought and paid for at this point, so the FIA will dance to whatever tune the commercial paymasters call, to the extreme detriment of the sport ATM.

      • I forgot about Jean Todt and his love of selling his responsibilities along with the the content of the now empty scrotum of the FIA.

        F1 needs a saviour……..and fast!

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