“Cut off one head and two more will take its place”
In Greek mythology, this was said of the Lernaean Hydra – an ancient serpent-like water monster with reptilian traits. It had poisonous breath and blood that was so virulent that even its tracks were deadly
In more ways than one, Modern Formula One bears a number of similarities to the Hydra, though the concept of many heads acting independently of each other is probably the closest.
One year on from the introduction of the new V6 engines, and the paddock is still divided over the new F1 engine regulations
Reflecting on the events at the Australian GP, David Coulthard says, “I think maybe the sport is trying too hard to save the planet. One grand prix season burns less fuel that one transatlantic flight, so the fuel usage in Formula One is not really going to save the planet”.
Coulthard is of course an ambassador for Red Bull and his comments follow those of Christian Horner and Helmet Marko who want the new engine regulations changing.
“So I think we have to be a little bit careful that Formula One doesn’t try to save the world through rules and regulations,” adds the Scot. He calls for Formula One to “be as competitive as is possible in any elite sport.”
Head of team Williams, Claire, sees things quite differently.
“From my perspective as a commercial director, the change in the engine regulations has definitely alleviated pressure talking to companies that look at Formula One as a sport and are put off by the environmental questions around it.”
Williams recognises that the new engines have not had the best PR since their introduction.
“I think we need to tell the story around these new engines. I don’t think it is a story that has been told enough yet and I think that would do us more favour if we did.
“But I do believe that from an environmental perspective it was the right way to go.”
Oh dear me. Now which head shall we chop off?
Coulthard is right when he states Formula One is a racing competition, and Williams is correct to observe that Formula One is also a story of technological advancement.
Yet neither have really grasped the point about the new F1 engines and their environmental value.
The pinnacle of motorsport engineering and design has brought many far-reaching changes to hundreds of millions of people’s lives.
Traction control, flappy paddle gear boxes, NCAP crash testing, crumple zones, aerodynamic efficient design, carbon fibre brakes, carbon cell construction, fuel and lubricants, adaptive suspension – ALL, have and are all being incorporated into the road cars driven across the planet.
And so designing the engines of the future is a natural space for Formula One to occupy. Particularly if the regulated 40% improvements in fuel efficiency can influence road car engine design. Millions of more efficient road cars will save trillions of currency units spent on fuel – and could indeed go quite some way to saving mother earth.
However, there is the small matter of 20 (well 19 now) races to consider. The engine manufacturers want to showcase their brands and they do bring huge amounts of finance to the table in order to fulfil this requirement.
But Formula One is also about racing!!!
And racing costs money. And the more money you spend, the more competitive you are. Give even Ferrari an unlimited budget and they will contrive to win F1 world championships – despite themselves.
So who decides how much is enough? Is it fair that one team has so much cash they could afford to take three or four new front wing designs to most races in 2013, whilst another bring an update every third or fourth race?
Is it fair that one engine manufacturer could afford to hire the finest engineering minds in the universe and gave them a blank cheque book to design a power unit which becomes unbeatable?
One’s fame and glory sold gazillions of fizzy drinks, whilst the other gains kudos and road car market share.
And both see value in the vast amounts they spend, which could fund a small country each year.
But not all the F1 players have that amount of cash, and the poor and desolate F1 folk – with a mere $100m to spend a year – can never hope to win. They pray for survival and at best to come second from last when the races are run.
Debates about making F1 racing competitive are a nonsense if they fail to address the issue of the totality of spending in Formula One. It’s like chopping off a head from the Hydra, then watching two more grow in its place.