Big Formula One rumblings of significant change ahead

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Bernie Ecclestone strode into the paddock in Bahrain and threatened to ‘kick ass’. He confronted Toto Wolff over Mercedes intransigence over engine regulation changes and was accordingly caught on camera.

This time of year is traditionally one where big debates are taking place over future regulations. The final horse trading for next year’s regulations used to be locked in come June.

Yet the FIA have changed the deadline. Technical and sporting regulation changes for next year had to be agreed by March. The engine’s will be developed for 2016 according to the original schedule as laid out by the FIA, with a reduced number of development tokens available to each manufacturer –  and homologation being required before the first race of the season.

It’s not clear at this stage whether Bernie’s strong arm tactics worked in Bahrain, but Eric Boullier of McLaren is now welcoming regulation changes for 2017. The Frenchman believes the Honda crisis will be over by the end of this year and MacHonda will then be able to fully exploit any changes for 2017.

“Any changes we support, because we are ready and especially in two years we would be more than ready to fight,” Boullier told F1i.

Yet there is a long road ahead for Ecclestone who announced that the new regulations for 2017 would create “a spectacular new formula”. Yet the most detail which has emerged ahead of the next F1 strategy group meeting is that 1000 Bhp engines will not be vetoed.

Toto Wolff was far more circumspect and pragmatic when commenting on Ecclestone’s plans.

“There’s a governance in place and for 2017 it needs a simple majority in the F1 Commission to change the rules,” he said. “This is the reality, so if you’re being hard line and blocking everything then you are going to be run over”.

Give a little, appear reasonable and the accusations about “killing F1” will appear the rants of a madman.

“So at least let’s stay on the table and discuss in a sensible way what we can do and what is for the benefit of the sport and for the good of the sport. This is what we are trying to do. There is a financial and commercial reality linked to that. If it costs massive additional development or financial costs then clearly we will make that point but I think you need to be open-minded in entering those discussions.”

Monisha Kaltenborn’s latest comments suggests even in the F1 commission, Ecclestone will be marginalised if the changes required to bring about a ‘spectacular new formula’ changes proposed equate to a rise in costs.

Whilst the rhetoric is ‘all for change’, all four engine manufacturers agree the V6 Turbo’s are here to say – even Renault – whose partner Red Bull Racing is arguing for a change in the power units again.

Mercedes and their customers together with Ferrari, Sauber, Haas and Manor are most likely to vote together to restrict Ecclestone’s ambitions.

Ecclestone has to find a way of playing divide and conquer – and to do that he needs to be able to offer something to a block of this vote.

At present Bernie’s cupboard seems rather bare and the F1 strategy group stacked against him.

It looks as though we shall be treated to a wealth of promises that big changes are coming in F1. But will the brightest of the fireworks promised, be just followed by impotent damp squib announcements of incremental change.

Toto Wolff sums up the current attitude of many Formula One team principals.  “For the commercial rights holder it’s important to have not one team running away with the championship and having close battles for the lead, because utmost battling for the lead is what is important for the spectators. We had more of that [in Bahrain] and more of that in Malaysia. We tend to be between very lows and highs … I wouldn’t say everything is solved. We had a good race [in Bahrain] but I would say the sport is in good shape.”

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15 responses to “Big Formula One rumblings of significant change ahead

  1. A bit unclear to me. What are the changes that Bernie wants? I know about the 1000 bhp, what else? Aero?

    • I thought this is it. Or maybe he’s flogging the customer car horse again?

      Both stupid. We’re almost at 1000 BHP, it’s just a number.

      He should be discussing grid girls, driver numbers and helmet colors.

    • You’re not alone… I’m embarrassed to say it’s not clear to me what this whole story is about.

      Whatever the changes, the primary measurement of success will be how well does the change reduce costs for the teams.

  2. Sensible comments by Wolff.
    Wonder what Bernie’ll do next. Getting Jean on board seems the most logical as both FOM and FIA have 6 votes against the 6 teams. Or am I missing something?

  3. “The sport is in good shape”, he says, with three teams just holding on for dear life. Color me unsure about that.

    • A much needed quick win are engine costs. Or any other thing which involves money for the little ones.

      But “in good shape” as in “we don’t need another engine, because of some imaginary magic number of BHP” – I agree with that.
      Probably it’s like RogerD says, though.

  4. This may be too logical for F1, but surely by leaving the engines alone, in a couple of years the costs would have fallen dramatically, due to their being fewer areas to research and develop with the tokens being systematically reduced every year. Thus in a few years the small teams will have more cash available to spend on improving their chassis’. Which in turn will lead to a more competitive field, better racing and lo and behold a better “show.”
    By changing rules dramatically again, the vicious circle we currently find ourselves in will just keep revolving ferociously with all small teams surely flying off the metaphorical roundabout in the end.
    Apologies for the sensible comment in advance, but surely it’s there for everyone to see, changing rules equals vast expense. Small teams become rubbish as they have a piggy bank to pick change from and the gap from back to front grows at a faster rate than our ever expanding universe!

    • “This may be too logical for F1, but surely by leaving the engines alone, in a couple of years the costs would have fallen dramatically, due to their being fewer areas to research and develop with the tokens being systematically reduced every year. Thus in a few years the small teams will have more cash available to spend on improving their chassis’. Which in turn will lead to a more competitive field, better racing and lo and behold a better “show.”
      By changing rules dramatically again, the vicious circle we currently find ourselves in will just keep revolving ferociously with all small teams surely flying off the metaphorical roundabout in the end.
      Apologies for the sensible comment in advance, but surely it’s there for everyone to see, changing rules equals vast expense. Small teams become rubbish as they have a piggy bank to pick change from and the gap from back to front grows at a faster rate than our ever expanding universe!”

      This is a great post. If they change the engines again 2017, it will mean more costs for everyone involved; not just manufacturers. Once the engine development gets further in the cycle, the costs will be less because it’s easier and less expensive to upgrade. If they change engine formats, things have to be recaliberated and other parts of the process changed or modified. This means more labor costs, etc. Mercedes and Ferrari need to lead the way/discussions on any changes for 2016 and beyond because they’ve had the most success thus far with the new engines and know what changes could be made to enhance the show without making costs skyrocket.

  5. I can totally get on board with a formula that would put cars on the grid like the Ferrari shown above. Besides that its all about money, is he suggesting that he and CVC are going to pay back what the teams, fans and tracks are putting in? Personally i dont see a fix if they dont.

  6. Quick fixes:
    -scrap the 4-engine rule; let the teams rebuild engines with like-for-like parts between races. Building MORE engines actually saves costs because the development is amortized over more units.

    -increase the fuel flow limit to increase potential power, hopefully more spectacular wheel-spinning.

    -change the tire composition to promote sliding the tires. Sliding the car looks cool, but its slow. Things weren’t always so. Change the tires (and available straight-line power) to make squared-off driving lines that emphasize corner exit power slides.

    -unlimited energy storage. If you want F1 to be about development of hybrid power systems, don’t cap how much ERS the teams can use or save. Battery size and weight min’s and max’s will help avoid a battery war.

    -active aero, driver-controlled-only. This is an easy (or at least easier) way for a trailing car to increase it’s down-force in the close wake of the leading car. Currently this is creating artificial gaps for tire preservation.

    -maximum staff limit for both teams and engine partners, along with maximum working hours. This will help limit cost and available development resources.

    -no exclusive engine-team partnerships; you must offer your engine to any team willing to pay for it. You don’t have to tell them how to run it though….

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