On Friday at the 2015 Canadian GP, Ron Dennis held a big pow wow in the McLaren hospitality area. The big wigs form Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull were present, and the purpose of the meeting was to decide how they would vote on the proposals form the recent F1 strategy Group meeting in Biggin Hill.
2017 has been lauded as the beginning of a big new world for Formula One. Spectacular car designs, bigger wheels, 1,000 BHP engines, customer cars and refueling – amongst other ideas – have all been proposed changes that are believed to return F1 to its former glory.
Starting with wheel rim size. No change will come. Changing the diameter of the wheels on a Formula one car in effect sends the designers back to the drawing board to start over again.
Larger wheel rims would mean the aerodynamics of the current F1 cars would be fundamentally different and all the solutions the teams would have developed for three years for cooling, suspension ride height and down force would then be worth very little.
However, the width of the tyre will almost certainly change, and increase to 42 cm.
Unsurprisingly, the team with the least to lose by abandoning the status quo is McLaren. The Woking engineering director Matt Morris made it clear he welcomes a more radical change.
“It’s not just the tyre size, it’s all the other parts that change with that, all the brake internals and what have you.”
“From our side we relish change so if that is going to change we have a great knack fo finding the best way around it and then potentially it’s an area that if you do a good job, you can be competitive, so we’re happy if that was to go ahead.”
Bigger wheels mean more weight, and since Formula One is trying to trim down the cars to improve lap times, significantly increasing the wheels now has little chance of approval.
On the subject of weight, the strategy group had tasked the working party to deliver a 50 kilogram weight saving for the 2017 cars. The subsequent analysis now suggests just 20 kilograms is deliverable.
Also unsurprising is that Mercedes are dragging their heels. Lauda argued the proposals did not go far enough. “Just making the cars and wheels wider is not enough, you also need to make them look much different than they do today. Otherwise a new beginning [in 2101[ is pointless”.
Wolff too urges caution. “Beautiful designs are not necessarily quicker” he observed.
This is classic Formula One at work. Someone has an idea then others pick it apart to prove it couldn’t work. Then stalemate ensues.
The big decision made by these four teams today is that customer cars are both dead – and alive – in the future of Formula One.
They will only be introduced as a last resort if teams are leaving the sport. McLaren were substantially in favour of this idea, however Toto Wolff placed a spanner in the works.
The Mercedes boss believes degrading existing constructors to mere customers is not what Formula One should be about. Half the grid filled with “puppets” is no good said Wolff.
A framework for customer cars has though been agreed. The customer will pay 50 million euros and get a car and engine, ready to go racing.
Existing smaller constructors will get first call on whether they wish to become a customer team. The bigger team’s who produce customer cars will be allowed one customer only.
One other idea hast lost all momentum; Ecclesotne’s GP1 car concept. This would be where a third party would build cars to sell to customer teams to compete in Formula One against the constructors.
Of course this has to pass the strategy group. It is also no coincidence Williams and Force India were not invited to Big Ron’s party yesterday.
Given their previous positions on these matters, they will not be in agreement and vote accordingly at the strategy group.
Once again the FIA will vote to retain the status quo if the teams lack unanimity. By the time this gets to the F1 commision, a 10-8 majority is hardly a resounding mandate for change.
The FIA may very well recommend to the commission they send the matter back to the teams, to try and improve this solution. After all, there is almost nine months before the 2017 regulations must be agreed.