Strategy Group Strikes again
Two of the most heated words in F1 circles these days are “Customer Cars”.
The topic has come up time and again, more so since the introduction of the Outrageously priced hybrid v-6 Power Units. Of course, that problem could have been fixed if the FIA had simply written into the regulations that Manufacturers had to supply engines at a fixed price, as it was before.
But since that didn’t happen, the solution that is being slung around by the top teams has been Customer Cars.
While some say allowing Customers cars to happen would help the racing, and be a potential saving grace for the smaller teams, the flip side is that the Manufacturer’s would have even further control over the midfield.
The details of the customer car scenario have never been fully outlined to anyone, but the major sticking point seemed to be whether the customers Power Units would be on par with the manufacturers, as they are SUPPOSED to be now, or whether the customers would receive year old technology in the back.
This year Bernie was in a pickle. He only had 9 teams that were capable of building a 2015 spec car. The loss of Caterham and Marussia last year, combined with the decision of HAAS to wait until 2016, left FOM with only 18 cars on the grid, too close for comfort for Bernie.
In an effort to bring the grid numbers up, Bernie lobbied for, and received from the FIA, special dispensation for the now Manor team to run a 2014 Power Unit from Ferrari in their car.
Whether this decision was right or wrong, it opened a door that was previously locked. This, combined with Charlie’s failure to write a homologation date into the regulations for 2015, has allowed the teams to run basically whatever version of the Power Unit they want, whenever they want, including doing upgrades to their Works team while leaving the customers with the old Spec. The regulations were supposed to have been written specifically to prevent this from occurring, but here we are. Thanks Charlie.
Well the dubious “success” of this scenario, which we are witnessing right now, has inspired the strategy group to reprise its idea of customer cars. If they can’t sell a whole car that’s one year old, why not just the back half?
The current proposal the Strategy group is considering would be just that. Whether it would be an across the board rule, relegating teams like Williams to the mid-field with year old technology, or just an option for the smaller teams, is not known.
One of the deciding factors may be the last vote in the Strategy Group. That vote is currently held by Force India, due to their finishing position last year. This year, they look to hold onto that seat. FI currently has 63 points. Lotus is their real competitor right now, having scored 50 points. If Lotus can overtake FI to get their spot back on the Strategy Group, they would be much more valuable to Renault.
If Renault have the vote, they will most likely side with the other manufacturers. If Force India have the vote, they will most likely not. But then again we don’t even know if there will be a vote, or the details of whats being discussed, so it is all speculation.
We can be sure that what ever the strategy group discusses, no one will agree, and nothing will get done until walls are about to cave in.
What happened to Silly Season?
Usually all anyone can talk about by Monza, is which drivers are making the big moves. Last year was especially crazy, with both Alonso and Sebastian both moving before their contracts had expired.
This year has been tame by comparison. Lewis, Nico, Seb, Ricciardo, Massa, Kvyat, Verstappen, barring some kind of catastrophe, are all locked in for next year.
Hulkenberg has already signed. There were rumors floating of a possible move to Williams, or even Haas, but Ferrari confirming Kimi after the summer break pretty much sealed the Hulks near future. The big plus for Nico staying with Force India, is that it will allow him to drive at LeMans again next year as the reigning champion. A move to any other team could kill that option.
Kimi’s confirmation also solidified Bottas contract with Williams for another year.
Chilli has been driving well enough to keep his seat at Toro Rosso, though being the rookie driver he is, Red Bull could at any time choose to drop in another young prodigy from their stable of pre-teens.
No drivers seat is safe at Sauber, not even when they are chained in it by the courts apparently. Nasr is driving well, and has scored 16 points already this season. That combined with the sponsor money he brings probably keeps him relatively safe. Ericssson has scored as well, and is not driving badly, so unless a bigger check comes along, both will probably stay at Sauber.
The most intricate web of the year is the Perez, Grosjean, HAAS story. Gene needs a consistent experienced driver for one of his cars. He can pull Rubens Baricheelo out of retirement again, or jump on the opportunity to sign Grosjean. Romain has been visibly disgusted with the situation at Lotus this year, as much as he tried to hide it early on. He could wait out the whole Renault buyout, but at this point who knows if and when it will happen. It is much safer to sign with HAAS, who against all odds, may actually make it to the first race next year, whenever that is.
All public indications are that Perez will stay with Force India. Both side have stated they want to continue together, though a move to HAAS is not out of the cards. A Mexican driver driving for an American team has the potential to be great for marketing in the West. But we are talking about Perez, who’s personality sometimes does him no favors, and political relations between the US and Mexico are at an all time low thanks to “His Hairness”. If Force India is willing to put up with him, he should sign ASAP.
Maldonado has had a rough year. In twelve races he has only crossed the finish line 4 times, accruing 8 points. His future lies firmly in the hands on PDVSA, who are footing the 40+ million dollar sponsorship deal that allows him to keep his seat. While there is no doubt that Renault, if it purchases Lotus, could use the money that Pastor brings, the other baggage and predilection for accidents is not the type of driving skills the French are seeking. Pastors days are numbered.
IF the buyout collapses, and IF one of the other mystery options Lotus has alluded to (which most likely aren’t real), comes in as a financial savior, then Pastor may stay at Lotus. But the 2 most likely outcomes are Renault buying Lotus, in which case Pastor is gone, or Lotus goes bankrupt, in which case there is no car for him to drive. The only other alternative is to buy the second seat at HAAS, which may put him back as teammates with Romain, and force Gene into a devils bargain with the Venezuelans. Not a great position to be in, as evidenced this year.
We covered our opinions on Jensons situation pretty well yesterday. The choice to stay at Mclaren doesn’t really rest with him. Ron has the option to keep Jenson or not, and we all know that Kevin Magnussen and Stoffel Vandoorne are waiting eagerly in the wings. Jenson probably won’t be in F1 next year.
The only bombshell that could possibly happen between now and then, is if Alonso throws up his arms and follows Jenson out the door. If it happens, oh please happen…
We all wait with baited breath to hear what the two of them have to say about the current state of Mclaren.