The architect of Formula One says he wants to ‘tear the house down’, presumably because he didn’t design it very well in the first place. At the heart of Ecclestone’s beef with Formula One is that unlike in the days of the Bernie and Max show, its nigh on impossible to ‘get things done’ or changed anymore. It could be suggested that Mr. E is a victim of his own creation – the F1 strategy group – forced through against the wishes of some of the F1 competitors.
Yet the real problem for Mr. E is that Max Mosley was ‘removed’ from his role of FIA president and replaced by Jean Todt, something Bernie also had a hand in.
The strategy group per se is not the problem, because if Bernie and the new FIA president stood shoulder to shoulder on all issues presented to the strategy group, they would out vote the teams and again be able ‘to get things done’. However, Monsiuer Todt prefers a consensual approach to running Formula One, something Bernie should have considered before Mosley’s departure.
Today we see another example of this as Jean Todt tells Finnish broadcaster MTV, he stands by the current regulations for 2016 and beyond and has no intention of siding with Ecclestone to force through change.
This week we have again seen Bernie do his best to argue for a limited return to the V8 engines of F1’s yesteryear. Ecclestone claims that this would drive down costs for smaller teams and having an ‘independent manufacturer’ of these engines ensures no team is without an engine supplier. The assumption being this is Red Bull’s plight.
However, Red Bull do have an engine supplier in the form of Renault and a legally binding contract which Renault cannot afford to breach for 2016.
Jean Todt agrees the cost of the engines is too high and earlier this year threatened to cap the price the power unit manufacturers can charge to the teams. Ecclestone could align himself with Todt on this issue in the strategy group and the teams could not out vote them on implementation for 2017.
The very fact that Bernie does not simply do this reveals his agenda is something other than cost. He is fundamentally opposed to the new V6 hybrids and so advocates the scrapping of these new power units is fundamental for Formula One. Arguments of how they are too complicated and the driver is no longer the heroes are used to support Ecclestone’s position.
Of course the regulations for 2017 only have to be agreed by March 2016, so Ecclestone may be playing a game of brinksmanship with Todt and eventually relent and agree to an engine price cap. Given the decisions made last week to allow in season F1 engine development this could be a tough red line in the sand to implement. Presumably Mercedes will argue their contract with F1 is now invalid because the price cap should have been set at the time the working group specified the new V6 engines.
The stalemate for Bernie is unlikely to go away, because Todt also told MTV, Ferrari are now taking the engine competition to Mercedes and “I also believe that the others will catch up. It’s just a matter of time.” So no V8’s and no simplified hybrid engines – as proposed by Red Bull – are on F1’s near term horizon.
It really is time for Mr. E to accept he is not going to get his way on the scrapping of the new V6 engines and stop the propaganda war he continues to wave against the sport he is responsible for marketing. Ecclestone can reduce costs to teams for 2017 – if he works with Todt. He can also reduce the driver aids for 2017 – again if he works with Todt. The problem is a dictator whose power has been relatively absolute for decades, struggles to power share.
Maybe it’s just that democracy – however limited – will defeat a totalitarian regime in the end. Though the records of history demonstrate few despots ever make the transition to power sharing.