It has been a crazy couple of days in Formula 1, lets do a quick recap of recent events:
- Pirelli and the WMSC have announced changes in the regulations regarding how drivers are allowed to use their tyres over a race weekend, in addition to adding a new ultra soft compound that has only had 2 days of testing.
- The WMSC has announced in season engine development will continue on through to end of the current contracts (2020).
- The WMSC confirms 20 races for 2016, with a tentative hold on 21 (Austin) If Austin is confirmed by the start of the Australian GP “event”, all teams will be allowed to use 5 Power Units, as opposed to 4, regardless whether a race is cancelled after that point or not. (sporting regulations, 23.4 (c).
- The WMSC states that teams may “re-homologate” any PU that had been homologated from 2014 on, though what “re-homologate” exactly mean has not been defined.
- The WMSC has opened the door for Ferrari to supply 5 teams with PU’s, including themselves (one of which is a year old design).
- Tag Heuer has announced a split with Mclaren, and a new partnership with Red Bull.
- Renault has announced that they have officially signed the paperwork, moving forward their purchase of Lotus (we do not know what the PU in the Renault will be named, nor do we yet know if the team will be allowed to change their name to Renault for 2016).
- Red Bull has announced that they are staying in F1, utilizing a Renault PU, that is in a technical partnership with Illmor. This PU will be called a “TAG HEUER“
- Toro Rosso have announced that they will be running a 2015 Ferrari Power Unit in 2016, and will keep both Carlos Sainz, and Max Verstappen as their drivers.
- Vijay Mallya may lose control of Force India to Diageo, after having been declared a “willful defaulter” by the Indian government (they have also confiscated one of his planes, his villa and Goa and a whole other pile of Indian based assets worth millions).
That’s more F1 news at one time than I can ever remember happening, and shines a light on just how bad things are at the moment.
The whole purpose of the 2014 regulation changes, including the lock-out of in-season development, was to reduce costs, and keep manufacturers from giving their customers different specifications of their Power Unit. Well that is all completely out the window now!
Much like this year, where both Mercedes and Ferrari were supplying their customers with less developed Power Units, the next 4 years will be the same. In fact, it opens the door for the manufacturers to base the spec PU they supply to a customer to be dependent on the price they pay. This isn’t a 2 tier formula, but a 4 tier formula. It basically ensures a customer will NEVER be able to compete with a manufacturer (Dennis has his faults but he saw it coming).
The new tyre regulations are a mess, so much so that even the drivers are having a tough time comprehending what they mean. While the intention may have been to give teams more freedom in their pit strategy, without giving Pirelli proper testing time to develop the tyres, the so called “cliff” that they are expected to build in to the compounds will not be known until the season actually starts, which is too late.
As I have said before, the reason auto manufacturers are not lining up to enter the ‘Pinnacle of Motorsport’ has little to do with the lack of performance we see in the Renault and Honda PUs, but more to do with the lack of stability in the sport as a whole. What company in their right mind would invest hundreds of millions of currency units into a racing program, only to have the powers that be change the rules a few weeks/months later?
Sure, you can blame this on democracy, as Bernie has, or you can blame this on the teams and their self-serving interests, but the truth is this is the system that Bernie created. It was set up this way because he made a side deal with Red Bull several years ago, essentially destroying the Concorde agreement and disbanding FOTA.
While Bernie has been openly telling the world that the sport is for sale, again, who would want to buy it? Viewership is in decline, free to air TV is nearly gone, circuit owners are unable to pay their bills, and the contracts that exist with the TV broadcasters prevent the series owners from taking advantage of the endless possibilities of the internet. Add to it, that anyone who so much as mentions the phrase ‘formula 1’ is likely to be sued by Bernie, and we have a disaster waiting to happen.
What does the TJ13 Jury think? Can F1 be saved? Can the owners, promoters, teams, and broadcasters, come together and make the necessary changes to stabilize the sport, or do we need to start over?
Some say the only way forward from here is down, into the crevasse. It must all fall apart before it can be rebuilt, and step one is to throw Bernie down a hole and burn the rest of it to the ground.
But who is capable of taking over from Bernie? Is there a person on this planet with the skills, authority, and drive to save the sport we love?
And what of Jean Todt? His absence, as well as the debacle in Brazil, where he all but ignored the tragedy in Paris to further his own agenda, is not the type of leader the FIA needs. It appears his personal aspirations to be crowned le President has taken priority over not only Formula 1 but all FIA series and even the safety of their participants. The accident and subsequent death of Jules Bianchi, followed this year by Alonso’s strange and unexplained impact into a wall, should have been more than enough for the teams to start questioning the safety of their drivers. Yet nothing has come of it.
How many people have to die and how many teams must we loose before the pitchforks come out?