Formula One is currently destroying itself from the inside out. Week in week out the headlines are dominated with the disputes over engine regulations, the noise level of the current cars, the lack of lap time supremacy F1 has over other racing series and a plethora of other gripes. Much of the blame for this has to sit with the sport’s CEO who this year described the sport as having a “shit product”.
Next in line in the criticism volume levels are the Red Bull family, who appear to have successfully persuaded everyone that they were being kicked out of the sport because they had no engine for 2016. The reality of course was Red Bull did have an engine contract for the coming year, but it was one they would have preferred to reneged upon.
After four years of dominating the sport by wining both driver and constructor titles, Red Bull are now aggrieved because they have finished second and fourth in the 2014/15 seasons.
Their war of attrition continues now with the latest interview by a senior individual within the group, Adrian Newey. He now tells the Times of India that Mercedes and Ferrari are controlling the sport.
When asked, ‘How will the upcoming F1 technical regulation impact the sport in 2017?,’ Newey replies: “I have always enjoyed rule changes. It gives you a fresh opportunity to experiment. Old regulations become increasingly restrictive. What is now unhealthy about F 1, however, is that it is engine dominated”.
Given that Adrian Newey is an aerodynamic guru, it is hardly surprising he is upset when his area of expertise no longer has the most significant influence on the current breed of F1 cars’ performance.
And for those who enjoy to view Formula One through rose tinted spectacles, F1 has been engine dominated countless times before as a recent TJ13 article demonstrated.
Further, Newey may enjoy the challenge of regular rule changes, yet this has proven to increase the costs to the F1 teams and engine manufacturers, together with being a deterrent for new entrants into the sport. Honda decided to rejoin F1 because a set of regulations were agreed upon which were predictable for the period covering 2014-2020 and when a global corporation is forced to spend 100’s of millions to enter F1, they want to know the challenge they face for a number of years.
Newey is then asked, “From an ace car designer’s point of view, what’s your take on the present F1 scenario?” Here is his response: “Now the chassis regulations are tight but the engine regulations are very free. That’s why teams like Mercedes and Ferrari, who build engines, have the advantage. It’s for these teams to supply engines to customer teams, and obviously they don’t get the same software. Then it gets very difficult for the customer teams.
Right now, we are in a situation where only Mercedes and Ferrari are in a position to win championship titles. That’s the biggest problem in F1, where Mercedes and Ferrari are controlling the sport. The customer teams are always apprehensive going against Mercedes or Ferrari. I hope the FIA takes control of the situation. F 1 is at its healthiest when engine supplies are competitive for all teams”.
This is all very well and good, but if we look at the recent ‘old days’ where Red Bull were supplied with four consecutive years of title winning engines by Renault, rumours consistently abounded that Red Bull had an advantage over other Renault engine customers because they collaborated with Renault to design unique engine software not offered to other Renault teams. Adrian Newey wasn’t so concerned about this apparent disadvantage back then.
Adrian Newey is then asked, “When Red Bull dominated the sport from 2010 to 2013 and you designed the car that landed Sebastien Vettel those four consecutive titles. What worked for your team that time?” His answer interestingly admits that Red Bull Racing benefited from a number of years of stable regulations.
“There was a big regulation change in 2009 and after that we kept on developing the car in the following four years. We were able to work with Renault and monitor the engine mapping. That was something new and the package clicked. If you can get the continuity going in an innovative but steady way, you can have these periods of dominance. Mercedes is doing the same thing now”.
Of course now Mercedes is ‘doing a Red Bull’ – the answer to stop them is to throw the cards up in the air with a big regulation change.
In conclusion, Newey offers his thoughts on how the regulations should now be changed. “The actual physical engine has to be the same, even for customer teams. Not just the engine, but also the petrol and software. The second one could be to increase the number of engine manufacturers competing in the championship. At present, only Mercedes, Ferrari, Renault and Honda manufacture engines. The other possibility is that FIA can bring in a standard engine, which will be competitive for all teams. But the present heavyweights like Ferrari and Mercedes don’t want it. So it is a battle”.
And there we have it folks, in football song land there is a chant which goes like this: “You only sing while you’re winning”.
In addition, F1 has never had a specification of engine mandated by the FIA to be supplied only by a third party. And do we really believe Red Bull no longer want a power unit where they have mapping software and fuel advantages, such as powered their four consecutive title wins?
Are all these Red Bull complaints a coincidence now that VW now have issues set to cost them more than the next 10 years of Formula One income?
Now that Newey does not have access to the best engine and mapping software, its clearly time to change the rules. Now he wants the same engine mapping software for all users of each engine, the same fuel, despite Red Bull having benefited from the Renault partner ‘Total’ for years. It’s interesting that Ade suddenly believes four F1 engine manufacturers is too few.
That said, should we be concerned about the views of Newey anymore, because as he explains, “I have had my time and enjoyed it immensely. Now I want to explore other avenues and arenas of car engineering. F1 is extremely high pressure… it’s year after year and takes a toll. I have decided to just step back a little bit now”.
Formula One is falling down for a variety of reasons, one of which is because the Red Bull marketing machine can barely manage to exist for a couple of days before publishing the next swipe at the sport, thinly designed as an apologetic as to why they can’t win 9 races in a row anymore.