Horner urges Ecclestone and Todt to make immediate 2016 F1 rule changes


The bottom line is, a new set of regulations was agreed for 2014 by the F1 manufacturers and the teams. The result? Mercedes have smashed the competition – fair and square. Yet after two years of complete and utter dominance in Formula One, the voices of concern are growing.

Over the festive season, Christian Horner called upon Bernie Ecclestone and Jean Todt to make swift changes to the rules for 2016. This would ordinarily require unanimous agreement from the teams, yet during January, Bernie and Jean have an FIA mandate to make governance decisions unchallenged. A failure to act Horner argues, will see a repeat of 2015. “The regulations are incredibly stable for next year, so Mercedes will inevitably carry on the dominance, such is their margin. They will find gains throughout the winter and will undoubtedly be near the top of the curve.”

The need for action is desperate given the collapse in F1 TV audience numbers and those attending the races in person. “Inevitably, with predictability, people get turned off and it needs a rejig to bring it closer together”.

Red Bull critics will point out to Horner that he oversaw the most dominant sequence of results for a team and driver in Formula One since just after the turn of the millennium. Horner believes those circumstances were different: “Two of our world championships went to the last race, and we never finished first and second in a championship”.

You can almost hear the clipped Germanic response from Toto to Horner’s observation. After all one of the Mercedes championships went to the last race and it’s not Wolff’s responsibility to ensure Red Bull have two equally matched drivers – as the Austrian would claim Mercedes do.

Yet Toto is not banging the drum as predictably as we might expect despite his drivers winning 32 of the last 38 races. Wolff draws on the evidence of how damaging continued dominance in a sport can be to a brand.

“Our dominance is bad for Formula One,” says Wolff. “It makes the racing boring. It becomes predictable how the result is going to be. The sport needs multiple winners. It needs the odd freak result. It needs the underdog to win. The moment you become a dominant force, you suffer and your brand suffers. You become the dark side of the force”.

Whatever Christian Horner thinks, Red Bull suffered a similar backlash after four consecutive driver and constructor world F1 titles; something Wolff remembers well. “They joined the sport. They were the Jedis. They jumped in the pool when they finished third in Monaco with Coulthard. They had the Formula Unas, the girls around the paddock. They had the Red Bulletin. They were controversial. They had a superb brand.

“But after winning the world title four times in a row, they developed into an unsympathetic brand. Nobody wants the establishment”.

The problem for Mercedes AMG F1, is that despite the big talk from Ferrari’s Sergio Marchionne, they are likely to once again be way ahead of the field in 2016, which is causing some concern for Wolff. “So I want the dominance to continue but if it were to continue like this, I need to think what to do so we do not become the enemy and how we can help the show. Maybe it’s about unleashing the two of them [Hamilton and Rosberg] completely. Make them have their own strategy… cars. That would be a solution.”

At present, Mercedes plot an optimum race strategy and insist both their cars follow this schedule of pit stops and tyre changes during the race. Of course the driver behind is potentially disadvantaged because they cannot try something different to maybe gain an advantage over their team mate. Lewis Hamilton has been particularly vociferous over this issue and won some concessions at the final race of the 2015 season.

In Abu Dhabi, Hamilton was given some strategy freedom to try and get ahead of Rosberg on track, though the reality is that on the whole one strategy is better than all the other options. If the leading driver is using this strategy, there is little the driver behind can do to change the race order.

What has changed for 2016 is the tyre regulations, and it could be the unknown of how these new rules will play out is on Toto’ mind at present. If Mercedes deploy just one team strategist for both drivers and get it spectacularly wrong, they will look silly insisting on it being ‘their way or the highway’ to Lewis and Nico.

Allowing the drivers some freedom of strategy may be a smart move for Mercedes in the popularity stakes; after all it will take several races for the teams to understand the impact of the new tyre regulations. At least if Nico and Lewis appear to be duelling it out properly, whilst still smashing the rest of the field, at least Toto can claim he’s done his bit for the sport.

Horner’s call to Todt and Ecclestone to make late 2016 regulation changes will almost surely fall on deaf ears. Whilst Bernie would sell his grandmother’s soul for a dollar more, Todt is keen to retain some semblance of proper order and will only use the FIA mandate if he feels it’s absolutely necessary. Add to this the fact that Christian has no real suggestions on how the 2016 rules can be tweaked to deliver ‘occasional’ wins for the underdogs and more unpredictability without fundamentally upsetting the apple cart – something which of course could come back to haunt Milton Keynes further down the line.

26 responses to “Horner urges Ecclestone and Todt to make immediate 2016 F1 rule changes

  1. Christian Horner, as spokesperson for Red Bull F1, perfectly illustrates two qualities Red Bull is NOT about: dealing with the cards you greatly aided in dealing — and perseverance.

    • I am sick to death of the continuous comments which state that Hybrid V6 was something Red Bull specifically wanted and willingly joined in the chorus to have implemented.
      Too many people believe Red Bull stood up and stamped their feet along with Renault, Ferrari and Merc until Hybrid V6s were introduced. Nothing could be further from the truth. They need an engine to race, any competitive engine will do… simple! They voted with Renault because they had an engine supply contract with them. They were partners, even though their attendance or opinion was not wanted by the FIA because they have nothing to do with the motor industry! After all, they were the major reason for the change in the first place. To stop their incredible stranglehold on both championships!
      In hindsight, Red Bull should have colluded with the other privately owned teams at that table and sung as one collective voice. Maybe we would have had a cheaper, less complicated version of the Hybrid PU from the outset.
      It’s too late now, Merc and Ferrari are too powerful to say “NO” to at the negotiation table.
      This was made brutally obvious by Merc and Ferrari when Red Bull were chasing a replacement PU for 2016. Red Bull have to take whatever engines are available … or worse … they aren’t allowed to use the available PUs because they will thrash the manufacturer of that same engine on the track. Nothing is comparable to the incredible genius and engineering excellence of one Adrian Newey.
      How embarrassing would it have been for the big manufacturers to be beaten AGAIN by a fizzy drink company which doesn’t care a jot about the motor industry or road car sales figures!
      The FIA hobbled Red Bull the first time by changing the rules to suit engine manufacturers. This time Merc and Ferrari have done the same thing without the aid of the FIA or FOM or CVC! They’ve royally snubbed Red Bull and at the same time vetoed cheaper, less complicated PUs for the minnows.
      Why are the top two competitors ON the track now running the rules of F1 OFF the track? How crazy is that???

      From the beginning of the Hybrid PU conversations, Renault were the biggest whingers. Following Merc’s lead from a couple of years prior when they demanded hybrid PUs be implemented, Renault demanded the combustion engine be a V6 and threatened to leave F1 if it wasn’t … NOT RED BULL!!!
      That’s why there was such a massive rift between Red Bull and Renault over the past 18 months when their specifically chosen V6 engine was shown to be an unreliable three legged arthritic tortoise, racing against high performance six legged hares like Merc that can go as fast (or slow) as they wish at any tick of the clock.
      At first, Red Bull had to show solidarity to it’s PU supplier and go along with this idiotic Hybrid V6 idea because they could afford it. The only other option was to pull out of F1 all together.

      Make no mistake when you think how this situation arose for Merc, they have BILLION$ tied up in hybrid road car technology. They have huge warehouses full of PU’s and spare parts to sell before the next big thing (hydrogen) makes hybrid PUs obsolete!
      Without using their Hybrid PUs in F1, Merc were simply not interested! They knew they would continue to be also-rans … just like they were in the final years of V8s.
      On top of that, they were sick and tired of being totally blown away in the (already hybrid!!!) WEC by their closest road car producing rivals from just up the highway … Audi.
      That was embarrassing them deeply and they needed another global platform to perform on, one where their closest road car manufacturing competitors were not even in the game.
      Simple solution, use their power and influence within the FIA and the motor industry to shrewdly set the game up to suit themselves … IT WORKED!!!

      Most of what was reported as truth from the initial Hybrid PU meetings back in the late 2000s and following couple of years was merely a writer’s OPINION, to fill a page with blurred lines because they weren’t allowed to know the real truth. It’s up to us to understand that they are only someone’s opinion, not truth.
      Have you actually read the official minutes from those initial meetings regarding hybrid PUs? Do you know without a doubt that Red Bull “greatly aided in dealing the cards” at a table where the players were far and away, much more powerful and influential with the FIA than a fizzy drinks company such as Red Bull?
      Those decisions are made and kept in total secret, away from cameras and microphones. They may never be released for public consumption. Just like the thousands of other meetings we are not privy to, but decide we have an opinion about and scream it forcefully from the rooftops as if it were the gospel truth.
      Make no mistake, the drivel we are continually fed by the FIA and FOM after such meetings is NOTHING LIKE the actual goings-on behind closed doors. There have been plenty of situations where the public have had the wool pulled over their eyes in a bid to save the FIA and FOM from extremely damaging media coverage. Jules Bianchi’s crash is one very recent example of this, just ask his father!
      And as for a lack of perseverance, as you stated … show me a private company that has persevered for longer and invested more money in F1 than Red Bull. There isn’t one!!!

      • Rant and rave all you want, they don’t read these comments. I like the notion of fair and competitive racing, but the commercial side of it always muddies the waters.
        As a kid, I loved playing ice-hockey, and I was very good, but well funded players always got the “better” deal. The moral of my post ? … Talent only goes as far as the money that provides it’s attention.
        F1 (as a whole) is in the same box. Not a good enough show ? The Kardashians are making money, or perhaps Coronation Street.
        Helmut and Christian draw attention to Red Bull (negative can be a positive). Toto is a little more conservative. Monisha ? Lawyers are well versed in drawing attention to what they want and diluting details.
        In my opinion, F1 has become an off-track media circus and feigned away from an entertaining auto-racing event. So, because of limited and uninteresting on-track time in the current media, they (FI as a whole) must now employ antiquated tactics to draw attention. Like the bad family down the street, you need to keep an eye on.

        • You might be correct about my ‘rant and rave’ but you might want to rethink the second half of your first sentence.
          Merc has an entire media department, a large portion of which scrutinises and monitors most of the more popular, relevant website’s comment sections. As do most other international companies which spend a great deal of their existence in the media spotlight. That’s how they keep up with the threads of both advantageous and demeaning public interest. They then jump on the front foot and utilise those comments in their next press conference or interview.
          As for the bad family down the street analogy, diplomacy, spying and tattle-tailing is for school kids and cowards. I’d prefer to confront the idiots head-on and deal out a little of their own medicine. Done properly, it works a treat!!!

          BTW, you don’t mind a bit of a rant and rave yourself their ol’ chap! 😉

      • “And as for a lack of perseverance, as you stated … show me a private company that has persevered for longer and invested more money in F1 than Red Bull. There isn’t one!!!”

        • Sorry, my mistake … I did actually mean a non motor industry / no car sales company.
          Your are quite correct, McLaren (Williams and Sauber) are the exception to my wrongly worded comment.

        • I am an old FART of 50 years … that’s why I have NFI what FART actually means in this context.
          Please help a doddering old fool and explain the meaning so I can either fire a retort back your way or laugh along.

      • Qik, your long fart is just that, a long fart.
        “Renault demanded the combustion engine be V6 and threatened to leave F1 if it wasn’t …NOT RED BULL”.
        The V6 replaced the planed four potter only on the insistence of FERRARI, also at that time Newey was saying that the planed in-line four potter could not be used as a stressed engine and that a sub-frame would be needed.

        • To add to that: At that point in time Renault already much effort invested in a 4 cylinder prototype. If I remember correctly they even threatened to leave if they rules were specified to require a V6. (But it is getting hard to remember who threatened to leave when.)

  2. F1 has had its day for me but I am just one small fish,how many more like me though are out there thinking the same.the old days where the best too much plotting today sorry not for me.

    • That´s the best solution!
      Let them race with all the known consequences like chrashes or damages to the engines. It will spice up all races and give some others the chances to win. Thus meaning interesting races, more spectators and no absolute dominace, but still winning both championchips.
      They should just believe in their drivers and cars.

      • They can’t do that. Mercedes has invested too much money in it to just let the drivers race each other. They have dominance at the moment, and so will use that to get the results they’ve paid for. The only thing that will work is if the regulations remain stable, allowing Ferrari to eventually catch up.

    • How about Merc selling the top shelf stuff to it’s customers?
      If Toto really wants to help the sport and still promote the Mercedes name, that would at least be a step in the right direction.

      • Since when an engine manufacturer team that went racing with their own car supplied or sold to other teams the same engine they raced? if in any doubt go ask McLaren what they had to race with in 1993.

      • Toto wants to promote the Mercedes brand – this is achieved in two ways:
        1. Winning
        2. Being a part of a competitive popular sport

        If the lack of 2) is such that we believe Mercedes is breaking F1, then the mind-share due to winning 1) is diluted. He has the interest to up both points and as long as the two pilots don’t take each other out – leaving them race is the best way.

        Senna vs Prost @McLaren was a gooood fight and it made McLaren and F1 look good because they left them race – win/win

  3. Red Bull never had the luxury of ‘detuning’ their PUs at their leisure, to manipulate fuel consumption and ‘control’ the races like puppeteers with remote controls instead of pulling strings.
    The obvious ‘turning up’ of their PU (to an embarrassingly high level for all other teams) whenever they wished, is the reason most people see this past two years as extremely different in the level of outright domination of the top two steps on the podium.
    To ‘make it more of a show’ and appease some of the doomsday theorists who foretold of another year of similar domination in 2015, Merc shrewdly ‘helped’ a rival team in Ferrari to smooth out their ‘marriage’ between the combustion engine and electrical units.
    Again, a manipulation to ensure they remained where they were at the top but with millions less rabid Ferrari fans smashing them in social media and motor racing chat rooms for their dominance.
    Red Bull had an okay engine sitting in a sublimely good chassis, with one dominant driver who understood how to use it to save tyres, that is an incredibly different scenario to the one we are presented with now.
    Merc’s dominance is immeasurably more detrimental to the show and it’s killing the sport at break neck speed.
    Hybrid power is a technology which only the richest and most invested companies will get the best out of. Obviously, the only two companies willing to invest that heavily are Merc and Ferrari now they have been shown how to use it. The rest of the teams will never spend such an astronomical amount of money to get to the top of a ‘SPORT’ because even if they won, it doesn’t bring enough of a return on their massive investment.
    That’s why the also-rans want a cheaper, detuned version … before they all go out of business and there are only four cars left on the grid. Two silver ones and two red ones!

    • Buxton was absolutely honest. Remember, before attempting to slag him, that he is a member of the F1 media who relies on access for his work. It is plain that, rather than candy-coat RB’s posturing to keep in good graces he decided the truth is more important. Being able to witness the visceral negative responses from F1 watchers race to race while actually AT the races, and through talking with various team members off the record surely provided Buxton with more than enough ammunition to make his comments —- despite Natalie Pinkham’s attempt to derail her guest.

      • I have little regard for Buxton’s opinion on any subject. He does a great job at overly long, rambling puff pieces that rank beside in-flight magazine articles for depth and heft. His photo appears in the “tldr” listing over at urban dictionary.

        I’m all for Horner acting like a two-year old who’s had Mum’s iPhone taken away. There’s been nothing on the track to keep us entertained recently. Loose units off-track are a good thing right now.

        Fortunately elsewhere we also have doddery Uncle Ron trying to explain spectacular, repeated failure while avoiding direct responsibility.

        Marlboro-man is doing his best to be Prince Charming when we know he’s a chain-smoking ultra hard-*ss under that thinnest of civil veneers he puts up.

        Then there’s the triumvirate of helicopter parents at MB trying to get the kiddies to share and play nice while carrying on like a script from Modern Families.

        See the strangers. Dig their style.

  4. The one rule they could make would be to make engine suppliers separate entities from the teams.
    Sure there should be manufacturer teams, but if they supply PUs then they should provide equal PUs with equal support as part of the contract.

    • What about allowing different sponsors and backing for each car and driver within each team. A-la Indycars / Aussie V8 Supercars / MotoGP / Nascar etc etc etc?
      The common sponsor thing is becoming antiquated and serves to create a crude monopoly which mainly serves the so-called No:1 driver.
      Major car manufacturers wouldn’t like it and would most likely wish to remain as they are but the smaller teams would benefit greatly from such freedom to invite new partners on-board. At the very least they should allow a lot more freedom for their drivers to have their own list of sponsors. They do have a small amount of that now but nowhere near enough.
      Strategy and racing agendas would be different enough on either side of the one garage to create some serious competition within each team.
      It also opens the door to a lot more like-minded sponsors who would like to compete against each other using the same base set-up with the engine and chassis for both cars and show us which company’s product (lubricants, brakes, plastics, electronics etc) is better suited to the differing situations during a race.
      As for a team’s pit-wall engineers and mechanics who usually work on both cars, they use far too many of those boffins and ‘tyre changers’ now. Most of the strategy and monitoring is done with computers anyway. Separate them into two smaller groups competing against each other as well.
      The spectacle would completely change and instantly become a lot less BOOOOORRRIIIIINNNGG!

  5. The biggest contributor to boring races is the qualification format. The way qualification works ensure that the cars line up on the grid (more or less) from fastest to slowest. Hence without exceptional events the predictable result is that the cars will finish (more or less) in the same order with relatively little on track action. We can hope this gets shaken up by cars on divergent strategies. However that is mostly idle hope since typically there will be an ideal strategy that most cars follow.

    If the FIA is serious about increasing the spectacle of Formula 1, then the easiest route is to change the qualification format such that it shakes up the starting grid. A (too) simple solution would be to have the cars start from the grid in reverse championship order. That would ensure a lot of on track action. I believe there would be a lot less complaints about Mercedes domination if each race featured the merc drivers weaving themselves through the entire field.

    This solution has some obvious drawbacks: 1) It gets rid of the show of Saturday qualifying 2) We might end up with a little too much on track action leading to safety issues.

    A more moderate solution would be to have a qualfication session were each car gets a time “handicap” based on its championship position. This can be tuned such that the champonship leader gets a time penalty equal to the difference between the fastest and slowest qualification time at the previous season’s race. That would more or less nullify the advantage drivers get in qualifying from driving a faster car, and we would get a shaken up grid based mostly on driver skill. In particular, it should be come for drivers in direct competition in the championship to start in reversed order forcing interesting on track action.

    Many will dislike this because it is somewhat artificial, however so are many of the other suggestions being made, and the alternative seems to be boring parades.

  6. The arrogance topped with a sense of entitlement and pedigree certified for outstanding hypocrisy of the spiceman and the red bullies top brass including Newey knows no bounds. They worked hard for and were happy to have exclusive and preferred works partnership with suppliers Renault when Renault were supplying three other teams, back then they didn’t/weren’t screaming and shedding any crocodile tears for the FIA to force engine manufacturers to supply the exact specification engine to other customer teams.

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