FIA – “Forging new pathways” to improve F1 or death by a thousand cuts?


jt_4FIA President Jean Todt yesterday formally opened the fifth edition of FIA Sport Conference, saying the progress made in motor sport in recent years has provided a strong platform for future innovation, on track and on the road.

He stated

“We are working very closely together [with the new commercial rights holder in F1] in an open and friendly way, with clearly defined common goals to improve the quality and the attractiveness of the FIA Formula One World Championship, to carefully manage costs and development, and at the same time to secure innovation as a very important factor of distinction.”

One might argue the message from most teams is that innovation, annual regulation changes, hybrid systems are all hugely expensive and in themselves create barriers to entry for new teams. In order for a new team to enter the sport they need to create a team full of actual rocket scientists and boffins, who are VERY expensive compared to a man who is a bit grubby and addicted to the smell of Castrol R for breakfast. Question is does this all “improve the quality and attractiveness” or “enrich the growing fanbase”

Innovation is generally funded by large companies investing large sums of money. This means shareholders get a smaller christmas hamper. Companies then justify their strategy to shareholders by promising bigger returns for days to come. This also helps with share prices, ergo market share. The perfect way to fund this is that old corporate chestnut – hide the expense in a different budget, dress it up in a bit of glitz and glamour of Formula one. F1 is a fan funded sport, and I can’t help thinking that the fan on the gate is being used as a crowdfunder rather than receiving the entertainment they could be, despite what we are told later in the president’s speech.

“Sport is a catalyst for progress. The technical formulas we have defined and implemented in our world championships, such as Formula One or Endurance, are reaching maturity,” he said. “I am convinced that today’s progress in these disciplines will open the door to the innovations we will find in hybrid vehicles in the next few decades and Formula E is paving the way towards electric mobility in our cities and beyond.”

The sport might be driving “in car cleverness” and innovation forward, but by huge financial investments, the innovation itself is driven by the companies feeling that there is a market demand for new products. Questions are now starting to be asked about its actual value to the sport. Do we want anything “far beyond traditional racing” – Jean Todt seems to assume so.FIA_SPORT_CONF_2017

“The direction of many sporting events is that they become entertainment events, with not only sport as a focus but also music, culture and new ways of sports presentation that enrich the fan experience and go far beyond traditional racing.”

I might just be getting old, but if F1 is to have a growing fan base MORE races is not the simple answer. Making mistakes and simply repeating them just adds to the number of mistakes that get made, and a higher concentration of errors

There has been talk about how the fans F1 experience should resemble Indy Car… I disagree.

How about, if you want to change culture, and make more of a spectacle, look to LeMans.
Obviously I have been to many F1 and LeMans races and they can’t be compared. My concern is that “more enriched” actually means “more locked down and penned in” having more possibilities to pick your pocket to fund innovations that nobody wants including the teams, and to pump cash into the Liberty coffers.

LeMans and WEC has a much faster growing fan base, tickets are cheaper, access on and around the track is better – inclusion all round is better. Off track Live in car feeds free streams are readily available even via twitter accounts.

I am trying not to sound like a luddite, but I would like to ask, you the TJ13 Jury: Is this vision by the FIA president a popular view? Are we moving further towards developmental space ship guinea pigs, paid for by the fans, and away from MOTORsport? His next comment worried me most..

“The world is changing with unprecedented speed. Motor sport is confronted with new sets of values and an increased desire for respect and preservation of the resources of our planet, new developments such as autonomous driving and a strong demand for e-mobility.”

I guess if I was to buy a company, look to make it sparkle and shine enough to sell it on in a few years time for a huge profit, I might be following this course of action too. But I fail to see how any of what has been said yet at the FIA Sport Conference looks good for motorsport or as a viewing spectacle, which really is the most important thing to consider when deciding on future.. what does it look, sound, smell, savour of… its what pays for the whole circus.


8 responses to “FIA – “Forging new pathways” to improve F1 or death by a thousand cuts?

  1. Electric racing should have nothing to do with f1 and should be left to formula E, if the manufacturers don’t want to dump the hybrid let them go there and leave f1 to the petrol heads, don’t know why Jean todt keeps banging the hybrid drum and where f1 should head moving away from ice, all I’ll say is we don’t we don’t ride horses anymore either but we still race them

  2. While I agree with much of what you have written in terms of the technical issues that exist in F1, the reason that many of them exist is as far as I’m concerned very easy to pinpoint. The FIA and largely M-B and Renault have over the last several years tried to create a direct link between motor racing and car manufacturing. This link is best explained with the phrase “road relevance” and the best example is hybrid engines. Motor racing (F1) and car manufacturing are now intertwined. While their has always been car manufacturers and suppliers that used F1 for marketing purposes, it was just that – marketing. No one really believed in the late 1980’s that Honda’s 1300HP quali engine had any relevance to the Civic or Accord. But the FIA and M-B and Renault do want you to believe today much of F1’s technology has applications in road cars. M-B and Renault even went so far as threaten to pull out of F1 unless they got there way with the “road relevant” hybrid engines. You’ll notice I haven’t mentioned Ferrari. While they produce a minuscule amount of cars compared to M-B and Renault, they’ve never believed that their role in F1 was to development technology for their road cars. As far as Enzo Ferrari was concerned, the only reason he had a road car division was to use it to subsidize his F1 team.

    And to end this rant -sort of, I’ll comment on Liberty later, the easiest way to get F1 back on track technically is to break the link between motor racing and car manufacturing. Once you have, F1 reverts back to what it should always have been – a sport that people watched simply because they like motor racing and the innovative technology that teams came up with to make their cars more competitive on the track.

    • But that link from the works teams as you say was demanded in order that they could part fund developments with FOM payments, that ultimately come from viewers. I am concerned that greed is taking over and viewer needs are not coming first, rather they are being told what they want to see, and pay handsomely for the privilege. My point is – IF there was a referendum of what all fans want to see, would it look more like 1970 than 2020. In the meantime we have to pay to watch every race on TV, hundreds of pounds for silverstone, and new ideas seem to be being formed on “spectacles” that will no doubt cost more money and will not benefit the racing which we all talk about, not the bands or funfairs.

      • My point was that by linking F1 to car manufacturing you gave M-B and Renault the power to set the technical agenda, because now everything is viewed as how “road relevant” something is. I personally don’t believe that much if any F1 technology gets into road cars, excluding multi-million dollar supercars. And I doubt the average F1 fan cares how “road relevant” F1 is either. But the link exists.I’ll also add that if M-B and Renault pulled out because F1 wasn’t “road relevant” – I wouldn’t miss either one of them.

        • I fully agree. We don’t want road relevant F1 cars. Just like i don’t want to wear football/soccer shoes when i go to work.

          I say change the ‘road relevant’ back to ‘race relevant’.

  3. F1 has been hijacked by plutocrats and Bureaucrats for their own purposes. The plutocrtats purpose is to make more money and the bureaucrats’ is to maintain their positions of ‘importance’ and perhaps expand their field of influence. The primary purpose of f1 is now to support this monetary and social greed. As for the ‘adding value’ to keep the punters and their monoey coming through the gates and watching the broadcasts the rulers are hoping that if they can persuade folk they are getting more for their money that the strategy will work. They may find that it does not and then they are up the creek – some might say the best place for them. The purity and innocence of F1 as a genuine sport have subsumed under the weight of FIA mismanagement and corruption and big business greed. It is now a zero sum game for the participants and no one else will attempt to gatecrash the party as the cards are stacked against them – they can’t afford it and they won’t be competitive so they are out. Maybe someone can take over an existing team but that will not grow the business. Maintaining the status quo is essential for the moneymen, the teams and the FIA as it is their raison d’etre but it is killing F1 by stealth. Rant over, I feel better now.

  4. “How about, if you want to change culture, and make more of a spectacle, look to LeMans.”

    I’ve long been a casual fan of LeMans, and recently more so. Anyone who would like to see what Le Mans offers should watch the 6 part Amazon series – Le Mans – Racing is Everything. Yes it is more assessable to the fans, cheaper and you get to see great racing from a variety of different car series on the track at the same time. The FIA also got the spec’s right so that different technology avenues can be used. However, that technology comes at a cost. Audi pulled out this year figuring it’s $300M annual LMP1 WEC budget wasn’t worth it. They had won from 2012 – 2014 and also figured they had nothing to prove. There are only 2 LMP1 teams, Porsche and Toyota left. If either leave you have to wonder whether the privateers in LMP2 or GTE Pro / AM generate enough interest to keep Le Mans growing. None of the LMP2 or GTE Pro / AM cars are run by factory teams. It might be interesting to see if an all privateer race appeals to the fans.

    • At the moment my money says it’s a yes. Enzo pulled it off. Different times I know. Most people were rooting for the corvettes. .and rebellion.

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