Last week’s news on engine regulations has upset some teams. “Why” you ask? Well, good old-fashioned politics, I guess.
Teams ponder about their strong points, and wonder whether changing the status quo would benefit them. Obviously, if you are a team owner, and your team is currently top-tier, changing the formula should be considered a risk.
The case that showcases this best is the introduction of the V6 Turbo in 2014. Not that Mercedes wasn’t good before, but their engine made a killing amongst other suppliers. Most notably it killed Renault (and I still can’t believe that Honda was caught off-guard a year later). Mercedes had the best foresight, and realised that the only way of “circumventing” the token system, was to invest a lot upfront, and get it right the first time. Indeed it was they who started development as far back as 2010 albeit using a single cylinder turbo hybrid set up, before the final formula was even known.
In the highly competitive world foresight comes with a risk: the best ideas are the ones not regulated, or better still the ones in the “grey area”. Brawn did extremely well with its double diffusor, Red Bull lost a large part of its 2017 season by having to scrap its active/aero suspension.
Ferrari is one of the biggest adversaries of new regulations. Also because Liberty not only wants to change engine specifications, but also wants put the axe to the payment system. Rocking the boat will not prove easy.
Ferrari is used to playing hardball. They are threatening to leave. As Mr B. Ecclestone puts it “If they can’t win, they will put forward new regulations, and if the regulations come out where Ferrari think it is going to be a struggle and they can’t support the money then they will leave.”
This seems unlikely, as Ferrari needs F1 more than F1 needs Ferrari. True, they have been the only ones in the sport since the 1950’s and have competed in more Grand Prix than any other team. But the sum of the whole is bigger than Ferrari. Since Ferrari is so connected to F1 it is more likely that Red Bull leaves the sport which they threatened to do in 2015 (and 2016, and 2017)…
Ferrari’s CEO Italo-Canadian Sergio Marchionne said on Thursday that Ferrari and F1’s TV right owners Liberty Media “appear to be at odds in terms of the strategic development” of the sport. Marchionne continued that F1 “has been part of our DNA since the day we were born but if we change the sandbox to the point where it becomes an unrecognisable sandbox, I don’t want to play anymore.”
Ferrari has seen numerous engine specification changes, so would Ferrari be afraid to change their engine? Nah… So the DNA and sandbox Marchionne is talking about is that Ferrari gets a large cut of the F1 revenue. And that is also the reason Mr E. has an opinion about this situation: in his days he used Ferrari as a breaking iron to have other teams do what he thought needed doing. Mr. E and Ferrari had a symbiotic relationship. However, Bernard Charles Ecclestone is no longer calling the shots.
To show you some figures, below a table estimating team revenue for 2017. Estimating total F1 revenue at $1,830M. Minus $450M direct cost (FIA, Liberty), leaves $1,380M. Of this amount 68% goes to the teams= $940M
|T 1||Team 2016||%||T 2||Team Champ||Other||Total|
Where T1= Tier 1. All teams get a fee for starting. This applies for teams having competed for several years. Since it is Haas’ second season, their share is 0.
Tier 2 is based on the position in previous’ year team championship. (the column % relates directly to column team 2016)
The columns “Team Championship” and “Other” are “special deals” Ferrari, Mercedes, Red Bull and McLaren have been allowed a special category for constructor’s championship bonus payments. (I wonder how McLaren still gets away with this 😉)
In the “Other” column we find deals for being the first team to sign the latest Concorde agreement, for being the team who is around the longest (Ferrari!), and other arguments teams could think of.
As already mentioned, Mr.E is no longer calling the shots, and Liberty is in the driver seat. They are slowly steering away from Mr E.’s politics. Things that were dismissed as non-negotiable are now back on the table, like for example budget-caps and a more even distribution of money.
The budget-cap is another reason for Ferrari to complain. Marchionne: “I think you need to be absolutely clear that unless we find a set of circumstances, the results of which are beneficial to the maintenance of the brand in the marketplace and to the strengthening of the unique position for Ferrari, Ferrari will not play”
Mr E.: “Ferrari don’t want budget caps and all that. They want to spend what they can afford to spend and I’ve always said the same thing. If people can’t spend they have to go. If there are then only three or four teams something would have to be done but until that actually happens nobody is going to do anything. All the teams that say they can’t afford it shouldn’t put an entry in.”
Which some, amongst which I count myself would think “Ferrari wants to buy itself to the top”.
Racing has changed from “who is the fastest”, to “how can we out-compete teams so they cannot win”. In that sense it lost some of its romance. For better or for worse: up to you to decide.