If you believe that F1 is the pinnacle of motorsport and doesn’t need anyone coming around mucking things up, getting more money, teams, and drivers involved in the sport, then you might want to stop reading right now. With Bernie “I have as many bad ideas as Sepp Blatter” Ecclestone’s latest plan to cut prize money to the team outside the top 10, he has basically doomed the Marussia Team, or possibly Caterham if they continue to falter. Is it any surprise that the erstwhile owner of QPR has throw his dummy out of the pram on the day his former club was relegated from the Big Boys with Pants Football League?
If Russian money can buy football safety, our boy Bernie appears to be dead set on it costing them in Formula One. But let’s back away from a conspiracy theory of bickering billionaires and look at the real issues and the background history that shows how the Bambino Supremo (The Big Baby) took a thriving industry at the end of the 1970’s to the top heavy brink of failure.
Doing some research on Giles Villeneuve, I looked back at some of the statistics from 1978 about the time Bernie budgied his way into his role as promoter extraordinaire, Here is an amazing statistic from that year: there were over 60 drivers, men and women, who took a shot at F1 in 1978. They tried in year old or older machines. They got full race run outs in big teams. They paid for drives in their home races. They built their own tubs. And over 60 of them had a go at racing in Formula One.
There were so many, in fact, that GP weekends had to start featuring pre-qualifying to qualify for qualifying. And then in qualifying, drivers had to qualify to just make the field. Some big names fumbled their lines at various races and failed to qualify. Riccardo Patrase qualified 5th for the British GP at Brands Hatch in an Arrows. His teammate Rolf Stommelen failed to qualify, due to mechanical problems at the wrong moment in the weekend. That and the fact that Patrase was fast.
There were five Mclaren-Fords entered for that British GP with the privateer, American, Brett Lunger finishing 3rd best amongst the lot and ahead of Jame Hunt. Giacomelli, Tambay and Hunt were driving factory vehicles. Unheard of in todays multibillion dollar Formula One, a team running an extra car, but fairly common back in the day when everyone was much closer to broke.
Oh, but that could never happen now, because F1 cars today are such high strung, mechanical pieces of intricacy and engineering technological development, blah, blah, blah… Hah and Bah! Most every component of the current F1 chassis, engine and suspension is defined in the regulations down to the point where teams scramble to develop tiny aero advantages by bending rules in directions they were never meant to be bent. Furthermore, these “innovations” are almost guaranteed to have no impact on road car development. Do you expect to buy a VW GTI in 2020 with incredible blown stub axles? Is that what you are going to point to and brag to the boys at the pub, that you’ve got the latest blown stub axles?
F1 is expensive because teams have the resources to make it expensive. Teams have the resources, not because one man is a genius, but because they are standing in front of a fire hose shooting money out at them called international television and internet rights. Over the past 30 years cable television companies have come and gone. F1 management hasn’t so much brilliantly promoted the sport, just simply managed the World Cup of motorsport without any of that nasty “Football for the Community” nonsense. Just: Give me some money by The Thamesmen
So what would work better? Simple, an equivalency formula to go into effect next season in F1. Not a 3 liter normally aspirated engine, but a 5 liter equivalency. Plus, adding 220 pounds (100 kilos) to the minimum weight requirement. Let the engine manufacturers and gear box builders go crazy. Let’s get back to racing and hoping the cars make it to the finish ala Colin Chapman. That type of development can happen in a low cost environment. The way to control the costs is by creating a low cost equivalency formula that can compete with the most exotic of the high tech beasts. David vs. Goliath. Brains vs. Brawn. Seems like themes us human beings cotton onto and enjoy picking sides.
One of the most expensive bits of kit on an F1 car are the carbon brakes. They make the cars stop quick. They make it almost impossible to overtake without some whiz bang gizmo like the DRS (DRS System, by the way, is redundant: say it out loud once while waiting at the ATM machine). They are prohibitively expensive.They are pointless.
The basic argument is simple. If the governing body of Formula One wants to make the racing more affordable and interesting it can. But that risks upsetting the apple cart of current manufacturers involved in the sport. The FISA won the war and they have now driven F1 into a pointless, NASCAR like, spec car cul-de-sac. It will take more than a billionaire baby to solve this one.
There are those who will argue that large fields of competitive cars with interesting technology and multiple drivers doesn’t make for exciting racing. No wait, nobody in their right mind would make that argument. The austerity push by the world’s banking community could set off a second economic crisis (When did the first one end?) that could see a Mercedes, Renault, or even FIAT rethink their commitment to a racing series only tenuously related to real life motoring. The much maligned small teams, the Garagistas, are the buffers between the manufacturers and reality. One of them will be disappearing at the end of this season, which means one less team to possibly step up and take over a factory squad.Tweet