So, where are we at?

Later today the details of a settlement in Formula 1 will be announced, with at least eight teams putting in their entries for 2010. There is speculation that Toyota will not, having decided to use the argument to withdraw from the sport. It is hard to imagine that this is the case as the company would have to pay out huge sums of money to lay off staff, buy itself out of an engine supply contract with Williams and reach a settlement with the Formula One group. The Toyota cars have have been fairly competitive this year and to give up at this point makes little sense. However, it is worth noting the decision taken on Wednesday night to end all further Japanese GPs at Toyota-owned Mount Fuji, leaving the race to Suzuka once again. The Mt Fuji experience was not very rewarding with bad weather disrupting the event in 2008. F1 will return to Suzuka without too much anguish, particularly as reports suggest that it has now been brought up to standard with major work having been completed in recent months.

Whether Toyota is there or not, is of little real relevance in F1. The key team is Ferrari and as long as the Italian operation is still racing, the sport will be relatively solid. Mercedes has been playing an important role in mediating between the teams and the FIA and it seems that part of the agreement is that the teams will agree to supply engines, gearboxes and so on to new teams, at a sensible price. The likelihood is that there will be at least two and possible as many as four new teams applying for franchises. It is anticipated that USF1, Adrian Campos’s Campos Racing (as opposed to Alejandro Agag’s Addax team, formerly known as Campos) and Prodrive will apply for entries and it is believed that Joan Villadelprat’s Epsilon team could also be putting in an entry. Epsilon has the people and facilities to build its own cars in a new factory in Spain. Campos is believed to be close to signing a deal to have chassis supplied by Dallara.

More details will emerge today – inevitably – as I will be travelling and so will not be able to do much updating, until this evening. However, if things get really exciting I may stop at a roadside cafe somewhere and tap something into the i

13 thoughts on “So, where are we at?

  1. Perhaps someone should buy the remains of the Toyota team, slap a Merc engine in the back, employ a paracarro and a pensioner and voila! Five out of the first six races next season no problemo! You know it makes sense.

  2. Anyone who might say that money is the key competitive factor in the sport need to look at what both Toyota and Honda have done this decade. Billions spent and almost nothing to show for it.

    I wish that both teams understood the key element of Formula One, you cannot win on your own terms. Both teams needed someone like Ron Dennis, Frank Williams, or Flavio to who had the track record, respect, and strength to take these guys on. Ross Brawn proved ideal for Honda but they gave up on him way too early. Toyota, as you indicated in several previous articles and interviews, have been a ship which the captain refuses to dip in the rudder.

    I have mixed feelings about both teams leaving the sport. I felt under the right environment, they could of contributed more and gotten more out of Formula One. I think a Japanese presence in the sport is a good thing. I just wished that they truly understood that it takes more than money and talent to win in Formula One, you need leadership and a person to a be a rudder to which to steer the team.

  3. What makes me wonder is – why do manufacturers such as Renault – Toyota and Honda actually enter a series such as F1 when the regulations stipulate a V8 configuration engine?

    Surely they don’t actually produce a V8 for their own roadgoing vehicles and the technology involved is purely for F1 and not – as is purported to be the case – development and advertising for their sales cars

    It is little wonder that these companies need to look at the amount of money being spent in such an endeavour – especially when the returns – in regards to results are so poor at the moment

    Surely any sensible director of these companies should pour more of their disposable millions into a formula that is based around what they actually produce mainstream

    Or am I just being a bit naive?

  4. I’m astounded that most people think only a withdrawal from F1 would mean layoffs. The budget cap is exactly the same thing: laying off professional and highly trained engineers. We shouldn’t forget that.

  5. @Stig It doesn’t matter as there’s next to no carryover from F1 to production cars anyway. They probably get some engineering and agile management experience. It’s a marketing exercise.

    Toyota hasn’t sold a sports car — at least in the US — since the MR2. Do they even make a sporty car anymore?

    I would like to see more of a connection to production cars via new engine rules. Pretty much every manufacturer makes a 4 cylinder engine of some sort, so let’s say something like this:

    (1) 4 cylinder turbo-charged engine under 2 liters. Arrangement of cylinders is open subject to item 2 below.

    (2) Must be based on a production run of blocks cast in quantities of 1000 or more (5000? 10,000?) and available in production vehicles and for public sale (at an industry appropriate price). Additional machining allowed per regs to be agreed by tech working group.

    (3) Common wastegate and ECU. Cockpit-adjusted variable boost up to agreed max allowed.

    (4) No refueling. Tire changes are allowed, but not mandatory.

    (5) Extra-credit: rather than petrol, run a “bio-fuel” such as e85 or biodiesel.

    I’d love the get rid of the wings, too, but admit that the teams need billboards to pay for a ll of this. (Or do they? Let’s ask Ross….)

  6. Hi Steve

    Actually Toyota do put a v8 in their Sequoia truck as well as in several models in their Lexus lineup.

    Honda haven’t sold a V8 that I’m aware of but the technology is significant than the number of cylinders, and Honda does have a history of high revving N/A engines.

    An 18000 RPM V8 is every bit as relavent to Toyota or Honda as it is to Mercedes or BMW.

  7. What fun! Everyone submits entries, plus four or five more. An outsider might say this was the most likely result from the outset. That all the debate was just fan speculation to keep ourselves on edge between GPs. But talk of Ferrari, Toyota, BMW departing, and even the entire collapse of F1 sure kept it interesting for a while. With the result being the return of everyone plus new entries too, what could be better? I’m sure we’ll have fresh doubts and possibilities to discuss soon enough for 2011. bring on Turkey!

  8. “Later today the details of a settlement in Formula 1 will be announced . . .” Curious how the new technical regs will shape up with the budget cap glide path process. While the two tier idea was silly at best, I confess I was intrigued at loosening up the repressive control of technology. I hope that is one concept that survives this negotiation.

    P.S. Joe, just purchased Grand Prix Saboteurs. Brilliant, entertaining stuff – very well done. The level of detail is astonishing and I feel compelled to congratulate you on your thorough research. Having a hard time putting it down actually, and am losing out on some sleep.

  9. And so they muddle on, as ever.

    When Ron Dennis “retired” from F1 I could not help but be struck by the send-off given him over at Bernieland, via You’d have thought the old boy had just died in a plane crash whilst undergoing canonization by the pope on board.

    I’m sure Ron and Bernie go way back, and Bernie figured Ron was getting something of a raw deal. But the tone of the thing suggested most strongly that it had not been thrown together overnight by a couple of bleary-eyed techies. It was an opus long in the making.

    So that leads to my wonderment as to what obituary Bernie has in the can for Max. Because Max appears to be the main loser here. Will he really stick around for the 2012 season to get his way? Er, let me restate that: will he wait that long to transform F1 into the model of common sense and good governance that we all know deep down in his tiny little manipulative heart he truly, truly wants to be remembered for?

    I gotta think “no”.

    The main thing is, his weakness for Deutscher delights is a matter of history now He showed up at Monaco (if he still lives there it was but a short stroll), and everything — at least from this distant media-flecked shore whereon I wade — appeared to be all smiley and pasted over. So that’s done.

    What better time to close the shutters and
    “spend more time with his family” than now? Especially as 2009 has long been his (tentative) date of departure?

    That would leave Bernie hisself. The grave is about the only thing that is going to prompt a requiem mass for him. He controls the money, he controls the circus, he pulls the strings of the whole show. Nor does he play favorites and enemies. It’s all about the box office to him.

    And you can quibble whether the Interim Government of Fiji really, really needs a Formula One race to get things cracking in the neighborhood, but Bernie does know his business. The little boys with their car-cars going vroom-vroom are lucky to have him in the big kid driver’s seat of their quirky little sport.

    But when he is gone, then the whole shebang is going to turn upside down, finally and once and for all. With any luck (faint at best) it will land on all four wheels.

  10. > Or am I just being a bit naive?

    I’m afraid you’re both naive and perfectly correct. Especially this part:

    > these companies should pour more of their
    > disposable millions into a formula that is
    > based around what they actually produce

    I don’t know whether Ferrari sells anything with four cylinders or not, but given the huge amount of investment Italians are making in the sport, *they* should probably be expected to bear the load of extra tooling to produce something in alignment with the rest of the world’s manufacturers, rather than the other way around… Horsepower is never an issue anyway, right? They could always go turbo or whatever.

    (Never thought about this before: Thanks Steve.)

    KERS doesn’t really seem to have wounded the spectacle any, though the cost seems to have given some teams pause before placing entries in 2010. (Who knows?… Maybe KERS was the straw that broke Honda’s back.)

    But KERS *has* wounded F1 credibility. It’s brittle and costly and full of noxious chemicals (says Kimi) and has nothing to do with recovering energy at a consumer level.

    F1’s an entertainment enterprise… The cars will never be more concerned with “stock” than NASCAR is…. Which isn’t much! (Carburetors!)

    But the sport did follow through on one of the great promises of my youth by drastically improving driver safety. Just for instance: Jody Scheckter thrives in vegetarian middle age! (When I was teenager rock n’ roll seemed like a better hobby, because no matter how many drugs my heroes took, they were more likely to survive than were the race car drivers…. Goodnight, Mr. Donahue.)

    F1 should follow through on the *other* promise now: Leading the way to something good for everyday drivers. As it is, the F1 cars are such delicate, prissy savages that you can’t even get rich enough to own a used one, unless you’re also ready to hire a team to boil the motor oil and spin up the laptops two hours before a drive.

  11. Joe- Is it possible that this whole exercise was intended just to vaguely (very vaguely) promise reduced costs for new entrants, stiffening their nipples (so to speak) for a venture that’s going to make a lot of money for Bernie no matter what?

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