The thing that kills F1 teams faster than anything is having to pay for engines. In the old days everyone could have a Cosworth at a moderate price and they could be moderately successful if they built a good car. But times have changed and there are no Cosworths left in F1. They have been driven out by manufacturers spending on engine development – and worthless development outside the F1 bubble, come to that. So, the FIA in the pre-Todt era figured out the best thing to do would be to ask the manufacturers what they wanted from F1 and then give them it. This is what the new rules are and Todt and his men can take credit for getting this done. So modern F1 is what the manufacturers asked for. Now, the teams will tell you that the new engines are too expensive and the manufacturers will tell you that they must charge customers because their bosses want to minimize the cost of F1. What no one will tell you is how to fix the problem. It seems to me that if one has an F1 with more manufacturers, each bound, say, to provide a customer engine at a set price for a second team – if called upon to do so – we would be in a healthier state. If the rules are what manufacturers want and the F1 world hits the markets they are aiming at, one needs to understand why there is a problem getting more companies into F1. Thus far only Honda has risen to the challenge. At first glance F1 is an obvious move for Audi, BMW, Peugeot and Hyundai to name just a few.!It is also logical for firms such as Renault to use the technology they have developed to promote more than one brand. If Infiniti (a Renault partner) wants to be in F1 with Red Bull with a rebadged V6, why not? Similarly why does Ferrari not badge an engine as Chrysler and get some US interest going in F1, to help sell both brands. When you work through the possibilities, one can see that getting to 12 teams with different cost-effective engines is not impossible.
So why is it not happening? The first thought I have is that F1 has the right technology but the wrong image, while ironically Formula E is the opposite. F1 has an image of profligacy that the car industry definitely does not want. The whole industry is geared towards financial efficiency and F1 does not fit. That is easily changed with a properly presented FIA cost cap regulation. That would benefit everyone in more than one way. The problem is that this requires political backbone and good presentation skills, neither of which the FIA has at the moment.
Some say the the man who is trying to solve F1’s problems is in fact part of the problem himself, but it is hard to judge if this is true. That could be found out if CVC Capital Partners – the owners of the commercial side of the sport – asked the car manufacturers about their reticence to join in, despite the fact that F1 is what they want.
If I were Frank Williams, Peter Sauber, Vijay Mallya or Dietrich Mateschitz I would be touring the world, talking to car companies. Catching up with the technology is not so hard if one can hire a couple of people who know how to do it. And if the level of competition on F1 is balanced more, as will happen as the formula matures, it is quite possible for six or seven car companies to enjoy success and the halo effect of the sport.
Closing down the development potential makes F1 less valuable for the industry and less attractive to the individual car companies looking for ways to sell their wares.