Back at the start of motor racing, before anyone had dreamed up the idea of a race called the Grand Prix, there was a big debate: what did the future hold? Would these horseless carriages be powered by steam, electricity or by some other sort of fuel. It was solved, of course, by the passage of time and the use of new technology. To create steam you needed four things: time, fuel, water and a spark. Electricity had to be created or stored. And so it was that the petrol-powered internal combustion engine won the day. One hundred and 20 years later, we have similar discussions about the internal combustion engine, electricity and hydrogen fuel cells. Conventional engines are still amazingly inefficient when one considers the development that has gone into them, but they still win at the moment, although the fuel is running out, so ways must be found to eke out what we have left, until some bright spark figures out the next step. Thus, I think Max Mosley’s idea about freeing up F1 but imposing a budget cap is an idea with much merit. Mosley may be an ex-FIA President but as the current incumbent is failing to do the job, he’s the best we’ve got at the moment. And while he only has the power to throw out ideas, these ideas are pretty smart and people may pick them up and run with them. If Jean Todt has any ideas, they are well-hidden. If this goes on, one might imagine the sporting clubs at the FIA deciding to try to create a separate federation for motorsport, as was the case 25 years ago, when the FIA dealt with its stuff and FISA dealt with the sport. The problem with that is that the sport (read F1) funds the FIA, so the motoring clubs (which benefit from the money) will be opposed to the idea. Many of these clubs are big businesses but they don’t invest in the FIA because it doesn’t really do much that is not being done by other bodies, such as the United Nations or the World Health Organisation. Small wonder Todt wants a bigger and better job…
Mosley says that his one big regret is that he was not able to push through a budget cap proposal when he was FIA President. There are ways of doing this that have been demonstrated in other sports where costs have got out of control. It is the only way to go. Mosley’s new wizard wheeze is to offer teams that agree to a budget cap, freedom to do whatever they want to do.
“I can imagine that very soon all the teams would fall into the camp of the budget limit,” he said. “They would realise that you can also do great motor sport and build technically advanced cars with 100 million.”
The car industry is all about cost-efficiency and it is odd that motor racing has escaped that philosophy. Instead, the companies that want to spend, spend and those who do not want to, stay away. Better, surely, to have more involved all spending sensible money.