I have a news feed that is designed to keep me up to date with all the general Formula 1 news stories, allowing me to concentrate on the good stuff, rather than the detritus created by the rehashing industry. Today two-thirds of the stories picked up concern the misadventures of that celebrated poster boy of the sport Vijay Mallya and the Keystone Kop-like legal system that is in confused pursuit of the well-lawyered negative billionaire. How perfect is that? Not only is Mallya an F1 team owner, but he also sits on the FIA World Motor Sport Council, which is hardly a great advertisement for the governance of the sport.
There are times when I want to tear my hair out at the own goals which this sport is capable of scoring. Frankly, the FIA would be better off with a bunch of old fart blazers and princes rather than wide boys who bring the sport into disrepute (…in my opinion).
But let us not dwell on what is wrong, but rather think about more positive things. In time, all the useless ephemera will fall off the sport, like dead skin, and so we ought to focus on the living part of F1. I know there are lots of people who say this is wrong and that is wrong and maybe some of that is right, but if you actually go and see these cars without any preconceptions, I still think you will be impressed. The problem is that the costs to go to races are just too high, and increasingly the costs to watch on TV are rendering the sport obsolete. We know how this has come about and the justifications behind it all, but when such decisions are being made by people who have no shred of an idea about what money is worth to normal people, and don’t care about F1, how can the sport expect to be able to relate? I don’t advocate giving away tickets, but I do think that they should be priced at a level that more people can afford and that we should only go to venues that make strategic sense, rather than dancing with any old sleazy-fingered government, which offers to tuck a few bucks under the CVC suspender belt.
Anyway, enough politics. The big question in the weeks ahead in F1 is horsepower. Who will be able round up the most? All the engine manufacturers are saying they can find more, but what will the effect be on the pecking order. In theory, the competition should become tighter as the formula ages. It is just plain stupid to move the goalposts and change the rules. That will simply increase the gaps again. Anyone who proposes that is either ahead and keen to preserve an advantage, behind and desperate to get a second chance or trying to bring the sport to its knees for nefarious reasons to be determined. We will get to 1,000 hp soon enough and faster lap times are happening all the time. Fiddling with the rules is daft.
I think it would be wise for the FIA to stop messing around and declare (or can they only propose these days?) that the current formula be left in place for at least another 15 years, with no tokens but a limited number of power units per year to stop the competitors building qualifying engines and other such silly things. By the end of that time, electric cars should be getting up to speed and the hybrid era may be coming to a close.
The chassis are pretty ugly and could do with a big redesign, without all the horrid aerodynamic appendages that the engineers create. We really don’t need wind tunnels, because CFD is a fabulous tool for mankind, so let’s use that more and get rid of these vast hair dryers that cost so much.
Anyway, a stable formula will bring closer competition. It always does, but the key question is how long that takes. With new technologies, there is always the chance that there is more research to be done than has not yet been conceived, but while this might seem to suggest that Mercedes will continue its domination, there really is no reason why smart engineers with other companies cannot leap further ahead. The more the potential, the more chance there is for everyone. I do think that there is room for more manufacturers in the sport, even if they simply start out using current equipment, rebadged. That is what the car industry does and it is logical for the sport to do the same. But to attract more firms means some changes in image and in spending habits.
I do believe that a cost cap is both wise and policeable, for the simple reason that the biggest organisations now have corporate governance structures that would ensure things were sensible and the smaller teams would not get to the budget limit.
Making the sport more attractive to the public is a fairly basic task: the pricing needs to be right, the markets need to be right, the TV coverage needs to be right and so on. It is just promotion.
And in that one word lies the sport’s biggest real problem… Channel 4 has just announced some interesting new ideas for its F1 coverage, even if some of the faces are a bit samey with the old BBC. However, this is a step forward.
Of course, big changes will not be easy until the ethos of the Formula One company shifts, or it is shown the door by the rest of the sport, for being the wrong people for the job… As risk analysts, they ought to recognise this problem and take action to avoid it.
It’s funny… have you noticed how this article keeps trying to concentrate on the sport and is perpetually dragged back to the politics? Such is F1. We must fix the politics AND the sport, as they are as tight together as snogging teenagers needing to be crow-barred apart.