New Rules ...
Download the NewsOnF1.com
God save us from bureaucrats. First they emasculate Real Racing, now they want to turn F1 into a big brother Formula V or Formula Ford. It bears repeating, there are Fools, Damn Fools and F1 Decision Makers. It is very obvious that this latest round of rule changes represent an ambit claim, an exaggerated set of demands to force the compromise that they wanted in the first place. The inability of the Technical Working Group to address the requirements of these new rules adds to the farce. Make no mistake; these changes will be forced through, but in a more realistic timeframe.
F1 was the pinnacle of motor sport, the premier league. Not being satisfied with fiddling with the rules of racing and the scoring system, now they have to fiddle with the freedom of designers to differentiate. I would have had no problem with a rule requiring compliance to an aerodynamic standard; I have a real problem with uniformity of wings and brakes. Mosely's madness will lead to a situation where, if it survives, the F1 car a decade hence will be allowed to be have any colour brake pedal the team desires, with everything else identical across all 4 cars still competing. It will provide a tour de force of 2004 technology, and the public will stay away in droves.
Removing the spare car will achieve what? A reduction in cost? Definitely (if there were indeed only 2 cars instead of 3), but at a cost to the spectacle that far outweighs the benefit. Reliability is an admirable objective, but the teams haven't ever to my knowledge said, "Lets make our race car break, we can always use the T car". No, imposing this ruling would force the front teams to sacrifice speed for reliability and Minardi et al will continue to take a chance on the basis that if it doesn't break they may not come last. Regression to the mean may be cheap, but it's not what racing at the pointy end of technology should be all about. Now the ruling is changed so that a car irreparably damaged can be replaced with a spare (and so 3 or 4 cars are still required), so where is the savings? Oh, and despite not being able to use a spare you can still start from the pit lane in the spare car you can't use if your race car fails before the race (?) This move is right up there with the proposed 6-race engine for killing the sport.
I am seriously concerned that the FIA have accepted the inevitability of the GPWC manufacturers group taking the Premier League title from F1 after the Concorde Agreement expires. They seem to be positioning themselves already to occupy a second tier position behind the GPWC circus.
One area I am obviously less unhappy with, though I bet Sir Frank isn't, is the requirement to qualify in race trim (minus the fuel load of course). The last round of ill-considered changes left a hole you could drive a 20,000+ rpm Williams BMW through. The decision to effectively impound the cars between the Real Race and the Sunday outing will close that hole. What now happens with the Sunday Warm-up session will be interesting - will the teams be allowed to modify their set-ups based on conditions during warm-up? While telemetry was one of the first it's on then it's off now it's on again rules, I can't see how in-garage changes can be monitored in the minutes before race start. I'm not sure how they intend to address that issue, or the warm-up one, and I'm sure the Technical Working Group are no nearer to a way around it than I am. I'm equally sure they are no nearer a way around the multitude of other issues these damn fool rule changes will create. I'm equally sure that the decision to impound the cars, now softened to oversee the cars in the garages (who knows what's next) and the ludicrous suggestion of not needing standard ECU's because they can supposedly adequately monitor what they couldn't police two years ago (leading to the decision to allow traction control) will create even more headaches and more hoops that the TWG will have to jump through to maintain (or perhaps that should be regain) any semblance of credibility.
I applaud the decisions to remove driver aids and telemetry, I reluctantly accept the decision to de-stress engines (but not to the tune of having to give 6-race warranties!), I fear the decision to impose conformity. F1 was all about pushing the envelope, now it's about bean counters pretending to serve the racing fans. Yes, the sport is horrendously expensive and maybe there is no room for the privateer any more. If cost control is going to over-ride development then development will stop; then where does the trickle down influence on Fred Average's family hack start? How much of the safety advances and cost efficiency of the modern road car stemmed from racing technology? And if standard components (and that's where its heading) are the rule of the day then how much will tomorrows family car owe to F1. Removing the ability to use 'exotic materials' might save a buck, but how safe would the F1 car be today without carbon fibre and 'exotic' alloys? Should we have imposed these same rules in the days before synthetic lubricants when the drivers wore leather helmets and cotton racing togs? I think not!
I questioned during the last round of rule changes how long it would be before they fiddled with the rules again, I never suspected it would be this soon. Much of F1 was broke, this is a very narrow minded attempt to fix it and meddles in areas that it shouldn't. I fear the combatants will vote with their feet, straight into the arms of an eager GPWC group, along with the fans and the odd qualifying commentator.
Could Max and Bernie (who still holds voting power over SLEC despite having only a minority shareholding) be cynical enough to compromise F1 just to ensure a better outcome from negotiations between the GPWC and themselves on finances? Surely not.
The GPWC are having 'talks' with the creditor banks of GPWC which would be followed by a confrontation between themselves, Bernie and the FIA, on TV revenue distribution. By showing that a separate GPWC series would not remove F1 but could dilute attendances and TV revenue for both, they, Bernie and Max, would weaken the big stick carried by the manufacturers and retain more of the money (and the control) than they would have otherwise.
The FIA, with Bernie's blessings, have now established a formula, post 2006, that does not need the manufacturers. Max even went so far as to say that if they pull out that was 'OK', given where F1 is heading. There will be new privateer teams willing to form alongside Sauber, Jordan and Minardi to fill the void and the nature of the series would mean almost instant competitiveness with off the shelf vehicles.
The GPWC would have to establish rules to control performance while still being faster than the F1 series. F1 cars are so quick now that the window of opportunity for the manufacturers is both tiny and shrinking. While technically feasible cars achieving 400+ kph and significantly greater cornering speeds than the current vehicles are not an option. Safety concerns have already (and I'm not complaining about this) helped effectively kill overtaking. The manufacturers then need to come up with a formula that is at the same time quicker than F1 and more exciting (ie allows overtaking) - a huge ask.
If the GPWC do split off they will have 5 teams, plus probably Toyota and potentially Honda and VW Group. That gives only between 10 and 16 cars if we have a 2 car per team arrangement. Realistically a series would need 20-26 cars to provide enough spectator appeal. With the evolution to super groupings of car manufacturers are there 13 or even 10 manufacturers willing and able to be involved? I'm not sure, but I doubt it, at least in the first few years where the series will be at its most vulnerable.
The threat then is that a reduced technology, parity based, F1 would be able to respond better to a spin-off series than the heavily cashed up manufacturers. By their actions of the last couple of months the FIA now effectively maintain control of the pinnacle of motor sport by default. Great financial strategy, damn shame about the sport. But then, this hasn't been about sport since Bernie found the teat attached to TV rights.
Who wins from all this politicking? Gee, what a surprise, Bernie and Max! And who loses? Another surprise, us!
The reality is that there is only room at the top for one series and the fans will be worse off as a result of these manoeuvrings - either stuck with a FIA driven compromise series or two compromised formulae that both fail to deliver.