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#103

#103

RED BULL, HONDA AND VERSTAPPEN, BEGINNING OF A NEW ERA? EXCITING RACES IN BOTH F1 AND INDYCAR

#SJblog 103. 

JT – Formula One has staged three Grand Prix since we last chatted for the blog. The most significant news off-track is reporting that the FIA and Liberty Media plan to adopt ground effects for the 2021 cars. The goal is to do away with many of the complex aerodynamic devices found atop the cars currently. Instead there will be a simplified, less sensitive front wing and a series of Venturi tunnels feeding a deep twin diffuser that will produce much of the car’s downforce. The concept is reminiscent of the ground effects F1 cars that raced between 1979 and 1983, and similar to what the Dallara’s currently fielded in Indy Car employ to produce downforce. 

The FIA says the combination of ground effects, simpler aerodynamics and front wheel deflectors will all work together to help cars to follow each other much closer. In addition, the series will feature low-degradation tires that have far less drop off than the current high-degradation tires from Pirelli. The changes are similar to what you have been arguing for, for several years now, though they don’t go as far. What do you think of the changes?

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SJ – Some of the points in their plan are similar what I’ve been suggesting for a while, which is not surprising as it’s just common sense really. What’s interesting is that they (Liberty Media] actually did the exercise that I’ve been asking about for some time now – which is to paint all of the cars white and then see if anyone can tell them apart. Apparently there were only three people in their office who could tell the difference between them. I think the comments I’ve made for a while are now becoming clear to lots of people, I’m not trying to say that I’m the only who thought of this as I’m obviously not, but if the engineers and technicians can’t even tell the cars apart it’s safe to assume that not very many of the millions of fans will be able to.

Their proposal to maintain the level of downforce with more ground effects rather than getting all of the downforce from the top of the car looks better but I still think as long as you have a car that relies primarily on aerodynamics for its performance – which the cars will even with ground effects – I don’t think you’ll ever get rid of the problem of turbulent air. Computer modeling, wind tunnels and everything else the aerodynamicists have can never simulate well enough what’s going to happen in the real world. Once cars are on track together there are so many factors which upset the ideal circumstances they have when they use CFD (computational fluid dynamics) and wind tunnels.

I still strongly believe that a huge reduction on aerodynamic downforce which is then countered by less weight, more tire grip and more power is the way to go to retain the same performance we see now but with much better racing and more interesting cars to watch both on the track and estethically.

JT – Apparently, F1 hopes to reach agreement with teams about the new rules by September 15. But how likely is that? And how much of what they’ve proposed will be negotiated away?

SJ – If they’re waiting for a set of rules that everyone will agree on, it will never happen. They can continue to have meetings until the year 3000, and nothing will change apart from some minor pointless details. They need to get the teams and the engineers out of the decision-making process. It should be up to the governing body and the commercial rights holders to come up with a set of fair rules that make sense to everyone who participates, not just the top two or three teams – something that’s more controllable and makes sense financially for all participants. If the teams don’t trust the people that is running the championship they shouldn’t take part in the first place. As soon as the teams get involved it’s inevitable that they will serve their own interests first and as such we end up with a grid-lock and eventually a set of rules that is full of compromises mostly in order to please the manufacturer teams. Teams and manufacturers always come and go, Ferrari being the only exception, which makes it even more important that they will come up with a well thought out set of rules that will stay in place for a considerable amount of time, as this is always the best way to control both the level of competition and the costs. Rules stability have always proven to be the most efficient way for a successful series.

JT - The races at Red Bull Ring, Silverstone, and Hockenheim featured more action than the season’s preceding eight races. Red Bull racing’s Max Verstappen took the win in Austria after overtaking Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc two laps before the checkered flag – the first victory for a team other than Mercedes in 2019.

In England, Lewis Hamilton won, taking his seventh victory in 10 races. Teammate Valtteri Bottas led from pole and looked to have control of the race until a safety car was called for Antonio Giovinazzi’s Alfa Romeo which spun off. Hamilton dived into the pits, essentially getting a free pit stop, and leap-frogged Bottas. Behind, Charles Leclerc and the two Red Bulls fought for the podium. 

In Germany, rain came, leading to a variety of errors from drivers and teams. Max Verstappen survived a spin and five trips to pit lane for wet, medium and dry tires to win the race. Mercedes’ Hamilton and Bottas both spun off track in the wet with Bottas’ off ending his race. Hamilton finished 11th on track after multiple offs and a penalty for entering pit road beyond a cone denoting its limit. Post-race penalties to the Alfa Romeos of Kimi Raikkonen and Giovinazzi promoted him to 9th. Sebastian Vettel stayed on track to finish an unexpected 2nd after starting from the back of the grid. Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat rounded out the podium with Racing Point’s Lance Stroll finishing 4th.

Following the races, Liberty Media’s Ross Brawn said the excitement they provided was a great response to the “vitriolic criticism” of F1 this season. But of course, the only reason Hockeheim had any “excitement” was because of rain. What’s your impression of the last three races?

SJ – Yes, the last three have all been terrific races with plenty of action and some surprising results, especially the last one at Hockenheim. F1 typically has two or three great races every year – always when the unknown enters into them - weather conditions or something else that can’t be simulated or predicted beforehand. Taking the predictability out of the racing is exactly what we’re looking for. The race at Hockenheim was a classic example of this. It was simply that the rain came and went and the teams had to adjust accordingly. Most of them got it wrong at least one and some of them many times. I think they changed tires like five times. But nevertheless it turned out to be a very entertaining race to watch, with several surprises in the end result. It’s great to have a race like this once in a while regardless of what the category is, but wouldn’t it be great if every race could come down to drivers competing hard on the track in equal cars, and different strategies on both fuel and tires played a big part of the end result. 

Austria started out being kind of boring and then it came down to the tire situation. Verstappen was on fresher tires and he was catching everyone hand-over-fist. At every race, whoever can make the tires work is so much quicker than the rest. The Red Bull chassis are always very  good too and the Honda engineers are really starting to get the job done.

I think this result is the beginning of a new era. As I said a year ago when the switch from McLaren to Red Bull happened, eventually Red Bull, Verstappen and Honda will dominate, probably for four or five years once they get it right, which they will. When Honda is committed they always get it right in the end, and once they do they are very hard to stop. I think the combination of Verstappen, Red Bull and Honda might be the new Dream Team that will be very hard to beat in the next 5 year period, as long as all the main people stay committed. 

Ferrari continued having their problems at Hockenheim too. Both cars had issues in qualifying for Hockenheim and then in the race they were better. Vettel did a great job moving forward with some brilliant moves especially in the first few laps. Leclerc got schooled by Verstappen in Austria and realized he had to roll up his sleeves and get a bit more aggressive. I think he did a great job at Silverstone (Leclerc finished 3rd) but obviously he made a mistake at Hockenheim, like several others did in the same spot. I think they all got caught out by how incredibly slippery the track surface was once you got into the runoff area, under normal circumstances theirs is no real change in the grip level once you go into the runoff, but here it was like ice.

There was more dicing at Silverstone and the Red Bull Ring. Maybe it’s the nature of those tracks because they’re fast and flowing. There aren’t really any stop-and-start corners at either track. And with the amount of downforce the cars have now, you don’t really have to be on the racing line to carry the speed through the corners. It’s almost like oval racing, the way they drive around some of these corners – one car on the outside and the other on the inside, doing the same speed. Normally if you’re not on-line you lose your pace. We’re seeing some outside passes that we didn’t see before at a few of the tracks, which is great to watch, so maybe the high downforce is actually working better in that regard at these specific tracks and corners. It certainly provided some great racing and passing.

Bottas did a good job at Silverstone but the safety car just came at the wrong time. It certainly worked in Lewis’ favor and he obviously got a bit lucky which he admitted. But when things are going your way, almost everything you do seems to work. When they’re not, everything you try seems to go wrong. Vettel on the other hand is definitely on the flip side of that cycle. I also don’t think Vettel is comfortable with the car now. 

I don’t think he’s ever been really comfortable with the cars of this era – the hybrid cars. They clearly don’t suit his driving style. I don’t think he can get the cars to operate the way he wants them to, to have confidence and be comfortable with them. The Red Bull he had with the blown diffuser and everything, it obviously suited his driving style perfectly.

JT – You think Mercedes set up was wrong for both drivers at Hockenheim?

SJ – It looked to me like Hamilton and Bottas had very similar problems. They went off at the same corner in almost identical circumstances where the rear just snapped without even a wiggle, it just went into a full spin immediately. That would lead me to believe something wasn’t right with their cars. Whatever set-up they had was affected worse than anyone else, maybe the car bottomed out in that particular spot or something else went wrong. It seems strange though that both drivers would do identical mistakes in exactly the same place in the same corner.

JT – Whatever the case was for Mercedes and the rest at Hockenheim, the Indy Car race at Mid-Ohio was far more exciting. There was fantastic racing throughout the field. Scott Dixon won after some terrific dices with Will Power and even his own teammate Felix Rosenqvist. It was proper nail-biting racing. 

Source: @scottdixon9

Source: @scottdixon9

Congratulations go to all of the guys on the podium with Scott finishing on top, Felix in 2nd place and Ryan Hunter Reay in 3rd. But special congratulations to you. You’ve had a role in all three drivers’ careers. Of course, you manage both Scott and Felix. And though many may not remember, Ryan Hunter Reay came into Indy Car racing with your American Spirit Team Johansson in 2003. Ironically, Hunter Reay’s first-ever Indy Car podium came with your team at that season’s Mid-Ohio round where he finished 3rd! He went on to win the 2003 season-ending race at Surfer’s Paradise, Australia.

SJ – Yes, even when you have three great races in F1, you turn on Indy Car on any weekend and the race is nearly always a nail biter which is rarely over until the last few laps. Every race ends up being exciting right until the end. Mid-Ohio was another brilliant race! Felix was on a different strategy than Scott. Rossi and Newgarden and Power were on different strategies and everyone was racing hard on track, and it went right to the finish line with only 0.09 separating the first two cars. If F1 ever had one race like that people would go ballistic!

When Felix and Scott were racing each other at the end, I seriously thought I was getting a heart attack! I was freaking out but it was great! For me personally it was fantastic obviously to see them get a 1-2. And I believe that’s the first 1-2 finish Ganassi has had in Indy Car since Scott raced with Dario [Franchitti]. And with Ryan finishing third as well it was an amazing day.

JT – Even the previous round, on a completely different type of track – the short oval at Iowa Speedway – was exciting and unpredictable. Scott had a very difficult night with the car not responding to a host of set-up changes and was running in 16th place. But pit strategy and a caution flag at the right moment late in the race allowed him to charge up to 2nd place! Josef Newgarden won the rain-delayed race and was doing donuts 1:15 am central time

SJ – It was a crazy race and I still can’t believe Scott managed to pull his way back to 2nd after being a couple of laps down at one point, but again, this is what makes Indycar the best racing in the world right now, it has all the right ingredients for close and unpredictable racing. As far as the competition side of the business goes, they are doing pretty much everything right. The only thing I’m having a hard time to understand is the lapped car rule, where the backmarkers can still race the leaders even when they are about to go a lap down. I don’t think it’s fair that they should be able to effect the outcome of the race. If it’s not your day, you should just move over and let the leaders continue to fight until the end, rather than getting caught up for laps behind someone who’s over a second a lap slower. 

JT – Haas F1 continues to struggle on track. Their car, the VF-19, is obviously part of the problem. But the drivers are another liability this year. Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen can’t seem to stop running into each other. They have an open rivalry of course but what’s taken place between them at nearly every race of the season seems illogical. Gunter Steiner recently said he was more than frustrated with their behavior and shouldn’t have to be mediating between them when he should be focused on making the car and team better. Why not sack both Grosjean and Magnussen and perhaps replace them with Indy Car drivers?

SJ – Unfortunately for them, the situation at Haas is almost comical. I can see it being justified if they are fighting for the lead or the championship, like Lewis and Nico was a few years back, but I think even those two had better discipline and race craft than the Haas guys do. It’s ridiculous to be fighting as teammates over 10th position and keep bouncing into each other race after race. Something’s not right there. These guys just have no race craft. And how much patience can Haas have, it’s not like either of them are World Champion material or ever will be? Haas shouldn’t have to be thinking about them in addition to making the car better or whatever else, if you are paid driver you are there to enhance the overall performance of the team, not give them an added headache to deal with pretty much every weekend. 

If any of these guys were to race in Indycar, not just the Haas guys but in general, they would have to make some major adjustments in order to be competitive. Execution is everything in Indy Car. If you or the team get one thing wrong you lose several positions immediately and fighting your way back from that is almost impossible as close as the racing is. And at most of the tracks you don’t have run-off areas where you can rejoin the rack after bouncing off someone else or missing the apex, so if you tangle or have to go off track for any reason, your day is pretty much over. 

The irony is that F1 teams are now considering guys like Pato O’Ward who left to join Red Bull in Super Formula in Japan and Colton Herta is being considered by a number of teams. Both of them are super talented but if you look at what they have done in Indy Car – for an F1 team to consider them kind of sums up the mentality of Formula 1. Neither one of them is ready for F1. They have one good race in Indy Car and then a series of others with mistakes or poor execution. It’s the most bizzare situation at the moment, where Formula One has now become some kind of training ground for young talented drivers. Every now and then you will find a Unicorn, like Hamilton or Verstappen for example, but for everyone of those there’s a graveyard of other really talented drivers that got spat out of the system very early on for a variety of reasons but primarily because they simply weren’t ready either mentally or technically. 

But this is how they think in F1. It’s all about really young and fast drivers. If you’re over 20 years old, no one in F1 will even look at you it seems. I don’t understand why they wouldn’t be patient and take a driver who’s 23, 24 or 25 years old who’s had four or five years of hard racing behind them duking it out in other series and has shown that they’re a proven winner. 

JT – That’s a great point. Why wouldn’t F1 teams be looking at relatively young Indy Car drivers like Josef Newgarden or Alexander Rossi? Rossi’s been in F1 before but only with a back-marker team. Both guys are proven winners. Newgarden already has an Indy Car championship under his belt (2017) and Rossi is a threat at every race. Both are competitive with the series’ most decorated and experienced racers like Scott Dixon, Will Power, Ryan Hunter Reay, etc. Felix Rosenqvist is another possibility. He’s really beginning to show his talent in Indy Car. 

SJ – Absolutely, I couldn’t agree more. These guys have been in Europe in the early days of their careers and now they’ve been racing hard for a few years and have a lot more experience. Now is the time that F1 teams should be looking at them not when they started their careers over there and had virtually no experience with either the tracks or the people they were racing against.

#102

#102

CONTROVERSY AT THE CANADIAN GP, TIRE WARS & THE COMPETITIVENESS OF INDYCAR

#SJblog 102

JT – The Canadian Grand Prix has been the subject of controversy since the race took place. While leading the race, Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel ran wide between Circuit Gilles Villeneuve’s Turns 3 and 4, reentering the track just in front of Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes. After a brief evaluation of the incident, F1’s stewards gave Vettel a five-second penalty for impeding Hamilton. Hamilton crossed the finish line 2nd behind Vettel but with the five seconds applied, he was declared the winner.  

Vettel was angered by the penalty, as were fans and many current/former F1 drivers and racers from other categories who weighed in with their frustration. Ferrari has requested the FIA review the penalty. What are your thoughts?

SJ – Unfortunately, nothing is new under the sun. The one time this season so far they actually have a great race on their hands which would have been an epic battle to the end, they manage to ruin it by meddling with these random and completely inconsistent penalties. 

I know some people have come out and said the penalty was deserved because Vettel broke a rule. Strictly speaking, this may be true, but this also signifies the problem we have at the moment. Formula 1 already has far too many rules. How many more scenarios are there going to be where they will come up with a penalty instead of letting people get on with racing? If you strictly follow the rule book you could also argue that you are also allowed to change direction once on every straight, which is another stupid rule by the way, which if the argument the stewards put forward was that Vettel changed direction once he had the car under control is then negated by the next rule. Each year the rule book keeps getting thicker, with more and more rules to cover every possible scenario both on the competition side and the technical side, in parallel, as we all know only to well, the racing is getting more and more boring and sanitized. 

I’ve made my view on the random driver stewards/race control situation clear many times. I’ve been totally against it since they started it. I think they need one or two people who could be ex-drivers like Indycar has but they are the same people at every race. It’s been clear for years now that F1’s random driver steward process doesn’t work. I read someone’s argument that this system works great because they have four Stewards that alternate between the races, and five different driver stewards. To me that’s three stewards and four drivers to many! There is no way you will ever get consistency with a system like this, hence we have these random decisions in almost every race that are completely inconsistent from similar incidents that happened in an earlier race. 

It would have been so great to see Vettel and Hamilton go for a real fight to the end, as it were, Lewis was just cruising knowing that all he had to do was finish within five seconds of Vettel, a total anticlimax to what would have probably been the best race of the season.

JT – Apart from the controversy at the Canadian GP, most of the teams continue to voice the same complaint at every race. They cannot get Pirelli’s very temperature-sensitive tires to work. Only Mercedes seems to be able to make them respond consistently.

SJ –  Yes, it’s the same story over and over again up and down the pit lane. On some weekends one or other of the teams may get their car to work but they all seem to struggle apart from Mercedes which seems to have gotten a better handle on the tires than the rest. 

I think a lot of that is just resources. The more money and resources you have the more manageable it is to find a quick solution. But I find it extremely ironic – and it goes back to my “Make F1 Awesome Again” document – that here the teams are spending hundreds of millions of dollars on aerodynamic development and other elements but the bottom line is the majority of the performance comes down to the tires most of the time. 

They’re the cheapest component on the car that really matters by a hundred times. You’ll find performance from the tires a hundred times quicker than you would out of anything else you develop on a car. I just don’t understand the logic of forcing one tire manufacturer to build a terrible tire. It makes no sense. If you opened the tire supply up I can see at least four manufacturers that would jump onboard immediately. 

They would all pour a ton of money into marketing and development for the teams they’d work with and the racing would be really interesting. At some tracks the Michelin’s would be quick, at others the Bridgestone’s would be quick, at some the Pirellis would be fast and at some tracks it might be the Hankook’s or whoever else would choose to supply tires. Some tires will be really good in qualifying and not so good in race trim and vice versa. It would mix up the grid and make the races far more interesting.

Yes, the top teams would want to make sure they were on the right tire but you need to do something to introduce variability, something to make it interesting and less predictable. And I don’t remember the “tire wars” being terrible when we last had them. It was never a problem as far as I can recall. Everyone was happy to compete and get the best out of the tires, do the required tire testing. At some tracks the Bridgestone’s were quicker, and at some the Michelin’s were quicker. 

Eventually, one manufacturer might get an edge but then the others partner with different teams and continue the development – it’s part of the whole process.

JT – Meanwhile, the deadline for presentation of F1’s 2021 rules has been delayed with teams and F1 chiefs opting to wait until October to unveil them. The end of June had been the previous deadline. Disagreements among the teams on some of the fundamentals are said to be the reason for the delay.

SJ – They can keep tweaking the rules until the year 3000. The teams are never going to agree. They haven’t been able to agree on anything so far so what makes anyone think they’ll agree on the new rules?

It’s impossible to get the teams to agree to the same set of rules. Because everything is now run like a democracy and the teams have to have their say in everything we’ll end up with some half-assed compromise that won’t make anyone happy, least of all the fans. That’s the reality of it. As I’ve been saying all along, the series needs to be run like a benevolent dictatorship with people running it who have an acute understanding of the business. They make the rules that all the teams will have to follow, end of story. That’s the only way it can work. 

There is no way you can try to please everyone. Once you set a fair, coherent set of rules that make sense, that’s it. People will say some teams will then leave the sport. If they don’t want to play, let them leave. As long as the barrier of entry to F1 is not so high financially that almost no one can join, which is currently the case, other teams or manufacturers will soon replace them. 

After more than a year of deliberations,  they’re now talking about a $150 million cost-cap – not including engines, drivers and marketing. So you’re basically back at $250 million before you even start. So everyone apart from the top three teams is already screwed because none of them have a budget that size even today. 

JT – The most recent round of the 2019 Indycar season came at Texas Motor Speedway where Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden held off Andretti Autosport’s Alexander Rossi to win, executing a clever pit stop strategy that put Newgarden in front for the final stage of the race. 

Scott Dixon was competitive all evening, leading at times. But with just 19 laps remaining, Scott and rookie Colton Herta made contact while battling for 3rd place in turn 3, sending both into the safer barrier. The DNF saw Scott fall to 4th in the championship standings, 89 points behind leader Newgarden. Felix Rosenqvist finished in 12th position. Obviously, it wasn’t a great outcome for Scott. What did you think of the contact between him and Herta?

SJ – Looking at the video replay a few times afterwards, Herta had both wheels over the inside at the bottom of the track going into the corner, so once they got in the corner there was no room to keep the foot down and his car just crept up the track until they made contact. It’s just one of those things. I think Herta was lucky to get away with several of the moves he made earlier in the race which were also right on the limit. I think his driving was a bit marginal all day long, but It’s to be expected from a guy with the amount of talent that he has. I like his driving a lot I must say, he’s brave and full of confidence, with a huge amount of natural talent. But at places like Texas and Pocono, it’s maybe a little too much considering the consequences if something goes wrong, not only for yourself but also the guys you’re fighting with.  It’s a little like Verstappen in his early years, he just puts the nose in there, and if the guy he’s about to pass doesn’t move or give enough room there will be contact, they’re low percentage moves that look amazing when you get away with them, but as soon as it turns the other way, which it always will eventually, you look like a schmuck. It’s part of the learning curve, especially when you consider how young these guys are when they get their breaks. Verstappen at some point understood this and is now a much more complete driver.

Scott lost quite a few points so that’s going to make it very tough for the championship going forward. It’s not over but it’s not easy to come back from that far back. 

Felix results doesn’t really give credit to the effort he’s put in. He qualified on the second row next to Scott at Detroit but unfortunately things didn’t go his way in the race. It’s just about putting everything together for a whole weekend and a whole race, between the driver, the team and the strategy. That’s what makes Indycar so difficult. At the Indy Grand Prix before the 500, where he started from Pole Position, there were some issues in two of the pitstops and Felix had problems keeping the tires under him during the whole race. And the accident he had in practice for the 500 – that will set you back big time. 

Having the confidence that the car is underneath you at Indy is critical. When it comes unstuck, it will let go pretty quickly as he found out the hard way. It’s a confidence thing and after that you’re never quite sure when you can rely on the back end of the car. It’s always a balancing act.  He got comfortable and did a great job in the race, moving up through the field throughout the race. Unfortunately both him and Scott both got caught up in the Bourdais and Rahal accident.

JT – It’s interesting to look at Indycar on any track and compare the level of competition with what we see in F1. There’s no denying Lewis Hamilton has had a very impressive career with five world championships to his credit. But, at most, Hamilton has to beat only one or two drivers to win those championships. Scott Dixon is a five-time champion as well but in Indycar he’s had to best a large number of competitors to earn each of his championship titles. It seems to me that the depth of the competition in Indycar makes Scott’s achievements more impressive. What are your thoughts?

SJ – I don’t think there’s anyone in the F1 paddock that can touch Hamilton at the moment, he’s on a different level and is just getting better every year, so in my opinion he deserves all the success he’s had without a doubt. But as you correctly point out, the facts in F1 will tell you that there’s never been a world champion in all the history of F1 that did not have the best car. On the other hand, I don’t think there’s a championship in the world that’s harder to win in than Indycar right now. Winning three to four races in a season of Indycar is a huge accomplishment. There are so many factors at play and you don’t have the predictability you have in F1. Look at Texas. I think we were all surprised when Newgarden emerged at the front near the end of the race. He came from nowhere!

Team Penske made a fantastic call on strategy and played their pit stop cycle perfectly. It’s impossible for something like that to happen in Formula 1. Indycar has that variability and so many good drivers and teams. I keep saying it but I think it’s the best racing of any series in the world right now. Nothing comes close. Every single weekend is flat out hard racing. Can you imagine if even one F1 race was like that? People would go crazy.

JT – It strikes me that the complete lack of competitive balance in F1 might induce talented  drivers coming up through the open wheel ranks - from F2, F3, etc – to aim for Indycar rather than F1. If you’re a hot young prospect and you want to compete against top drivers in a championship where the competitive balance between teams is close, why not skip the lopsided soap opera that is F1 and go do some real racing in Indycar?

SJ – To be honest, I think we’re going to see more and more of that. At the same time, it’s not easy for any of those guys to come over here and get a ride at the moment. But if there are drives which open up, I don’t think anyone could disagree that Indycar, tough as it is, is a series where at least you have a possibility of winning. There’s no possibility in F1 unless you’re driving for the right one or two teams. One of the issues though is that the drivers in F1 today make it there at such a young age, which works out great in F1 because the main criteria is just to be able to drive the car as fast as possible, race craft doesn’t matter anywhere as much as it does in Indycar or Sportscar racing. The reason is that everything is so perfect in F1, the engineering of the cars, the simulations, the tracks that are smooth like a dance floor with huge run off areas, the adjustability of the cars through all the devices on the steering wheel. All these things take away a lot of the elements a driver has to deal with in most other types of racing. 

JT – Scott Dixon was one of several Indycar drivers who raced at Le Mans. Predictably, the 24 Hours left a bad taste in many people’s mouths. The overall outcome was never in doubt with Toyota dominating in LMP1, winning over the nearest P1 car by six laps. The GTE battle had great potential even in the final hours. But the pit/safety car rules at Le Mans trapped Jan Magnussen’s Corvette at pit out, allowing the winning AF Corse Ferrari to go by as Magnussen idled in pit lane. 

Scuderia Corsa, where you are the Sporting Director, ended up with a podium finish after the Keating Ford got disqualified after the post race scrutineering.

Scott finished 5th in GTE Pro in the #69 Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT after the sister #68 car was disqualified from its 4th place finish for having a fuel capacity .83 liters over the limit. The GTE Am winning Ford GT of Keating Motorsports was disqualified as well for a fuel infraction, a tenth of a liter over the limit. 

What did you think of the race and how did Scott view it?

SJ – I thought the race was unusually uneventful this year, with only two cars in the race with a realistic chance of winning, the only interesting battles was in the other categories. I feel sorry for Mike Conway and his co drivers as they clearly had the pace to win this time. Mike was very impressive to build the gap early on that they were able to maintain throughout the race, until the very end when it all went pear shaped for them.

It was a good result for Scuderia Corsa in the end, we just didn’t quite have the overall pace this year, but the team did a terrific job overall.

Scott was a bit frustrated I think, it seemed the Ford’s never quite had the pace throughout the event, and then they had a few unfortunately minor things go wrong on their car that basically put them out of contention. 

As usual, no one is happy with the BoP unless you’re on the top of the podium. It’s a tricky one and I wish there was a different way to compete, but for the time being I can’t see anything change in this area. 

JT- Finally, last weekend we had the French GP at Paul Ricard and the Indycar race at Road America. Two very different race tracks, do you have any comments on the nature of the tracks and the outcome of the races?

SJ- Yes, two very different race tracks for sure. Although Paul Ricard is quite an old track in F1 terms, it’s been updated and modified significantly since the first GP they held there way back. However, the layout is not that much different, they’ve only added a few standard issue F1 chicanes. After the race we got all the usual complaints of an extremely boring race with no passing and no action throughout. But to be fair this track never invited any great racing, it was always difficult to pass and hard to get a run on the driver in front due to the layout of the track. Most drivers, including myself hated the layout of this track because it has no natural flow, it’s very choppy and you can never get a good rhythm going. I never considered it to be a good track for either racing or testing. Bernie Ecclestone bought it some time ago and turned it into a mausoleum of how a modern GP track should look, the run off areas are incredible with the different surfaces which are also color coded. I remember losing the brakes once during a 24 hour test in preparation for Le Mans,  at the end of the long straight. The car stopped on it’s own before I hit anything, the last rows of asphalt was like glue and it just stopped the car on it’s own, amazing!! Everything including the Pit complex is done the absolute maximum, but the place have no character.

At the other end of the spectrum is Road America, one of the few remaining old school tracks that is incredibly challenging and unforgiving. If you put a wheel wrong it will punish you right away. Every driver I know absolutely love this place, it reminds me of Brands Hatch but it’s even faster and more flowing. The race was again very exciting, if you don’t count Alexander Rossi, who just checked out and left everyone to fight for second. In typical Indycar fashion there were great battles throughout the field. Both Scott and Felix put in some very good recovery drives and salvaged some good points on what looked to be a bad weekend for both at the start of the race.

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#101

#SJblog 101

JT – The Spanish Grand Prix was the fifth race of 2019 F1 season and, like the four races that preceded it, the outcome was never in doubt. Mercedes finished 1-2 for the fifth time. Lewis Hamilton won taking the championship points lead back from teammate Valtteri Bottas. Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen rounded out the podium with the Ferraris of Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc trailing behind.

The best of the rest finished 20 seconds behind Hamilton. Once more there was little passing on track. Only Mercedes seems to perform consistently. What are your thoughts on the season so far? 

SJ – More than anything it seems that whoever can get the tires to work wins. Mercedes was struggling in the beginning. I think Ferrari had perhaps a slight advantage in the first race or two which they didn’t capitalize on. It seems like no one can consistently get the tires to work except for Mercedes – even if they don’t sometimes get it right until race day.

For the rest of the teams it’s totally random. Especially in the mid field the teams get the tires to work at one race but not at the next race or vice versa.

Why are Mercedes getting it right? I think it’s what sums up Formula 1 right now. They simply have more resources and are able to throw everything but the kitchen sink at whatever problem they encounter. This is why I don’t understand why teams like Ferrari seem to be all for the continual pissing contest approach to F1 - just throwing dollars at it. Who’s going to win against Mercedes in a contest like that? as long as they are committed to F1 it will be near impossible to beat them under the current set of rules.

I think we were all hopeful before the season started that this year might be different. The testing looked promising but it hasn’t gone that way, and it’s not that surprising.

JT – That competitive imbalance and the utter predictability of F1 in recent years is literally killing interest in the series. That’s what spurred you to write your 25-page proposal to “Make F1 Awesome Again”. The treatise recently appeared on Motorsport.com , pitpass.com and some other outlets. Reaction to the ideas you offered has been mixed from fans and from people working inside F1.

JT – First, I have to say it’s one thing to make the proposal I’ve made and offer ideas, it’s relatively easy to be a “grand stand expert”,  It’s another thing if you’re in charge and guiding F1 and you’re in the line of fire for making those decisions. But the trend we’ve seen in making changes to F1 for quite a while now is either too much too soon or too little too late it seems – either an overreaction to something that happened or not enough for something that needs to happen.

It’s a very comprehensive and detailed document which took the best part of a year to write. A lot of work and research went into it. To make a very quick summary, until F1’s (and racing in general) over-reliance on aerodynamics is addressed I don’t think it’s really going to matter much what else is done because aero dictates everything right now. Yet it is the one factor that negatively affects all four main pillars of the business of F1, them being, COMPETITION, ECONOMICS, ENTERTAINMENT and RELEVANCE.

For anyone who has not read the document, what I am proposing is to set a fixed limit on downforce, in order to eliminate the importance of aerodynamics and instead shift the engineering focus to other areas that will force designers and engineers to become more innovative and find performance from other areas of the car, maybe even things we have not even invented yet.

Really, one of my main proposals is to open F1 up again to meaningful innovation. Some people outside of F1 have questioned how you could bring an F1 car down to a weight of 500 kilograms as I’ve proposed. The whole point is that there should be the engineering freedom to try different ideas. If you want to run a two-stroke engine, run a two-stroke with no radiators or whatever. Get rid of the batteries for the hybrid system and you’ll remove a huge amount of weight right there. You could go in whichever direction you choose governed by a fixed rule on how much energy you are allowed to use. If hypothetically, a two-stroke turns out to be the best option – weight versus power versus energy use – well then use it. Or use another solution, as long as you meet the criteria of a fixed amount of energy consumption for the duration of the race.

One of the reactions I’ve gotten from the various forums on these websites is that limiting downforce or using other technologies would be taking the series backward, they somehow think I am a fan of going back the 70’s with cars that had no downforce and were sliding all over the place. But what I’m trying to say is the exact opposite. If people think the series is at the cutting edge of technology by constantly relying on aerodynamics as the prime source of performance, they’ve got it backwards.

The aerodynamics used in F1 has been the primary source of technology to make the cars go faster since the late 70’s, because it’s by far and away the easiest way to get more performance from a racecar, unfortunately to the detriment of all the other factors that make racing exciting and interesting to watch. There’s so much more technology out there that could be employed or developed for a race car if you significantly diminish the role of aerodynamic downforce. Aero is always the easiest way to get performance, so by limiting the importance of it, teams would be forced to become more innovative and creative in finding new sources of performance provided the rules are open enough for them to explore these areas.

I’m trying to encourage new thinking. Interestingly, I’ve had several people who work in F1 currently, including some of the top technical directors,  contact me saying, “Great article, love it. Absolutely the way to go” They even agreed with my comments about keeping the engineers out of the decision making process for the rules, which I thought was more refreshing than anything.

The other area I got a lot comments and some criticism on was about my proposal to use standard components for a  lot of the parts on the cars. It’s the same old argument that if you standardize the parts of the cars it will eventually become a one make formula and F1 will lose it’s original DNA. My point is that although the teams currently have to make many of the parts of their cars themselves, the parts they make are all essentially the same. Everybody’s basically doing the same thing but at an astronomical cost, why not instead agree on all the parts that make no difference in the end, and instead shift the focus to areas that are not yet touched on and let there be some creative thinking to find out what they may be and then allow the teams to develop new ideas in these areas. Because the rules are written so tight and restrictive all the cars eventually end up looking identical, because within the current rules there are no options to go out on a limb and create something different. Everybody end up polishing the same concept to the umpteenth degree, at a cost that is astronomical for each team. The fans don’t see or for the most part don’t care about any of this.  All the cars have the same concept of wings, brakes, gearbox, electronics etc and there’s no room for anyone to even think of a different concept or layout of a car, they all end up looking the same. The point is to force the teams to refocus on areas which are open and free and develop technology that may not even exist yet. Open it up and really innovate. That’s my point.

JT – Formula 1 must make significant changes very soon if it wants to retain global interest and its status as the top category of motorsport. With every uncompetitive race that passes I hear from more and more fans that they no longer have the desire or time to watch grands prix where the outcome is completely predictable before the race begins. They are tuning out in large numbers. Do you agree?

SJ – I agree, I’ve had a huge amount of emails on that very subject recently. It’s exactly that – people are telling me , “I’m over it.” “I’m tuning out.” Or, “I’ve been a fan for 40 years but I’ve had enough.” Political correctness is not going to keep this thing going, my belief is that it needs to go in the opposite direction, we need to bring the awesome factor back somehow.

JT – The Indianapolis 500 is fast approaching. We had the qualifying last weekend with a lot of excitement, especially at the back end of the grid where the bumping of the last three positions turned out the be full of drama. Fernando Alonso and Mclaren failed to make the race, what are your thoughts on this.

SJ – You’re absolutely correct in that there was a lot of excitement both during the qualifying weekend and the build-up during the week. From a driver and team point of view, there is nothing that comes even close to the pressure of qualifying at Indy, it brings out the best and the worst in everyone it seems. It was a mixed bag this time due to the extreme weather conditions that made it very difficult for all the teams that had a late draw in the line. All the cars running early in the day made it on the grid comfortably, whereas the late draws really had to fight for it. Felix was on the bubble a couple of times and had to go out for a new attempt, I think he was pretty happy when it was all over. Many people were shocked that Mclaren didn’t make the grid, but frankly, the way they went about it certainly made it difficult for them to ever consider winning the race, and when things started to go wrong with the odd delays and the crash in practice, the odds were massively stacked against them to even qualify, which is what happened in the end. Alonso did what he could, he was flat for four laps, but if the car is not underneath you there is nothing you can do to make any difference. I have to make one comment though regarding Alonso, I assume he came back this year with the intent to win the race and not just be there to participate, after missing out on a potential win last year. Between himself and whomever it is managing him or advising him, what on earth where they thinking going with a one car, one off race program trying to beat the likes of Penske, Ganassi and Andretti?

Indy is a brutal place, it’s plays with your mind all the time, you can have a perfect car in the morning and then the wind direction changes or the track temperature goes up and the car becomes undrivable an hour later.

That’s why when the opportunity came up for Scuderia Corsa, which I am the Sporting Director of, to join Ed Carpenter’s team we jumped on it immediately, they have a well run team and arguably the fastest cars every year at Indianapolis. Ed Jones did a great job qualifying the car 4th,  and the team is looking very strong with their 3 cars quaiifying 2nd-4th for the race.

Scott had a rough draw too and ended up running in the heat and the wind, he ended up 19th which is not exactly where he wanted to be, but he seems pretty happy with his race set up so hopefully he’ll do his usual magic and work his way to the front.

JT – The World Endurance Championship seems to be in a bit of a mess as its 2018-2019 season winds down. A new formula for its LMP1 class was supposed to be in place by now but the WEC’s proposal to race “hypercars” based on pure race developed cars that would be later homologated for the street and some hypercars currently in production for consumers has failed to win support or commitment from auto manufacturers.

There has been a proposal from some manufacturers which mirrors what you have been suggesting for at least two years already. They call it “GTE-Plus” but it’s basically the same idea you’ve voiced for un-restricting the horsepower of current GTE cars and providing them with a bit more aerodynamic grip and larger tires. It’s not certain that there’s enough support for that idea but it could be WEC’s “plan B”. In the meantime, it looks like the championship’s 2020-2021 season is in jeopardy for the LMP1 class. With no formula in place as of late May, manufacturers will not have enough time to design and field cars by the time that season begins.

SJ – No one seems to be ready to make a decision and it’s not surprising. I don’t know where it’s all going to lead. The thing is, they’ve always been dependent on manufacturers because they pour so much money into the WEC. But only Toyota is left now and it’s not certain what they’re going to do.

My stand has been, for a while now, to just get rid of the prototypes. We don’t really need them anymore. Even If you freed up the current GTE cars they could be about 10 seconds per lap quicker around Le Mans almost immediately. That’s all you need. If you just allowed the current GTE cars to run without restrictors with even the same horsepower as the road cars they’re based on – that would give them 250 to 300 horsepower more than they have now. That’s probably worth about six seconds per lap alone.

Add ten percent more aero and wider tires with better grip and you can get to 10 seconds per lap quicker pretty easily. That’s where the WEC has said they want speeds to be – in the 3 minute, 30s range. And if you can do that, as I’ve said before, pretty much every manufacturer will want to be part of it. It could be huge with some of the best drivers in the world fighting it out for the overall win. Every manufacturer would pour huge money into the activation as well as the competition because they would be able to fight for the overall win. That’s a big difference to just winning your class.

The costs would be much lower, because the development costs could be amortized over a period of years and recouped by selling customer cars to privateer teams that would compete with essentially the same cars as the factory teams. A GTE or Hypercar with those relatively minor modifications wouldn’t ever get anywhere near the cost of a hybrid prototype car. And you would just have to homologate a car that’s within reason. The homologated “Le Mans” version car would almost certainly sell out in advance so it would be a money-making operation for all the manufacturers.

How do you quantify prototypes today anyway? An LMP2 car today is so restricted that it’s a complete joke. You build these amazing cars and then you do everything you can to slow them down. Every car on the grid including the GT cars are currently so restricted that it makes no sense on any level. A GT car today, even a roadcar, is so much more advanced in every area compared to 15-20 years ago. So why go through all the trouble of restricting them when they can go as fast as a prototype did back then if they were unrestricted. This is the reason I am arguing that there is really no need for a prototype class anymore when we have these amazing GT cars on the market from virtually every sportscar manufacturer in the world. Ferrari, Porsche, Aston Martin, Ford, Lamborghini, BMW, Corvette etc would all be fielding factory teams and then sell the same car to the privateer teams.

The GT or Hypercar based formula will work great at Le Mans as long as they strictly enforce the rules. What always seems to happen is that there’s a set of rules that start out with good intentions. But then it doesn’t take long for manufacturers to find loopholes but instead of enforcing the rules they have or shutting down the loopholes immediately, the ACO and FIA let it carry on. Then when one manufacturer does something, everybody else has to do the same, and on and on it goes. After 3-4 years you can barely recognize the original car because everyone has been bending the rules and got away with it.

That’s always been the trend and it’s the same in F1. This is one thing I like about American racing, they don’t screw around. If NASCAR or Indycar sees someone pushing the envelope beyond the spirit of the rules, they shut it down immediately.

JT- Finally, we sadly found out today that Niki Lauda left us. I know you raced against him in F1 in your early years and towards the end of his F1 career. Did you get to know him at all during that period.

SJ- Yes, it’s very sad. He was an amazing guy, both as driver and a human being. He was probably the one driver I tried to model my early career around in many ways, because he was such a hard worker and thinker. He always had the ability to look at the bigger picture and figure out what he needed to do get the results in the end. What he did as a racing driver was absolutely amazing, his fightback from the accident, walking away from it all in the middle of a race literally and then come back a few years later and win another world championship is just incredible. And then all the success in his other life with the aviation business, a very special man indeed. His personality was fantastic, always straight to the point and a fantastic sense of humor. A very sad day for all of us in the racing community.

#99

#99

#SJblog 99

JT – The Rolex 24 at Daytona kicked off the 2019 season for many this year. The field was stacked with competitive cars, teams and star drivers from the DPi ranks down to the GTD cars. Just a few of the famous drivers racing included two-time F1 champion Fernando Alonso, five-time IndyCar Champion Scott Dixon, CART champion and F1 star Alex Zanardi, DTM champion Rene Rast, Rubens Barichello, Kamui Kobayashi, Helio Castroneves, Alexander Rossi, Juan Pablo Montoya, Simon Pagenaud, Sebastian Bourdais, Romain Dumas, Felipe Nasr, A.J. Allmendinger, Simona De Silvestro and Timo Bernhard with many more on hand.

Video via NBC Sports YouTube Page

In fact, with its early season date and the quality of competition (with very few gentleman drivers these days), it’s reasonable to argue that the 24 Hours of Daytona now boasts a higher level of driving talent than the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Do you agree?

SJ – Yes, you’re absolutely right. Because it takes place in January there is no conflict for any drivers apart from the one’s racing in Formula E, which means we get some really high quality drivers from every category of racing. Daytona is always a great way to start the season, because it’s a 24 hours race you get a lot of seat time and most of the time the conditions are far from ideal which means you have to improvise quite a lot both with the handling issues of the car and also with the constant traffic between faster and slower cars.

There’s a very good mixture of single-seater guys, NASCAR guys and sports car drivers. It’s a very strong field of drivers that’s for sure, and you often find yourself in a group of 3-4 great drivers duking it out over a double or triple stint. It’s a lot of fun and it really gets you in racing mode before the real season starts.

JT – The race itself was very interesting and very competitive throughout the field until rain began falling near 5 am. Ultimately, Fernando Alonso, Jordan Taylor, Renger Van Der Zande and Kamui Kobayashi won overall. That means that Alonso now adds the Rolex 24 to his two F1 championships and his Le Mans 24 win last year. Next up for him is the Indy 500 this year.

What did you think of Alonso’s drive and the competition overall?

Photos via @fernandoalo_oficial

Photos via @fernandoalo_oficial

Unfortunately, Scott, Ryan Briscoe and Richard Westbrook lost five laps in the No. 67 Ford GT due to early contact with the wall by Briscoe. But they rallied back to 4th place overall, just a lap behind the GTLM class-winning No. 25 BMW M8 GTE. It’s a shame the race had to end under red flag.

SJ – It was a pity the rain came, it really ruined what could have been an epic race, with great battles going on in all the different categories, but it was sort of an anti-climax at the end. Alonso had some fantastic stints and really put on a clinic at one point. Being the great racer that he is, he must have been loving it out there, actually racing hard against some of the other top guys in the prototypes. It was a tough one to swallow for Scott and the guys, fighting back from where they were laps down, had they stopped one lap later for what became the last stop in the race, they would have won. Scott had a couple similar monster stints as Alonso in the middle of the night where he was just flying.

JT – In pre-season F1 news, the Formula One Promoters Association (FOPA) recently complained that Liberty Media would significantly harm the series if it proceeds with a plan to move to more pay TV for coverage of the series globally. FOPA is concerned that such a shift will dramatically decrease the number of viewers of F1 on TV.

The group also protested an apparent deal between Liberty Media and the promoter of the upcoming F1 street race in Miami. The promoter was offered a profit share partnership rather than the more traditional model where races pay tens of millions of dollars for the right to hold the event. What are your thoughts?

SJ – I have to agree with the promoters. In terms of TV, this is a dilemma that started a while back. Now the promoters are starting to feel the crunch too but I think the teams have already felt that for some time.

It may be coincidental but since F1 started being televised on pay-TV (cable TV) rather than broadcast TV the eyeballs have dropped dramatically. So has sponsorship. What used to be a $100 million title sponsorship deal is now in the range of $15 million. It’s totally changed the dynamic because sponsorship is so much harder to come by. It has completely changed how revenue flows to the teams.

Every team, apart from the manufacturer teams, is now 100 percent dependent on Liberty Media or the series to fund the bulk of their programs. Sponsorship used to be what kept the teams going and whoever was willing to work a bit harder was able to find more money and hire the best people, etc. The money that came from Bernie [Ecclestone] at the time was the icing on the cake. That’s definitely not the case now.

A pay-wall might help the bottom line for Liberty Media short term but at the same time the whole eco-system of the series is shrinking. The more viewers you lose – at some point a line is crossed and that model can’t work, so unless they are able to find another method, whether that is through digital media or other forms of generating real interest and growth it will be problematic.

I never understood why Liberty made it public knowledge that they’ve offered Miami a race essentially for free? No wonder the promoters are frustrated. It’s inevitable that they’re now all asking “What about us? We’ve been paying you tens of millions per year to host a race with fees on top of that.” There is most likely more to this story than we know and we have to assume they are on top of this situation.

Personally, I am not convinced all the effort of cracking the US market is really worth it in the end, they have been trying for the best part of 40 years now and things have not changed a whole lot. To me it seems like a lot of heavy lifting to try and penetrate the cultural differences between US Sports and European or Global sports in general. Soccer, or football as it’s called in Europe is still minor compared to the NFL, NBA and Baseball for example. The US have always had their “own” sports that are equally minor in most other parts of the world.

JT – Looking ahead to the 2019 F1 season with rules changes going into effect what kind of impact do you think they can make?

SJ – Well, I think the 2019 aerodynamic rules which are aimed at supposedly helping more overtaking happen will make absolutely no difference – zero percent. All it’s doing really is costing the teams another 15 million Euros each to develop their new aero packages.

There was a recent article in Autosport with Nikolas Tombazis, the FIA’s aerodynamicist, where  he is attempting to explain why the FIA made this rule. And what they were trying to achieve.  I read first three paragraphs of it over and over again, and just glazed over in the end, it’s so complicated to even try to understand his explanation. I even talked to a former F1 technical director and designer and he said, “yeah I read the same thing and I didn’t understand a word of it.”

I think this sums up the current situation quite well, I am a huge fan and am trying to stay in tune with what is happening in the business from both a technical and business point of view, we have a highly qualified F1 designer and we both agree that it’s now gotten so complicated that it’s impossible to make any sense of any of it. If these are the guys making the rules, we’re in serious trouble. No one, excepts the boffins that wrote it, can understand the rulebook anymore.

JT – Since the announcement that Charles Leclerc would join Sebastian Vettel at Ferrari this season was made there has been speculation about how much Leclerc will push Vettel and whether that could destabilize Vettel or the team itself. What do you think?

Photos via @Charles_Leclerc

Photos via @Charles_Leclerc

SJ – I think he will push Vettel, there’s no doubt. The only thing that separates the really good drivers from the rest today is race-craft. Speed has little to do with it anymore because the way the cars are engineered, drivers are going to get to the limit of the cars pretty quick. I think Leclerc will be up to speed quickly, how he will go in the races we will have to wait and see. Every indication until now would say he will do a great job, but we won’t know until the pressure is on.

One would hope that Ferrari would stay away from politics and look at the bigger picture and what the best strategy would be to win the championship. Ferrari’s been known in the past to let emotion get in the way of an objective, balanced approach. Their best hope to win the title is still with Vettel, so I believe that’s where the emphasis will be.

Leclerc has had a full season now with Sauber (Alfa Romeo) so he’s not exactly a rookie. But I think race-craft will come into play at some point. It’s a similar situation to what Max Verstappen had coming into Red Bull. He was obviously mega-quick from the start but you didn’t really see the flaws until he got into a car that could actually win races.

When you throw away a race you could have won, it’s a different story than if you’re fighting for 6th or 7th place. So that will be different for Leclerc but I think his pace will spice things up a little bit. He’ll do well. He’s got good management with Nicolas Todt who knows the business very well and that will probably help him too initially.

JT – Of course, Leclerc’s signing last year isn’t the only development at Ferrari. Shortly after this year began it was announced that Maurizio Arrivabene would be replaced as team principal by Ferrari’s technical chief, Mattia Binotto. What do you think of Ferrari’s move to put Binotto in charge?

SJ – I don’t think it’s necessarily a good move. To put all of the responsibility on Binotto I don’t think is a good idea. He’s been the technical director and he’s obviously very good at that. Why would you distract him from doing what he’s good at? He’s too valuable as technical director in my opinion.

They had a car last year that was, at least for a while, the best car on the grid. Now Binotto is going to have to clutter his brain with all of the other nonsense, sitting in the FOM meetings, dealing with all of the politics and the daily dramas of running a top level F1 team. It’s a tough responsibility and a lot for one guy to handle.

JT – One of the most significant changes to the F1 grid for 2019 is the transition of Force India to “Racing Point F1 Team”. Canadian billionaire businessman Lawrence Stroll and a group of investors acquired the team last summer and are taking it into a new era with Sergio Perez returning as a driver alongside Stroll’s son Lance who moves from Williams to Racing Point. How do you think the re-made team will perform in 2019?

Image via: @thisisf1

Image via: @thisisf1

SJ – I think they will go very well. If they keep doing what they’ve been doing in recent years and just add the better resources and stability that Lawrence will bring, I think they’ll be very competitive. Lawrence is successful for a reason as he’s proven in all his other business endeavors. He hires good people and lets them get on with it – a bit like Flavio Briatore was when he ran Benetton and Renault. I think they’ll be very strong.

JT – How do you think Haas F1 will perform this season? Though they continue to receive criticism from other F1 teams for their mode of entry into the series as a client of Ferrari, they’ve been solidly in the mid-pack.

SJ – Haas hasn’t done anything that wasn’t in the rules. I’ve been advocating that path for years. That’s what I tried to do when I had a stab at creating a new Formula 1 team some years ago - the “B team” principle if you like. 

Why wouldn’t you do that if the rules allow it? I think it’s going in that direction across the board now anyway. Teams like Williams and McLaren will find it harder and harder to stay competitive being independent. When you look at the resources Mercedes and Ferrari have, not only do they have money, the best people and equipment, they now have two extra teams of cars running. That’s more data, more of everything at a time when testing is basically banned. They can utilize every possible opportunity they have to gather data.

I think Haas has the potential to improve but they’re dependent on what Ferrari gives them. If Ferrari’s good, particularly on the engine side, I’d say they’ll be good too. The engine is the big leap for Haas and for Sauber as well obviously. Last year Sauber all of a sudden leapt from the back to the front of the mid-pack.

JT – Sauber has been the stand-out of the F1 paddock since Alfa Romeo/FIAT took an interest in them and installed Frederic Vasseur as team principle. They also have Kimi Raikkonen driving for them this season alongside Antonio Giovinazzi. How do you think they will perform?

SJ – With Alfa Romeo now taking a bigger stake in the team I think they will be the favorite underdog now. Kimi has such an incredible following and his fans will be pumped up. And Vasseur is very good. He has a winning mentality and he knows the business inside and out. You can see that he has definitely lifted the whole team since he joined last season with his approach and discipline and how driven he is.

JT – Renault has also experienced significant change with Daniel Ricciardo having joined the team and the manufacturer having ended its relationship as engine supplier to Red Bull Racing. Now the team has one of the top drivers on the grid and can focus more on its own philosophy for engine development. Where do you think they will figure in the 2019 season?

Image via: @danielricciardo

Image via: @danielricciardo

SJ – I think if Renault is still committed to delivering the resources they’ve promised – and I think they are – they have a pretty good engineering group to rely on. The leadership of the team isn’t really F1 or racing people and that can lead to the wrong decision being made here or there. But I think they’ll be pretty strong.

JT – Further back on the grid are McLaren and Williams F1. McLaren made what some consider positive news with the hiring of Andreas Seidl, the ex-boss of Porsche in the WEC, as its new managing director. His arrival along with new drivers Carlos Sainz and rookie Lando Norris has created a small amount of momentum.

At Williams F1, the return of Robert Kubica to F1 alongside rookie George Russell is the main news. How do you think both teams will perform this year?

SJ – I think hiring Seidl is a very good move for McLaren. That should definitely help the whole program. But it will still take more time to rebuild everything there, even with Seidl coming aboard. An F1 team is like a big ocean-liner these days in terms of how long it takes to respond or change course. Once you make a policy decision or a philosophical decision on the design of a car it’s very hard to change direction. You kind of have to stick with what you’ve got which is what happened last year to McLaren with their aerodynamics. They discovered at some point early on that they went down the wrong avenue with aero and they were stuck.

Unfortunately, it’s hard to see Williams improving much. They made some poor decisions in previous years and I don’t think they have the resources or the budget to crawl out of the hole they are now in.

JT – Back at the front, Mercedes goes into 2019 with the same basic cast of people and will likely be strong again. Red Bull now has Max Verstappen as its clear number one driver with the departure of Ricciardo. They also have Honda stepping up, supplying them as well as Toro Rosso. How do you think these two will fare?

Image via: @lewishamilton

Image via: @lewishamilton

SJ – It will be the usual suspects up front, no question. Mercedes will be right there. Lewis is getting better and better every year and I don’t think he’s even close to his peak yet, which should be a huge concern to all the other teams and drivers. He’s the one driver who at the moment you can say with 100% certainty is really making the difference when it matters.  I think Red Bull, not necessarily this season but maybe by 2020, will be very strong. I’ve got a feeling as long as Honda is fully committed, and as I’ve been saying for three years now, they will eventually get it right. And when they get it right they will dominate.

With Red Bull it will only be a matter of time before they crack the code. I think we’ll see Red Bull, Honda and Verstappen totally dominating at some point in the next five years.

I think Verstappen really blossomed last year. He had a couple of bad races at the beginning of the season with some silly mistakes. But along the way it seems like something clicked and he’s now kind of figured it out. I think he’s at the point now where he can see the big picture. I think you’ll find that next to Lewis he’ll be the most complete driver among the guys out there. He’s going to be very hard to beat.

JT – In more refreshing racing news, IndyCar is looking stronger and stronger for 2019 and beyond. The series has signed a new title sponsor – Japanese tech firm NTT - continues its multi-year TV deal with NBC/NBC Sports which will now televise all IndyCar races including the Indy 500 and has gained a new presenting sponsor for the Indy 500 - insurance provider Gainbridge.

Logo via IndyCar

Logo via IndyCar

There’s talk of additional races with a return to Australia in 2020 and possibly Japan as well. Car count is up with grid numbers likely to be in the mid-20s. Ex-Formula One drivers and hot-shoes like Felix Rosenqvist are joining the series, and the level of competition should be higher than ever. What are your thoughts looking ahead to the 2019 season?

SJ – I’m excited about IndyCar. Jay Frye (IndyCar president) and his guys are doing a great job. They’re racers and they know the business inside and out. They’re pragmatic in their approach and I think the competition decisions that have been made have been great. It’s going from strength to strength.

And they’re doing it in increments. It’s not like knee-jerk wholesale changes. It’s just fine tuning it a little to make it better every year. I know they’ve also been trying hard to get a third manufacturer onboard. They’ve talked to everybody and I’m pretty confident that at some stage one of them will join, which would be great.

Amongst the top level racing series in the world, IndyCar is relatively affordable in the overall scheme of things and a very attractive proposition for any team or manufacturer to join. The support the manufacturers give definitely helps. If a third manufacturer joined in, then I think IndyCar would really take off. We are seeing more and more teams joining, and the grid is now limited by the engine supply more than anything. If there was a third engine manufacturer we would see even more teams joining.

We now also have two Swede’s in the series which is great for all the fans back home, I know both Felix and Markus are both fully committed to IndyCar and it will be exciting to see how they get on.

Image via @scottdixon9

Image via @scottdixon9

Scott in the meantime is quietly preparing to defend his title for the fifth time, and I fully expect him to come out just a little better than he was the previous year. He never stops to amaze me, the discipline and work ethic is incredible after so many years. He’s definitely one of the best in history in my opinion. The competition is getting stronger every year and he just keeps grinding away, racking up points and wins.

Make Racing Awesome Again!

Make Racing Awesome Again!

TABLE OF CONTENTS:

  • BACKGROUND

  • KEY AREAS OF IMPORTANCE 

  • ECONOMICS

    • BACKGROUND

    • COST CONTROL

  • STANDARDIZED PARTS

    • AERODYNAMICS

    • FRONT WING

    • BRAKES

    • MONOCOQUE

    • GEARBOX

    • FACTORY COMMUNICATIONS

    • F1 DNA

    • COST SAVINGS

    • REVENUES

  • COMPETITION

    • BACKGROUND

    • MASSIVE REDUCTION OF DOWNFORCE

    • FIXED MAXIMUM LEVEL OF DOWNFORCE       

    • DESIGN ELEMENTS                  

    • BIG INCREASE IN POWER         

    • NOISE                     

    • NEW FORMULA FOR SPEED       

    • WEIGHT REDUCTION                 

    • IMPROVE TIRES          

    • TIRE COMPETITION                

    • 18” RIMS                               

    • SUMMARY OF NEW FORMULA FOR SPEED          

    • 4 WAY MATRIX FOR PERFORMANCE                

    • ELECTRONICS             

    • GOVERNANCE              

    • RACE TRACKS                  

    • DRS VERSUS PUSH TO PASS (P2P)            

    • RACE FORMAT                

    • PITSTOPS                    

    • DRIVER PENALTIES                

    • ENGINE & GEARBOX PENALTIES           

  • ENTERTAINMENT            

    • DRIVER ACCESS              

    • LESS PREDICTABILITY        

    • THE AWESOME FACTOR        

    • BROADCAST GRAPHICS            

    • PRIZEMONEY         

  • RELEVANCE                   

    • BIG PICTURE                

    • F1 GLOBAL LEADER IN INNOVATIVE THINKING                  

    • ELIMINATE IMPORTANCE OF AERODYNAMICS     

  • OVERALL SUMMARY                

BACKGROUND

This document is an effort to offer my views on the current state of Motorsport, and Formula One in particular. For some time now, and for whatever reason, there seem to be a lot of negative comments and chatter from the people inside the business as well as from the fans all over the world.

Why is that? How did we arrive at this situation from a time not that long ago when things were seemingly mostly positive, viewership was huge, the cars were fast and spectacular to watch, we had some great personalities in the paddock, superstar drivers racing the cars and plenty of action and drama on the race track, both between the teams and the drivers. Money was flowing into the business and global corporate sponsors as well as manufacturers were all lining up to be part of the show. Teams were selling at a huge premium and everyone involved in the business was prospering.

Of course, there is not a simple answer to any of this. For sure, the majority of negative comments today is in part due to easy media accessibility for all, but it  seems to me there are real elements of concern in the sport and they have arisen from a gradual process of poor decisions. In some cases on the technical side, knee jerk decisions based on either a bad accident, complaints from the fans and media about the racing not being good enough; in other cases, based on pressure from certain teams or manufacturers in order to keep them in the championship; and finally, but very importantly, a level of political correctness has crept in that, at least in my opinion, has done nothing to make the racing any better on any level, but has instead only contributed to pushing the costs through the roof and created a greater division between the teams, and, as such, made the racing too predictable and less interesting to watch. As a result of all this, the technology has evolved to where we are today, and most importantly, was allowed to evolve to a point where the budgets suddenly went into the stratosphere.

At the same time, the business model for the commercial rights holders have changed dramatically since the introduction of pay-per-view instead of terrestrial TV, which means that there is (theoretically) more revenue, even if derived from significantly fewer viewers. The byproduct of this is that there is less interest for sponsors to spend big money as their metrics are primarily based on the number of eyeballs watching, and in particular, eyeballs in places where the demographics support purchase of the sponsors’ products – not all eyeballs are created equally in the minds of the sponsor – Unilever and Heineken differentiate between reaching eyeballs in Azerbaijan versus Germany and the US. In addition, there are now a number of different viewing platforms besides TV, which is causing even more confusion and a hard to quantify environment for companies to select the best strategy to market their products. The challenge the series and the teams are now facing is how to grow or even just maintain their eco-system.

So, as a result of there currently being a less attractive return-on-investment proposition for the global sponsor, we now have a situation where every team is more or less wholly dependent on the money they receive from the series, i.e. from the FOM, as this represents the bulk of their income. This was never the case before, when major sponsors were the main contributors and the money the teams received from the series was almost the icing on the cake, especially if they did well. Hence, there are now several teams racing without a main sponsor, or if they do have one, it’s for a fraction of what a title sponsor used to pay.

Through all these various rule changes that have occurred in recent years I have a feeling that Formula One has somehow lost its identity and I am not sure anyone, whether it’s the FIA or Liberty (FOM), really know what Formula One stands for anymore. I believe we are now at a point where another two or maybe three decisions in the wrong direction could spell the end of F1 as we know it. People are already tuning out because they have either lost interest or it’s too predictable or not exciting enough or whatever the reason may be. The younger generation doesn’t seem to care, F1 and motorsport in general is struggling to catch their attention. I challenge anyone to define in 3 words what F1 stands for today.

In order to arrive at a situation that has the right balance between ECONOMICS, COMPETITION, ENTERTAINMENT and RELEVANCE - it’s important to first identify the individual areas that matter the most and focus on getting these right and at the same time eliminate the areas that matters the least.

I will first attempt to identify the areas that I feel are important and will then go into more detail on each individual item and come up with what I believe could be a solution, or at least open the door for a debate or dialogue in order to find the best way forward.

ECONOMICS

BACKGROUND: There’s been talk for some time now about various ways to bring the costs down but no decisions have been made on how to achieve this.  In the meantime, the costs are gradually creeping up every year and it's now gotten to the point that even the world’s largest automotive manufacturers and the largest corporate sponsors are reluctant to compete in Formula One.  This being the case, the cost to compete is so high, so prohibitively expensive, that it serves as a barrier to those who would naturally be and traditionally have been involved in the sport.  It’s been clear to everyone for some time now that the costs are unsustainable under the current set of rules.

The major cost is in the constant development war, with the aerodynamics and the power units being the largest contributors of excessive expense for the teams and the engine manufacturers. Despite efforts to curb the costs through various sets of rules, such as limitations on the number of engines and gearboxes used in a season, all it seems to have done is the exact opposite and in fact driven the costs of producing these units much higher. The cost of manufacturing an already developed engine or gearbox is not that expensive in the overall scheme of things, but the cost of developing and manufacturing an engine that must last 1/3 of a season is extremely expensive and seemingly far outweighs the cost of using several engines during the course of the season

Adding the hybrid component to the powertrain has done more damage than all the other rule changes combined in my opinion. It seems that in order to meet the politically correct agenda that is now creeping in to every facet of life, it’s somehow been decided that this is the future of automotive engineering and needs to be part of Formula One as well. Pushed by the manufacturers (under the premise of wanting the formula to have relevance to the manufacturer’s production lineup) who put pressure on the FIA, Formula One had to follow, along with the WEC. Interestingly, both series are now completely controlled and dominated by the OEM’s and would not survive in their current formats without the money being poured in by the manufacturers competing. The privateer or independent teams are now just the clowns that make up the show in both series and have no realistic chance of ever winning a race. So, this means we are stuck with three teams in F1 and currently only one team in the WEC that have any chance of winning. This seems an incredibly high trade off just to be doing the politically correct thing. By introducing this rule and subsequently allowing the manufacturers to effectively take control of both series, it will take some major undoing to get things back on the right track again. What we have now is an engine formula that is turning manufacturers away rather than inviting them to join, which is a very dangerous path. As we all know from past experiences, it’s only a matter of a board decision for any manufacturer, except Ferrari, to stop any racing program if it doesn’t suit their purpose for whatever reason. None of them have any real emotional attachment to racing, which has been shown by Toyota, Honda and BMW who all pulled out of F1 within a few years of each other.

I strongly believe that the current concept of race car design needs a complete reset in almost every major category, but particularly in Formula One. There has been no real innovation since the discovery of aerodynamics. Every aspect of a current race car design always has the aero as the first priority, as this is what gives the most gain in lap-time by far. But as we all know, aside from making the car go faster, there are very few benefits from aerodynamics, if any. It’s the #1 factor in driving the costs higher, it’s the #1 factor in making the racing less interesting, it has no relevance aside from making the car go faster, yet it’s been the primary focus in every single form of racing the past 30 years or more. It’s time for a major reset. The cost of the development war is escalating every year and will continue to do so as long as aero is the prime factor in making the cars go faster.

Another contributing factor to the high cost is the fact that each team must build most components themselves rather than buying “off the shelf” components already manufactured and tested. A loose interpretation of the old “B” team concept (using the parts and resources from another team that is legally allowed) has slowly crept in with teams like HAAS, Sauber (Alfa Romeo), Toro Rosso and Force India to some degree. Under the current set of rules this is by far a much better approach rather than trying to design, manufacture, test and run every single component yourself. We can clearly see the result of this where HAAS and Sauber (Alfa Romeo) are now consistently the “best of the rest” teams.

The result of this is that the “A” teams are starting to gather more and more control of the teams they are supporting, including the choice of drivers in some cases. The concern the midfield teams have is that if we are not careful the entire grid will be controlled by the major manufacturers and it will turn into another version of the DTM where three or maybe four manufacturers control the entire field with satellite teams that are under their complete control.

There has been much discussion about a cost cap, and how to implement it. I don’t believe you can ever entirely control a fixed cost cap because teams will always find a way to circumvent a rule like that. The most effective way in my opinion is to limit the development in all the key areas on the cars that are irrelevant in the bigger picture. There are many areas or components on a car that I believe could be standardized and no one would even know or notice the difference. This would have the same or similar effect to the “B” team concept but it would be the same for everybody, and it would automatically level the playing field in the process. Some of these areas are:

 AERODYNAMICS:

  • Set a fixed limit on maximum downforce (more details to follow in the chapter of Competition). This will eliminate the massive spend on aero development that is currently by far the biggest line item in the budget.

  • No aero add-ons allowed on any surface parts of the car. This will still allow for each team to design a car that is unique looking and will have its own interpretation of the rules, but the emphasis will shift away from purely being made to optimize aerodynamic downforce, and instead shift to other areas that will be of equal importance.

By having a fixed limit on downforce, it will stop teams spending time and money on constantly finding different avenues on aero development in order to gain back the original loss. If the amount of downforce is always fixed, they will be forced to look in different areas to get more performance out of the car. This will drastically reduce the budgets as a large majority of the R&D budget is spent on the never ending aero development war.

FRONT WING: Provide a standard front wing issued by the FIA (no one can tell the difference anyway so it really wouldn’t matter). Even Adrian Newey agrees that if you painted all the wings white and put them next to each other no one would know what wing belong to what car. A large portion of the aero budget would go away if the front wings were fixed and the same for all the teams, supplied by one manufacturer chosen by the FIA. As there is no innovation involved in any aspect of this because of the way the rules are written, it is purely a matter of optimizing to the umpteenth degree. Whoever has the most resources will eventually gain an edge, and the money being spent on this entirely worthless endeavor is just mindboggling.

BRAKES: To put things in perspective, a top F1 team’s brake budget is nearly equivalent to a winning IndyCar full season budget. No one can see or relate to the insanely complicated brake ducting systems each team now must develop, all for nothing in the end. If they were all given the same brake system and brake ducts it would be the same for everyone and no one would even know. With the greatly reduced importance of downforce, it would make sense to go back to a simple brake system whose primary function is to stop the car, not to add more downforce or create more efficient aero.

MONOCOQUE: The FIA should produce a standard tub for all the teams to use that fits their safety criteria and that’s been crash tested by them. It’s a very expensive and unnecessary cost to have every team design, build and then crash test their monocoques before the start of each season. It would make much more sense for the teams to build their engine, cooling and aero package around a tub that is being provided by the FIA at a fixed and reasonable cost. It would save a huge amount of money and again no one would know the difference. Whatever creativity goes into the design of the tub would simply shift to a different area. It may not be the ideal solution for every team and engine manufacturer, but so what. The tub has little relevance apart from bolting the engine, suspension and all the aero bits onto it.

ELECTRONICS AND DRIVER CONTROLS: Implement standard electronics for all the teams. Eliminate most of the current adjustments on the steering wheel. Every button, dial and switch on the steering wheel ultimately leads to somewhere on the car, whether it’s the diff, engine, brakes, steering or whatever. Assume then that each one of these functions requires a significant number of people to design, develop, build, test and maintain for each system. Rinse and repeat every race. The sheer manpower required to develop and maintain all these functions is staggering, and in the end, every team must do the same in varying degrees, and all it does is eliminate more and more skill elements in the driver’s arsenal. This may be the most obvious area that needs to be addressed in order to make the racing a little less predictable and put the emphasis back on driver skills, and by doing so reduce the costs dramatically.

GEARBOX: The gearbox on a current F1 car is a work of art, the engineering is simply mindboggling and the size of some the components are so small they almost look like a Swiss watch in certain areas. Then bear in mind that each team must design, build and maintain these gearboxes. It would be very easy to have one independent manufacturer build the same gearbox for all the cars, no one would know or indeed care. We are already at the point now where the “B” teams are using the complete backend of the “A” team they are associated with. This includes the gearbox, differential, rear suspension and electronics. It would bring the costs down massively if everyone would just use the same gearbox, supplied by the FIA. It would also help level the playing field as this is one very costly component that has very little relevance to the overall importance of the package.

BAN ALL FORMS OF COMMUNICATION WITH THE FACTORY DURING RACE WEEKENDS: This is another area which is completely and utterly unnecessary. I have seen the set-up from one of the top teams first hand and although it’s incredibly impressive, it does absolutely nothing to add to overall package. Do we really need a team of 20-30 people at the base to assist the race team with set up and race strategy, including test drivers running intra-session set-up scenarios or overnight full-race simulations of various set-up alternatives? It’s just another added cost that one team started and then everyone else had to follow. Why they did not nip this in the bud immediately is beyond me. It’s only helping teams to optimize the set up and race strategy, and by doing so, taking another element of unpredictability away, again at a huge cost.

WILL THESE CHANGES MAKE F1 LOOSE IT’S ORIGINAL DNA? F1 lost its original DNA a long time ago as far as I’m concerned. The original rule which was kind of the foundation of F1 and what made it different from almost every other category in racing was that “every team had to manufacture their own cars.” The argument from the purists is that if we allow standard parts F1 will just become another form of IndyCar, where all the teams use the same chassis. If we are brutally honest, F1 is already at that point more or less due to the incredibly strict rules every team have to operate under. There is little room for innovation in any area under the current rules, so every team basically ends up doing the same thing, instead of just using a number of items that are supplied directly from the FIA at a fraction of the cost of having to manufacture every component themselves.

COST SAVINGS: A very rough ballpark estimate of the potential savings from the suggested changes above would be somewhere in the region of $80-100M/year maybe a lot more than that for the top teams as their development would effectively stop in many areas. The breakdown would look something like this:

  • BRAKES:                                  $5-7M

  • AERO DEVELOPMENT:     $30-40M

  • MONOCOQUE:                       $3-5M

  • FIXED FRONT WING:         $10-15M

  • GEARBOX:                              $10-15M

  • ELECTRONICS:                     $5-7M

  • POWER UNIT:                       $20-30M

I’m not sure how many jobs these changes would eliminate, but it would be more than a few. Payroll is always one of the highest line items in the budgets. I understand and I am sympathetic that there will be many jobs lost due to these changes but like in any business, sometimes you need to change to make things work. Car manufacturers are not afraid to shut down entire factories, with tens of thousands of jobs lost, if it doesn’t fit whatever decisions they make at the time. Just because the teams have themselves gradually created a monster, in large part thanks to the manufacturers pouring crazy money into the series, and the governing body not recognizing this until it was too late to stop it, they are now faced with how to fix all this in order to ensure their long-term survival.

REVENUE FLOW: The total payout from Liberty (FOM) to the teams over the past 3 years is averaging around $950M/year. This is then distributed through a complex formula among all the competing teams with a very complicated set of rules based on different tiers and how long each team has been competing, the importance of each team, and not insignificantly, what deal each team was able to cut with the old F1 owners when they needed some sort of concession.   As things stand today, the FOM payout is heavily biased towards the top teams. Hardly any fans or followers of the sport are aware of how this works except the die-hard fans. It would be much fairer and also more interesting to the fans if a payout system was used that started with a fixed amount for each team. The total amount could be $500m ($50m/team). The remaining funds would be the official prize money paid out based on performance in each race, so a rough total of $450/year paid out over 21races. These number should be official, transparent and the same for each race. If the winner of each race, for arguments sake, get $5M, then there would be something to talk about. Money talks and people are intrigued about it, it’s human nature and the way we are programmed. Why keep one of the key talking points for people a secret when it’s already one of the highest payouts in sport and would create some excitement and intrigue among the fans. If we use a very simple formula that everyone can understand based on $200,000/point scored, the total payout for 2018 would look like this:

  • Mercedes         655 points X  $200,000             $131M+50M            TOTAL $181.0M

  • Ferrari             571                                              114M+50M                 164.0M

  • Red Bull           419                                             83.6M+50M               136.6M

  • Renault            122                                             24.4M+50M                84.4M

  • HAAS               93                                             18.6M+50M                  68.6M

  • McLaren          62                                             12.4M+50M                  62.4M

  • Force India      52                                             10.4M+50M                  60.4M

  • Sauber              48                                               9.6M+50M                    59.6M

  • Toro Rosso      33                                                6.6M+50M                    56.6M

  • Williams              7                                                1.4M+50M                    51.4M

TOTAL                                                                                                    $925M

 

In addition, there could be a $25m bonus for winning the championship, bringing the total payout to $950M.

With the proposed technical rule changes, there will be sufficient income for every team to operate and be fiscally sound. If they then wish to improve their competitiveness it is up to each team how hard they are willing to work to find more sponsors, hire better drivers and personnel – and there will still be a level of skill placed on spending money efficiently on the right things to bring the success each team aims for – whether it be winning the championship or having the nicest hospitality unit.

COMPETITION

BACKGROUND: What I am proposing below are very radical changes that will require a complete reset philosophically on every level of how we go racing. Over time, the focus on downforce and aerodynamics have completely taken over every other aspect of racing to the point where it affects not only the car design (that only keeps growing each year on a massive scale), but also how every new race track is designed. Sadly, the end result is that the racing is getting more boring, with less passing as each year goes by, to the point where we instead have to come up with band-aid solutions to try and spice up the show by implementing artificial ways to pass such as the DRS device, and forcing the tire manufacturer to essentially produce a inferior product to make the racing a little less predictable. As we know, none of this has worked out very well. In addition, over time there’s always been attempts at slowing the cars down either by reducing the horsepower and at one point they even went down the road of introducing treaded tires. Yet at no time has there even been a decision to stop the focus on aero development, except for tiny isolated solutions that have been minimally effective and only added to the overall cost each iteration of change.

Learning from other racing series can be extremely instructive as the same physics apply universally. IndyCar and NASCAR have in the past gone in the wrong direction by increasing aero grip, only to find out it was a huge, expensive mistake, and in each case backtracked to a less aero dependent package. If we count how many times there’s been small changes to the aero rules to slow the cars down, or speed them up, or help the overtaking, or whatever the reason was each time, and then count the amount of money that was spent by each team, it’s staggering. A perfect example is the 2019 rules, expected to cost each team an additional €15M and they likely won’t make any difference whatsoever. Yet, not once has the problem been fixed, maybe masked it slightly for half a season before the teams catch up to where they were before. At some point the penny has to drop!

MASSIVE REDUCTION IN DOWNFORCE. REDUCE DOWNFORCE TO A LEVEL OF DRIVABILITY, BUT NOT MORE: (70% or more with most cars) Obviously, the cars should always be safe to drive  and this will not be a problem. But beyond that, they should always be balanced on the edge of adhesion in both low and high-speed corners. By doing this there will be more emphasis on the drivers requiring the use of delicate car control and, in some corners, bravery will again make the difference. The engineering focus will shift more towards mechanical grip – to the vehicle dynamics and tire performance to get back the lost grip from the limited aero downforce. The cars will be much more difficult to drive which will force teams to hire the best drivers available. Many of the great traditional tracks that have been outgrown by the current cars and become boring due to the massive downforce will again become interesting both from the driver’s and the spectators’ point of view. Someone recently suggested a drop of 40-50% downforce but I don’t think it’s enough to make the cars lose their aero sensitivity enough to be able to follow another car closely. The current F1 cars have such a huge amount of downforce that I believe a minimum 70% drop is required to reach the right target where the cars won’t be fully dependent on aero for performance. The Turbo cars of the 80’s had roughly 70% less downforce than the current cars, and they were already on the limit for being aero sensitive when you followed another car. With the current knowledge and technology, I think a lot of the sensitivity can be eliminated compared to back then, but it’s a good indicator. And no one at the time considered those cars to be undrivable because they had too little downforce and too much power, we just wanted more, as you always do as a driver. But one thing was for certain, the cars were awesome to drive.

IMPLEMENT A FIXED MAXIMUM LEVEL OF DOWNFORCE: In order to eliminate and enforce the overwhelming importance of aerodynamics on any current car design, there should be a fixed maximum level of downforce. This can be monitored real time from the strain gauges off the suspension pushrods. It will be no different than checking the engine parameters to make sure they are always within the legal parameters or the tire pressures or any of the other multitude of parameters that are currently monitored in real time. It will feed straight into the ECU along with all the other data being collected from the car while running. So, for example, if there are spikes on the boost level for more than a certain time, or the fuel flow, there will be a penalty, or perhaps the car will be disqualified. The same thing would apply to downforce levels. We have fixed limits on almost every other aspect on the cars today, so why not also on downforce. There are several different methods that can be applied on how to control this so there will be no room for interpretation or ways to cheat the system by the teams. It could either be controlled by a form of an active ride system, that would alter the ride height by small increments in microseconds once the maximum level is reached. The active ride system was already quite well developed in the early 90’s, so with the current technology available, it would be a relatively easy system to implement. It could also be controlled from the front and rear wings or the rear diffuser, all with microsecond adjustments so the car would be safe to drive at all times. Once the research on how to best achieve a consistent and safe way to control this is under way, the right answer will be found very quickly. The FIA will then issue and manage the same system for each team.

 SORT OUT THE DESIGN ELEMENTS SO THE CARS WILL LOOK ATTRACTIVE, AGGRESSIVE AND FAST: By implementing the rule on maximum downforce the current hideous front wings will be eliminated automatically and if the rule of standardized parts will be implemented there will be one front wing design for all the teams to use. No add on aero bits will be allowed on any of the car’s surfaces. Any aero development will be more focused on drag and aero efficiency, which will then also translate to road relevance eventually. As a result of this we will hopefully find a number of interesting and visually appealing solutions.

INCREASE POWER BY 30-40%, WITH A FORMULA BASED ON THERMAL EFFICIENCY AND ENERGY CONSUMPTION. ALLOW MORE FREEDOM TO EXPLORE NEW TECHNOLOGIES BASED ON THIS FORMULA: Create a formula based on thermal efficiency and energy consumption that will have a maximum limit on how much energy a car can use for the duration of a Grand Prix. This will allow and hopefully encourage manufacturers to develop new technologies that is not restricted to the hybrid/internal combustion engine concept only, which is now the only option allowed. Everyone with even a basic interest in engineering knows that there are a number of far more interesting alternatives on engine technology than the electric/hybrid version that is currently the only option. This would truly open the door for F1 to genuinely be at the cutting edge of technology instead of constantly fine tuning a politically correct concept at a cost that is astronomical to everyone involved. Set a target of around 300-400HP increase in power as long as it can meet the energy consumption criteria, which will offset about 30% of the loss in lap-time from the reduction of downforce. By using this formula, it will eventually become apparent what energy source is actually the most environmentally friendly and efficient from a performance point of view. The immediate response I get when I mention this idea to anyone is that the manufacturers will never accept it and will leave instantly. If this is the case, F1 is doomed anyway. If there is one thing that is historically consistent in any form of motorsport, it’s when the manufacturers end up controlling a championship, they will eventually screw it up or simply pull out when it doesn’t suit their purpose any longer. Sometimes they then come back again when they’ve had a rethink (Honda most recent example), but there is zero loyalty or emotional engagement to the sport - for them it’s purely business. If the current manufacturers don’t like the idea for whatever reason, I am certain that there will be other manufacturers that would look at F1 very seriously if it had a more sensible set of rules that would allow for more innovation and had a lower barrier of entry than the current rules provide. Interestingly, there is not one senior executive from any car manufacturer that I have spoken to that is in favor of the electric concept, they all feel this is a political agenda that’s been forced upon them.

NOISE: If the rules are open for different alternatives on engine technology, we will again get back the engine noise as a factor in the overall experience. Fans can hear the difference between the different engine concepts and there will be very noisy engines and some that are not, but there will be something for everyone to relate to and talk about.

MORE POWER-HIGHER TOP SPEEDS-LESS DOWNFORCE-LONGER BRAKING DISTANCE-SLOWER CORNERING SPEEDS-MORE OVERTAKING. With the massive reduction in downforce and a significant increase in horsepower we will see a huge increase in top speed, and as a result, much longer braking distances. This should radically improve the opportunities of overtaking as the entry and mid-corner speeds will be significantly lower, which will again require the drivers to slow the cars down much earlier and a lot more before they turn in to the corners. The target should be somewhere close to 400kph in top speed, it will be super exciting to watch and it will definitely give people something to talk about. It’s hard for people to relate today when there are road cars with higher top speed and more horsepower than a Formula One car, no one cares or can appreciate that the F1cars are insanely fast in the slow and medium corners. We were close to the 400kph in some cases in the 80’s with the turbo cars, at tracks that were infinitely more dangerous than any of the tracks are today, yet there were hardly ever any incidents except when a freak accident of some sort occurred, when something broke on the car for example. We need to get the “AWESOME” factor back somehow. With the added horsepower and less downforce the cars will become beasts to drive and you will see the drivers really wrestling with the cars on exit and entry to the corners. I can guarantee that Lewis, Seb, Daniel, Max and all the rest of the top guys will love every moment of it, and it will automatically weed out the average guys as the teams will be forced to hire the best drivers they can.

WEIGHT REDUCTION: Put more emphasis on weight reduction. With all the focus on the current electric vehicles being the future of not only motor racing but also road cars, the weight of all these cars has increased dramatically, due to the weight of the batteries and the systems to run them. A current F1 car is now 50% heavier than they used to be. At one point the weight limit was 500kg. As an example, 30kg equates to roughly 1 second in lap-time on an average lap of 1m30s. If there was an emphasis on weight reduction as well as an option on engine technology, based on my idea of a fixed amount of energy over the duration of a race distance, there would be some very interesting alternatives surfacing very quickly. And if a good portion of the money currently being spent on the endless and worthless aero development would instead be spent on material technologies and more efficient engine technologies, we would very soon find some very exciting alternatives that would eventually filter down to road relevance. Imagine if every car on the road weighed 30-40% less than the weight of a current car, how much would that save in fuel consumption and subsequently in emissions each year on a global scale? The results would be massive! It seems strange to me that all focus is on electrification when the gains from light weight cars would most likely outweigh the benefits from all electric vehicles, yet there seems to be almost no effort in this area. Road cars today are essentially made of the same materials they were in the early 1900’s, surely with some effort there has to be a lighter, safer and cheaper alternative. There are already materials in existence, both alloys and composite materials that could be implemented, and if there was more focus in this area it would not be long before we would see some incredibly light and strong materials surface that would also eventually be cost effective enough to use for production vehicles. I refuse to believe there are no better alternatives than what is currently being used.

TIRES: IMPROVE TIRE TECHNOLOGY, WIDER TIRES AND BIGGER DIAMETER. Another by-product of the high downforce cars is the current generation of tires. For years, Pirelli has been forced to make a tire that is purposefully poor in performance just to slow the cars down or “make the racing more interesting” since it’s nearly impossible to pass when you follow another car due to the turbulence and the highly sensitive aero on today’s cars. None of this has worked out very well as we can witness every weekend watching any form of racing with aero-dependent cars. In order to offset the reduction in down force, the tires could very easily be made to have significantly more grip and durability. It’s almost comical that every weekend teams at the highest level get caught out with the tires not working at their optimal level. Teams spend $100’s of millions on aero development and engine development, yet on the day, they lose races because the tire pressures were off or the temps didn’t come up their optimal working range, or the front’s didn’t heat up as quick as the rears or whatever. Literally, most races are won or lost depending on how the teams make their tires work. So why isn’t there more focus on the tires in the overall performance of the car from the outset? There are chassis and engine manufacturers competing fiercely against each other, why not allow the tire manufacturers to do the same. Aside from the driver, there are three things that make a car go fast or slow:  engine, chassis and the tires. And the tires are at least equally important to the overall performance of the car as the chassis or the engine. If they would open up the rules and allow more than one tire manufacturer, we would very quickly see a dramatic increase in speed and lap times. This would also be by far the easiest and also cheapest way for the teams to get better performance as the tire companies would pour money into development and marketing. Tires have always and will always be the cheapest and easiest way to get more performance out of a race car. Like I already mentioned, teams spend millions in almost every category of racing on aero, chassis and engine development to gain an extra second in lap-times, yet you can bolt on a set of tires that cost $3,000 and gain far more than that by just having a different compound or construction in the tire. Tires are by a huge margin the cheapest way to gain performance.

ALLOW MORE THAN ONE TIRE MANUFACTURER TO COMPETE: There are at least four tire companies I can think of today that would look at F1 very seriously if the rules were changed to reflect a more modern style tire. Each of these companies is already spending considerable amounts of money in other forms of motorsport, both on development and team support. If they were to engage in F1, we would see benefits not only on the competition side, but also in marketing and development as they would all spend significant money to promote their products through F1. This would help the series, the teams and the entire eco-system would grow accordingly.

18” RIMS TO CORRELATE TO ROAD CAR TECHNOLOGY: All other forms of racing except F1 have by now adapted to the more modern, low-profile size of tire versus the mandated 13” rim that has been part of F1 for nearly 50yrs. F1 has been slow to adapt as it would interfere to much with the current aero packages, and as it’s the engineers that now write the rules, this idea has been shut down every time it arises. If there’s a wholesale rule change on aero reduction, this would be the perfect time to switch to the bigger diameter wheel and tire to make the tires more relevant to tire manufacturers high-performance road tire production, make the cars look more relevant to current road car design, and it will make the cars look far better from a pure aesthetic point of view rather than the image created by these silly looking little balloon tires they are currently running on. If F1 claim that they are on the cutting edge of technology and that it’s important to have some level of road relevance, you’d think one of the first things they would move away from are tires that have not been seen on any road car since the late 70’s!

SUMMARY OF PROPOSED CHANGES: To summarize these changes and how they will relate in overall performance, I’ve provided a “ball-park” guess at the loss or gain from the different changes based on an average lap of 1m 30seconds:

  • REDUCE DOWNFORCE BY 70%:                                 +10-15 sec.

  • WIDER, TALLER AND IMPROVED TIRES:                   - 3-5 sec.

  • INCREASE HORSEPOWER BY 300-400HP:                 - 3-5 sec.

  • REDUCE WEIGHT by 150-200Kilo :                              - 3-5 sec.

Again, this is a ball park guess without having done any significant research but based on my own experience and discussions with other drivers, engineers and designer. But it’s clear that we will be very close to the current lap times quite quickly, but it will be achieved in a completely different way. Hopefully in a way that will bring back the AWESOME FACTOR to F1, with a visually fast looking car that the drivers will have to really fight with in order to get the most out of them. The spectators will be able to see the drivers working hard with the cars moving around a lot more.

 

4 WAY MATRIX consisting of CHASSIS / POWER UNIT / TIRES / DRIVER:

Based on the ideas I’ve presented above, when the new rules are being created, there should always be a focus on what I refer to as a 4-way matrix mentioned above. The rules should always strive for each of the four elements to have an equal importance in the performance of the car. This will also help spread the load of development costs between the teams, engine manufacturers, the tire companies and it will help promote the best drivers to graduate to F1.

 

REDUCE THE IMPORTANCE OF ELECTRONICS: By eliminating all the electronic aids the drivers currently use, except the ones absolutely necessary to operate the car, the emphasis will shift back more towards car control instead of the engineer’s optimizing the car’s performance by studying the data to see where the drivers need less or more support in certain areas, with the help of a multitude of settings all controlled via the electronics on the cars. One of the Technical Directors was quoted recently saying, “We need to throw some things in there to make the racing more unpredictable”. If we instead threw a bunch of things away, we would get to that point a lot faster, and save a lot of money in the process. The electronic driver aids would be a good starting point of that. This is a perfect example of poor governance, that could and should have been stopped immediately when this trend started and has subsequently gotten completely out of hand.



GOVERNANCE: ELIMINATE THE DESIGNERS AND ENGINEERS IN THE RULE MAKING PROCESS AND SIMPLIFY THE RULES: Since the rule making process became a democracy of sorts, which allowed all the teams to have a say through the introduction of the “Technical Working Group” we have seen a progressive decline in the overall quality of the racing. The rules have become more and more complicated each year to the point where the team principals no longer bother to even try to understand them. They simply leave it to their technical team to make the decisions – the 2019 aero rules are a perfect example of this. We have yet another new rule on the aero, apparently to make overtaking easier. This rule will make absolutely zero difference and will only add tens of millions of expense to the already stretched budgets for most of the teams. The engineers are all great and highly intelligent people,  and it’s great working with them and talking to them, but they only have one thing in mind which is to make the cars go as fast as they can. It’s very difficult for them to see the bigger picture of what is required to make all the elements of the package work. I think it’s actually irresponsible of the team principals and the FIA to allow this to have happened in the first place, bearing in mind that the car rules are by far the most important element to make the business model work. The engineers are there to make a car go as fast as possible within a set of rules handed to them. Now we instead have this bizarre situation where the inmates are running the asylum – what could possibly go wrong! Allow the engineers to do what they are good at and leave the governance to people that know what they’re doing. It’s evident that the democratic approach is not working. The teams can’t agree on anything most of the time, and, as such, we always will end up with some form of a compromise that will in the end make no difference, or at best, very little. Instead, it should be governed by putting together an unbiased and well-rounded group of independent people that understand the business from a competition, technical as well as a practical and economic point of view - people who can see in advance when things are heading in the wrong direction before they do, and then act forcefully before it’s too late to course correct. Make a set of rules that are challenging and exciting for manufacturers and private teams alike, and make them fair and equal and, most of all, easy to understand for both teams and the fans.

 

MODIFY THE RACE TRACKS TO MAKE THEM MORE DIFFICULT AND MORE INTERESTING TO WATCH: Virtually every race track today is either designed or modified to suit the current type of high downforce cars. As such, we end up with tracks that are full of low and medium speed corners, 1st gear hairpins, and boring chicanes. These types of corners are not very interesting either for the drivers or the spectators, but are merely there in order to slow the cars down. Chicanes should be banned as far as I’m concerned, and for a track designer to put one in when they have a clean sheet of paper is beyond me. Abu Dhabi is a perfect example, they could have done pretty much anything they wanted with a budget that was through the roof, and we end up with arguably the most boring race track ever made. If the downforce is reduced significantly, many of these tracks can be modified, or in the case of some of the older tracks, put back to their original design as the cornering speeds will again be much lower. Brake distances will be longer and with run off areas now much bigger than they were when they changed them in the first place, they will be much safer. The fans will love watching the drivers balancing the cars on the limit rather than perfecting the art of jumping a kerb in a low speed chicane which is currently the case and where you gain the most time in a modern car. Although the runoff areas are there for a reason, it’s important to find a method to “punish” a driver if he goes over the limit, something that will significantly slow him down to the point where there will be an automatic loss of time that far outweighs the potential gain of trying too hard and going over the limit. As it is today, every driver can find the limit on most tracks within the first 5 laps as there is no real penalty for going too fast and all you have to do is peg it back slightly the following lap. Interestingly, there are no more incidents on the street circuit where there are often no run off areas at all, which goes to show that drivers will be more disciplined when they have to be.

 

REPLACE DRS WITH PUSH TO PASS (P2P): The introduction of the DRS system was a typical knee jerk reaction based on the fact that there were too many complaints that the racing was getting too boring and there was not enough overtaking. Although it has certainly helped the overtaking, it is of no interest as the driver in front is nothing more than a sitting duck, and there is no skill or strategy involved as you can use it as many times as you like during the course of the race. The Push to Pass system that is being used in IndyCar, for example, is far more interesting in that each driver is given a certain number of seconds per race where they can use the P2P, it is then up to the driver to distribute this to his best ability for the duration of the race. For example, if he’s too aggressive in the beginning of the race and he’s run out of seconds he’ll be in trouble at the end of the race if there is a restart or a dice for position with another driver who still has enough P2P time left in the bank to attack. The time consumed could be displayed on the TV monitors so the fans can see what each driver has consumed. It adds another element of intrigue both on the track and for the commentators to discuss during the broadcast. Depending on what engine concept is used, a percentage performance gain could be used to achieve the same result.

 

RACE FORMAT: The current race format is working quite well, it has a good balance of speed and endurance for both drivers and cars. By reducing the downforce significantly, the importance of gaining positions in the first couple of laps will become less important and we will see a more balanced approach from the drivers of where and when they decide to attack in the races, rather than risking everything in the start as they know that’s pretty much their only chance to overtake the way the current cars work. Allow teams to run the full distance if they wish to gamble on tire strategy, no mandatory pitstops. Race tactics will become more important, with more options on fuel strategy, tire wear and overall speed of the cars as the race progress. With the new rules drivers should be able to attack at full speed for the duration of the race, with enough energy and tires to race hard from start to finish.



LONGER PITSTOPS / 1 PERSON PER WHEEL: Although it’s fascinating to watch the coordinated ballet of 16 people during an F1 pitstop, once you’ve seen it a couple of times it’s all the same as far as I’m concerned. It doesn’t bring any further elements that add to the show. In fact, because the pitstop is so fast, it makes the overall race strategy more predictable than if you had a longer stop. If you only have one person on each corner, it will make the time of the stop about 5-7 seconds longer than the current 2-4 second stops. This will alter the strategy calls and we will most likely see some drivers choosing to stay out and others going all out risking the extra time the pitstop will take. Tire strategy will become more important and as such add an extra element of unpredictability.

 

FEWER INVESTIGATIONS AND PENALTIES: Eliminate the endless investigations and penalties for every little incident that occurs during the races. By using a random group of former drivers as Race Stewards, we are only causing confusion as each one of them have their own views of what is acceptable or not. If these things have to be policed based on a subjective viewpoint, it’s critical that the decision is made by the same person or team of people every time, otherwise it’s inevitable that there will be inconsistency. We need one person with great experience and is somewhat current, that is respected by everyone, to be appointed Chief Steward and attend all the races. This way, there will be consistency and all the drivers will eventually know what they can and can’t get away with. This person needs to be extremely tough and firm at all times. Because as we know, each generation have at least one driver who is pushing the envelope to the absolute limit to what they can get away with. They’re always in trouble with the stewards and historically these guys have such a strong conviction that they’ve never done anything wrong, that they are able to gradually wear the stewards down and often get away with stuff they shouldn’t. As it is, we currently get some very odd penalties and decisions depending on who is stewarding each particular race. Again, a lot of this is an unfortunate side effect of trying to sanitize the tracks to a point where there is no longer any punishment for going over the limit.

 

NO PENALTIES FOR ENGINE AND GEARBOX CHANGES: Can anyone even remember the original purpose why this rule was implemented? I think it was in the interest of cost reduction that it was decided that teams would only be allowed a maximum of 3 engines per season and the gearbox had to run at least 5 consecutive races before it could be replaced. It is clearly evident that this rule has had the exact opposite effect and have made the costs spiral even higher. By implementing a Draconian set of rules that are being enforced in an equally Draconian manner, the manufacturers are being forced to develop and build engines that are infinitely more expensive to produce than it would be by simply allowing a sensible number of engines and gearboxes over the course of the season. Every team and manufacturer is struggling to meet the strict criteria of making both the engines and gearboxes last, and by enforcing the rule as strictly as they do, the competition and subsequently the entertainment side have become a complete farce in many instances. The constant grid penalties are ruining the races and the competition is becoming a joke when a driver starts a race from last on the grid with 50 or more grid penalties. The team’s (rational) behavior of strategically taking penalties in order to position themselves for a better future race leads to even more confusion amongst fans and adds nothing to the racing. As always, the best way to reduce the costs in the long run is by having rules stability, the constant tinkering with the rules are just driving the costs higher every time, and the top teams with big budgets will always gain more from these rules changes as it’s the R&D that drive the costs through the roof, not the manufacturing of parts. 

ENTERTAINMENT

 

MAKE THE DRIVERS MORE ACCESSIBLE: The drivers are the stars and they will always be more important to the fans than the cars or the teams. Every series other than F1 have some form of planned fan engagement either the day before the race weekend starts or for an hour at some point during the race weekends. Make it compulsory for each driver to do a certain number of days as part of the super license. It’s a pain for the drivers but in the long run it will benefit everybody. Make it mandatory for the promoters, broadcaster and drivers to provide X hours of promotional appearances prior to each race in each country.  By forcing / helping each promoter to better promote the races, each driver will be helping themselves by building a better audience and a more valuable ecosystem.  Cross promote the drivers in other forms of entertainment in order to gain a larger following and new demographics.

 

MAKE THE RACING LESS PREDICTABLE: By implementing some of the rule changes I have already mentioned in the chapter on Competition, the racing will become less predictable without the use of any artificial devices such as the DRS. The combination of less aero, more power, less forgiving tracks, less driver aids and longer pit-stops will all contribute to more human errors and will not only make the racing a lot more interesting to watch but it will also sort out the good from the average. By definition, the more well engineered a car is, the less chance of something unpredictable to happen as it makes the life of the driver much easier. By eliminating some of the electronic aids and making the cars have significantly less downforce, this will automatically help making the races less predictable. By enforcing the track limits there will be more occasions for drivers to make a small mistake which is often all a following driver needs in order to make a move that would otherwise be impossible. The reduction in downforce will help the car following to stay much closer to the car in front, and as such he will be able to get a run on the car in front on the exit of a corner without having to rely on DRS to pass on the following straight. It's no coincidence that some of the best races we’ve had in recent years have come when there have been changing conditions, usually unexpected weather, thus making it difficult for the engineers to model the race strategy to the nth degree in their race simulations. We won’t be stuck with “he’s now in the DRS zone” or “will he do an undercut or an overcut” which it is pretty much what it’s reduced to at the moment.

 

BRING BACK THE “AWESOME” FACTOR: F1 should be defined by one word, AWESOME! With these proposed rule changes, we will arrive at a point where we will again have some beautiful and spectacular looking cars that will also sound great. Make bravery one of the tools that count in a driver’s arsenal, and allow the drivers who are willing to stick their neck out to gain a couple of extra tenths in a high-speed corner do so, and let the fans enjoy that show! The massive reduction in downforce will visibly show the car control of the drivers as opposed to the current cars which are on “rails” all the time. We will have talking points like “top speed around 400kph” and “1,300-1,400HP” Power Units, which to anyone is AWESOME and it will get people’s attention. It’s difficult to explain that F1 is the ultimate in motorsport when we have a number or regular road cars today with similar power and top speeds. How do you explain why F1 is the ultimate when you can buy a Jeep Truck with 800HP for less than $100,000. “Well, the F1 cars have a huge amount of downforce which means they are really fast in the slow and medium speed corners…and because they are so fast in these corners they have had to reduce the power in order to slow them down. And because the cars have so much downforce it’s made it very difficult to follow another car which makes overtaking really difficult, so to fix that we came up with this idea called DRS. This is a really clever device that that the engineers who design these cars came up with, that the driver following another car can use when he wants to overtake the car in front. There is nothing the driver in front can do at that point to defend himself, but it’s supposed to spice up the show.”  Not a great or easy explanation for someone who is trying to understand the sport. Anytime you have to explain why something is great you’re already in trouble, this is why we need to simplify everything so that anyone can immediately see and understand that this is really AWESOME!

How simple would it instead be to use the formula of “Less Aero/Lower Cornering speeds/More Horsepower/More Acceleration/Higher Top-speeds/Longer Braking distance/ More Passing/More Visible Car Control”? No one understands or can appreciate downforce, you can tell them the cars produce 5,000KG of downforce or 50KG, most people wouldn’t know the difference between that and a bar of soap. But everyone understands 1,400HP and 400KPH top speeds, everyone is immediately impressed by that!

 

IMPROVE THE BROADCAST AND THE GRAPHICS:  I find it very difficult to follow any race and fully understand the dynamics of what is happening especially once the pitstops have started. The graphics and the information you get is very limited and quite poorly presented. It has gotten better this last year (at least in the U.S. now that we see the Sky broadcast) but there is still a massive amount more that could be done to keep the viewers better informed of what is going on. I don’t think you can have too much info or data displayed, anything that will keep the viewer better informed is a plus. The teams already look at a lot of interesting data so a lot of the information is there and just needs to be presented to the audience so they can better understand what’s transpiring. With the emerging Drone technology it would be possible to show a completely different view of the cars and how a battle between different cars transpire that will add a whole new element. I’ve seen some prototype footage of this already done at some minor events, and it’s a completely different experience than with fixed cameras. This is one area that I believe could really be a game changer for the viewing experience.

 

CREATE A HUGE PRIZEMONEY FUND FOR EACH RACE THAT IS TRANSPARENT AND OFFICIAL: As I have already outlined earlier in this article, allocate a large portion (30-40%) of the total pool of funds from FOM as prizemoney rather than a guaranteed amount before each season starts. This a common management tool to align incentives with performance. Money talks and people are always curious when there’s big money involved in anything. If Mayweather would be fighting for a few thousand dollars each match no one but the absolute die-hard boxing fans would bother tuning in, but because it’s tens of millions at stake everyone is curious of the outcome, even people that don’t like boxing. This is human nature. As it is, not many even know what the prize money is in F1, only the diehard fans have some idea what each team get before the season even starts, based on an incredibly complicated payout schedule. If we use the already mentioned formula of $200.000/Point, the prize money for each race would be:



  1. 25 points x $200.000           $5.000.000

  2. 18                                                  $3.600.000

  3. 15                                                  $3.000.000

  4. 12                                                  $2.400.000

  5. 10                                                  $2.000.000

  6. 8                                                    $1.600.000

  7. 6                                                    $1.200.000

  8. 4                                                    $   800.000

  9. 2                                                    $   400.000

  10. 1                                                    $   200.000



RELEVANCE

HOW IMPORTANT IN THE BIGGER PICTURE IS IT THAT FORMULA ONE OR MOTORSPORT IN GENERAL IS RELEVANT? Does anyone know what F1 stands for today?  This may be the most important question of all in order for F1 or motorsports in general to survive. In order to be relevant it is obviously important to understand in what context you want to be relevant. In the case of Formula One, does this mean you must be socially relevant or more relevant towards the fans, or can both be achieved in a realistic way. If you focus on being socially relevant, it is critical to understand if you are following an objective and realistic path or just a narrative. Is it more important that we have an engine formula that is seen to embrace the environment than it is to have fast, loud and spectacular cars? Is it more important that we have engines that can last 1/3rd  of a season than it is to have a hugely powerful engine that may break every now and then, but will either reward or punish the driver and team instantly if they win or the engine breaks? Is it more important that we have race tracks that are so sanitized and safe that it’s become almost impossible to have a bad accident than it is to have tracks that will punish a driver if he goes over the limit?

 

Political correctness has now crept in to every aspect of life. In some cases, it seems that companies are more interested in doing what is perceived to be the politically correct thing, than it is to make a profit or even do what makes good common sense. Everyone is paranoid about not upsetting anyone. Is motorsport about being correct in every way, does it have to satisfy all the various agendas that are currently being promoted through every possible platform by anyone who cares to voice their opinion. Is it even possible to keep everyone happy anymore? I think it’s time to do some serious soul searching in order to work out what it is that really matters both for the competitors and the fans.

 

FORMULA 1 COULD BECOME THE GLOBAL LEADER IN INNOVATIVE THINKING AND IMPLEMENTATION OF NEW TECHNOLOGIES: By creating a formula that will be based around a maximum amount of energy, wherever the source is coming from, it could be gasoline, electric, hydrogen fuel cells, kinetic, or anything else that may not even be invented yet.  I believe this is the one area Formula One could really make a difference and lead the automotive world towards a truthful and honest direction in power unit technology. Instead of following one politically motivated directive it would be better to do the complete opposite and create your own directive, that will by default eventually become the correct and obvious path forward. It will very soon become apparent which is the most efficient alternative based on the principles of thermal efficiency, energy consumption, weight and power output. For the first time in a very long time, F1 could justify the spend of the manufacturers by inventing and creating things we may not even know exist at this point. Unleash all the bright minds that are already working in F1 and let them get creative! Instead of pouring away money on silly aerodynamic tweaks, it could be spent on something that would truly make a difference. Imagine if someone realized some of Nikola Tesla’s ideas for example, or a number of other incredibly brilliant concepts that are already out there. Sport is the perfect arena for this as we are talking about competition before a concept is proven. Once it is proven and everyone can see how brilliant it is, it’s hard to put the genie back in the bottle and the world will have to follow whether it’s following the politically correct agenda or not. Whomever comes up with any of these new concepts will be known worldwide for doing something that really made a difference in human history and Formula One will again find its rightful place in the automotive world.



ELIMINATE THE IMPORTANCE OF AERODYNAMICS: I’m repeating myself here, but it’s important to understand that aerodynamics is the only item that falls under all four categories that are the key areas of Formula One. The fact that aerodynamics is affecting all four categories in a negative way should be a wakeup call more than anything.  Aerodynamics have the least relevance of anything on a racecar, except making the car go fast. Yet it’s the highest spend by a massive margin for every team. It’s the largest contributor to the lack of racing and the entertainment is suffering because of this, yet we just keep on piling on more and more of the same, year after year! Eliminate the importance of aerodynamics and shift the focus to other areas to gain back the speed. I have already addressed the details on how to achieve this earlier in the article.

 

SUMMARY: It’s become quite evident that in order to get things back on the right track it will not be enough to continue with small band-aid fixes here and there, in fact, it will only make it worse as history has shown over and over. What I am proposing is based on what I believe is a realistic and objective analysis rather than following a narrative based on a number external factors and political motives – motives that will never add anything to help maintain the popularity or grow the sport into the future. In order for the sport to survive, it is imperative that we all understand that it’s unsustainable in the long run to deviate from the core elements of what made Formula One such a huge sport to begin with.

 

There are a number of initiatives being proposed – adding to the show, bringing the costs down, make the racing less predictable, branding , digital media etc. None of this will make any difference unless we get to the core of the problem, which is the cars and how they are designed. If I may use the analogy of a restaurant, you can do all the slick and fancy stuff, new signs on the front, social media campaigns, celebrities, new menu’s, etc. but if the food sucks no one will come back or show up in the first place.

 

If we don’t fix the cars and make them exciting and interesting to watch again it won’t matter what else we do. Once we fix the cars everything else will fall into place automatically. The tracks will become interesting and challenging again, the racing will be close and exciting to watch, the human component will become at least as important as the technical, and the drama will unfold accordingly.

 

Formula One have always been about brave young men driving these crazy fast cars on the limit, and if we lose that stigma, there is nothing that makes it unique in any way. It will be just as interesting to watch a bunch of gamers racing online. From a drivers perspective there is nothing that comes close to the experience when you’re on the limit and you decide to step into that unknown territory by taking a highspeed corner flat for the first time in order to gain that extra tenth or two, not knowing for sure what the outcome will be, when you’re literally staring at your own soul for that brief moment. Those are the things that every driver worth his salt is craving. They define who you are as a person and go much further than just that brief split second. Everyone who is present can see and appreciate it, and this is what makes, or at least used to make, our sport so incredibly different and special compared to most other sports.

 

Formula One should and could write its own rules. It’s a big enough sport to set the directive for anyone that wants to compete in it or follow the sport. If not, as we can clearly see at the moment, we will end up with a very confusing and complicated product that’s neither here or there, and no one can fully understand it. We want to see brave drivers on the race track, but we also need brave leaders in the boardroom to make this happen.