Mosley and teams set to clash again

Lower running costs could allow GP2 teams to compete in F1

Lower running costs could allow GP2 teams to compete in F1

Today brought new evidence of an impending and potentially massive clash between the FIA and the Formula 1 teams over costs.

While FOTA is already talking about relaxing the restrictions on testing in 2009, Max Mosley is pushing for massive cuts to drastically reduce the cost of competition to around ??50m. And rumours claim he’s prepared to force the legislation through if the teams don’t agree.

When Honda announced its withdrawal from F1 at the beginning of December it followed the news that its car sales in America had slumped by 32%. The figures announced yesterday for sales in January revealed total monthly sales at their lowest level since December 1981, and the worst January since 1963.

In short, things are getting worse for the car industry and it may not have hit the bottom yet. Bernie Ecclestone’s suggestion last week that car manufacturers might sign multi-year contracts (with punitive exit clauses so he can “sue the arse off them” if they quit) in exchange for being allowed to spend as much as they like on F1 seems rather out of touch with reality.

Whichever route the FIA takes it faces the prospect of losing some of the manufacturer teams. If it does not drastically cut costs we could see the likes of Toyota and Renault quitting. If it cuts costs, and does so by postponing technologies such as KERS, it could alienate teams like BMW who have invested heavily in the technology.

But it gets harder and harder to make a case for not slashing costs further. If the manufacturer-backed teams quit because costs are too high, who is going to step in to replace them?

Whereas if the FIA successfully brings operating budgets down to the ??50m mark, and new teams are able to use engine and gearbox supplies from the remaining manufacturers or using the FIA’s offer of Cosworth engines, we could potentially see teams from formulae such as GP2 stepping up to take their place. This is what the likes of Prodrive’s David Richards have argued for. Over a dozen teams responded to the FIA’s tender for new entrants for 2008 based on using customer chassis at lower costs.

Mosley continues to push his case for greater standardisation of parts. That is anathema to many F1 fans who want the sport to remain a technological pinnacle.

But if the only alternative to increased standardisation is for F1 to price itself out of existence, then there is no choice to be made.

Image (C) GP2 Media Service / Andrew Ferraro

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20 comments on Mosley and teams set to clash again

  1. Paul Scutti said on 5th February 2009, 0:23

    There are two alternatives:

    1. Budget cap;
    2. Eliminate Mosley.

    I don’t mind the first, but I’d rather go for the second!

  2. But if the only alternative to increased standardisation is for F1 to price itself out of existence, then there is no choice to be made.

    Translation: We see F1 drivers drive similar cars, making the competition “fairer” – and as a sacrifice we lose the technological and development competition F1 has been so intense and fierce for for so many years.

    A lot of my friends would like to see F1 drivers drive in similar, if not the same, cars. However, those that have been watching for more than the past 15 years, vehemently disagree.

    Now, for myself, I think if the only alternative to increased standardisation is for F1 to price itself out of existence, then that’s just not good enough. I’d be more than happy for teams to break away from F1, even take an extended break, than to watch a diluted or standardised series.

    Should this happen, I’m sure that F1′s existence and fanbase will continue without me, and those that think like I do. But for me, F1 has never just been about racing – it’s spirit has been embodied in different teams engineering their own solutions, being creative, pushing the mark, taking risks, and upturning all stones on a pebble beach several times just to achieve that little bit extra over the team that has just done exactly that plus more.

    Watching F1 drivers race in similar cars, or full spec-series cars even, appeals only as a novelty to me. I have no interest in watching a car that brands itself as a McLaren or Ferrari but is still the same car, or even up to half as much the same, as the other.

    By increasing standardisation, I wonder how many fans will be alienated – or not. Would it lose a significant fanbase that could kill it? Or would it retain or gain a significant fanbase for it to go on? (Of course, the latter is likely given that other formula still exist).

    I’m not someone who can say I love F1 no matter what, but that’s because F1 is just a name. If F1 discontinues its meaning and purpose it beholds for people, the name becomes hollow and vacant. If F1 were to exist in such a fashion (standardisation), then it no longer is the F1 I knew and loved.

    But who knows. Maybe I’d end up enjoying the standardised version. However, I guarantee I won’t be as big a fan.

    • Arthur954 said on 5th February 2009, 1:08

      @loki
      These are all valid points. The standarisation has to stop at a certain point, or the racing will lose a great part of its appeal. There is no question that the unique signature way each team engineers its cars and innovates is a very important part of the DNA of F1

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 5th February 2009, 23:56

      Now, for myself, I think if the only alternative to increased standardisation is for F1 to price itself out of existence, then that’s just not good enough. I’d be more than happy for teams to break away from F1, even take an extended break, than to watch a diluted or standardised series.

      But if that happens we’re down to 16, 14, 12 cars… or we have three car teams which is a whole different can of worms.

      Watching F1 drivers race in similar cars, or full spec-series cars even, appeals only as a novelty to me. I have no interest in watching a car that brands itself as a McLaren or Ferrari but is still the same car, or even up to half as much the same, as the other.

      OK, but where’s the dividing line? Today the cars have a small number of common parts – brakes for example. But at what point has standardisation gone too far? Stanard wings? Gearboxes? Engines? KERS? There isn’t a definite answer, but I think an element of innovation has to remain in F1, however small.

    • But if that happens we’re down to 16, 14, 12 cars… or we have three car teams which is a whole different can of worms.

      What I mean was that if F1 was to be standardised to a certain degree, I’d rather see the teams leave than stay on in numbers. Yes, that would harm the sport, but for it to be in such a situation I’d say the damage will have already been done…time to abandon ship.

      OK, but where’s the dividing line? Today the cars have a small number of common parts – brakes for example. But at what point has standardisation gone too far? Stanard wings? Gearboxes? Engines? KERS? There isn’t a definite answer, but I think an element of innovation has to remain in F1, however small.

      This could be a touchy subject between fans, and those that actually work in the sport. The sport could make whole positions and areas of expertise redundantm if they’re not careful. And let’s say some such areas were laid off for a while, it could take a while to get back up to speed should those things be reintroduced. You could argue it could be a waste of money, in order to save money (the whole point of the excercise). In case anyone wonders why I said “reintroduced”, I’m praying standardisation is meant as a stop-gap measure. It’ll be one thing to lose F1 to standardisation, it’ll be an utter travesty if it stays like that forever.

      You’re right Keith, there is no definate answer – but I’d say that the rules must allow scope for innovation in more areas than not, I don’t think small is good enough. Moreover, whatever gets standardised, then I hope someone doesn’t lose out badly due to R&D recently invested. The standardised ECU wasn’t so much a big deal, those were mostly developed by contracted electronic companies, but lets say something like a gearbox was standardised as of now. Force India have only just developed their seamless shift gearbox, this would be largely unfair considering the costs they incurred to make this. The same goes for the recent debate about deferring KERs and BMW.

      Myself, personally, I won’t accept standardised engines or aerodynamics/chassis – that will be my line – I see no point in manufacturers competing against each other any longer once this happens, and this is one of the things that mean most to me in F1.

      Edit: On the subject of cost-cutting, I’d like to see the great engineering (and hence problem-solving) minds of F1 work collectively here and come up with better alternative solutions. Surely they must be able to think of something better…their genius got F1 to where it is today, surely they can fight to keep it so.

  3. Arthur954 said on 5th February 2009, 0:52

    It seems to me that the problem is more in Bernie than Mosley. There is more than enough money being generated by F1 races to help keep the teams going, and to support those that are struggling like Williams, but if Bernie´s company takes 50% of it, then we have the present situation.

    Whatever happens, I think F1 will always find a way to maintain its “elite” aura, I am not worried too much about this

  4. Survival is the key, and sound economics are the key to surviving the financial conundrum we all face.

    If F1 has to reinvent itself to race at a tolerable cost level, then that’s what must happen. In 3-5 years when the economy rebounds they can then bring high tech back into play.

    If they truly want to save money, eliminate ALL of the fly away races and make it a Eurocentric sport again. How much does it cost per race to go to Brazil, Malaysia, China, etc.?? Sure they go from race to race when in the far east in an attempt to save money, but they still have to fly.

    Regardless of how they save, it’s imperative to cut costs.

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 5th February 2009, 23:57

      If they truly want to save money, eliminate ALL of the fly away races and make it a Eurocentric sport again.

      Very interesting point – for me, this would be far, far worse than aggressive standardisation. If F1 ceases to be a world championship, then it’s appeal to me is badly damaged.

      I suspect the amount of money saved by cutting flyaway races is peanuts compared to, say, the cost developing KERS.

  5. I cannot wait to hear what Mosely does to force the issue. This may be the moment we have all been waiting for. This may be the moment when he hangs himself. I just hope that the sport isn’t harmed and that F1 DNA isn’t diluted.

    When F1 made the change, back in the day, that allowed F2 teams to jump into the game, they did so to expand the field…. Maybe it is time for something like that to happen. I don’t know what that would look like…. any ideas?

    I just don’t want/can’t stand F1 turning into something like the Daytona Prototypes. I hate those cars because they all look alike and there is very little the teams can actually do to improve them.

    If they make customer chassis legal, the field will expand and we won’t be discussing this anymore.

  6. manatcna said on 5th February 2009, 8:22

    Why would I want to watch watered down F1?

    Customer cars are, as I see it, the only way forward

    I’ve been a Formula One fan since before the current crop of drivers were born, but if I don’t enjoy it any more how long will I be bothered with it?

    After all, there are more things in life than F1

    (That’s something I never thought I’d say)

  7. patrickl said on 5th February 2009, 9:43

    Maybe it would be an option to standardize on two competing designs? You’d still have the technological development, but the costs are shared amongst several teams. Better have two well developed gearboxes than one spec gearbox.

  8. Eddie Irvine said on 5th February 2009, 11:27

    Let’s say that there are costumer chassis and cosworth engines and gearboxes. Imagine that, there is a team polandF1…they have the Ferrari chassis, cosworth’s engine and gearbox and magnettimarelli electronics. This team would have 25m$ budget (5m$ and 1,5m$ to crsworth, 5m$ to Ferrari and the rest to the staff and th drivers).
    If this team come first what will be the meaning of hearing the polish anthem for the constructor team???
    Chassis MUST be constructed by each team, I was very dissapointed to see last year a Torro Rosso in the first place just because they have Andrian Newey’s chassis and Ferrari’s engine…this isn’t an italian team and by no means there is a link between this hybrid and Minardi team. Torro Rosso is an Anglo-Austria-Italian team with a German driver. I am not even looking forward to their new car…it would be identical with red bull’s…customer chassis is not Formula 1.

    -I am a big Aston Martin fan and I would like to see prodrive in F1, but not in a McLaren chasssis

  9. Pingguest said on 5th February 2009, 14:42

    Cost reductions are an illusion. Teams will continue to spend awful amounts of money as long as they have the budget. And so far, all attempt to cut costs had devastating consequences for the racing.

  10. I’m with David Richards on this, and the teams who want to use ‘Customer’ chassis…
    What exactly is Max demanding of ‘Standardised’ parts? Surely the ‘Formula’ of Formula One already states what parts can and cannot be used to make a ‘Legal’ F1 car, and all the teams have to comply with that before they even get out of the Pit Lane….
    I don’t see how standardising down to one supplier for each part on the car either helps the sport or the motor industry, both of which are in need of a boost. Would Max really rather put more people out of work just for the sake of saving some money in the sport? And what about the companies that are allowed to make the parts? Will they be the ones owned by FIA and WSC members?
    I said before all it needs is for Max and Bernie to grow up and concentrate on getting cars on the track, people in the stands and more teams back into F1.
    They can do that by allowing ‘Customer’ cars, shared engines, new designers and above all new teams into F1.

  11. Ahhh the allure of brinkmanship! Who will blink first..

  12. I don’t like the idea of standard cars. Formula 1 is not just for drivers, that’s why we have a constructors championship. Formula 1 should have the best drivers, the best technical support, the best everything. If everything is the same and it’s all on the drivers, then the incentive to compete is diluted for the team personnel.
    At the moment, the only way to ensure that every team compete on an equal level while maintaining the competitive spirit is through budget caps. It may not be 100% foolproof, but it’s the best solution at the moment.

  13. eamon said on 6th February 2009, 2:51

    Down with mosley! So sick of this dude.

  14. Smitty said on 7th February 2009, 20:13

    As much stick as Mosley gets in the press and pretty much everywhere else too – at least he and the FIA are trying to get Formula One to the other side of this global recession alive and with at least a little bit of dignity. Bernie, on the other hand, is too busy occupied with acquiring money for himself and CVC (or whatever) so that those debts can be paid off…

    He isn’t always going down the right paths to these problems, but one thing is certain – this sheer amount of spending is starting to outprice the independent teams, and even some manufacturers are now starting to feel the pinch – the situation couldn’t be left as it was.

    How far should standardisation go with these cars? That’s a difficult issue, and many people will have many different opinions. Personally, like with the ECU, some internals can afford to be standardised. How about brakes, suspension, gearboxes or KERS? I’m in favour with the first two…

    I hope that the FIA and FOCA together will reach a sensible solution. For the sake of F1s future.

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