The F1 teams’ association is holding a press conference in Geneva today to reveal its plans for the future of F1.
We’ve had a few glimpses of what they’ve got planned – some good, some bad. Here’s what we know and what we expect from today’s announcement.
Update: See below for the announcement in full.
What will be announced
Several details about the announcement have leaked out already:
Changes to F1 points
F1’s points system has been widely criticised for giving too little incentive for drivers to push to win races. In 2003 the number of points scored for finishing second was increased from six to eight, while the winner’s points remained fixed at ten: halving the gap between the two positions.
There is a popular consensus among F1 fans that the sport should increase the number of points for a win to 12. But I think there’s a good chance FOTA will take it even further and mimic championships like Moto GP and Indy Car where points are extended far down the finishing order to reward most or all finishers.
I doubt they’ll offer support for Bernie Ecclestone’s unpopular medal system, unless it’s to win concessions in more important areas, such as teams’ income.
Mandatory pit stops
In October I called this one of the four bad ideas F1 must avoid. Disappointingly, FOTA looks likely to push for it. This is a mistake.
F1 already has de facto mandatory pit stops because drivers are required to use two different compounds during Grands Prix (except in wet races).
Forcing drivers to make pit stops is artificial and unnecessary and only gives them an incentive to not risk real overtaking on the track. FOTA should take note of how mandatory pit stops spoil racing in DTM and A1 Grand Prix and steer clear of this pointless concept.
Read more: Four mistakes F1 must avoid
Revised qualifying format
The over-complicated qualifying scheme proposed by FOTA last year was a mess. We have had years of meddling with the qualifying system that has finally produced a system most people are happy with, apart from the irritation of ‘race fuel qualifying’ which will be gone in 2010.
A poll on this site showed that most fans either want the present system to remain, or a return to the far simpler pre-2003 system of each driver getting 12 laps in an open one-hour session to do a time. I see no need for yet another variation on qualifying beyond these two popular options.
Increased availability of team data for fans
This can only be a good thing. The more transparent F1 is, the better. They have already made steps towards this by ensuring that all teams (including McLaren and Ferrari) allow their pit-to-car communications to be broadcast on television in 2009.
What we can expect
These points seem likely to be a significant part of the announcement.
Distribution of revenue
Many of the team bosses have already said F1 teams should get more money from Bernie Ecclestone. At the Geneva Motor Show yesterday Renault threatened to leave F1 if the distribution of income is not revised.
Eccletone vehemently opposes an increase in revenue for the teams. It seems the teams’ best tactic is to push for far more than the 50% revenue share they receive at the moment, in an effort to strike a compromise with Ecclestone that’s closer to what they believe they are entitled to. Luca di Montezemolo has mentioned a figure of 80% in the past, and many sports return far more than that to their competitors.
Given how much fo the sport’s revenues flow to Ecclestone I agree the teams deserve a better share (and the circuits deserve a break too). But this could be the most explosive part of their proposal. It’s not difficult to imagine Ecclestone flatly refusing any increase.
Then we have a situation where several teams may leave, others are persuaded to stay, and some may even try to set up a rival championship as happened with Indy Car racing in the 1990s with disastrous consequences.
They also have to square the demands of some teams for reduced budgets (Flavio Briatore wants a 60% reduction by 2012) with the need to keep F1 as a technological pinnacle (a point regularly made by Ron Dennis).
The twin issue of raising revenues and cutting costs will put FOTA’s unity under severe pressure.
Many of the teams are unhappy with the costly introduction of KERS this year and want to switch to a standard system in 2010. This will put them into direct conflict with Max Mosley.
Many of the car manufacturers may wish to see other environmental technologies being adopted, such as bioethanol fuel. The words of Richard Branson, who turned down a chance to buy the Honda F1 team saying Formula 1′s environmental credentials were insufficient, will be ringing in their ears.
Fans and media
FOTA’s press announcement declared it would make the sport, “compellingly attractive for spectators, TV viewers and internet consumers alike for years to come.”
There are many ways this might be achieved: ensuring international viewers have access to internet broadcasts, high definition F1 coverage, allowing local and non-traditional media into Grands Prix weekends, giving fans greater access to drivers and teams at events, increasing the number of races on the calendar and restoring the French, Canadian and American races…
F1′s marketing efforts are woeful to the point of non-existent. FOTA can and must make giant strides in this area.
Greater representation for the teams
According to Dieter Rencken on Autosport (subscription required):
FOTA will insist upon representation on the board of Delta Topco, the company directly responsible for Formula One Management’s operations via the sort of byzantine structures typical of Ecclestone and CVC Partners, the latter being the vulture fund which controls approximately 60% of the lease on F1′s commercial rights. Demands for a greater say on the World Motor Sport Council – well up from the present single voice vested in Ferrari – cannot be excluded, either.
In short, the teams want more power. If Mosley chooses to oppose that, the teams will surely try to exert what influence they can in the forthcoming FIA presidential election.
According to the F1 teams’ association:
These FOTA proposals are aimed at increasing the stability, sustainability, substance and spectacle of the sport, and have been informed by the findings of a FOTA-commissioned survey of Formula One audiences across 17 countries. These findings will also be unveiled tomorrow.
I haven’t seen one of these surveys, and I’d be interested to hear from anyone who has, although there have been many such surveys floating around recently.
Whatever surprises FOTA have in store for us today, we’ll keep a close eye on them here.
What are you hoping for and expecting to see in the announcement? And how will Ecclestone and Mosley react to it? Leave a comment below.
Read more: Are FOTA a force for good in Formula 1?
Update: FOTA’s announcement in full
Here’s is the full text of the announcement from the teams:
Formula One Teams Association (FOTA) reveals initial plans and framework for the future of Formula One at landmark press conference
GENEVA, 5 MARCH 2009: The Formula One Teams Association (FOTA) today outlined its roadmap for Formula One at a press conference at which senior management figures from all 10 current Formula One teams shared the stage together.
Setting out its proposed agenda for the evolution of the sport, FOTA unveiled a dynamic package of unanimously agreed proposals which, pending the approval of the FIA, will take effect in 2009 and/or 2010.
These proposals are aimed at increasing the stability, sustainability, substance and show of Formula One, and have all been developed as a result of rigorous interrogation of a FOTA global audience survey carried out in 17 countries earlier this year. The study canvassed views of existing fans but also, for the first time, drew on insights from a cross-section of general and infrequent followers of the sport, in line with FOTA’s stated ambition to broaden as well as to deepen the appeal of Formula One.
The proposals can be classified under three headings – technical, sporting and commercial – in line with the three working groups inaugurated when FOTA was formed in September 2008. These proposals will ensure the retention of Formula One’s unique and essential sporting ‘DNA’, improve the show for all audiences, reduce costs, and increase the value proposition to the major stakeholders.
Luca di Montezemolo, Chairman of FOTA, said: “This is an unprecedented moment in Formula One history. Above all else, for the first time the teams are unified and steadfast – with a clear, collective vision. Thanks to this unity, all the teams have already managed to make a significant reduction to their costs for 2009. And, while we will continue to compete vigorously on track, we all share one common goal: to work together to improve Formula One by ensuring its stability, sustainability, substance and show for the benefit of our most important stakeholder, namely the consumer. It is with this mindset that we now intend to work hard, with our partners at the FIA and FOM, our shared goal being to optimise the future of Formula One.”
- More than 100% increase in mileage per engine (eight engines per driver per season)
- Reduction in wind tunnel and CFD (computational fluid dynamics) usage
- Engine available at €8 million per team per season
- Engine available at €5 million per team per season
- Gearbox available at €1.5 million per team per season
- Standardised KERS (put out to tender, with a target price of €1-2 million per team per season)
- Target a further 50% reduction of the 2009 aerodynamic development spend
- Specified number of chassis, bodywork and aerodynamic development iterations (homologations) during the season
- Prohibition of a wide range of exotic, metallic and composite materials
- Standardised telemetry and radio systems
- Testing reduction (50%)
- New points-scoring system (12-9-7-5-4-3-2-1), to give greater differentiation/reward to grand prix winners
- Race starting fuel loads, tyre specifications and refuelling data to be made public
- Commitment to recommend new qualifying format
- Radical new points-scoring opportunities (eg, one constructors’ championship point to be awarded for the fastest race pit stop)
- Further testing reductions (four four-day single-car pre-season tests plus one single-car pre-season shakedown)
- Reduction of grand prix duration (250km or a maximum of one hour 40 minutes) pending the approval of the commercial rights holder
- Increased data provision for media
- Explore means by which the presentation of Formula One action can be more informatively and dynamically presented, common to other sports such as tennis and cricket, to dramatically improve engagement with the public
- Nominated senior team spokesman available for TV during grand prix
- Commitment to enhance consumer experience via team and FOTA websites
- Mandatory driver autograph sessions during grand prix weekends
- Commitment to enhance consumer experience via TV coverage
KEY DEMOGRAPHICS OF GLOBAL AUDIENCE SURVEY
- 17 countries surveyed
- First ever poll of Formula One devotees alongside non-Formula One devotees (ie, marginal and/or low interest fans)
- Responses were weighted according to the size of viewing market in each country (to avoid small markets skewing the results)
- Results were segmented by interest level in Formula One, demographic profiles (age and gender), country and region
- Total audience is comprised of:
- Regular fans (25% by volume, predominantly male, cross section of ages)
- Moderate fans (44% by volume, female and male, cross section of ages)
- Infrequent fans (31% by volume, unlikely to watch grands prix, predominantly female, cross section of ages)
KEY FINDINGS OF GLOBAL AUDIENCE SURVEY
1. F1 isn’t broken, so beware ‘over-fixing’ it
The current race format is not viewed as fundamentally broken (across all levels of Formula One interest) and therefore doesn’t require radical alteration. There is a strong desire for Formula One to remain meritocratic, while consumer interest is driven most by appreciation of driver skill, overtaking and technology.
Implication: there is no evidence to suggest that grand prix formats need ‘tricking up’ via, for example, handicapping, sprint races, reversed grids or one-on-one pursuit races. Formula One audiences appreciate the traditional gladiatorial, high-tech nature of the sport and would not respond favourably to a perceived ‘dumbing down’ of the current format.
2. F1 needs to be more consumer-friendly
An individual’s view or understanding of Formula One is framed almost entirely by their local broadcaster. Unlike most global sports, the vast majority of ‘consumption’ of Formula One is via race-day TV coverage, supplemented in part by traditional, non-specialist newspaper coverage. Formula One fans are also mature consumers of new media channels (eg, on-line, mobile) and other touch points (eg, gaming, merchandise).
The global nature of Formula One, although an attractive characteristic in itself, impedes the uniformity of race schedules, and often results in consumption of a race being limited to locally broadcast TV highlights programmes. Only devotees (25% of the total potential viewing audience) are likely to watch a race live if it occurs outside peak viewing times.
Implication: significant opportunities exist to build audience via other channels such as internet and mobile.
3. Major changes to qualifying format are not urgent
When asked to consider alternative qualifying formats, all fan types expressed a modest preference for a meritocratically determined starting grid. There was some degree of interest in allowing luck to play a part in shaping the starting order, but the general sentiment was that the fastest driver should always start from pole.
Implication: there may be justification for minor modifications to the current qualifying format, following further trials; however, a major change to the format will not result in a significant increase in audience.
4. Revisions to the points-scoring system
As with qualifying, all audiences want a meritocratic points-scoring system. This means that they want winning grands prix to count for more than it does currently. There is an indication that all audiences would like to see a greater points reward for winning grands prix.
Implication: a minor adjustment to the existing points system is justified
5. Evolution of pit stops and refuelling
All audiences view pit stops as integral to their enjoyment of grand prix coverage; however, they rank the most important and compelling aspect of pit stops as tyre changing rather than refuelling. Race strategies were not highly ranked as a determinant of interest in Formula One.
Implication: audiences are unlikely to diminish if refuelling is discontinued. Tyre changing is an important driver of audience interest (in pit stops) and should not be further automated.