Help for the mid­field of­fered then de­nied

F1 Racing - - INSIDER - DI­ETER RENCKEN

The in­de­pen­dents did as bid, tar­get­ing the for­feited rev­enues of the two ‘fallen’ teams, and headed for Brazil, un­aware that Ec­cle­stone had seem­ingly not cleared the full im­pli­ca­tions (po­ten­tially up to £200m/pa) with CVC co-chair­man Don­ald Macken­zie.

Imag­ine their shock when they ar­rived in São Paulo to be told that the so­lu­tion to the cash cri­sis lay not in a fairer nan­cial play­ing eld, to let them to race on level terms against ve top teams who en­joy pre­mium pay-outs vary­ing from £75m to a fth of that, but in re­duc­tions to their own bud­gets.

This not­with­stand­ing the Strat­egy Group in March 2014 block­ing cost caps ahead of ratication by the FIA’s World Mo­tor­sport Coun­cil; not­with­stand­ing cal­en­dar ex­pan­sion; and not­with­stand­ing the costs of hy­brid power units, which have seen en­gine costs dou­ble.

Add in a back­drop of fall­ing live au­di­ences/re­duced global TV in­ter­est with a com­men­su­rate re­duc­tion in spon­sor in­ter­est and rene­go­ti­ated race pro­moter con­tracts, whose price tags in­creas­ingly head south – fur­ther re­duc­ing F1’s ‘pot’ – and it is lit­tle won­der the trio face bleak fu­tures.

Worse, the in­de­pen­dent trio were then al­legedly in­formed that two pri­mary teams – Red Bull and Fer­rari – would be called upon to en­ter third cars in 2015 to bol­ster grids to en­sure F1 does not breach its covenants, with full-scale in­tro­duc­tion of cus­tomer cars to follow in 2016: moves that would to­tally de­stroy their business mod­els.

Th­ese sug­ges­tions were im­me­di­ately de­nied by said teams, de­spite such clauses ex­ist­ing in their con­tracts, and Ec­cle­stone switched tack, al­lud­ing to a sort of ‘Su­per GP2’ to bol­ster grids, which would also dec­i­mate the in­de­pen­dents. That such un­likely rule changes, in­clud­ing the pos­si­ble switch to V8s, would re­quire ratication by a scep­ti­cal FIA (by 1 March) seemed not to faze the 84-year-old.

The en­gine sit­u­a­tion is equally far­ci­cal: As soon as the en­ergy-efcient en­gines were in­tro­duced in Jan­uary, Bernie Ec­cle­stone and Fer­rari’s then pres­i­dent Luca Di Mon­teze­molo im­me­di­ately ridiculed the com­plex ‘green’ power units and called for a re­turn to gas­guz­zling V8 power, be­fore ip-op­ping in the face of heavy crit­i­cism.

Was that the end of it? No. The saga rum­bled on, rear­ing its head in Austin, where the lack of noise was blamed for a drop in crowds – when the ma­jor con­tribut­ing fac­tor was ar­guably the fa­mil­ial signicance of the USA’s Hal­loween cel­e­bra­tions, which ap­peared lost on FOM when they de­vised the 2014 cal­en­dar.

Not con­tent with inict­ing dam­age on the ef­forts and costs (£500m plus) of up­wards of 1,000 en­gi­neers spread over four ma­jor mo­tor man­u­fac­tur­ers, the is­sue was re­vis­ited in Brazil dur­ing on­go­ing dis­putes over en­gine ho­molo­ga­tion to­kens and ‘un­freezes’.

In a master­class of U-turn­ing, the is­sue has now been sub­ject to four dif­fer­ent meet­ings at suc­ces­sive GPs, re­sult­ing in as many non­res­o­lu­tions. Then, at In­ter­la­gos, Ec­cle­stone and oth­ers, in­clud­ing Red Bull team boss Christian Horner, ar­gued that F1 should re­vert to V8 units, which have their roots in last cen­tury’s V10s. The reg­u­la­tory and op­er­a­tional im­pli­ca­tions were con­ve­niently over­looked.

The costs of in­tro­duc­ing such knee-jerk reg­u­la­tions to avert For­mula 1’s nan­cial cri­sis would be astro­nom­i­cal. It would be cheaper to level the play­ing eld by re­dis­tribut­ing F1’s rev­enues, but that would have the in­de­pen­dents snap­ping closer to the heels of the ma­jors. Hence the clumsy ip-ops.

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