UN­DER THE HOOD

F1 Racing (UK) - - CONTENTS - PAT SY­MONDS @F1rac­ing _mag face­book.com/ f1rac­ing­mag

Pat Sy­monds looks at F1 post-2020

It’s of­ten said that the Fri­day of a grand prix week­end brings lit­tle of in­ter­est to the fans, and that it serves merely as a plat­form for teams to tune their ma­chines to­wards nir­vana in splen­did semi-iso­la­tion. You wouldn’t place the Fri­day of the 2018 Bahrain Grand Prix in that cat­e­gory, since be­fore a sin­gle car turned a wheel For­mula 1, the group formerly known as For­mula One Man­age­ment, out­lined to the teams their vi­sion for the fu­ture of the sport.

While only the teams were party to the full de­tails of the plan that week­end, the press re­lease from For­mula 1 gives an in­sight into how 2021 will be­come a water­shed for the sport. By ex­am­in­ing the key strategic ini­tia­tives an­nounced that day, and by con­sid­er­ing the var­i­ous com­ments made by stake­hold­ers over the past few months, it’s pos­si­ble to get a rea­son­ably clear picture of the direc­tion in which the com­mer­cial rights hold­ers would like to take the sport.

Point one con­cerned power units. The thoughts, opin­ions and ar­gu­ments about how this par­tic­u­lar part of the tech­ni­cal make-up of the sport should progress have been in the pub­lic do­main since last au­tumn. In essence the cur­rent man­u­fac­tur­ers would like to main­tain the sta­tus quo, even though the power units clearly haven’t reached the par­ity of per­for­mance that the sport re­quires for less pre­dictable race re­sults.

For­mula 1 has a dif­fer­ent view, one that takes in the big picture – and puts en­ter­tain­ment at the top of the list of de­sir­ables. This dic­tates that fun­da­men­tal change is needed in the power units to re­duce costs and at­tract new en­trants, thereby im­prov­ing the sus­tain­abil­ity of the sport as a whole, and mil­i­tat­ing against any par­tic­u­lar group wield­ing the type of po­lit­i­cal power that can be detri­men­tal to com­pe­ti­tion.

In this sphere the FIA clearly stated the seven ob­jec­tives which were to guide the de­ter­mi­na­tion of the fu­ture en­gine reg­u­la­tions. Quite rightly one of these was that the en­gine should be road-relevant and be a hy­brid. I say quite rightly be­cause even with en­ter­tain­ment as our guid­ing light it’s still nec­es­sary to main­tain so­cial re­spon­si­bil­ity, and the de­vel­op­ment of hy­brid tech­nol­ogy does this. In­ter­est­ingly the other six ob­jec­tives would be sat­is­fied by a high-revving, nor­mally as­pi­rated V12.

On costs For­mula 1 made the state­ment that how a team spent its money should be more de­ci­sive to its suc­cess than how much. If there’s one sen­tence that stands to en­sure the suc­cess of the sport than this is it. They have de­ter­mined that a cost cap should be im­ple­mented that con­trols this while main­tain­ing F1’s po­si­tion as the pin­na­cle of mo­tor­sport with state-of-the-art tech­nol­ogy. While the ac­tual fig­ure for this cap has not been re­leased by For­mula 1, Toto Wolff has sug­gested it may be $150m or just over £100m.

This may seem a lot less than is cur­rently spent, but it may only cover op­er­a­tional costs and ex­cludes, for ex­am­ple, driv­ers’ salaries and mar­ket­ing bud­gets. In this case the sum is still large since it rep­re­sents some­thing close to the to­tal bud­get, driv­ers and mar­ket­ing in­cluded, of mid-range teams such as Wil­liams. If this is the case it might be ar­gued that the cap is still too high but there are two fac­tors to con­sider. Firstly it will in­deed cap the high­est spenders and there­fore elim­i­nate some of the spend on at­ten­tion to de­tail that yields in­cre­men­tal per­for­mance unattain­able by the less well fi­nanced. Sec­ondly there’s no rea­son that the cap, once in place and proven, may not be grad­u­ally re­duced.

The cost cap alone may not be the to­tal an­swer, but cou­pled with a wellthought-out level of de­sign pre­scrip­tion and stan­dard­i­s­a­tion, it will go a long way to meet­ing the high-level ob­jec­tives of the sport. Many point out that reg­u­la­tion of it will be dif­fi­cult. It will. But this isn’t a rea­son not to do it, merely an ac­knowl­edge­ment that the de­sign and mon­i­tor­ing of the sys­tem needs good peo­ple and process in place. The FIA and For­mula 1 have al­ready en­sured that is the case.

While cost-cap­ping may be di­vi­sive, it pales into in­signif­i­cance com­pared with the next pro­posal, which is the re­dis­tri­bu­tion of in­come. The pre­vi­ous com­mer­cial rights hold­ers, hav­ing only short-term ob­jec­tives, were happy to use dif­fer­en­tial in­come as a pow­er­ful per­suader to achieve their aims. Teams that com­plained loud­est tended to come off best until the present sit­u­a­tion arose, whereby cer­tain teams can ob­tain high in­come even with sub­stan­dard re­sults. When I was at Wil­liams it al­ways galled me that even though we beat Fer­rari in 2014, we ended up with sig­nif­i­cantly less prize money than them.

For­mula 1 have an­nounced that the his­tor­i­cal fran­chise and value will still be recog­nised, thereby leav­ing the door open to some form of historic bonus, but more

FOR­MULA 1 HAS A DIF­FER­ENT VIEW, ONE THAT TAKES IN THE BIG PICTURE – AND PUTS EN­TER­TAIN­MENT AS THE TOP OF THE LIST OF DE­SIR­ABLES

sig­nif­i­cantly they have recog­nised for the first time that en­gine sup­pli­ers can share in the rev­enue rather than only par­tak­ing if they own a team.

On the sport­ing and tech­ni­cal reg­u­la­tion changes, the com­mer­cial rights hold­ers are calling for cars that are more race­able, mean­ing they should be able to fol­low each other more closely than is the case at present. They also recog­nise that while engi­neer­ing will al­ways re­main a cor­ner­stone of the sport, the driver’s skill must be a pre­dom­i­nant fac­tor in the car’s per­for­mance. In fact they call for it to be the pre­dom­i­nant fac­tor, a slightly op­ti­mistic de­sire in so tech­ni­cal a sport.

Of course the com­mer­cial rights hold­ers don’t have the abil­ity to gov­ern the sport, but one very re­fresh­ing as­pect of the new era is that they’re work­ing closely with the FIA to re­source the re­search nec­es­sary to un­der­stand the de­sires of the fans, and how they may be achieved through tech­ni­cal and sport­ing reg­u­la­tion changes. It’s my role as chief tech­nol­ogy of­fi­cer of For­mula 1 to en­able my small team to help steer that re­search, not just in the car de­sign but also in the for­mu­la­tion of novel sport­ing reg­u­la­tions and even cir­cuit de­sign.

Fi­nally the doc­u­ment made pub­lic in Bahrain stated that con­cern­ing gover­nance of the sport, a sim­ple and stream­lined struc­ture would be set up be­tween the teams, the FIA and For­mula 1. A sim­ple sen­tence, but if this state could be achieved it will prob­a­bly be the sin­gle most im­por­tant step to­wards our utopian fu­ture.

The an­nouce­ment in Bahrain means that 2020 should be the last year of F1 in its cur­rent for­mat

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