A1 Grand Prix’s new generation could be a rival to Formula 1

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When A1 Grand Prix first began in 2005 its organisers played down claims it might be a rival to Formula 1.

With substantially less powerful cars and a roster consisting largely of inexperienced drivers, it wasn’t likely to lure viewers away from motor racing’s top flight.

But signs are that could be about to change this year, as the championship prepares for its fourth season with a new, more powerful, Ferrari-designed, sponsor-friendly car.

The handsome new racer, based on Ferrari’s crushingly dominant F2004 of 2004, sheds the ugliness of its predecessor.

It packs much more of a punch as well. A1’s previous V8 Zytek units did their job and were commendably reliable, but for the championship to attract top-flight talent it clearly needed a more challenging machine.

A1 isn’t just moving closer to F1 in terms of power, it also wants to lure major sponsors to the series as well.

Just a few days after Frank Williams complained advertising space would be reduced by 25% because of the 2009 aerodynamics regulations cutting wing sizes, A1 Grand Prix put out a press release boasting the bodywork on its cars had been enlarged to allow sponsors’ logos to be displayed more fully.

F1 specified a minimum size of engine covers a few years ago for commercial reasons. But now teams are extending their engine covers far beyond the where the rules require to act as flow conditioners for the rear wing.

A1GP chief commercial officer Scott Hollingsworth said:

With all the cars being identical we have flexibility to make sure we deliver our promises to both our sponsors and fans. This enlarged engine cover allows a much higher profile position, while delivering the on track performance we demand. We are working hard to make sure our commercial partners get the most out of their association with A1GP.

The image above shows the car as it was originally designed. The picture below shows the revised look of the car.

Max Mosley and Bernie Ecclestone have often been accused of protecting Formula 1 from other championships – a charge former A1GP boss Sheikh Maktoum Hasher Maktoum Al Maktoum directed at Mosley. I think it is becoming clear the World Cup of Motorsport sees itself increasingly as a rival to F1.

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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33 comments on “A1 Grand Prix’s new generation could be a rival to Formula 1”

  1. Wow, it looks lovely! I’m not familiar with the rules of A1, but can a country have multiple teams entering the championship? If so, it would be great to see some of the bigger teams participating or atleast collaborating with A1 teams. And since there isn’t a Concorde agreement stopping any of the teams from doing that currently, it should be quite possible if any of the teams desire to do so.

  2. Unfortunately it would mean having to use Ferrari power, which might rule out some teams!

  3. the one in the top picture looks better

  4. the fact that A1 sees itself as a rival to F1 does not mean it will become one. I think that unless they ditch that ridiculous World Cup of Motorsports label and start attracting top drivers regardless of their nationatilty they will remain pretty much where they are. Ferrari cars alone will not save them …

  5. I love that the car is being built in my home town of Bognor Regis…

    1. Where are A!GP Technologies based in Bognor Regis

  6. I doubt it could ever be a rival to formula one, in that people tune in to F1 to see rival manufacturers, who built their own cars, battling it out, in the pinnacle of engineering.

    Although, when the F1 isn’t on, I do admit I like the head-to-head nature of A1.

    Another thing that counts against A1 is that it isn’t grand prix racing – the sprint and feature race format is no match for a 2 hour race.

  7. um does anyone know what engine it runs, as in how many litres, hp, tourqe, ect.

    and how does it compare to the ferrari F1 V8

    this will be intresting if the A1GP car is faster then next years F1’s with these new regs put in

  8. It’s a 600bhp V8, so not as powerful as F1, but closer than the last car which had slightly more than 500bhp.

  9. so how many litre is it?

    is it a 2.4 or 3.0 or something around there?

    watched a vid of it on youtube and it sounded somewhat like a champcar engine, alot less tourqe then a F1 engine

  10. hold on a minute, the F2004 with a V8?


  11. I don’t think Ferrari would want these cars taking away from F1, it would hurt them more then help them…. I would be great so see a V10 with slicks again though. Too bad.

  12. One car per country, Cyanide. A1 remains a road to hell paved with a great intention. If A1 were successful, they would attract drivers from all forms of motor racing during the off season, including, if not especially, F1, and we’d see all the Germans fighting each other for a chance to drive Germany’s car, as an example. Success for A1 would be that we think of it in the same sense as the international community thinks of the World Cup with respect to international professional football. Is the World Cup bigger? Yes, but it exists alongside football, it doesn’t overcome it or cancel it out.

    My pet peeve about A1 remains that television coverage puts so much emphasis on country that you never get to know the people they are talking about; they say “Switzerland are dominating,” not “Neel Jani leads again.”

    I think the motors are 2.4’s, they are restricted (intake airflow) and sealed (no engineering allowed), with a push-to-pass button. In the long race, pitstops are compulsory, must be taken within a window, four tires must be changed, and pit crews must wait behind the wall for the car to come to a complete stop in the stall before approaching the car. There is no refuelling, though they’ve never had a car run out of fuel, as far as I know. Rolling starts in the short race, standing starts in the long one, both races per event count for the same amount of points. Points are earned by the countries (teams), not the drivers.

  13. Keith,

    I really don’t think that A1 is really a competition to F1. The organizers might like to think so wishfully but A1 will never rival F1. A1 at best can only compliment F1 during its off season days. Agreed that the involvement of Ferrari has raised A1’s profile and interest and perhaps now its getting on the level of GP2. But the very fact that they have to rely on a 5 year old F1 car to raise their profile shows where they are in relation to F1.

    Every series in the world (IRL, A1, ex champ car, etc) that does not openly admit that its a ladder series to F1 like F3, WSR, GP2 and million other junior formulaes, like to believe that they are competition to F1. But they are not. An average of 500 people per team working to put two cars on the gird with multi million dollar budgets can never be rivaled by series with 10 people (whom i have full respect for)working on a car with a budget that wont buy tyres for a F1 team for a full season.

    Its really a complex scenario. Part of the problem is that not all F1 fans are open wheel fans in general who will readily embrace alternate concept immediately. There are people who like the glitz and glamor of F1 and for them racing is a bonus, something the other series seemingly cant deliver. There is other group of people who are open wheel racing for whom racing is primary and the glitz, glamor and technology of F1 is an added incentive. People of the latter category might embrace an alternate. But I would say that this divide in F1 audience is at least half and half, which makes it really tough for other series. Mya be if they get/allow multiple chassis and engine manufacturers (Like CART in its hay days) then they can be a serious threat to F1. But then, costs will go out of control and unfortunately they will end up mimicking F1 and cant produce anything different than what F1 already offers.

    Having said all this, credit where its due. A1 pulled a master stroke by having their racing in the traditional off season. If it was in the usual racing season, everyone would have dismissed it as yet another junior formula wannabe series, no matter how much money they sunk in or PR spin they would have tried to put. It is only because of this, that even i think A1 complements F1 and not a outright feeder series to F1. Unfortunately for them, Bernie has realized what a master stroke it is and that is the reason he created GP2 Asia series (which by the way shows what Bernie thinks of A1 regarding its ability to compete against F1) to make their life harder. Throw in the mix the new superleague formula which has a ridiculous concept but terrific car with a 750hp singing V12 engine, it becomes really complex.

    I believe that the Superleague formula not withstanding its lousy concept can still rival A1 and perhaps fill the void the demise of Champcar has created for open wheel road racing fans with their good car and engine formula, provided their investors are willing to sink in the same amount of money as A1 did in its formative years. Only time will tell if the they have such resources and patience.

  14. It hardly registers a blip on the radar. The drivers are second-rate at best, in the main. The cars are not a patch on an F1 show. I don’t think that racing fans are, in general, overtly or overly nationalistic (excepting, maybe, the tifosi) – they tend to like drivers as personalities and teams for their particular characters and histories, rather than for any reasons of national loyalty. For me, the whole concept of ‘national’ racing teams is rather jingoistic – I much prefer the more cosmopolitan nature of mainstream motorsport.

  15. I have never seen anything of A1 GP here in Sweden. It’s not even on the radar. I they want to become a World Cup, they could start by trying to hook up TV channels all over the world that actually want to show it.

    Anybody seen some races? How are they compared to F1? More overtaking?

  16. I like A1, and I follow it. The Ferrari connection has definitely lifted their profile. I started watching because of the South African connection, being a South African I was naturally more interested. But then again I also watch GP2.

    But out of all these other motor racing events noting is like F1, F1 is just special. The first and most noticeable thing is the drivers, F1 drivers are better then the others (well for most part atleast) and much are more high profile. It says something that A1 basically needed Ferrari to raise their profile. F1 is just much more global, high profile and it has a big history that the other motor racing events doesn’t have, almost everyone knows about F1 even if they don’t watch it or care about motor racing there is just a big legacy in F1. Who knows it might change in the future, but F1 is, I think safe for some time yet.

  17. @spectre: A1 is amazing for racing compared to F1. Really puts F1 to shame. Check it out.


  18. Robert McKay
    15th July 2008, 21:06

    There’s no reason why a three (?) year old series should be ready to compete with F1, with the long history that has, stretching back even before the World Championship was born. It will take time for them to build the series and grow. It’s not even near GP2 yet. The nations thing has always seemed a gimmick, but it’s a crowded marketplace out there and you have to differentiate the product. It does need some better drivers, as has been said, and it needs some better venues (a lot of them just scream “touring car” to me).

    But let’s give it a chance, and give it some time. I think it does offer an alternative, more than just being a series that races whilst F1 is on holiday, I think there is, from a hardcore motorsport fans point of view, an inherent attraction in a series where everyone has equal equipment. It’s neither neccessarily better nor worse than F1’s approach, but it is different, and it would be nice to see a series get somewhere near what F1 has done but do it with this alternate approach.

    There’s no particular reason why they can’t coexist, and, more importantly, compete against each other in the future – a bit of rivalry might do wonders for the two in terms of pushing each other on. F1 has gotten sloppy and lazy in some aspects – its snail-like pace at adapting to new technologies, its seeming inability to remember the fans who prop it up, for example.

    Besides, F1 has no divine right to be pre-eminent at the top of the motorsports tree.

  19. Robert McKay
    15th July 2008, 21:33

    “its snail-like pace at adapting to new technologies”

    P.S. I didn’t mean technology on the racing side, I meant more in terms of the presentation, such as the internet etc. – a management flaw as opposed to a flaw in the competitors :-D

  20. Uppilli
    you said A1GP not being able to fight against F1 due to them using a 4 year old car to race.

    a 4 year old car that in its V10 configuration still holds most track records, between TWO drivers (hence not just Schuey’s talent).

    I was looking at getting into A1GP, since they have the F2004 chassis I’m seriously considering it, could someone be helpful enough to tell me how I get to watch it?.
    also liking the Nations side of things, even if us motorracing fans aren’t used to it… i’ll grit my teeth

  21. Internet, thanks for the link.
    amazing racing.

    that rhymes by the way.

  22. There are numerous things about the A1GP concept that appeal to me. First, I don’t think the series will ever equal F1…but I don’t think it was ever designed or intended to do that anyway. Running in the F1 off-season was exactly the right move, as it eliminates the head-to-head competition notion right away.

    The national concept appeals to me, as it allows some promising younger drivers to be showcased who could/should end up in F1 someday. On the flipside, I can see how some fans would be turned off by seeing former F1 drivers hanging onto the motorsports world in it’s ranks.

    In terms of venues, I like some of the moves A1GP makes- visiting the new circuit at Algarve in Portugal at the end of this season, along with opening the year in Italy- was that a requirement in order to get the Ferrari deal?

    In sum, I don’t think A1GP will ever equal F1 in terms of revenue or popularity, but it can certainly develop into a profitable and successful venture that continues to grow and expand around the world. I think the thing that would help it the most is if some of it’s young drivers find their way into F1 and succede- while i’m sure that A1GP dosen’t want to be known as a feeder series, having some of their stars make it to the top will be a huge boost for it’s cerdibility and reputation.

  23. Also, from an American perspective, I enjoy seeing a continued American presence in an international racing series. Team USA pulled in it’s first-ever A1GP win this season at the F1 circuit in Shanghai, with up-and-coming Jonathan Summerton on top of the podium in red, white, and blue. I hope that more success for the team is ahead, with hopefully more of it’s drivers progressing on to F1 and other series.

    And on that note about the schedule above, I’ve heard strong rumours that an American venue will be included on the A1GP schedule in the near future. If that is true, and if Bernie still dosen’t bring back the USGP, I wonder how he’ll like it when the manufacturers and sponsors start asking why A1GP races in America and F1 dosen’t. Imagine the following conversation in a year or two between Bernie(BE) and a number of potential/current sponsors(SP)

    SP: So, Mr. E, can you tell us why A1GP has a race in the American market, while you still can’t agree to a reasonable deal to give us the exposure we need there?
    BE: I’ve said for some time now that my mission is to go east rather than west, to developing markets like China, where they give us whatever we want.
    SP: Yes, we know, but A1GP now races in America AND in Asia. In fact, they even race at that superfortress in Shanghai you had built there. So why should we continue to fork over millions into your pocket if another series can give us exposure in more vital markets?
    BE: Well….I can’t really answer that…..

    Thoughts anyone?

  24. Racing is racing. If I see passing and side by side racing, I will watch no matter what the car looks like or who is in it. My guess is unless SPEED Channel has it, it will not be televised in the USA.

  25. From one side, I wish A1 GP was a serious rival to F1.
    Atleast that way, Formula One will continue to evolve and not fall into complacency. Atleast I hope?

  26. Steve K, I do believe SPEED dose carry A1GP, but I also believe that it’s run on tape delay a few days after the actual event takes place. Perhaps as the series develops we will see some increased promotion of the sport over on our shores.

  27. A1 shoudln’t be a rival to F1 and the day it does become a rival will be the day it is ruined because it will take on the rediculous politics, rhetoric and general beuracracy that surrounds F1.

    A1 is a World Cup race: country v country. They can change their drivers every race if they want to as it is about the team not the driver. It’s fantastic to always know who you’re supporting.

    Top drivers will not be enticed to A1 as the pay will not be high enough since each team is supposedly a franchise. Since the drivers are not top notch we see fantastic close racing with a lot of different winners.

    That said, I would be surprised if we do not see the like of Hulkenberg, Jarvis, Duran and Jani to name a few, not making it into GP2 and then F1. Hulkenberg will deffinately get there.

    They are top drivers early in their careers.

  28. Brian Morrell
    16th July 2008, 16:12

    I often wonder why some have to go over the top when seeking to establish their own brand of poisen as being better than the other guys. A1GP has filled a gap in the year when there is nothing much else of interest and no, it was never intended to replace or compete with F1 but by hell it provides some superb action with plenty of overtaking and the usual spills and thrills on the first bend. Come on you miserable lot of F1 fuddy duddys, are you saying you dont or wont watch A1GP because youve been brain washed by the glitz of F1 and cant recognise the skill and effort these budding drivers provide for your winter enjoyment? Wait and see how many young drivers progress to F1 from this competition now Ferrari are behind it.

  29. It doesn’t matter if A1 televise in your country or not, they post all the races on their website. Go ahead, if you haven’t seen it before, visit A1GP.com and watch all of last season.

    If F1 borrow only one idea from this series, that should be it. If they must, they can make it a revenue generator like Moto GP.

  30. My pet peeve about A1 remains that television coverage puts so much emphasis on country that you never get to know the people they are talking about; they say “Switzerland are dominating,” not “Neel Jani leads again.”

    My feelings entirely, Chunter.

    Every series in the world (IRL, A1, ex champ car, etc) that does not openly admit that its a ladder series to F1 like F3, WSR, GP2 and million other junior formulaes, like to believe that they are competition to F1. But they are not.

    Uppili – I don’t think there’s anything at the same level as F1 now, but there has been in the past – think of early ’90s CART or the World Sportscar Championship. I do like A1 as something to keep me entertained in the off-season (along with GP2 Asia).

    F1 has gotten sloppy and lazy in some aspects – its snail-like pace at adapting to new technologies, its seeming inability to remember the fans who prop it up, for example.

    Hear, hear.

    In terms of venues, I like some of the moves A1GP makes- visiting the new circuit at Algarve in Portugal at the end of this season, along with opening the year in Italy

    A1 has raced at some cracking venues that F1 turns its nose up at. The Brands Hatch Grand Prix circuit, Laguna Seca, the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez in Mexico… even the Durban street track in South Africa is fun (the Beijing one was a disaster though – the hairpin was too narrow for the cars to get around).

    Racing is racing. If I see passing and side by side racing, I will watch no matter what the car looks like or who is in it.

    I think a lot of fans look at it this way.

  31. World cup of motor sport? LOL

    A rival to F1? That’s even funnier! HA!

  32. Does anyone know A1GP Technologies address in Bognor Regis?

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