‘Rich drivers’ a sign cost cuts are needed – Minardi

2013 F1 season

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Former F1 team principal Gian Carlo Minardi, whose eponymous squad raced in F1 from 1985 to 2005, has warned that F1’s inability to control costs is harming the sport.

“We’re going back to ’90s, when the grid was composed by 18 squads – mostly private – who had to integrate their budget by choosing rich drivers,” said Minardi.

“Starting by saying that if a driver gets the superlicence, then he deserves to race in F1, the impossibility to get enough money through sponsorships, forces a team to choose those drivers who can either rely on the support of multinational companies or on the support of countries which use sport to promote their own products and tourism; their choice is not based on sports meritocracy.

“Teams’ financial situation won’t be better, as the reintroduction of the turbo engine in 2014 will further increase costs.”

The debate over ‘pay drivers’ in F1 has resurfaced since Timo Glock lost his seat at Marussia. Other teams are expected to cut established drivers to make way for paying newcomers.

Minardi says this hows the cost-cutting measures introduced in F1 in recent years must go further:

“Private testing restriction has forced teams to concentrate their resources on new sectors, such as virtual simulation. Moreover, top teams can rely on an in-house team who supports technicians in managing the race.

“To reduce costs, it should be necessary to have less sophisticated cars, reduce the employment of electronics and aerodynamics and set rules which will help the development of material and technology to be applied on the series production.”

“Car racing has always been one of the most expensive sports ever,” he continued. “Since a long time ago, all the drivers who made it into F1, could rely on the support of their family and important companies. It’s hard to see a driver pushing forward with his own resources.

“The revolution FIA is carrying on now is aiming at reducing the number of categories in order to make the talent identification process easier. In the past, we had only few categories: Formula One, Formula Two and Formula Three. In F2 there were four or five constructors and more engine suppliers. That was the right way to emphasise talent.

“We must have the courage to make some steps backwards, even if it’s not easy.”

Minardi pointed out that “GP2, GP3 and [Formula Renault 3.5] teams have many vacancies” which is an “alarm bell” for the sport. And he pointed out that some of the new sources of funding some teams are using may only work in the short term:

“Furthermore, there is another particular circumstance that should be taken under control: many parents are either buying or becoming part of racing teams to assist their sons’ professional development. No doubt this means certainty to some teams, but, if results didn’t come, they could give up.

“That is what happened when car companies got into F1. As soon as the crisis started to affect the world of car racing, car companies left the scene, causing problems for the entire system.”

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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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37 comments on “‘Rich drivers’ a sign cost cuts are needed – Minardi”

  1. It’s a fair point, and something that’s far from ideal for F1. But it has always been thus – we’ve seen a cycle of manufacturers and privateers in F1. Manufacturers enter, they push prices up in a mad spending binge, then pull out after a lack of success (or after too much success) leaving the privateers in a delicate situation financially. That goes on for a while until new manufacturer/s decide to take the plunge (cautiously as an engine supplier first before having delusions of grandeur and going in as a full works team). They could even be the same manufacturers that pulled out just a decade earlier.

    F1 survived all that back then. It’ll do the same again now.

  2. “To reduce costs, it should be necessary to have less sophisticated cars, reduce the employment of electronics and aerodynamics and set rules which will help the development of material and technology to be applied on the series production.”

    It’s a sound idea, and it sounds great in theory, but it’s all let down by one crucial flaw: the front-running teams will never agree to it. They know that if they spend increasing amounts of money on these things, they will have better cars – and they won’t sacrifice their advantage for the sake of smaller teams.

    1. It’s not working in Indycar, is it?

      1. It’s not working in Indycar because nobody can agree on the right way to run the sport, and everybody is too busy trying to get control over Indycar as a whole because they refuse to acknowledge that anybody else’s ideas on how to run it might actually be good ideas.

        1. Could be the shape of things to come, if Bernie ever drops dead.

          1. @bullfrog – Somehow, I think Bernie has planned for that eventuality. Whether he leaves because he retires, dies or gets arrested by the Germans, he’ll want to make sure that the sport does not degenerate into in-fighting for control over it.

    2. @prisoner-monkeys Yeah that plus the fact that Formula 1 is all about sophisticated cars that push the limit of what is possible in terms of speed within the rules, you dumb everything down and it just wouldn’t be the same.

      That paragraph you quoted doesn’t sound like Formula 1 at all. Maybe this has to happen I don’t know but it would lose the glamour that surrounds the sport. Yes F1 is expensive, but that’s all part of the game, it’s what makes it what it is – It’s not supposed to be cheap and anyone can race, this is the pinnacle.

      1. @rob-wilson – I don’t know about you, but I remember a time when Formula 1 was actually relevant to road cars. It was Formula 1 that invented the sequential gearbox with the paddle shift levers that so many cars use today. Tell me, though, how are off-throttle blown diffusers relevant to road cars?

        1. Not everything they develop has to line up with what you can put on a family car 10 years down the line. There are some developments that are always going to be Formula 1, or motor-sport exclusive, surely for someone like Adrian Newey the benefit of speed right now to this car we are developing is worth more than to be thinking ‘is this going to be relevent to the road car market’

          1. But that’s not an excuse to allow designers to go out and create sophisticated and very expensive components that yield just a tenth of a second per lap, and only create sophisticated and very expensive components that yield just a tenth of a second per lap.

          2. Personally I feel that even the aerodynamics is not a complete waste. By developing highly sophisticated simulation systems to actually check what Newey et all come up with and build the parts from that, while they don’t benefit road cars immediately, does a lot in the long run.

            Modern day road cars have learnt a lot from earodynamics too (making them more fuel efficient, while looking good at the same time – matter of taste off course), and it helps the field of fluid dynamics which is elementary for planes, but far more for all sorts of turbines and pumps, ships, dams etc. So its not a complete waste apart from the making the racing go faster around corners.

        2. Restrictions prevent innovation. There’s no point developing something when its just going to be banned before the end of the season.

          1. That didn’t stop the teams from developing off-throttle blown diffusers throughout 2011, even when they knew the cocnept would be banned for 2012.

        3. Isn’t the sole point of F1 to provide the fastest drivers in the world with the cars that enable them to drive around a track in the shortest time possible?

          Technologies relevant to road cars are mostly developed in Le Mans style endurance series’.

          I think the problem is that the (top) F1 cars are so over-optimized that you actually need to invest hundreds of millions just to go a tiny bit faster than your competition. So the sport needs gimmicks like funny tyres, DRS and KERS to make it again more interesting.
          Another way to mix it up is of course by changing regulations to send all teams back to the drawing board from time to time. Of course after 1 or 2 season the teams with the biggest budgets will dominate once again, until the next regulation changes.

        4. F1 isn’t supposed to be road relevant. If it happens to be, then great. But first and foremost it’s about gaining an advantage. Endurance racing is more of a forum for courting road car technologies, and always has been.

      2. +1.

        F1 is about technology and the goal should be try make an advancement work with less money not limit inovation.

  3. Apparently, Mclaren, Ferrari and Red Bull couldn’t give a dam* about cost cutting.

    Just showed how corrupted the F1 management system since the very first day.

    Sponsors commitment is declining from 1 sec to another…..the sport has no future if there isnt a budget cap introduced.

    1. Apparently, Mclaren, Ferrari and Red Bull couldn’t give a dam* about cost cutting.

      Just showed how corrupted the F1 management system since the very first day.

      McLaren, Ferrari and Red Bull have nothing to do with the management of Formula 1. If they’re the ones who are guilty about not caring about cost-cutting, but have nothing to do with the management of the sport, the the management is not corrupted.

    2. We keep crying wolf, but costs have been out of control since day one and F1 is larger than ever.

  4. I’m sure others know the complete list, but didn’t Lauda, Piquet and several others begin as ‘pay-drivers’? And Giovanni Lavaggi is frequently cited as the low point of this phase, but he did go on to produce his own prototype car, which, though heathrobinsonesque, was nowhere near as bad as one might imagine. So he had (has?) the fever, no question

  5. I agree with Minardi when he says Starting by saying that if a driver gets the superlicence, then he deserves to race in F1″

    This has always struck me as wierd. As far as I know the discission to give someone a superlisence is made by the FIA on an idividual basis. Although this sometimes means supertalents without titles in the junior classes can come through to formula 1 ( Raikonnen for instance) I feel that the discission is far to dependend on money and sponsors.

    I would like to see a system where for instance the junior catagories get a rating system, where as a driver gets points based on his position in the championship. For instance, finishing first, second or thid in the GP2 or FR 3.5 would give a driver lets say 100, 80, and 60 FIA points, with fever points the farther you go down the end of year standingd. Fisinish those same positings in GP3 or FR 2.0 would give the driver 60, 40, and 30 FIA points, in European F3, 50, 35, and 25. (the exact numbers are unimportant)

    You could then make criteria for getting a superlicence based on those points. So lets say in the examble above you would need a 125 point to get a superlicence. this would mean you need at least one title in a major feeder series, or several good positions in several championships befoe you get a superlicence.

    Which in turn means that sponsors will HAVE to look to the more succesfull drivers and back those, bcs otherwise their money will be wasted their “local boy” or “future son in law” drivers….

    1. I feel that the discission is far to dependend on money and sponsors.

      Drivers cannot buy superlicences. Sponsors cannot buy superlicences for drivers. In order to obtain a superlicence, a driver must have achieved certain things, such as winning certain championships (such as GP2 or Formula Renault 3.5), or consistently placing in the top three places over the course of three years in those series. There is a provision that allows for a driver to compelte 300km of testing in a Formula 1 car and earn a superlicence, but that is issued at the discretion of the FIA.

      Restructuring the superlicence system isn’t going to fix any problems, though. Costs in Formula 1 need to come down. Instead of spending $400 million in a year, teams should be looking to spend no more than $100 million at the most.

      1. Drivers can ideed not buy superlicences, but a plea by a F1 team might sway the FIA to grant one where they otherwise would not have.

        The thing is, that most drivers in the junior catagories are very able drivers, otherwise it’s unlikely that they would progress beyong the karting stage of their carreer. But by making a superlisence more “exclusive”for lack of a better word might limit the phenomonon of the “pay driver”

        But yes, you 100% right that this is not the main problem at all, costs HAVE to come down! I was not suggesting this a total sollution to the article, just in response to the one comment in the article ;)

    2. But by doing that your then penalizing the good drivers who find themselves in bad teams in the lower categories but who have an obvious talent good enough for F1.

      Alonso for instance only had 3 points finishes in F3000 because he wasn’t in the best car, Yet his showed an obvious talent which got F1 teams interested. Under your points based system its unlikely he’d have qualified for a super license when he did.

      This is how you are currently able to get a Super License-

      To qualify for an FIA Super Licence the requesting driver must already be the holder of a Grade A competition licence, and additionally meet the requirements of the FIA International Sporting Code, Appendix L. These requirements state that the driver must be either the reigning champion in a lower category of motor sport, for example Formula 3 (British, Italian or Japanese championship, or Euro Series), Formula 2, or GP2 Series (formerly known as Formula 3000), or must have consistently finished well in these categories. For example, a driver finishing in the first three positions five times within the last two years in GP2 will be eligible for a Super Licence.

      Additionally, drivers who have competed in the IndyCar Series are eligible for a Super Licence if they finished within the first four places of the drivers championship. This allows drivers from the United States domestic series to move into Formula One without first taking part in other FIA sanctioned events. Under exceptional circumstances Appendix L also allows the FIA to award a Super Licence to a driver who does not meet the normal criteria if a vote reveals unanimous agreement by the members, and provided that the driver has completed 300 kilometres of testing at racing speeds in a current car.

      1. I take a quote from Kimi Raikonnen’s wikipedia page :

        “Räikkönen entered Formula One as a regular driver for Sauber-Petronas in 2001. Having previously only raced in very junior open-wheel categories, he was given his Super Licence from the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) after a performance delivery promise by his team boss, Peter Sauber”

        If money or talent is involved, exceptions are made. But yes you’re right, to do as I suggest wouold also limit talented drivers from making a quick jump to F!. Which I agree would be regrettable. However, they would still “float to the top” in the junior catagories , it would just take them a few extra years to do so. Which is not neccisarily bad inmy oppinion.

        1. @melkurion Wikipedia is OK for getting a very basic overview of subjects but I would never cite it in a discussion like this because anything that’s written in it can be changed by anyone. There is nothing stopping someone from changing what’s written then referencing it and saying “look, Wikipedia agrees with me”.

          Raikkonen’s superlicence was granted on a provisional basis by the FIA because of his lack of experienced, he was then given a full superlicence after participating in the first few races.

          1. @ keithcollantine

            You’re right ofcourse, although I value the information on Wikipedia quite highly as research has shown it is more accurate then encyclopedia Brittanica, and articals do have various levels of protection depending on the sesitivity of their content. But a discussion about the validity of Wikipedia is for another forum ;)

            I was merely using it as an easy examble, and the provisional lisence was grated on the insistance of Sauber, which is the point I was trying to make, that the rules for getting a superlicense can, and have been bent for various reasons

    3. That suggestion doesn’t solve anything, though; it just pushes the problem further down the “food chain.” You still need a massive budget to get a decent drive in one of the lower formulae, particularly GP2. Results are often team-dependent even in spec series. If anything that would be worse for good drivers with small budgets, because they’d never get a good enough drive in the junior formulae to amass enough points for an F1 superlicence.

      1. Maybe, but alternativly it might also motive sponsors to go for those talented drivers, because then they will have more certainty that their sponsoring will eventually penetrate the higher levels of motorracing.

        But I’m just spitballing a general idea here hoping to have a discussion, so thank you guys for responding and putting in your oppinion :D

  6. F1’s major selling point is that its the quickest single seat series in the world. ‘They’ arnt going to let that go by getting rid of aero, and, you cant uninvent technology.

    1. you cant uninvent technology

      No, but you can push through changes to the sporting regulations that limit the ability of teams to use certain aero-generating devices, like off-throttle blwon diffusers.

      1. Sorry PM but I have to come in here. As a tax adviser, I hear people (especially Politicians) complain about how complex the tax codes are. They forget (too easily) that those codes were made as a result of closing loopholes. So, the more loopholes are closed the more complex a code becomes. And the same people are the ones who goes in their darkrooms whenever a code is adopted, to look for those loopholes. Sadly my profession belongs to those who look-up or make-out those loopholes just as Engineer do in F1 :(

        Now, transfer the above into F1, you will see that rules do not go backwards. As humans we tend to progress to higher points. People may want the “good old days” back because of its apparent simplicity but the generation before that did not find that simple. Remember when Herr Auto developed the combustion engine, the horse owner did not want the car runing on the roads because the horses were scared of the noise. So, implying we should go back to old rules will not work as we would always look forward to bettering a situation, be it 0.1secs or less as far an advantage is created, it is a progress.

        1. Thank you for this observation BBQ2, It does a great job of showing just why the rules are as complex as they are, and are unlikely to ever be easy (unless “buy this car from this company and you are not allowed to change any part except official spare parts delivered by said company” – and even that already has some additions to close loopholes, proving your point!)

      2. @prisoner-monkeys Even after RBR had their fishy ECU banned they still went and won the championship by cracking the exhaust conundrum…after that was sort-of banned!

  7. I think Minardi has missed a significant point here. It’s not that rich drivers are a sign that cost cuts are needed, after all there have always been rich drivers. No, the number of rich drivers are a clear sign that the driver has become a relatively unimportant part of the equation. i.e. with current regulations there is not sufficient difference between where a good driver will finish with the car and an average one (you don’t after all get bad drivers in F1 anymore it’s not allowed).

    Driver input has been steadily eroding for decades and now far more is decided on the pit wall and in the factory than in the cockpit. I’m not saying that someone like Karthikeyan would win in a Red Bull or McLaren, driver skill does still count for something, but nothing like it used to.

    I think the regulations should be changed to give the driver a greater input in the result. I don’t particularly care how. Some possible changes could even save money, such as banning live telemetry. Not only would the drivers have to work out most of their own strategy, but the hordes of personnel in the pits a back at the factory interpreting all this live data along with all that sophisticated equipment would be saved. Somehow though, I doubt if the FIA have the inclination to be that bold.

    There is a downside of course to increasing drivers input again. By definition the racing will not be as close, but I believe this should be F1, with drivers and constructors championships, not a one make series or just entertainment.

  8. Sukuma Varoshiotis
    28th January 2013, 20:49

    Many here assume that innovation and advanced technology involves just aerodynamics. DRS was instigated to overcome the inability of cars to slipstream and overtake. Limit aerodynamic development and its use as much as possible and instead open up the regulations in most other areas: new lightweight materials, suspension designs etc. Minardi is right.

  9. I do take some sick pleasure in all this pay driver nonsense, if I’m honest! Not least because of the opinions it divides but just because I have faith that F1 will get over it, like it gets around everything else. Face it, the whole world is on a budget and right now we’re having to take the rough with the smooth.

    Sure, I’d love to see drivers get their seat on talent alone, but I also want to see teams struggle. I want to see teams challenged mechanically, technically and financially. It’s another hardship that they choose to endure and respect to them for doing it, they don’t really get my sympathy though, should they fail. I don’t buy this rubbish about the sport being unsustainable, I just see teams wanting an easier way to the top. If it was unsustainable they’d have cleared off by now.

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