F1’s problem isn’t governance, it’s the governor


Posted on

| Written by

There was widespread relief yesterday as the FIA signalled Formula One’s disastrous experimentation with elimination qualifying will come to an end in time for the next round of the championship.

Why did the sport embrace new qualifying format when teams knew would fail before it was introduced and which fans largely didn’t want? Many have taken it as a sign of Formula One’s broken ‘governance’.

Last week, in a letter partly motivated by dissatisfaction with the changes to qualifying, drivers called for an overhaul of F1’s governance which they called “obsolete”. They blamed it for “recent rule changes – on both the sporting and technical side, and including some business directions [which] are disruptive, do not address the bigger issues our sport is facing and in some cases could jeopardise its future success”.

But governance alone cannot explain the farce which cast a shadow over the opening round of the new championship. The elimination qualifying plan did not materialise out of thin air.

It came about because Bernie Ecclestone desired an artificial means of mixing the grid up, either by choosing them at random or giving time penalties to drivers for winning races. The teams knew this would be disastrously unpopular with fans (sure enough, just 3% of F1 Fanatic readers supported the idea) and put forward the elimination qualifying proposal as the lesser of two evils.

Drivers preferred not to “criticise individuals”
The option of returning to the 2015 format was not offered to them either in the pre-season meeting which approved the new format or after its disastrous introduction in Australia. Ecclestone refused to consider alternatives other than his time ballast or ballot plans.

The teams knew letting Ecclestone get his way would invite the kind of ridicule which was heaped on F1 when they agreed to his hated double points proposal two years ago. Panicked by falling television audiences, it increasingly seems he will embrace any gimmick in an attempt to artificially manufacture a better ‘show’.

This is the root of the problem which led to F1 adopting elimination qualifying: The instincts of the most powerful person in the sport go against what the consumers of his product want to see.

This is not a failure of governance. But it will be called one because making an enemy of Ecclestone is an unwise thing to do. Asked last week whether the drivers’ objections were targeted at a particular individual, Nico Rosberg was diplomatic.

“It would be inappropriate now to mention any names or criticise any individuals or even compliment individuals,” he said. “It’s just that we know that it’s not perfect the way it is, it could be better and so it needs to be reviewed and that’s what we’re trying to encourage.”

Not that couching their objections in cautious language was enough to spare them Ecclestone’s wrath. Over the course of the Bahrain Grand Prix weekend he described them as windbags who “shouldn’t even be allowed to talk”.

Time and again, Ecclestone has cited “democracy” as the true cause of Formula One’s problems. This is his hobby horse, a reactionary objection to not always getting his way, and should not be confused with a diagnosis of F1’s problems. His complaints about “democracy” began over a decade ago and pre-date F1’s current governance structure by years.

For everyone else, it’s safer to blame governance. Governance isn’t going to cancel your paddock pass. Governance isn’t going to go after your sponsors. Governance isn’t going to hand preferential financial terms to a rival team.

But the events of the past few weeks show that even if teams aren’t prepared yet to name the source of F1’s problems, they are at least willing to stand up to him.


Browse all comment articles

Author information

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...

Got a potential story, tip or enquiry? Find out more about RaceFans and contact us here.

108 comments on “F1’s problem isn’t governance, it’s the governor”

  1. RaceProUK (@)
    8th April 2016, 12:52

    The drivers and teams need to present a united front against Bernie; it’s the only way to get anything changed

    1. I now a way to change things…

      1. sunny stivala
        8th April 2016, 19:04

        The message on FERRARI twitter account read “Unity is the only way to overcome difficulties”
        Yes the problem isn’t governance, the problem is Bernie and his constant interference with rules regulations and the governance of F1, ad to that his preferred divide to rule way of doing things and you end up with something as bad as cancer.

        1. The problem is that when Ferrari mentioned united they didn’t mean – Ferrari and the other F1 teams stand united, they meant that Ferrari and FIA stand united.

          Ferrari might be the only team that will be upset if Bernie isn’t running the show. They’ll lose their ridiculous veto power and their disproportionate revenue along with their Get out jail cards.

          I expect every other team to stand up against Bernie, except for Ferrari, and unfortunately that’s why the governance of the sport will never change

          1. I was one of the biggest critics of Ferrari but currently they are saying correct things and you seem to forget that Ferrari isn’t the same Ferrari now and that it has a different boss.
            It does not seem that Ferrari will just make another deal with him this time, they even seem to be leading a manufacturers revolt against FOM(take notice how Marchionne seem to want other manufacturers to get into F1).

            Of course they will still look for their interest. They won’t sacrifice every benefit they ever had just like that, they still want to get the money they get and have a veto say but at least they seem willing to stop making back-deals with Bernie against other teams this time around.

            Besides last time it was Red Bull that first backstabbed FOTA. Ferrari followed but we may never know if they would if Red Bull hadn’t broken the alliance.

    2. i remember FOTA………

      1. @frood19 beat me to it….

      2. FOTA? Wasn’t it that association full of manufacturers who exited F1 just a few months after claiming political victory? And those of them which are still around were the pursuers of customer cars (which hinder the business model of most of the existing small private teams) and the current crap, expensive engine architecture, don’t they?

      3. Fudge Ahmed (@)
        9th April 2016, 15:58

        Thank Red Bull.

    3. Ecclestone knows that allowing teams to join forces in pursuit of a common interest would be fatal for him. He’s been burned before. That’s why he does all he can to keep the teams frightened of him, and at each other’s throats – mostly through onerous contract terms (that can include huge penalties for breaking particular terms), and thinly-veiled threats. It’s the Emperor’s New Clothes. Even the F1 press corps observes this omerta – if a motoring publication ever wants an F1 paddock pass, they had better not criticize the Emperor’s Perfect Garments beyond a certain point. Ironic really, as it was Ecclestone’s spin-off of FOCA (Formula One Constructors’ Association) back in the 80s that led to his fortune. I bet Frank Williams and Ron Dennis still shed bitter tears over that. They must feel like Ecclestone’s vassals sometimes.

      The sad thing is that when the fall comes, it will be a sudden and total collapse. Privately, almost everyone in F1 (that I have spoken to or know about) is sharply critical of Bernie Ecclestone in some way, but say the wrong word in public and you’re Adam Parr. The resentment this sort of thing engenders means that when things get difficult for Ecclestone politically, he’ll have little or no support.

  2. Well said Keith, if only more people could enjoy this kind of freedom of speech…

    1. petebaldwin (@)
      8th April 2016, 16:35

      Everyone has freedom of speech. It’s just that lots choose not to use it in the pursuit of their own personal goals.

      Those at the top don’t mind criticising the sport because they have power (despite Bernie’s addled words the other day). Alonso, Vettel or Hamilton can say whatever they want because if they were forced out of the sport, they’d join another series which would create great interest at the expense of F1!

      Vettel wasn’t exactly subtle with what he said and what happened? Bernie called him a “windbag.” I bet Vettel is having sleepless nights over that one!

      Similarly Nico said when asked that he wouldn’t name any names but that qualifying was completely wrong. Well there’s only one person on the planet who thinks elimination qualifying (or worse) is better than the 2015 format so it’s not hard to work out who he is talking about.

    2. People fall way too easily into corporate structures – contractual obligations, liabilities… it’s like number two drivers who will kinda rebel but really only fall into line in the end. I think that people who are well placed enough to have a platform from which to denounce… let’s call it: inefficiency, should put on their bog boy pants and step up. A crappy way of running a sport is just a crappy way of running a sport.

  3. Your comments remind me of brave individuals in Soviet-Era Russia daring indirect criticism of the ruling elite. You dare not name names in those evil days because to do so would invite a four a.m. visit from
    the secret police, and a long period of ‘re-education’ in some rather cool place, like Siberia.
    As you imply, Keith, we all know there is something very dark and extremely unpleasant controlling
    what F1 is, does, and aspires to at this time. The foul breath of corruption is in the air and a great many windows and doors need to be flung wide open for a month or six. I think you may have heaved the first
    brick. Time to look around for a few more……..

    1. some times it’s easier to blame one person. But really, Merc, Ferrari, and probably the biggest fish, the FIA are mostly to blame for what is going on (not counting the paying customers). The problem isn’t Bernie, just like the problem wasn’t just Stalin. The problem is a corrupt culture that depends on easy money, tight lips, and a special compound, initials BS, to grease the wheels of this machine. Like most institutions, F1 has issues with corruption and graft, but to believe that one person is responsible, is childish.

      Until the people reading websites like this take responsibility for their own actions and contributions, nothing is going to really change. Competition keeps people honest, and competition is fleeting in F1, not because of Eccelestone, but because the people running F1 in to the ground are too busy consuming their own ‘product’.

    1. Indeed. Great column.

  4. It’s all smokescreen for the inevitable effects of pay-TV.

    1. @lockup Yes this is my take on it too. Plus the old power plays.

      Love the way F1Fanatic is talking straight here though. Responsible journalism.

    2. Exactly. Funny how viewing numbers have dropped starting by the time F1 went to pay-Tv. Must be a coincidence because how in the world would anyone not pay loads of money to watch this magnificicant spectacle…

    3. Yes, I agree. I am sure there is definitely a link between falling popularity and F1’s affection for Pay TV.

  5. knoxploration
    8th April 2016, 13:22

    Amen. It’s high time Bernie got the boot from CVC, or stepped down voluntarily. (But we all know he’ll never willingly do the latter, even if his decisions increasingly suggest he’s gone senile.)

    1. He’ll not let go. He’s got nothing else. Unfortunately people are living longer than ever.

  6. What do you do when your sport loses viewership, take the best thing about your sport and turn it into crap.
    Way to go Eccly !

  7. Having removed the sport from the casual viewers, it’s direction is now being pointed away from the dedicated fans that remain. Bernie has alienated the Sunday channel hoppers who would find these ideas for increased entertainment fun. And the folks who are left are the purists, the F1-as-sport types who are most vocal against them.

    These tactics were designed to mix up the order not for competitive reasons, but to disrupt the manufacturers and save him money. Ultimately it will send them packing, he’ll get what he wants and the rest of us will leave too. What will the commercial rights be worth then?

    1. petebaldwin (@)
      8th April 2016, 14:12

      @splittimes – He’s 85. He doesn’t care what the commercial rights will be worth then because he won’t be here. That’ll be someone else’s problem to solve.

    2. That is an excellent point. The viewership of F1 is falling and we have lost the casual viewers for a known reason. That is because the package is going to pay TV all around the world. Is that a problem? Well I think so, but it must be remembered that the earnings of F1 increased last year despite falling viewers. If the result of all of this is that the show has gotten better but I now need to pay to see it, then so be it. The show hasn’t got better in my opinion, but that is up for debate I guess.

      However, what is indisputable is that you need to pay to watch F1 in most countries now. We can then assume that only the dedicated F1 fans will pay to watch. The casual viewers are gone. The thing about the dedicated F1 fans is that they want pure racing, not gimmicks. If you are going to put F1 behind the pay wall, then you need to appeal to the people who are prepared to pay for it. Reverse grids, dodgy qualifying rules, sprinklers on the side of the track, double points and so on don’t appeal to the dedicated fans. Those things appeal to the casual viewer. But those viewers are gone now…..

      1. So true,its sad the state of the F1, and those gimmicks, also affect drivers, so bernie is all out, to mess with fans, and drivers along, just in the name of fast profit, the best comparison I can think is when someone burn his store, in hope of a insurance scam, just thinking in the quick money

      2. @mickharrold At the end of the day, he doesn’t even care about eyes on the sport – his metric is if eyes drop off the product, the companies like Sky are going to offer less money when the contract is up for renewal. This is why he doesn’t care if the European fan disappears – we’ve historically not paid much for the sport and in most cases Sky are now throwing money at him.

        I dunno – in theory, Bernie’s chasing the ‘semi-casual’ sports fan. Proper casuals don’t spend, so forget them. What he wants are the people who buy the combined pay TV sports packages anyway because of the big team sports, like football (both types), hockey, UFC/Wrestling and other motor-racing who now have the opportunity to check out F1. They’re paying for it anyway as part of the subs…

      3. Allen Cookson
        11th April 2016, 15:25

        Do you want to improve TV ratings? Then take the decision on WHERE races are held away from Bernie. Who wants to watch a race in Bahrain or Abu Dhabi? Certainly not me. The only reason races are being held there is that those countries will pay the ridiculous fees that Bernie charges to host a race. The tracks, the scenery are terrible! And these are not, CAN’T be large, important car markets. As much as I like Singapore and Malaysia, are they really important car markets and big for viewership? I can’t imagine that they are.
        If you want viewers to come back, you need to return to a Europe-centric schedule, and keep at least one race each in the US, Australia, Japan and China. Only then will you see viewers come back and eliminate the need for pay TV and horrendous sanctioning fees to hold a race.

  8. hello kitty
    8th April 2016, 14:02

    the fastest guys in the fastest cars going full belt for 90 mins, that is what F1 should be. simple.
    not ‘saving the planet’ using piddly hybrids, and then going home on a private jet…
    Give teams the option to use a V10 or V12 engine, that would mix the grid up, especially on certain tracks.

    1. Those piddly hybrids are rapidly becoming as fast as the V10’s ever were, and are already faster than the V12’s and V8’s.

      1. Yep, I really don’t have a problem with the V6 Hybrids as far as the racing is concerned. They’re extremely powerful and incredible pieces of technology. The noise also isn’t an issue – they’re loud enough and the actual quality of the sound is great. Only issue with them is cost

      2. The v6 are awesome; power is one thing and it is close to what they had with v8,10,10s but torque is way more and that’s what gives you acceleration and wheel spin and spins.
        Let the V6 spin to 20.000 and remove the fuel flow limit and they can be twice as powerful as the v10s and v12s.
        The way they are run now, they are more energy efficient than your electric Nissan Leaf drawing power from a plug supplied by a power plan burning fossil fuels.

    2. How would it, when the V10 or V12 would run out of fuel by half distance?

      Oh wait, are you talking about removing the fuel flow & capacity restrictions, aren’t you? Yes, because we all want a two-tier formula and/or engine equivalency in order to make it any semblance of a sporting competition! The Hybrids would likely run away from the NA engines anyway…

    3. “not ‘saving the planet’ using piddly hybrids, and then going home on a private jet…”

      Argh, the fact that we keep on seeing and hearing comments like this is proof that Bernie has done irreparable damage to the current generation of power units. No matter how much power they produce or how efficient they are, some people will always believe that they are just glorified lawnmower engines.

      1. OmarRoncal - Go Seb!!! (@)
        8th April 2016, 18:17

        @geemac I think he refers to the irony of going hybrid for the public and spending tons of fuel off track. Well, we couldn’t expect F1 circus paddling by the ocean to save fuel, could we? But it’s a good message to see F1 going hybrid, and that goes to Hello Kitty.

      2. Argh, argh, argh, exactly the silent response in my head when I read someones stated belief that these engines lack the power required for F1. @geemac

    4. I think you need to go look at the times set in Australia and Bahrain. The current engines are better than the V8’s, V10’s and well, it would be absolutely embarrassing for a V12 to try compete with the current engines.
      Unfortunately you have clearly been brainwashed by senile ramblings of an 85 year old man that is desperately trying to remain relevant in F1

  9. :D Lol Bernie cites democracy is the problem in F1.. goes to dictate rule nobody wants and is predicted to fail… enforces is dictator style…

    If anything looks like dictator is the problem not democracy. But he does have a point, most of us F1 fans live in democratic society. We atleast on surface wish to have a say in rules and future of the sport. Time when audience just stays on sideline and watches is long over. Mess up a rule, within 10 minutes there will be thousands of comments falling in…

    1. petebaldwin (@)
      8th April 2016, 14:31

      @jureo – F1 isn’t a democracy. Bernie has dictated that qualifying had to change and gave a few options to be voted on. If F1 was a democracy, one of those options would have been to not change qualifying.

      Instead, the teams have been very clever in agreeing to a format they knew wouldn’t work safe in the knowledge that once the TV broadcasters and sponsors complained that no-one was on track, Bernie would have to get the teams to agree to something new which they would refuse forcing elimination qualifying to remain unless they get what they want.

      To be honest, Bernie wouldn’t have let this happen back in the day. He was always too clever to allow himself to get painted into a corner…. Whatever you thought of him, you would always say he was shrewd and could argue his way out of anything however these days, he just seems confused… It’s sad to see*

      * – In an ethical way…. For the sport, it’s a bright, shining light at the end of long, dark tunnel!

      1. I agree fully, its not a democracy. And Bernie for sure is loosing his touch. I do not know a single company that appeals to young people and is growing… and is being lead by an 85 year old.

        It just shows he is unable to move with the times, so instead of monetizing new trends he bashes against them. He can barely speak properly anymore and now was played for a fool by the teams. Game over. If this is the last acting idea he did for the sport so be it.

    2. F1 looks like most democracies to me. The powerful select the choices, and the votes pick the least horrible.

  10. If one demented governor can push through his silly ideas against everyone else’s will, it’s very much a problem of governance.

    1. My thoughts exactly

  11. WilliamB (@william-brierty)
    8th April 2016, 14:15

    But why does Bernie feel the need to endorse such gimmicks? Partisan preference? Crude reference to his political sovereignty? Or rather, because he is being prevented, because of F1’s governance structure, from passing the underlying technical reformations that are so obviously required. It would be a damning assessment of Bernie’s intelligence if someone so seemingly committed to “the show” would not endorse mechanical reforms that would be both the most simple and effective remedy.

    The teams cannot be absolved of blame if 2017 fails to yield better racing. Christian Horner, speaking during the first test when most of the 2017 talks took place, said “it is a great opportunity to do something fantastic for the fans. We should do it properly” – before, together with McLaren, strongly advocating an increase in aerodynamic downforce in direct conflict with the wishes of the fans. Of course the teams themselves cannot be blamed for seeking a formula that suits their strengths, but it does ask the question whether F1’s governance should give credence to views articulated in relation to vested competitive interests.

    There is much to detest about Bernie: he has become increasingly brazen in his degradation of F1’s historical and competitive institutions in ensuring CVC’s equity share, and increasingly content to alienate any and all. Ultimately, he no longer appears to value modern, commercial F1 as the sport of his making, rather it as a stage for his own power and prominence. However that cannot excuse both Todt’s increasingly aggressive attempts to reassert the FIA’s centrality, and the absurd manner in which teams with vested competitive interests can shape the sport they compete in.

    1. A good analysis I think. It’s not only Bernie who is the problem although he is probably the major one!

    2. Together with Mclaren? What?
      Mclaren made a compromised proposition between mechanical and aero so it can get things going and everyone to finally agree on 2017 rules and is now seemed like the bad guy?
      If anything they should be praised for throwing a proposition on the table that finally made everyone agree and things could move along.
      Mclaren’s proposition wasn’t what Red Bull wanted(which at first it seemed to be going their way until the Pirelli doubts) that is why Horner was whining later about “losing a great opportunity”.
      Mclaren’s proposition saved the other teams the trouble of the Red Bull proposals and gave them something they felt better agreeing with.

  12. I wonder why Ecclestone apparently thinks that it is enough to implement time penalties, reverse grids, double points and loud standard engines in F1 to make TV ratings go through the roof. OK, let us forget for a moment that we are ‘purists’, let us pretend that we do not care if the best guys win. We just want to make F1 more popular so let us introduce a bunch of fancy gimmicks that will artifically make races more exciting. But is it as simple as that?

    A lot of other motorsport series have exactly what Ecclestone wants. In fact, F1 fans often simply need to switch the TV on a couple of hours before F1 race starts to watch a GP2/GP3 race. WTCC is also a good option if one does not like feeder series. Yet I am sure that F1 still has a lot more fans / spectators than the GP2 or the WTCC.

    NASCAR is not afraid of gimmicks at all. As a result, it has more than 10 different winners per season, close and unpredictable races and a guaranteed title battle until the very end. Yet the average TV ratings keep falling.

    And what about F1 itself? We have DRS and Pirelli tyres since 2011 but the TV audience has stubbornly refused to appreciate the contribution of these fabulous things and keeps shrinking.

    If Ecclestone or anyone else genuinely believes that the popularity of F1 depends on the number of gimmicks, then maybe they should think twice.

    1. OmarRoncal - Go Seb!!! (@)
      8th April 2016, 14:32

      COTD right here.

      1. So long as people keep on paying Bernie to watch, the nonsense will continue. He knows that, that is why he acts the way he does. He knows that his earnings will not suffer. The sooner ‘fans’ work this out for themselves the sooner F1 will get back to real racing and stop being a circus act.

  13. “Over the course of the Bahrain Grand Prix weekend he described them as windbags who “shouldn’t even be allowed to talk”.”
    I can imagine someone like Kimi thinking “YESSSSSSSS, no more interviews” ;)

  14. I dont agree with bernie but at least bernie is trying. The teams have been a problem, cvc has been the one problem of the past 10 years. Who caused both problems. Mistakes are natural, i still like f1.

    1. @peartree Did you miss the bit where Bernie sold the commercial rights for F1 to a bunch of venture capitalists before Max’s signature on the 100 year contract was even dry?

      1. @optimaximal you read my comment wrong. I implied bernie is the one that gave teams a vote and sold f1 both actions which i believe are detrimental to f1.

  15. Disagree somewhat, but completely agree with the main source of the problem being Mr. Bernie Ecclestone. The governance is still a problem if there is not a clear, reasonable option to override the bad governor.

  16. Daniel (@mechanicalgrip22)
    8th April 2016, 15:29

    Can we let Keith run the sport now please?

    1. Richards?

      1. Lemon :D.

    2. Very nice idea!
      So Keith if you were in the head of the sport right now what would you do to make it more exciting?
      (If it needed!)

  17. Jimi (@hendrix666)
    8th April 2016, 16:10

    The man is 85. I think he should have to undergo a physical and mental evaluation. He is running a billions of dollars business. If I was a stakeholder, I’d want to make sure that the guy in charge (85 remember) does not have any medical issues or mental deficiencies, such as senility, alzheimers etc.

    Its not a knock on his age, but if there is some type of issue with his mind due to age, that should allow for his potential ouster as he can’t be deemed fit for the job.

    That’s what I would do if I was above Bernie. Rule out that he is mentally infirm. Then we can know he is just crazy, like we all believe.

    1. Bernie is still as sharp as he ever was, it’s just that having manipulated and screwed over the teams for 40 or so years it’s getting harder to come up with new strategies to confuse and divide them.

  18. This is what happens when your sport is run by a hedge fund, and engines end up bring so expensive/complicated that they draw sustained complaints/calls for change from the FIA, FOM and the teams own drivers!

    These engines are fantastic pieces of technology, but they’re not Formula 1. Plus, as a manufacturer, would you really want to keep spending the hundreds of millions required to keep these things competitive with all the flack they’ve taken and will continue to take? I think really really deep down, even the manufacturers know they’ve probably pushed the boat out too far for F1’s liking.

    Driver wise, Seb has outright said he wants N/A’s back. Lewis is livid about the weight of these cars now, most of which is down to the hybrid systems. Fair enough that’s only 2, but if this high-profile pair are saying it, you can be sure the majority of the others are at least thinking it too.

    I think it’s reasonable to say that, come 2020, when these various contracts expire, this architecture of power unit will expire with them.

    Replacement? A 2.?L V6 sequential-twin-turbo, simple ERS system on the rear axle, and fuel rules to accompany.

    Feel free to be annoyed via the “Reply” button below :)…

    1. The irony of a person with a title such as @thef1engineer advocating the sport taking a step backwards to the age of the dinosaurs (or at least engines that burn exclusively through their decomposing remains).

      The car weight is only an issue because it’s forcing drivers to live unhealthily to remain competitive and chase a second here or there.

      Vettel speaks about the cost of the units and the effect of this price on competitors, which is a commercial decision being handled via a cost cap next year.

      It’s probably worth pointing out if the V8’s had remained, we’d be looking at all the manufacturers except Cosworth and Ferrari leaving. Whoopie, that sounds fun…

      I’m also pretty sure when F1 switched from 3l engines to 1.6l engines the first time, or when turbos first arrived in the eighties, everyone said ‘they’re just not F1’, shortly before eating their hat.

      The engines do have a shockingly high rate of technology transfer in them wrt fuel economy and thermal efficiency (more than twice of any standard road car engine out there) – F1 needs to fall out of love with aero if it’s going to improve racing and adequately control costs.

      1. The FIA want them changed, FOM wants them changed, the drivers want them changed, a lot of fans want them changed, and the manufacturers won’t keep investing in something which is only going to generate them hassle.

        Simpler power units are inevitable.

        Agree on the aero.

        1. FIA want them changed @thef1engineer? Afaik FIA just wants them price-capped.

          Drivers just want them lighter and louder, but they’re drivers and therefore not quite sane. The batteries have become a lot lighter already, and that will continue. I suspect they’d miss the instant torque now and have forgotten how they used to run out of revs trying to pass. Anyway is it more than 2 drivers? There will be a mix of opinion.

          Bernie wants them changed because they’ve taken lots of his lovely power. Great!

          Has there been a recent fan poll? I find the V8’s quite irritating in comparison these days.

          As for the idea manufacturers ‘won’t keep investing’ that is wild. The hybrids are WHY the manufacturers are in it. Did you see Cowell’s vision for road car engines? 2-cylinder?

          They’ll begin to seem simple, once everyone has the software sussed and caught up with Mercedes. There’s zero chance of going back to the old technology.

          1. Yep. That performance convergence, further improvement of noise, simplification etc mandate I’m sure you remember, that’s still in full effect and you can’t achieve that without fundamentally changing the existing power unit architecture somehow. The teams have agreed the V6 must stay and the MGU-K must stay, meaning the only real component left for the chop is the “H,” and you can simplify that by virtue of sequential turbo’s. Does exactly the same job, minus the cost, complexity, weight, surge, compressor efficiency and back pressure issues.

            That price-cap resulted in the manufacturers offering a bare bones deal which was never going to be accepted. We’re talking basic hardware, minimal staffing, minimal support, minimal everything. This is why various contracts remain unsigned.

            Whether driver’s are sane or not is not the issue. Fans listen to what the drivers say. If the drivers aren’t happy, chances are the fans won’t be either.

            The cars are getting dangerously close to 3/4 of a tonne. That’s just plain unacceptable for a dedicated racing car. Weight kills everything. Acceleration, braking, steering, the lot. This is why driver’s aren’t happy and shall remain so until the issue is resolved.

            You run sequential turbo’s, you wouldn’t have a torque problem. Infact, so much of the torque is softwared out in these hybrids, put it like this, between the driver pressing the throttle and the tyres actually rotating, you wouldn’t believe the amount of calculations that go on which have absolutely nothing to do with the driver whatsoever.

            It’s 2 drivers atm, it’s 2 most recent world champions. As FOTA’s voice get’s louder, and it will throughout this season, more will come to the forefront. Their letter was just the start. An initial shot across the bows.

            The V8’s were irritating, high-revving almost artificial sounding noise. Didn’t like them either.

            Post-2020 they won’t. Their business plans/returns/R&D budgets etc have all been made around that date, with a bit of wiggle-room in there as good practice if necessary. Come 2020, these engines in their current configuration and their associated investment, they’re gone.

            We won’t go back to N/A’s. Twin-turbo’s and a simple KERS system are very much on the table though, because they can be independently manufactured. Up to the manufacturers to take them off the table, which they won’t because that would mean handing out their own works software/fuel to the likes of Red Bull.

            As I say, this current spec of power unit is gone. Just a case of going through the motions for the next 3-4 years on the back of the contracts signed in preparation for the Singapore stock flotation of Formula 1, which never happened!

          2. But @thef1engineer but aren’t sequential turbos just about the second one catching flow energy that the first one didn’t? Reducing lag by having a small and a large one? Quite limited really.

            Having one super-efficient turbine with two-way energy flow is so much more elegant, don’t you think? Capturing all that part-throttle energy and being able to dial in a turbine speed, blending with the instantaneous torque from the energy store. It’s a beautiful concept, engineering-wise.

            Yes the computer arranges it all, but that’s the case in anything post-carburettor, really. Even with a distributor the driver wasn’t in control of the timing advance.

            All the manufacturers have hybrid road cars, and this technology is so perfect for them: a tiny ICE running efficiently with a massive real compression ratio. This is why they’re in it. It’s so wasteful running a big engine in a road car just so that you can accelerate quickly from time to time, while spending 98% of your time in a queue behind another car.

            The F1 power units will get lighter and lighter – I reckon this is the peak and cars will get lighter from here on. Meanwhile they are stunningly fast and drivers can overdo the torque on corner exits, setting up the guy behind for a challenge :)

    2. @thef1engineer, follow the lightweight, naturally aspirated idea to it’s logical conclusion keeping speeds under 350 kph and you will get great racing, all you need is 1,000 CCs, and 2 wheels.

      1. As I say, F1 won’t go N/A. There’s a reason Bernie and Jean put their weight behind twin-turbo’s.

      2. @lockup

        Sequential-turbo’s don’t have the compressor efficiency and surge issues that the MGU-H + single large turbocharger have. If you’d like an explanation as to why this is, let me know.

        Secondly, the back pressure issue. I think we all know/accept that back pressure is a bad thing, you harvest energy off your turbo, you’re increasing your back pressure.

        And then we have the obvious cost, weight, complexity, cooling issues etc.

        If I may attempt an analogy, it’s like a really nice £10 wine. Yes, you can pay more, for something a bit more exclusive, a bit more exotic, but ultimately, the chemical reaction that’s happening in your brain is exactly the same. And it’s exactly the same thing with this topic.

        Or since we’re talking about cars, it’s like spending £20k and jumping in an MX-5, or £200k and jumping in an Aston Martin. Again, the image is more exotic, but ultimately, out in the real world of traffic and speed limits, if you enjoy driving, you end up with a massive smile on your face regardless. So why spend the extra? Ultimately for something that is a) more expensive all-round, and b) less reliable?

        The best engineering solutions are the ones which 1.) conform to an economic reality, and 2.) satisfy the customer. If you don’t conform to both, that piece of engineering will ultimately fail, and this is exactly why we will lose these power units in their current configuration. They’re too expensive, and the customers, in the form of the FIA and FOM, the regulators of the sport, are not happy.

        The tiny capacity ICE should stay, of course it should. I 100% support that. The days of the 1450hp in quali-trim BMW 1.5 V6 twin-turbo showed what can be done. Not suggesting we return to that exact era obviously. Fuel-flow rules and limits on boost pressure can sort that out, together with current parc ferme rules.

        Yes they will get lighter, but nowhere near quick enough to the level that’s required. You have to remember that these guys are used to 600kg cars and below, and now they’re driving cars around 725kg. The manufacturers may be good, but they’re not going to knock the equivalent of 5 bags of cement out of the cars anytime soon, which means the drivers will continue to be unhappy.

        The only way to get weight out of the cars (assuming you guys don’t want refuelling back) is to get the hybrid weight out of the car, which means a simpler system, smaller batteries, which goes back to the FIA’s mandate of simplification of the power unit.

        1. Well as a customer @thef1engineer I am extremely content with the sophisticated 2-way hybrids. I’d like Seb and Lewis to be as happy as possible, of course, but frankly I feel they’re in quite a good place already :) Why do you think Mercedes and the others like the current system?

          They don’t have surge issues because the MGU/ES is there to absorb the energy.

          They can only reduce battery capacity at the expense of efficiency, by storing less waste energy, so I don’t see that as an option. F1 is a brilliant platform for promoting technologies like lithium-air and supercapacitors, so on the weight front I think we just have to be a bit patient (and not make the cars wider…).

          On road cars, well I’d like massive acceleration AND minuscule consumption, please. It’s not MX-5 vs Aston, that’s so last millennium. It’s 60 mpg most of the time, then 5s 0-60 when I get a clear bit of road, in the same car.

          1. @lockup I know you are :), but the FIA aren’t, and FOM aren’t, and their’s are the opinions that count.

            They like it because they know full well it can’t be independently manufactured. No-one like a Cosworth, or an Ilmor or a Mecachrome are going to come anywhere near this engine-spec because it’s simply just too expensive to make, let alone keep developing.

            You have to design the compressor with a really wide surge range. The problem with that is that any compressor with favourable surge characteristics won’t be as efficient in the sweet spot, so you’re compromising. If you were to run sequential turbo’s, you can get 2 turbo’s working at a higher efficiency without being near the surge limit. This also means you get around the compressor efficiency issue at the same time.

            Again, you don’t, but the FIA & FOM do. This isn’t a pure technology debate. F1 has various other economic, business, social, financial, political, and god knows how many other interests/pressures to consider and satisfy, and if that means 1 simple ERS system instead of 2, that’s how it will be.

            Bernie has quite categorically stated that F1 does not exist for the purposes of road car manufacturer’s experiments. I believe he told them to go and join World Touring Cars if that’s what they want to do.

            If you want that, buy an electric car.

            The MX-5 vs Aston was an analogy. How do you mean they’re so last millennium?

          2. The thing I mean is ‘last millennium’ @thef1engineer is the idea of having either a slow, economical car like the MX-5 OR a fast beast of a car like an Aston. Hybrid means we can have one car for both, to an extent.

            FIA and FOM will do what they’re gonna do – sadly I am not in control :( I don’t have to agree with it though. And Bernie can say whatever he likes I am free to enjoy the fancypants power units and how the power shift in F1 has deeply, deeply upset him.

            We discovered when they costed a 5th engine that the unit cost is only €1.5m, and Toto admitted the rest is for development. They’re not really all that expensive to make. So FIA could impose a cap and stop the manufacturers taking the mickey with the extras. But FIA and FOM left Ferrari with a veto so there they are stuck.

            I kinda see what you’re saying about the turbos but I still don’t see 45-50% thermal efficiency without the H. And you could take more energy out of the exhaust they’d be quieter.

            I’m not sure about the engine supply issue either. When have there been more than 4 engine suppliers in F1? We just need things to converge. Which they will do, if they leave things to stabilise and don’t repay Bernie’s various gambits for take our eyes off the pay-TV fallout.

          3. Ritey. Yeah that really wasn’t the analogy I was going for :). The analogy simply was “you don’t need to spend a fortune when you can achieve a similar outcome by a cheaper means.”

            I’d enjoy them while you can ;).

            True, but then again Todt gave a pretty stark warning about that veto being like a gun.

            You could still stick a motor on the main shaft through the turbo and run the thing purely as a generator.

            Pitch is a result of the fuel-flow reg’s limiting the rev’s. These are set to be looked at aswell with Renault already making noises about the fuel rules.

            There’s 4 indy’s sat in the background ready to go in RML, AER, Ilmor and Mecachrome, and plenty of third party MGU and battery manufacturer’s about, so from an engine supplier perspective as far as Todt and Bernie are concerned, there’s no issue. The only question is, “what name is on the engines?”

          4. Well there’s a lot of reasons not to get into a 2-class series @thef1engineer. And if they leave the fuel limits in place nothing else will keep up with an H-equipped car.

            And once you’ve put a motor on the turbo shaft, what’s the difference to a motor-generator?

            I prefer the lower pitch, personally, in the same way as I love the sound of the burbly V8 pace car.

            I see where you’re coming from with the 3rd-party engines. But it seems to me a lot of the parts are bought in anyway. Given time I don’t see why an indie couldn’t poach a few HPE engineers and get close. Anyway for now a Ferrari/Mercedes axis running the sport is no worse than a bunch of greedy rich people. The manufacturers would like it to be free-to-air, after all, not to say all over social media.

          5. Couldn’t agree more.

            I wasn’t saying that they should use an “H,” I was simply saying that it’s still possible from a technical standpoint.

            My view on thermal efficiency is this. If they get a ROAD ICE to 50%, then I’ll listen. Until then, it’s apples vs oranges.

            On the MGU-H, it’s that F1 cars are driven very differently to road cars, so all things considered, I don’t really see this being of merit.

            It’s simply how you design/use the thing. You can have a motor, or very crudely speaking, use it in reverse and use it solely as a generator, or use it as both. Porsche LMP1 use a GU-H for example. No interest in controlling their turbo though.

            Given time, sure they could, but time is not a luxury for the FIA or FOM with the costs involved.

            1,000,000% agree on FTA and the teams being able to do whatever they like on social media!

          6. Did you catch this article @thef1engineer?


            Andy Cowell talking 54% thermal efficiency in road cars, with MGU-H & K.

          7. Yes I have.

            I agree with him on the K on the front wheels. 4-wheel drive, nice driving experience. No arguments there whatsoever.

            And that’s the thing, it’s just talk. A supposition, a musing, an experiment, R&D. This goes on all the time and the majority of these thoughts/ideas/concepts never end up seeing the light of day. He’s actually said what I said above in terms of the MGU-H and is recovering from the turbine of merit in road cars.

            “It’s the drive cycle aspect of whether the electric machine recovering from the turbine is of merit, because how many of us drive our road cars at full throttle? Not many. And even if we do, it’s only for a few seconds. The electric turbo recovering from the turbine needs full throttle, which is then where you are getting into the electric machine doing even more.”

            My instinct is that the cost to manufacture an MGU-H, stick it on a road car, have it stay robust, reliable, efficient etc, all these other things that F1 cars don’t have to do comparatively by their life span, will mean the cost/reward simply isn’t there.

            Granted, he does say, “you would have a miniaturised version of the F1 assembly to recover energy from the turbine and you would use that when you really want to get away from the traffic lights,” and yes, in pure engineering terms that would work quite well, yet in the context of cost/benefit/reward, which everything comes down to at the end of the day, is it really worth it for that one rather specialised discipline? How many people/how often can you really get away from the lights? 9/10 traffic lights are in towns/cities, so more often than not you’re limited by traffic-flow, and when you can order up power from the battery via a simple piece of software to the exact same ends anyway…

            The thermal efficiency issue I have relates more to EV’s vs. road cars than it does F1 cars vs road cars, and more specifically, the emissions vs efficiency debate. Getting a road ICE to 50% thermal efficiency is completely different to getting an F1 ICE to 50% thermal efficiency, and until they do, particularly in the context of EV’s, this is apples vs oranges as I say.

          8. Cmon @thef1engineer this is the head of Mercedes High Performance Engines, you can’t dismiss what he says as ‘just talk’. The whole idea of Mercedes being in F1 with this technology is to explore the kind of path he describes, and then promote it.

            Getting off the lights in a 1500kg car with a 600cc engine needs stored energy, it’s not a boy racer proposition, just the need to accelerate. And in road cars there are many fewer restraints. You’re well out on a limb saying you have a better grasp of the cost-benefit than them :) They want H, and they’re pretty clear about why.

            And even so istr it was reported Merc offered to drop H, to help with costs, but Ferrari, Renault and Honda wanted to keep it.

            So I reckon it’s here to stay, but will get cheaper.

          9. I’m not being dismissive at all. I used to work in F1 and mine and Andy’s paths have crossed a few times. He was asked a question, he answered it. So it is all just talk until it actually ends up in a road car. IF it ends up in a road car.

            I don’t disagree that Mercedes are in F1 to explore technology, what I’m saying is that these engines are R&D projects and most concepts that come out of R&D don’t end up in your road car. I believe the MGU-H is one of them for all the reasons stated to date.

            You can order up that energy from the battery. There’s no need for a whole separate component. As I say, I used to work in F1, so I’m not well out on a limb at all.

            Audi, Porsche and Toyota, the 2 biggest automotive manufacturers in the world, ALL don’t run an MGU-H in the WEC, and they have free choice of which hybrid systems they run. Porsche run a GU-H, no “M,” and Audi looked at the MGU-H, and decided the overall returns weren’t there. I think it’s reasonable to say that given the technical freedom the WEC allows, all 3 looked at it, and we KNOW all 3 don’t run it.

            Look, I’m not trying to convince you that I’m right, or that you’re wrong, or vice versa. I’m simply stating the engineering principles behind what’s going on here. Make of that what you will :).

          10. Alright fair enough @thef1engineer well we can wait and see how it unfolds :)

  19. Martijn (@)
    8th April 2016, 17:52

    Very nice article @keith collantine. Change will come

  20. Martijn (@)
    8th April 2016, 17:55

    I think (hope?) Todt’s strategy is to wait Bernie out and then set the record straight. Commerce ok, but love for the sport first and then monetize it in a respectable way.

    1. I’ve given Todt a lot of flack over the past few months, but I also believe in giving credit where credit is due.

      Truth is, this has never been about the qualifying, for Todt or Bernie. It was simply the tool to get the media and fans hot under the collar borderline irate, and it worked an absolute treat!

      What this has really all been about, is simply highlighting just how untenable the current governance structure is. We all knew it before. I dare say we know it even better now!

      Todt’s made it clear he disagrees with the current governance structure, and Bernie will openly admit the Strategy Group was a stupid move on his part.

      Come 2020, when the various contracts expire, the opportunity for change in F1 will become prevalent.

      1. @thef1engineer

        Strategy Group was a stupid move on his part.

        Nah, he’ll say it wasn’t his idea :P

        1. I think he has already blamed both Todt (for giving up his voting rights in exchange for money) and the teams (like Red Bull demanding a say in the rule making).

          Like everything Bernie, what he doth giveth with one hand he doth take away with the other.

          1. No-ones whiter than white in is. The teams, Bernie, Jean, CVC, they’ve all contributed their fair share of damage to the current state of F1.

        2. LOL :).

          To be fair to him, I believe he outright said it in one of his interviews with either Sky or C4 broadcast over the Bahrain weekend too :).

      2. @thef1engineer, these engines needing the massive investment that only major manufacturers can afford will be the saviour of F1 come 2020 because in the past Bernie has always held the nuclear option over the head of the teams ( it’s my F1 or no F1, can you really afford no income next year?) but MB, SF, Honda and Renault can not only afford to race without Bernie they can afford to invest in a new series. A new series that provides worthwhile technical development to the manufacturers and a more equitable financial return to the teams (and without the sniff of corruption) could be all that is needed to get more manufacturers involved, it could be a new Golden Age for F?.

        1. Threats of breakaway series are almost as old as Formula 1 itself, still one hasn’t happened, and it never will.

          Manufacturers know trusting themselves to regulate their own championship and agree on things is untenable before they even the start. They effectively have that power now and the whole thing is grid-locked. These guys are self-interested and paranoid. Whether they can afford to or not is irrelevant. It won’t work. And they know it.

          You need an independent regulatory body to run a sport and set the rules, and it is then up to the competitors to hand in their entry form or not.

          Bernie has always been perfectly clear. F1 isn’t F1 without Ferrari. As long as F1 has Ferrari (who were never that fussed about hybrid engines in the first place), Bernie and Jean will be happy.

          If manufacturers want that, there’s a wonderful series out there called the WEC, which I’m sure the FIA would be more than happy to welcome those guys into. But that won’t happen either. These guys got into F1 for it’s marketing reach and financial returns, rather than the technology, otherwise we’d have a set of technical regulations more closely aligned to that in the WEC.

  21. In my view, the current situation is more subtle than blaming ir on Bernie.

    Truth is, Bernie is the one who instigated the current myriad of commisions and groups where it is impossible to take any coherent decision for the benefit of the whole sport. Mr E. thought they would be a good idea in order to keep the control of everything, but he has found such opposition of Monsieur Todt to his ideas that things have not gone as expected since the implementation of these boards.

    I would rather state that what has happened with qualifiyng has been the result of a senile Bernie idea being revised by all the actors who have a say nowadays in F1 governance -particularly, of it being revised by an “I-want-to-show-the-paddock-that-I-have-more-power-than-you” Todt-.

  22. Get rid of Bernie (and his wig)! I cannot understand why the teams put up with the insults he recently showered on them:
    “I’m surprised they can write ….” or something similar. They should have refused to race at all in Bahrain unless he had been got rid of- but then none of them has any guts! He is destroying the sport and when it leaves “free to air” it will be finished. What a shame.

  23. Dan Dankert
    8th April 2016, 22:28

    I have been an F1 fan for many years, and he who should not be named in the last few years has made several comments to drive me away from the sport other than some of the silly rule changes that from my perspective as a consumer. I still watch it but gone are the days we we would go to the races in the US or Canada. We now take our kids to more local events where our kids can meet the drivers and you can actually see and talk to the people working on the cars like at Road America. I hope that before I am completely disconnected from the sport, he who should not be named has left the sport.

  24. When person comes up as a kind of fresh face to the power, there are usually some good ideas coming out and undoubtedly Bernie had those when he achieved his status.

    However, at some points the good ideas person have are gone and it’s time for fresh face – which in F1’s case should have happened much earlier.

    1. Yes. Ferrari had a total change and are winning again. A company under the same management for decades stagnates. Fresh blood means new ideas.

  25. Can I expecting coup d’etat here..?

  26. What’s really sad is that in the 70’s Bernie was a Genius to see the coming importance of TV, but now he is completely bling to the changing world of entertainment with the internet and social media. He made the sport what it is, but the world is moving on and he’s holding F1 back.

  27. Some one further above suggested that ‘Bernie is as sharp as he ever was’, but I think that most people who have seen him recently would agree that he has become vague and sometimes inarticulate. In Bahrain he looked/sounded more ill than sharp, and recent actions/decisions are looking increasingly eccentric and badly thought through. He looks to me now as though he’s thrashing around like a drowning man, and I think – in an F1 context – we are now seeing his death throws. I wish him well in his retirement, but don’t believe that is now far away. But he won’t go – he’ll be pushed – and I feel that teams’ decision to stand firm on qualifying is perhaps a watershed moment; a tipping point.

  28. David Potes
    9th April 2016, 2:00

    I think it’s not Bernie it’s CVC or the strategy group and their “new” ideas to spice it up.

  29. Kudos Mr KC, You have captured the feelings of the fans. These are strange times, and yet you make some sense of them for us. I, for one, would welcome more editorial pieces. How about a piece on driver coaching? Hardly a touchy subject..

  30. @keithcollantine has a knack for finding very good photos to go along with his articles. The only image that could depict this better is if Bernie was holding a Jean Todt marionette, while Horner was polishing Bernie’s shoes…

  31. With this kind of people in power it is a miracle there still someone watching this F1. Let’s cross our fingers and see if there is an improvement in the future.

  32. Really good article Keith. On a light-hearted note, I think you’re the only journalist that doesn’t habitually refer to Bernie Ecclestone as “F1 supremo”!

  33. I would pay my hard earned money to get rid of Bernie. That fool must go.
    But…. He’s build an empire by selling F1. That’s the real problem. That empire wants more & more money. They don’t care about F1. And if you don’t care, you don’t know how it works. So if Bernie goes, there will be another fool trying to squeeze every dime out of TV rights. And if they ‘think’ they can ‘improve’ the show to get bigger audiences, they will.
    Basically, Bernie killed F1 years ago. Someone should return the favor.

  34. @keithcollantine

    Excellent, honest, reasoned, and most importantly, courageous article.

    I think the “problem with Bernie” can be explained by three things: Bernie is now solely a businessman and no longer a sportsman, his financial interests are more closely aligned with his employer CVC than with the teams, and he is getting old, with the fixed mindset aging can bring. CVC didn’t build the sport, is not a knowledgeable owner, and is thus interested in maximization of profit at the expense of longterm investment, which is expensive. Bernie is not a young man and so his own financial interests are also short term. All the ideas to “spice up the show” are cheap and easy to implement, and don’t involve questioning your business plan, or realizing how you may be straying from the fundamentals that made the sport and the business so successful. Looking at these larger questions takes introspection, work, and money. Solving the bigger problems is not in his (or his employers’) financial interest at the moment.

  35. johnny stick
    9th April 2016, 21:30

    Keith, Great article. If you want to come over to my place to watch the next race, I’ll buy the beers.

Comments are closed.