Lessons for F1 in WEC downturn – Brawn

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In the round-up: Ross Brawn says the World Endurance Championship’s sudden decline in manufacturer entries shows F1 must not allow a technological arms race to develop.

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F1 was too much too soon for Lance Stroll, says Neil:

He got shoved into F1 too soon, wasn’t in any way ready for it and might spend the rest of his career paying for that.

It wasn’t even a ‘maybe’ question… there was absolutely no indication in his junior career that Stroll was one of the ‘special talents’ capable of cutting it in F1 at the age of 18. Winning the F3 title in your second season, in a team your dad basically bought for you, is commendable and impressive… but it’s isn’t a monumental, ‘Go straight to F1, pass F2, collect £200’ achievement.

Whether it was him pushing for it, or his dad wanting it to happen this year, it was the wrong move and he needed at least one season of ‘F1-style’ racing in F2 before moving up to this level. His growth as a driver has been screwed and now he just needs to hope that his talent (which he does have) catches up with his body at some point in the near future.

Sadly for him, being pushed too soon might have messed up his development so much that he’ll never achieve what he might have had he (or his dad) been sensible and waited until he was ready.
Neil (@Neilosjames)

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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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24 comments on “Lessons for F1 in WEC downturn – Brawn”

  1. The LMP1 downturn wasn’t just about investment, it’s the inevitable side effect of a third of the grid disappearing after VAG’s diesel controversy.

    1. @optimaximal, it’s effectively two thirds of the grid disappearing due to the problems the VW Group has faced, since Porsche and VW Group are intertwined so closely with each other that problems for the VW Group are also problems for Porsche.

      I also have to question the neutrality of the article on Motorsport since, if I recall well, that body is owned by Zak Brown, an individual who has a vested interest in pushing for the engines to have a standard specification.
      Whilst mentioning the number of grid penalties, it does not mention that a large chunk are due to Honda and Renault deliberately taking penalties in order to use the final races of this season to test prototype components for 2018: similarly, in the case of Ferrari and Mercedes, the few penalties they have taken were intentionally taken when they already had nothing to lose (Vettel in Malaysia and Hamilton in Brazil, where both drivers were going to start at the back anyway).

      1. Porsche weren’t running a Diesel engine.

        It wasn’t that the group needed to make cuts, it that diesel was rendered politically unviable as a marketing tool by the controversy and the many reports from cities around the world about the dangers of diesel byproducts.

        1. True, Porsche wasn’t running diesel, but there are still some class action lawsuits and potential regulatory actions against VAG because of dieselgate that could run into the billions of dollars. VAG doesn’t want to be spending $500M+ a year on one racing program under those conditions.

        2. @optimaximal, I think that you have missed the point that I was making.

          Porsche has a majority shareholding in the VW Group, so just because Porsche weren’t using a diesel engine at Le Mans doesn’t mean that they are insulated from the wider fallout within the VW Group.

          On the contrary, because the Cayenne, Macan and Panamera all use one of the same VW Group engines that was implicated in the emissions scandal – and diesel powered versions of those cars make up a healthy chunk of Porsche’s annual sales figures for those models – the damage to the reputation of the VW Group has a direct impact on Porsche given that Audi developed engine creates a direct link between them and the VW Group “Dieselgate” affair.

          Porsche, ultimately, still has to make the same change in direction that the wider VW Group is having to make in terms of car development, and particularly electrification of their cars. Even though they may be running a petrol hybrid in the WEC, it doesn’t fit with the image that the wider VW Group or Porsche want to give right now as they try to capitalise on the new direction in the automotive market towards electrification.

          (As an aside, it has had a direct financial impact too – the German Transport Minister temporarily banned Porsche from registering new cars (effectively equating to a ban on sales) of the diesel powered Cayenne in mid 2017, as well as instructing them to recall 22,000 cars).

    2. Another sign that it might be good for F1’s stability to not be dependant on car manufacturers but to rely on independent teams like Force India and Sauber.

      1. @paeschli The thing is that the best, most successful periods of both Le Mans & the various incarnations of the WEC as well as F1, Indycar, Touring cars & more have all occurred in periods with heavy manufacturer involvement.

        For all the rose tinted glasses people like to put on F1 in the 70’s where it was 90%+ non-manufacturer/independent run teams all running a Ford DFV, That period of F1 actually wasn’t that interesting or exciting & many fans turned away during that time to look at series like Sportscars where manufacturer involvement/battles & the technology they were pushing were more enticing. It wasn’t until the manufacturer’s started returning to F1 in the turbo days of the early 1980’s that F1 started to really rise in popularity again.

        It’s the same with WEC, After the Group C era ended in the early 1990’s & manufacturer’s moved away from the top classes sportscar racing went through a down patch & the world championship was cancelled as a result. It wasn’t until the late 90s/early 2000’s where manufacturer’s started to be encouraged back that it picked up again & it only got popular enough to form the current WEC when you had manufacturer interest again.

        You can even look at Indycar, It was at it’s most popular when it had multiple engine manufacturer’s, Multiple chassis builders, multiple tyre suppliers & a lot more technology than what it’s had since 2002. As soon as it became a spec category in terms of chassis with spec engines (at least in cart’s case from 2003) the championship died because a lot of the technology, performance increases & excitement that brought each year went away & we were left with a boring, un-technologically interesting semi-spec series with nothing to talk about.

        For all the talk about how manufacturer’s hurt F1 & how independent teams should be the focus, If you did away with the manufacturer’s & were left only with independent teams running independent engines I think F1 would lose popularity… Especially given how a formula like that would likely be less interesting & more spec from a technology standpoint.

        I know many people that were brought back to F1 a decade or so ago when you had a dozen big manufacturer’s & a lot of those same people were drawn to the WEC when it formed, again based on the presence of the big manufacturer’s in LMP1 throwing technology at it & creating some of the fastest cars that category has ever seen.
        Watching an F1 with less interesting tech, with no manufacturer’s will turn them off just like a WEC with no manufacturer’s would…. I mean who really pays LMP2 that much attention? LMP1 is the focus purely because it’s where the manufacturer’s are creating the fastest cars in that form of racing.

  2. Maybe WEC commentators can finally talk about WEC again. Instead of how much better WEC is than F1, like they did for those one or two seasons that WEC was actually popular (and then for a large part even because F1 drivers participated).

    1. @patrickl I fear that comes with the business nature of being Hipster’s Choice, which the second-most notable racing series in the European motorsport scenes inevitably becomes. “Praising” the viewer (because that is what you inevitably do when you talk about the quality as a series if you are not outright employed by it) for being smart enough to watch the “good” programming instead of the “bad” is hipster marketing 101.

      1. @klon I quite like your analogy and reasoning. :)

  3. Interested to know what people reckon of leclerc’s chances of getting the sauber drive next year… Goodness knows he deserves it, one of the most impressive young drivers I’ve seen for a while. He has shown real mental strength and heart this year too in dealing some unenviable personal circumstances off track.

    Replacing Ericsson is the obvious choice, but imagine what he could do in kimi’s seat…

    1. @travis-daye Leclerc will replace Wehrlein, Ericsson stays. At least ORF-commentary last weekend seemed to have no doubt about that, as Wehrlein reckons the Williams-seat (which he probably won’t get) as his only chance to stay in F1.

    2. Leclercs confirmation is only a matter of time, the question is if Ericsson stays.

  4. Couldn’t disagree more with cotd.

    How can a year in F1 style racing in F2 prepare you more for F1 than a year in a midfield F1 team with an experienced team mate like Filipe Massa?

    Year 1 is always going to be hard, look at Lewis’s 1st year with Alonso as an example.

    I think Lance got away with it and now has a huge opportunity to grow.

    1. If anything, Lance at 18 had a better first year than his current teammate had when 20.
      Times have changed and he was no doubt better prepared than Massa was.
      At least he won’t be forced to take a year off. Not with daddy paying that much.

      Norris has a rich daddy too, but apparently he won’t jump into F1 at once.
      When he finally does make it to F1 maybe we can compare what worked out the best: Stroll getting ready for F1 while driving in F1, or Norris by filing through the ranks.

  5. the number of grid penaltys is a bit misleading
    remember what a lot of the teams do is change EVERYTHING once they know that they will effectively be at the back so a 5 or 10 place become 25 or 35
    as proved by Hamilton knowing hed be at the back just changed everything
    i bet if hed been on front row the ngine could have made it to the end of the season

    my answer is that i think the number of engine per season should be used in qualifying/race

    with FP1/2/3 being free ti use as many as you want

    it would also help new engine entrants develop engines faster

  6. I’m not sure why the penalties only apply to certain parts of the car.
    If the objective is to reduce costs why not apply it to bodywork as well.
    I’ve heard the cost of a front wing is in excess of 6 figures and yet the teams can use as many as they want,
    How about the number of tyres a car uses in a season?
    There are no very limited restrictions and yet the cost of manufacturing and trans porting the tyres around the world must be enormous.
    Either make the restrictions on parts apply to every part used or remove them completely.

    1. @ceevee, because teams such as Red Bull have used their voting rights to block any attempt to restrict aero development, since it is in their interest to maintain that as an area of performance differentiation. Tyres is a slightly different situation though, since I understand that Pirelli do try to reuse tyres over the course of the year where possible (there are already efforts being made in that area to reduce wastage and ultimately costs).

  7. Roth Man (@rdotquestionmark)
    18th November 2017, 12:14

    I suppose the flip side to today’s COTD is that what better way to learn F1 than by being in F1. Give him a couple of no pressure seasons at Williams (they’re happy to take the money) to get the experience he should have got elsewhere and he may end up fairly capable. That being said I just don’t think he’s good enough or bright enough.

    1. @rdotquestionmark

      or bright enough.

      When asked if he could wish for something, what it would be, the kid answered: – “To stop time for just one day.” (Taken from “The Secret Life of…Lance Stroll” on formula1.com).

      That aside, I think he has shown a very positive attitude throughout the season, even in the face of the (rather visible) adversities he has faced. He might never become a fantastic driver, but with the attitude he has shown, I’m pretty sure he’ll improve himself enough to consistently be able to perform at his personal highest level (He’s pretty inconsistent atm, but has improved vastly in comparison to the first half of the season in that regard). We have seen he has at least the ability to match and even beat Massa on genuine pace (Monza, Sepang) when he’s right up there. Who knows, maybe he could even find an extra gear with experience.

      1. Roth Man (@rdotquestionmark)
        19th November 2017, 17:28


        Haha oh dear.

        Good comment, I suspect with a little experience he will be a modern day Pedro Diniz.

  8. I read the analysis on Liberty plans to reduce Grid Penalty Farce. Apparently nothing can be done before 2021, and that there is no easy solution. Of course there is! Either remove them completely (much of the Grand Prix racing I watched in the past had no such thing as grid penalties), or simplify them. The gearbox penalty system is straightforward, simply needs to last 5 races or you get a 5 place penalty. Just do the same for engines, if you really want to, make it 10 places. And for the whole power unit, not every important component of the engine.
    The whole point of the penalty system was to reduce costs, does anyone think it does that? They may be less cost on the car, but that cost simply transfers to the factory where hundreds of engines sit on the dyno trying to improve reliability.
    The tipping point for me is if your engine blows up in the race towards the tail end of the year, you are affected for that race and the next one by starting at the back of the grid with a new engine. And next years 3 engine rule means they will push less aggressively, and by mid season we may as well hold a lottery for the Grid. Certainly won’t be worth watching qualifying.

  9. just goes to show how unstable authoritarian models are in terms of adaptability. F1 can’t keep up it can only hope to turn down. This trajectory has been in place for a number of years now, it’s amazing how many people want to believe a lie.

  10. What does he mean with avoiding a technological arms race… It is all F1 ever does. But yes next regulations will probably come to late and if they trigger a 2014 style arms race where Mercedes spent more than 1 billion euros for what? F1 domination. They had over 1000 people working on it and nobody can match that effort.

    And nobody wants to match it. It is essentially to much.

    Whatever new regulations come at maximum one should be able to compete for victories at 300 people with 200 milion budget. Anything more than that and F1 has failed.

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