Ross Brawn, Circuit of the Americas, 2017

The Brawn ultimatum? Why F1’s future hangs on Friday’s crunch meeting

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According to Bernie Ecclestone, Ross Brawn told Liberty Media he wouldn’t take charge of their F1 plans if the old ringmaster was kept in charge. Now Brawn is calling the shots and it’s clear he favours a very different and more analytical style than Ecclestone’s “knee-jerk, compulsive” approach.

If Ecclestone preferred the tactics of ‘divide and rule’, Brawn has so far espoused a desire for consensus. But even some of the team principals have recommended he and Liberty Media adopt a take-it-or-leave-it stance over the subjects of F1’s post-2020 regulations.

On Friday Brawn will present his 2021 vision to the teams. As @DieterRencken explains, the complex challenges he faces makes this easily the biggest test of his leadership so far.

The science of Formula 1 can be expressed in a single word: compromise. Essentially F1 consists of taking numerous decisions about a range of compromises ranging from downforce versus drag, risk versus reward, fuel economy versus power, tyre grip versus degradation, fuel load versus lap time, engine reliability versus power, and, commercially, budget versus performance and pay-driver versus results. The list is endless.

The team and/or driver that best plays the compromise game over a full season eventually goes on to win one or both titles. True, outside factors can impact on the overall result, but these tend to balance each out over time, and thus it is usually the team that has taken the best decisions to reach the sharp end and then operate at that level that is crowned champion.

Compromise permeates throughout the sport, from the start of the regulatory process through to final results. Indeed, the start of the regulatory process defines the eventual spectacle, and here more often than not the sport’s rule makers have gotten it horribly wrong. This is not a swipe at the FIA: the governing body’s role is to regulate F1 (and all international motorsport) via commissions upon which various role players sit.

Mark Webber, Red Bull, Melbourne, 2007
F1 flirted with customer cars in the mid-2000s
F1 could, of course, go the full hog and have totally open regulations. But the sport would become utterly unaffordable, making it unattractive to sponsors and manufacturers as a marketing pedestal.

Equally, it could embrace the concept of “customer cars”, with a return to non-hybrid engines, specification wings and aero packages, standard transmissions and two-race weekend formats all being mandated to cut costs. But such a formula would approximate F2.

Therefore the tightrope Brawn must walk is to first and foremost elevate post-2020 F1 above F2, but not astronomically so, or F1 will be left with two teams. The ideal lies midway between these two extremes, which is where compromise enters into the process.

The regulatory process calls for F1’s Strategy Group – upon which six select teams sit, together with FIA and Formula One Management (a subsidiary of commercial rights holder Liberty Media) representatives, with the teams holding a vote apiece and the two bodies six each – to frame proposals, which are debated by the F1 Commission (comprising all teams, FIA, FOM, plus commercial/technical and promoter representation).

Once approved by the F1 Commission, the regulations are escalated to the FIA’s World Motorsport Council for ratification and subsequent implementation. There are certain caveats along the way, which in turn allow safety considerations to override regulations, while a time line is in place: 30 April for any rule changes for the following season, save where there is unanimity. The full process is outlined here.

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On Friday morning in Bahrain Liberty’s Managing Director of Motorsport Ross Brawn – a man with a depth of F1 experience ranging from shop floor work through design and drafting to championship-winning technical director and (ditto) team boss – is expected to grab the initiative by presenting the commercial rights holder’s vision for the post-2020 period, when current regulations expire.

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Circuit de Catalunya, 2013
F1’s top teams began receiving bonuses in 2013
Thus, no formal working groups with team input, no Strategy Group input (at this early stage); instead, a pre-pack kit of sporting and technical regulations requiring some assembly – to continue the IKEA parallel – and chamfering around the edges before being presented to the F1 Commission and WMSC.

In the process, Brawn will need to have taken into consideration every single compromise as outlined above, but also the vast discrepancies in team budgets, business models and facilities: It is of no use tailoring rules to suit the might of Mercedes and Ferrari, only to find the rest drop out on cost grounds; ditto the opposite – dumb down the sport by introducing stringent budget caps, and its star players may walk.

Highly on the list of Brawn’s priorities will be commercial realignment – it is no secret that four teams benefit inequitably from F1’s revenues, thus placing the rest at a veritable disadvantage. Scrap the bonuses, and two or three (or even all four) teams may leave, possibly to form a rival breakaway series. Continue the two-tier revenue structure, and F1’s potentially faces the same processions as have blighted it since 2013.

One way of reducing costs would, though, be by reducing the spectrum of “listed parts”* – those parts to which the individual teams need to hold the intellectual property to – and introducing, say, standardised hybrid systems and transmissions. However, consider the outcry caused by Haas’s pushing of the listed parts concept to the very maximum, and then question how willing even budget teams will accept any relaxation.

As an aside, Haas’s interpretation of the regulations – assuming the team plays according to the book, which appears to be the case – provides a cost-effective platform for teams to compete in the mid-field. In tabling his vision for the future, Brawn would have started from two extremes – a “total” car, whereby a team produces its own car and engine (Ferrari, Mercedes, Renault), and a spec formula (F2), then worked inwards.

Where McLaren, Red Bull, Williams, Toro Rosso and Sauber have their own wind tunnels, produce in-house chassis and source engines (and transmission in last-named case) elsewhere, Force India procures its entire back-end plus hydraulics / electronics from Mercedes, uses Toyota’s wind tunnel on a contract basis and largely sub-contracts component manufacture, Haas has simply gone to the limit of regulations that apply to all teams.

Haas exclusive: No more ‘nasty surprises’ as Ferrari relationship matures
Force India could have conceivably struck such an all-dancing deal with Mercedes, or Toro Rosso with Red Bull had they stuck to the same engine supplier (and/or specification) for more than a season. So, too, could any start-up with limited resources – provided it’s prepared to compromise (that word) and accept the disadvantages outlined by Haas Chief Designer Rob Taylor here.

So, what are the various compromises Brawn will need to make on Friday in order to:

a) Markedly increase overtaking and thus F1’s spectacle by reducing the sport’s predictability of recent years via technical and sporting means. Many have tried and failed, but this is the key to satisfying FOM’s primary customers, namely circuit promoters and TV broadcasters (and OTT watchers).

b) Reduce costs without dumbing down the technical appeal of F1 to manufacturers, technical partners and so-called petrol-heads without whom F1 would not have alternate engine suppliers, certainly not by end-2020. Already the window for attracting newcomers is closing.

c) Introduce equitable revenue distribution without marginalising teams who have structured their businesses around massive bonuses, while maintaining acceptable returns on investment for Liberty shareholders. This is crucial, for reducing payouts to the Big Four could see them walk; upping payments to independents will impact on Liberty’s bottom line. Either way, provision needs to be made for newcomers.

d) Address the different business models of the teams, all of whom are in F1 for different reasons: The motor manufacturers (four) in order to build image and sell cars, the Red Bulls (two) in order to build image and sell cans, Haas to build image and sell tools, and the rest (three) to perform sufficiently well to attract sponsors in order to keep their businesses afloat. That’s four primary models, covering a multitude of product groups.

e) Ensure the post-2020 regulations are sufficiently challenging for existing teams without setting the bar and costs too high for prospective newcomers, who are already extremely wary about the costs of entry and fear of emulating Honda’s very public failure.

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Those are five massive balls Brawn needs to juggle within the next six months, or F1 will likely be saddled with the current formula for yet another year. That is not beyond the bounds of possibility: F1 had planned a clean break – commercially and technically – from 1 January 2013, yet so long did wrangles, including a architecture change from 4-inline to V6 over the engine formula drag on, that introduction was delayed a year.

Brawn’s challenge is compounded by those Strategy Group members who believe their current agreements with FOM, valid until 31 December 2020 and entered into with previous commercial rights CVC Capital Partners in 2012 – six years before Liberty acquired control of FOM – empower them to vote on all rule changes through to that date.

Sergio Marchionne, 2017
Marchionne wields Ferrari’s veto
However, the red elephant in the room is Ferrari’s veto over any rules it disagrees with – and valid until end-2020, by when the new regulations would obviously need to be agreed. Could Ferrari trigger its veto clause over any post-2020 regulations it does not agree with?

That, of course, depends upon the exact phrasing of the veto, but once in the recent past when Ferrari threatened to invoke its veto over a change in engine regulations, the FIA and FOM backed off smartly. The last thing FOM and the FIA – and, above all, F1 – need is for the matter to be dragged through the courts by Ferrari, thus freezing the entire process for many years to come just when expediency is of the essence.

Thus the FIA / FOM need to stand firm in the face of veto and exit threats from Ferrari – aided and abetted by Mercedes. Last year FIA president Jean Todt revealed Ferrari’s veto is under review. However, does the Frenchman, who headed Ferrari’s noughties hegemony, wish to be remembered as the man under whose watch the Scuderia left F1? Ditto Brawn, who led Ferrari’s technical department back then?

With 10 teams currently in the sport there are currently at least 10 opinions about how the sport should restructure itself for post-2020. Add in the opinions of technical directors and F1 personnel fearful of having their careers curtailed by budget caps, and there are literally hundreds of differing ideas doing the rounds – and that is before the opinions of other stakeholders, suppliers, sponsors and fans are mixed into the pot.

There are philosophical arguments, too: some team bosses believe that the engine format should be sorted first – on account that hardware lead times are the longest – followed by chassis regulations in 2019, with commercial aspects being sorted in 2020. Others are adamant that technical and money cannot be separated given how dependent performance is on the latter commodity.

The third faction believes that FOM should present the F1-2021 as a fait accompli, and that those who don’t buy into Liberty’s vision should acquaint themselves more intimately with four-letter terms. All of which points to some entrenched positions and divergent agendas.

According to sources, the exact format of the meeting has not (yet) been disclosed, although expectations are that Brawn and Liberty CEO/chairman Chase Carey will conduct proceedings, with Marketing MD Sean Bratches and other senior FOM folk expected to be in attendance. Equally, no agenda details were available at time of writing, with expectations being that an agenda will be tabled at the meeting to prevent leaks.

There is no doubt that Friday’s summit marks the start of arguably the most crucial period in F1 history, for never has so much been on the line. The sport’s new owners have been in the hot seat for but a year, yet are expected to return an activity that once rivalled the FIFA World Cup and Olympics to its former glory in the face of shifting consumer habits and a diminishing fan base. Then there is threat of Formula E.

Brawn and co. face a daunting task, and there is unlikely to be overall consensus on Friday. In short, the only agreement will be that all parties agree to disagree until the next round of talks. But at least Liberty will have set out their stall, which is more than can be said about the past 12 months. The key word throughout, however, will be compromise.

*Listed Parts: Monocoque, survival cell (as defined in article 1.14 of the F1 technical regulations), front impact structures (as defined by articles 16.2 and 16.3 of the F1 technical regulations), roll over structures (roll structures as regulated by article 15.2 of the F1 technical regulations), bodywork (as defined in article 1.4 of the F1 technical regulations and regulated by article 3 of the F1 technical regulations with the exception of airboxes, engine exhausts and prescribed bodywork geometries), wings, floor and diffuser.

Follow Dieter on Twitter: @RacingLines

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Author information

Dieter Rencken
Dieter Rencken has held full FIA Formula 1 media accreditation since 2000, during which period he has reported from over 300 grands prix, plus...

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  • 84 comments on “The Brawn ultimatum? Why F1’s future hangs on Friday’s crunch meeting”

    1. Thanks @dieterrencken for a well summed up article again. I continue to keep a positive thought that there is far more potential for F1 to improve under new management, than to go backwards or fall apart. The teams are well aware of the overall picture in spite of their own agendas, and if somehow compromises can’t be agreed and overall improvements can’t be made, then that will be on the teams, not on Brawn and Liberty, for they are at least trying.

    2. This site has always been my go-to place for F1 articles and news, @dieterrencken‘s input has really made Racefans.net the ultimate place for F1 news and journalistic content. I hope the site gets more paying supporters to help maintain this – my own little contribution is one of the best investments I’ve made. ;-)

      1. @geekzilla9000 Dieter’s addition to the site tipped me over into becoming a paid supporter. Well worth it as the content of RaceFans.net continues to improve all the time.

        1. Me too.

          Dieter is a great addition to Keith’s effort and enthusiasm. His presence may lead to more informed and balanced articles here so I’ve become a paid supporter, again.

        2. Yep – same here!

      2. +1 while not a supporter yet myself it becomes increasingly tempting!

    3. two or three (or even all four) teams may leave, possibly to form a rival breakaway series

      Now there is something I wouldn’t mind seeing. F1 is lacking another similar series to rival it globally.

      Also, as I commented yesterday, I understand the commercial deals and the engines have to stay as they are until the end of 2020, but what is stopping them from sorting out the chassis problems sooner? They could be already starting to slowly introduce fixes to see what works. If they do it all in 2021 and it doesn’t work out as they planned, are they going to wait until 2027 to fix it? It’s just my opinion as a fan, I’m not going to watch three more years like this

      1. It would be a bit like TopGear, now there is two of it, win win situation

        1. Or it would be like boxing, where you have several world champions and the whole sport becomes a joke.

        2. @johnmilk Or it could be like the CART/IRL split which divided fans, teams, drivers & perhaps most importantly sponsors & ultimately left both series significantly weaker than they had been as one.

        3. I forgot sarcasm doesn’t transfer very well on a comment

      2. Breakaway series is much easier said than done. As far as I know, there were two serious attempts at this over the years (Intercontinental Formula and World Federation of Motorsport) and bot failed miserably…and I don’t think that there is any reason to believe that it would work much better a third time around.

      3. @strontium Brawn has just been quoted as saying if they can introduce aero changes sooner they will, but they have to be done in a prudent manner, as in, no big changes that will only advantage the resourced teams who can react quicker, leaving the lesser teams in the dust ala the BE way.

        Eg. I envision perhaps they could start with having the rear of the cars making less wake. Change the front wings right now and expensive changes would be needed to alter the whole car as it would be affected greatly by front wing changes. But perhaps there is something they can do at the back that doesn’t affect the cars’ performance too much, nor cause wholesale rethinking, that might make the trailing car a little less negatively affected in dirty air.

        As to a breakaway series, I really can’t see any team or group of teams having the money nor the intestinal fortitude in this global economic environment, to make something like that fly. I can only envision how badly CART suffered when Tony George broke that series apart and it hasn’t been the same since.

        Also, I think any teams breaking away would be up against an entity run by Liberty and Brawn that would then have no resistance to doing things the right way, with everything already in place that a breakaway series would have to start from scratch and spend untold billions in the process. I know if I were them I’d stand pat and take a few less tens of millions in bonus money over risking everything and having to spend billions on a wing and a prayer that they get enough venues and followers, presumably of the same processions they’d fought to maintain under Liberty.

        1. Also, I think any teams breaking away would be up against an entity run by Liberty and Brawn that would then have no resistance to doing things the right way

          I’m afraid you are a bit optimist there, mate

      4. F1 is lacking another similar series to rival it globally.

        @strontium which I’d say was because the series that did split.

      5. Biskit Boy (@sean-p-newmanlive-co-uk)
        5th April 2018, 8:56

        A break away series is not commercially viable. The economic world can’t support a single F1 series let alone two!

        Remember the IRL and Champcar?

        However a clean slate for the beginnings of a new rule book would be fantastic. Skinny wings, some ground effect, much bigger tyres and much more power and… bingo

      6. @strontium They can introduce changes to any and all regulations at any time, but it would require the unanimous agreement of all the teams to make some changes and a majority of the teams to make others depending on what the changes are and how soon they would take effect. It’s hard to get any team to give up some competitive advantage they have currently, especially if they got there by engineering excellence and huge amounts of cash. Mercedes, for example, loves things just as they are. The changeover from this current Concorde Agreement to whatever comes next in 2021 is a big opportunity to make changes.

    4. Excellent article @dieterrencken.
      So on Friday, Brawn will set out Liberty’s proposals for voting on. Can these be varied by agreement (such as voting to amend rules to four engines per season instead of three), or is it a case of voting to accept or voting to decline in toto? And can any other person/team/group introduce an alternative scheme for consideration and voting, or is only allowed for Liberty to propose?

      1. Ferrari has operated until the present day as the team
        no-one dare say ‘NO’ to……. the wonderful convenience of
        having Todt smoothly transferred from from Team Principal
        at Ferrari to Director of FIA simply multiply’s their power
        structure in F1. It is to be hoped that Liberty in general
        and Brawn in particular ( Brawn knows quite well how his
        former team operates ! ) can see quite clearly what they are
        up against and have a strong list of fall-back defensive lines
        already in place. Fiat/Chrysler’s top man Marchionne is one tough cookie
        and I fully expect there to be blood on the carpet at some stage.
        Both Brawn and Marchionne’s reputations rest on never losing a
        vital fight. Can’t see either of them giving an inch.

        We are about to live through the infamous curse’s ‘interesting times’ !

        For all our sakes, lets hope the good guys win in the end.

        1. Are there any good guys in Formula 1? It certainly depends on your perspective. As a Ferrari fan, to me they can do no wrong. If they should actually quit, Formula 1 is dead. Liberty’s value will plummet, huge numbers of fans would leave, Mercedes, etc.

          1. Biskit Boy (@sean-p-newmanlive-co-uk)
            5th April 2018, 9:01

            Haha, Formula 1 would not be dead. It might dip for a while, it might need to get a bit more thrifty. Don’t get me wrong I love Ferrari but in time without the shackles of Ferrari Scarlet Red tape F1 would blossom again.

        2. @loen That’s the classic view of Ferrari vs FIA vs F1 management, but I think things have changed. I think that the FIA and Liberty Media have some common goals now, and it will be the two of them aligned against the manufacturers, principally Mercedes and Ferrari when the battle lines a drawn. I don’t see the big teams as a cohesive block for negotiating since they all see their own self-interest. If Merc left, Ferrari would see an opportunity to win championships. If Merc and Ferrari left, Renault would definitely stay and win big. Red Bull and McLaren seem to be pretty firmly on the LM/FIA side as are most of the small teams who are looking for a better financial split and perhaps new regs that will help them be more competitive on a smaller budget. Anyway, I don’t think Ferrari and the FIA are in bed together any longer! ;-)

          1. Well, if you are correct @gwbridge, I totally agree that
            we’re in a different ball park now ! The anxiety I’ve always
            had about F1 is the inability to look at anything but balance
            sheets in some areas. OK, smaller teams are always under
            money pressure, it goes with the territory, but if only
            some of the bigger guys could lift their thought processes
            from the problems they’ll have to deal with at the next board
            meeting and think about the great spectacle a modern F1
            race can produce…..take, for example, the last Baku race.
            You simply could not let your attention drift for a split second
            and all the pre-race predictions went out of the window before
            the race was half-run. Yes, I know the combination of factors
            was extremely unusual, but I for one did not dare move an inch
            until every car had crossed the finish line ! That’s what we want
            to see much more of in F1. And most decidedly not what we saw
            this year at Melbourne. I look forward to the Melbourne race every
            year, just like everyone else contributing to F1 Fanatic, but some
            vital things HAVE to change, or we’re in very big trouble.

    5. If Ferrari did break away and form their own series, who else would want to join them? It seems blindingly obvious that Ferrari want to make sure that they have an advantage written into the rules, so who would want to go against them in a series in which they write all the rules?

      For all the talk of the “big four” breaking away together, I don’t see them being able to agree on a set of rules in order to make it happen.

      Personally I don’t believe that any formula will have global success without at least a semblance of equality.

      1. Marchionne knows too well how to win an argument.

        And there is an analogy to point up about people moving out of their area of expertise.
        Prost was a great driver, but couldn’t get the hang of running a team.
        Brawn was a great team principal, ……………

        1. Ah but I think Brawn’s role not as a driver but a team principal is much much more translatable to what he is doing now than a driver trying to run a team. Plus all people have their own fingerprint, so…

          1. Also @Islander I love this quote from Brawn and think he is spot on…

            “But I think it’s critical that we take this opportunity to [make] – what we call in Formula One – evidence-based decisions. So let’s make a decision based on proper evidence: how do we get that evidence, how do we get that information analysis done so we can at least make a decision based on some work?

            “That’s how a Formula One team works, why shouldn’t Formula One as a sport work that way rather than making knee-jerk, compulsive, non-instinctive decisions and reactive decisions rather than properly structured decisions.”

            Sounds to me like Brawn is exactly who can take on the task of improving F1, since he has run a team or two, and very successfully at that.

        2. Brawn was a great team principal, ……………

          He was previously known for being something else though (as @dieterrencken mentioned).

          Besides, Sebastien Loeb was a gymnast and John Surtees was a 2-wheel racer……………

      2. @jimg, it depends whether those outfits would necessarily look to create a new series, or instead look to move into another series and build that up as a potential rival instead.

        As it happens, the ACO is currently also working on producing a new set of LMP and GTE regulations for 2020, and there is the possibility that there could be a set of unified regulations between the FIA, ACO and IMSA for all of the top sportscar racing series.

        We know that McLaren are openly attending the working groups that the ACO has convened, and whilst they were initially participating to investigate the new GTE regulations (with the aim of modifying their current GT3 cars to GTE specification), the talk that has been coming from the latest meetings is that McLaren are now weighing up a potential full blown LMP1 car instead.

        Now, the WEC is one of those competitions that has rather cyclical involvement from manufacturers, and indeed is going through one of its leaner times for manufacturer participation right now. However, with the indication that the ACO is looking at potential cost reduction measures for that series, it could start becoming more attractive for manufacturers to return to that.

        It would require considerable effort and is probably fairly unlikely to happen, but the WEC might perhaps be a possible alternative given that it would have prestige, particularly now that they are bringing back some of the more prestigious and historical races, such as the Sebring 12 Hours, onto the calendar. The ACO have also hinted in the past that they would be very welcoming to Ferrari too – perhaps in part because, with the ACO traditionally having a bit of an acrimonious relationship with the FIA and F1, securing Ferrari at the expense of F1 would be the biggest middle finger salute that the ACO could ever wish to give F1 and the FIA.

    6. I can’t stop thinking that @dieterrencken articles are giving this site a depth and maybe authority it hadn’t before. I mean, @keithcollantine work is amazing, but now we really have something more, a different perspective.
      That being said, I would really like to read RaceFans’ staff ideas about how F1 should change.

      My very humble opinion is that they need to start from the bottom of all problems: this sport is not funny today. It simply isn’t: a lot of gimmicks and acronyms, no overtakes. You can build the best sport in the world, attracting teams, sponsors and so on, but if the only people watching it are a bunch of petrolheads, you won’t go far. Everything they are adding and changing after Liberty took over is cool and works in the short term: but we’ll get used to these surface changes and the risk to fall asleep will again be very high: and this may in some way work if I’m watching a free-aired F1, but I won’t pay a cent to watch a GP on pay-per-view if the risk to become an expensive nap is this high.

      Since we’re in an era where everything needs to be expressed with an hashtag, I would summarize with:

      #F1needovertakes

      1. @m-bagattini totally agree for the in depth analysis brought by Dieter while Keith continues his fantastic job…

        I was thinking on April 1:st that it would be a great day for @keithcollantine (and Dieter?) to publish his F1 wishlist or his vision of what F1 should be. That’s always valuable to have the insight of someone who follow closely with a neutral approach. Probably that nobody would agree with the exact view presented but it should lead to interesting discussion (what racefans excell at)… I also have faith that Brawn is the perfect man to do the same exercise within the FIA. Enough knowledge to understand what is in play, to understand the best interest of every party while being neutral to try to find a balance for F1 as a whole.
        As described in the article, that’s a very tricky task which will certainly please nobody at first (which in itself should show some balance). And hopefully time will bring reason and everyone will see what they have to gain from that instead of what they could lose… Time to bring back the half full/empty glass.

    7. If Ferrari did break away and form their own series, who else would want to join them?

      Haas, Sauber.

      1. Doubtful. Why would they condemn themselves to being Ferrari’s bitch ad eternam? They’ll just switch suppliers and stay in F1.

        1. Yes, you’re right. I was being deeply cynical @krommenaas.

          1. @nickwyatt, that said, looking at the situation in a different light – if Ferrari were to break away, would it potentially remove the incentive for Haas and Sauber to stay in F1 in their own right?

            Haas, after all, are competing in part because being associated with Ferrari in F1 was something that Gene Haas felt was beneficial to his brand and gave him a greater degree of media coverage than he could hope for if he was competing on his own. Equally, if you remove the deal that Haas has with Ferrari, then suddenly that would put the onus on him to either secure a comparably extensive deal with another team – something that, so far, no other team seems willing to entertain – or to take on much more of the development costs of competing in F1.

            As for Sauber, that team has built up considerable technical links with Ferrari over the years – whilst it would not be impossible to work with another team, it would probably become extremely difficult, particularly given how isolated they are from the major development centres of all of the other teams (Sauber and Ferrari are pretty much the only two teams which are entirely based outside of the UK).

            Now, that is not to say that one or both teams would definitely leave if Ferrari did ever break away, but if one or both of those teams did do just that, then the field would be starting to look rather more threadbare.

            1. I understand your point @anon. Haas’ association with Ferrari as a premium quality brand confers a similar status on Haas Machine Tools. Sauber I am not so sure about.
              But if Ferrari did leave F1, it would either leave both these teams without an engine supplier at the least; where would/could they go for a replacement? Or perhaps Ferrari would remain as their engine suppliers thus allowing them to claim some of the credit if Haas or Sauber became successful.
              The grid would look very bare, I agree. I was very much aware of the lack of machinery on the Indy Lights grid recently. Looked like the prelude to the end of the Series, it would be awful for F1 to go the same way.

            2. If Ferrari were to leave, FOM would just have to say “we’ll spread the 90 million $ yearly bonus Ferrari was getting among the other teams” and they’d all line up to sign up for the next few seasons. Haas and Sauber would just get another engine (Sauber was already planning to get a Honda for a while, remember).

      2. Well, that makes 8 or 12 cars, if you split Sauber/Alfa Romeo.
        Who would drive?
        Who would race for third, as Ferrari 1-2 would be almost certain?

    8. From a layman point of view all this seems to have a simple answer: Equitable dispersion of revenues and less aero, front wing in particular. But apparently, it is much too much to ask…

      1. What’s the definition of equitable? Should the teams that also make engines get a larger share of the pot as they incur higher costs by making engines? Should marquee teams get more since their participation increases the value of the sport?
        Less aero? After teams spend hundreds of millions of dollars on wind tunnels, super computers, fluid dynamics etc, are they to just throw that investment away? As the article clearly says there are no easy answers or solutions.

        1. @velocityboy Teams that don’t manufacture engines have to buy them and incur costs that way. Of course there are no easy answers as all teams have their own interests and agendas. But the general consensus seems to be that the status quo is not sustainable, so… I believe that all teams contribute to the World Championship equally by participating in it, and should get virtually equal slice of the revenues the sport generates. Mercedes or Ferrari will always have bigger budgets than Sauber or Force India, plus the more successful teams will always be more attractive to sponsors and increase their budgets that way. But why should the sport itself promote a system that keeps half of the field at the brink of bankruptcy year after year? Do we want to end up with World Championship where 4 teams run 5 cars each? As for the aero, maybe it should not be touched, but then people should quit complaining about the lack of overtaking…clearly demonstrated by Hamilton being unable to get past Vettel in Melbourne…even with DRS.

          1. @gpfacts A non-F1 World Championship wouldn’t be unprecedented, so there’s that option.

            1. @davidnotcoulthard Sure. In fact WEC is a WC in it own right and their cars look awesome. But it suffers from similar problems as F1…only two cars (one Porsche and one Toyota) seem to be winning all the races!

    9. Paul (@frankjaeger)
      4th April 2018, 13:21

      Great article!

    10. Every time I read something about a break away series, I envision Bernie rubbing his hands together and smugly chuckling to himself.

      1. If Bernie was 10 years younger, the breakaway would already be happening.

    11. Fifty percent of Formula One revenues are siphoned away to provide a return on invested capital for Liberty Media’s “investment” in the business.
      Why the “quotes” around investment? Because this is not an investment in tangible assets that create the sport, rather it is just intangible assets and goodwill that reflect nothing more than the aggregate value carried off into the sunset by CVC, Bernie, Waddell & Reed, etc.
      Ferrari and Mercedes should leave the sport and form a break-away series, one that is owned by the teams. The capital requirements are diminimus. There are plenty of circuits that will sign up under far more favorable terms on offer from from Liberty Media. Other teams will follow because the terms will be far more favorable than those on offer from Liberty Media. This is a given because the new structure won’t require 50% of revenue be going to service the legacy of Bernie & Co.
      There is a reason that Marchionne is making noise, and why Toto is backing him up.
      The economic rationale is obvious.
      The only downside is the loss of certain marquee events, e.g. Monaco, Spa, etc., until the existing contracts expire. A small price to pay.

      1. Unless one thinks the BE/CVC way was the better way, F1 badly needed the change of ownership and a fresh look, and presumably any entity taking over would be suffering the same financial reality for the time being.

        Assuming Ferrari and Mercedes could break away affordably and have an immediate following of teams, and no trouble finding venues, like they could just hit the ground running with none of the usual time and investment all business entities need in order to establish a following, is folly.

        A small price to pay? I think it would be much closer to a massive price to pay and a massive risk, and assumes there’d be some magic harmony amongst the teams who would suddenly lose their selfishness and greed to have things their way in order to win. Why would other teams, unless they had pockets as deep as Mercedes or Ferrari, and even then, be any more comfortable breaking away, knowing it would just be the usual money=wins scenario that presumably Ferrari and Mercedes would prefer, and hence their breakaway? In your scenario would they be under the FIA wing? TV deals? Main sponsorship deals? What would their ideal cars look like? What engines? Whose their tire supplier(s) under what terms and mandates?

        To say there is only one downside, that being the loss of certain marquee events, and then to assume those would be available to them once existing contracts expire, is to extremely oversimplify things, and ignores hundreds of variables that make this concept extremely complex, risky, and expensive.

        If it was so easy, with only one downside, Ferrari et al would have done this years ago.

        1. “…presumably any entity taking over would be suffering the same financial reality…”
          No, because a breakaway series would not have Liberty’s capital structure, and would not have to divert $900 million per year to cover its return on capital.
          At the same time, a breakaway series would not start with $1.8 billion of revenue, not even close.
          As to marquee events, e.g., Spa, Monaco, Monza, those promoters would certainly move to a successful breakaway series once their contracts expire.
          Keep in mind, a scenario where Mercedes, Ferrari, McLaren, Renault and one or two others breakaway would cause bankruptcy for “FOM” and the demise of the FIA F1.

          1. What I meant was that if it wasn’t Liberty it would be whatever entity (any entity) post-BE, that would have the same financial situation upon taking over F1.

            I agree a breakaway series would not have 1.8 billion in revenue, and they would probably have double that in startup costs, so they’d be losing a ton of money initially.

            You might be right that if the top 6 teams broke away they might eventually get those venues and cause the demise of F1 itself, but there are a ton of if’s in there, as well as a ton of risk, and a ton of money and time and effort. I don’t see it as being feasible to do all that, to get what? Something fairer for their greedy selves than Liberty will offer? They need to break away at massive risk and work and cost and rebuilding to do what? Maintain their greedy our way or the highway ways? They can’t stand the thought of a fairer F1 that much? They have to win by having things skewed their way, the BE way, and can’t win otherwise?

            I really just can’t see anything so draconian let alone draconian at all, that would cause needs for a breakaway, from anything Liberty has talked about.

      2. Gary
        Do you seriously think Ferrari and Mercedes would start a break away series, without wanting to keep almost as much of any revenue generated (or that liberty takes out of the sport) as they get to keep now from F1? The smaller teams would be left to feed of the crumbs that are left? Sure, they can start a series, but they (Ferrari & Mercedes) would want to dominate it as as much as the did in F1. And I chuckled at your ” owned and run by the teams remark”. You mean the same teams who in a closed shop (which F1 is no matter what the eu says) cannot agree on anything. Ferrari and Mercedes might leave, but form break away series, that will never happen.

        1. Hey Ferrari could go back to unlimited on-track testing at their own facility with their own tire maker right there on site, and everything will just be great.

        2. Ferrari and Mercedes would take a share of profit commensurate with their ownership. The same would be true for other teams. If Ferrari and Mercedes inject the start up capital then they’ll have a larger stake. The point is that there would not be a $900 million per year drain on the system, which is what Liberty takes away every year, for not much more than to cover the return on capital for the legacy of Bernie & Co.

          1. Still can’t see how those two teams with a larger stake in a breakaway series would lead to a different series than they’ve been allowed by BE to be in now. F1 doesn’t need two teams having so much power, but if they feel they need to leave and risk starting their own series in order to maintain that power, then that will be a series that will predictably only ever have Mercedes or Ferrari winning, for after all they’ll want their ROI. If I’m one of the other 4 teams that you have cited that might break away with Ferrari and Mercedes, I’d be thinking I’d be jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire. Why not stay with Liberty where they will have a better chance of winning once the new regs kick in, than to go with two teams that don’t want their power messed with?

            1. The teams cannot agree on the time of day. A breakaway series? Never going to happen. They would eat each other before it got off the ground.

      3. The only downside is the loss of certain marquee events, e.g. Monaco, Spa, etc., until the existing contracts expire. A small price to pay.

        Tell that to Indycar.

        That said I wonder what a Stock-car-dominated world of motorsports would look like outside the US.

    12. Thank you very much @dieterrencken for a very balanced and informative article, such as are rarely seen on F1 websites.

    13. Why are monocoque and survival cell listed separately in the ‘listed parts’ section of the article even though they’re basically the same thing? They’re synonyms to each other along with the words ‘chassis’ and ‘tub.’

      1. The tech rules don’t mention monococque anywhere. The words safety cell and monococque are practically interchageable and mean the same thing. Maybe the word monococque comes from the french version of the rules.

    14. “The threat of Formula E?” I never see any comments on fans moving to FE, but manufacturers are joining to work on the electrification of their brand. Petrol powered vehicles will be here for a long, long time and still will be raced for years. Plenty of comments from many F1 fans starting to watch IndyCar which has a better low downforce formula that makes the drivers drive, much better looking cars, and the biggest race on earth.

    15. I have high hopes for the future of F1. At the very least, it will not go as badly as if it continued to be run in the old way. We have a professional group of people in charge who understand how to comport themselves in front of the media as well as how to run a fan-centric sports business in the digital age. Whatever the outcome, I’ll take that always over Bernie ‘Hitler Got Things Done’ Ecclestone. Fingers crossed for Friday.

    16. Really looking forward to this. I’m full of hope that this could be a genuine change that benefits the sport as a whole instead of an individual team, or more political BS.
      Compromise might be the name of the game, but I also hope that the inevitable threats to leave the sport do not scare Liberty into regressing. There is a reason lots of people are excited for the future of F1, and Brawn can make it happen.

    17. This is a weird moment where some drivers seem suddenly mute.

    18. Great article!
      There might be a minor mistake about regulation changes. The sporting regulations can be changed by unanimous agreement of all parties, but the technical regulations cannot. The former applied a few years ago when they changed the qualifying session format and reverted it a few races later. The latter applies currently to the placement of the on-board cameras — camera position “3” is blocked by the HALO as we saw in FP1/FP2, but it cannot be changed until next year. (Luckily, the TV director stopped using that camera completely for the rest of the weekend).

      1. I beg to differ – both sets of regulations can be changed by unanimous agreement subject to going through due process, which means the convoluted route of unanimity at Strategy Group, F1 Comm and WMSC levels. They can also be changed by ‘clarifications’ and for safety reasons. The reason why we have not had any technical rule changes recently is because there has not been unanimity – mainly due to cost, but also a technical rule change invariably jeopardises one or more teams – whereas sporting changes are have less effect. Thus they didn’t even pass at Strategy Group level.

        The qualifying debacle was agreed to by all stakeholders, but if you recall the Comm RIghts Holder and FIA were against a change initially despite all teams being in favour – which is why the change was delayed.

      2. Camera Pos3 has not even come up for formal discussion yet.

      3. This column outlines the process more fully, and the process was verified with various sources ahead of publication to ensure nothing had changed since 2013.

    19. a) wont happen
      c) wont happen

      The English man at my pub, I’m sure he killed someone, he was here long before me before me, and I’ve been here for 20 years

      1. Errh !? A case of alebrain I suspect.

        1. sorry, too much ale in the belly, my bad

    20. A great article about a job almost no one would want.

      I’m looking forward to hearing (if any detail is published) of the points tabled and team reactions over the weekend.

    21. I read this in his accent.

    22. ALL the teams are involved to boost their profile of their relevant businesses and those of their partners and ALL teams should be involved in the sport to actually, you know, want to partake in a fair and exciting sporting contest where they fight to be the best.

      To me it’s as simple as that. Making the racing exciting and the contest genuinely gripping is obviously what Liberty Media want as well as it would make people flock back to the sport if it genuinely felt competitive and with enough going on to keep you engaged. To hell with people upset that their job might disappear or that they might lose some of their monopoly. Can they truly see themselves setting up an alternative to F1, without any of the branding and huge historical relevance which comes with that. Nobody’s going to start watching that series besides the hardcore and motorsports had enough of a problem about audiences being more and more niche as it is (which makes selling your brand pretty irrelevant if most people never ever engage with F1).

      I’m a simple F1/racing fan who just wants to see good racing and see the best drivers proving themselves. If all the bright sparks in F1 can’t manage that, when they all know how to do so, then they’ve got a problem.

      They can all work together to put forth a racing series people care about that feels like it is the pinnacle of motorsport, or they can continue faffing about and delivering what is quite often a borefest that is interesting only to those already indoctrinated while shutting everyone else out.

    23. My big takeaway here is Ross Brawn’s five giant balls… but seriously great insight once again, though I still don’t get why all we keep reading are reasons why budget caps are bad and no arguments in favor of why they might be good. For myself there are no more pressing issues than revenue sharing and aero regs.

    24. @DieterRencken Dieter, when I looked into the specifics of the Ferrari “veto” some time back, what I discovered was that it wasn’t really so much a veto as a “get out of jail free” card. The wording I found indicated that Ferrari would be released from the current Concorde Agreement without financial penalty and be free to leave F1 if regulations were adopted that caused substantial financial hardship to Ferrari based upon its business plan. In fact, they don’t actually have a veto power. It is simply that they are the only team that can easily leave the sport if big changes are made that don’t suit them. Even the, they would have to prove that the new regulation really did cause Ferrari serious financial problems in order to get off with no penalties whatsoever.

      Some may say that this amounts to a veto power, but that implies that there is a consensus that F1 (and possibly the world) would grind to a halt if Ferrari pulled out. If Liberty Media determines that they cannot operate their business profitably and efficiently with another corporate entity being handed the steering wheel, Liberty may be forced to let Ferrari leave. I feel that a Ferrari departure would be bad for F1, but possibly not as bad as continuing to operate in an irrational manner with band-aids and piecemeal decisions. I think a Ferrari departure from F1 would do severe damage to their company image and shareholder profits, so I don’t expect to see Ferrari depart. My biggest worry is that Brawn’s proposals will not be bold enough to signal a new era for F1. Time will tell…

    25. Formula 1 is always described, by itself and others, as the pinnacle of motorsport, but I struggle to know what that actually means.

      If the ‘pinnacle of motorsport’ is unfair distribution of funds, a single team having the power to veto changes and a woefully noncompetitive grid (compared to other series) then I don’t think our measure of ‘pinnacle’ is up to scratch.

      Formula 1 is a mess, but to some extent that’s the appeal. It’s not like anything else.

      I have no problem with rewarding success but what I do have a problem with is a team being able to veto changes and demand so much more of the funds than anyone else (despite not winning anything of note in over ten years) and expecting us to be OK with that. Frankly, it’s pathetic. Ferrari could leave for all I care, and if F1 crumbles then so be it. Perhaps it doesn’t deserve to survive if it can’t provide fair competitive racing for it’s participants – that doesn’t qualify as sport.

    26. It was a very well summarised article.
      In my opinion rules should be in F1:
      Principles F1 should follow: 1. safety 2. close racing 3. world’s fastest cars 4. efficiency 5. optimizing 1-4 points.The most fans want to see close racing among the best drivers in the fastest cars. How can we solve it? This is, decision makers and engineers should work for. I think it isn’t impossible.
      Some possibilities we have to consider:
      1. Less differences between cars in lap times.
      Some teams are better in PU and others in aero but we need less differences in lap times. I think we should introduce +weight/point system in short term (for example +20dkg/point or ~+0,5 pound/point, less or more) because it is a simple, cheap, fast, effective solution to decrease dominance and differences and we don’t need unification or freeze development. Smaller teams get the same PU (hardware, software, etc) as manufacturers. Decrease money/revenue allocation differences and decrease costs. I think it would be ideal if cars are close to each other in lap times but some cars are faster in straight and others are faster in corners. The slower teams get more test days.
      2. Less dirty air and less sensitive cars for dirty air in corners but fast cars: more mechanical grip, less or same aero downforce, the sport needs make it easier for cars to follow each other closely during races.
      A, simpler front wing and aero B, (more effective diffuser) C, better tyres D, more powerful and effective PUs (natural development) E, slight changes in technical regulation year by year (differences will naturally decrease) and more freedom in development until regulations allow F, DRS? (open DRS time/race and drivers manage it) G, refuelling? (Cars can be faster and drivers could push harder during races but there would be less safety and more ’overtaking during the pit stops’) H, narrow cars I, less weight
      3. Increasing the role of drivers: A, drivers make decisions on strategy B, less radio instructions from engineers to drivers during races (maybe only safety reasons) C, minimum weight for drivers (for example 80kg with ballast less or more) but no limit for cars D, push on the limit as long as possible, and save (fuel, tyres, PU etc.) as short as possible -> faster lap times during races E, It should be more challenging to drive physically and mentally F, drivers manage ERS instead of a program (like they used KERS earlier) G, so more challenge physically (drivers own strategy) and mentally (more G force until it is safety) as well for drivers.
      And what else…?
      Let’s see the advantages and disadvantages of +weight/point system in short term. (+20dkg/point, less or more. It means if a driver has 10 points he has to carry +2kg as a minimum weight for the car.)
      Advantages: 1. Less differences between cars in lap time and close racing. 2. Fast, cheap, simple, effective solution. 3. We don’t need unification or freeze development 4. Finally the best team wins.
      Disadvantages: 1. Unfair? I don’t think (or partly) because finally win the best and if you have the best team and car you have to work harder to remain the best.
      Or at least this +weight/points system should be tested in smaller categories.
      Optimizing them!

    27. Another brilliant article, @DieterRencken!

    28. As long as F1 stands for Ferrari there will be no compromise exept in favour of Ferrari. So kick them out.

    29. Thanks for a very detailed and well written article. It reinforces what a complex *mess* F1 current decision making structure has become. It’s paralyzed the sport to the point where it can’t act reasonably. Liberty has to take charge again. If Ferrari and Mercedes leave, F1 can still flourish, even if it takes a temporary hit, IF it can implement new regulations that make sense, technically, financially and from a sporting and entertainment, while maintain F1 historic and traditional values. A tall order, certainly but it’s at least possible if Liberty takes charge and current chaos ends.

      BTW, there is NO way that Ferrari can start a successful competitive series to compete with F1: that threat is just bluster. What team would join a series that is run by the company that they are competing against? It would take billions to just to get the track contracts in order. Not going to happen.

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