F1 teams could lose ‘mission control’ rooms in new plan to improve races

2021 F1 season

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‘Mission control’-style virtual garages used by F1 teams could be scrapped in 2021 under plans to cut costs and make racing less predictable.

RaceFans understands new restrictions are being considered which would prevent teams having large numbers of engineers working remotely on their cars from their factories during race weekends.

Virtual garages, also called ‘operations centres’ by some teams, have become increasingly popular because of the staffing restrictions teams face at tracks during race weekends. The number of staff they can have working on their cars is limited and a curfew is enforced on their working hours.

F1’s commercial rights holder Liberty Media believes the virtual garages makes staffing restrictions at race weekends pointless. It wants to get rid of them to reduce teams’ costs, improve the quality of racing and increase the importance of drivers over engineers.

Among the purposes of the virtual garages is to allow teams to study their race strategy options in great detail in real-time during races. This allows them to quickly decide between different tactical options and respond immediately to changes in the race, such as the deployment of the Safety Car.

F1 2021 article
F1 2021: Liberty’s masterplan for Formula One’s future uncovered
Liberty Media presented its proposals for wide-ranging changes to Formula One in Bahrain last week including a redistribution of prize money and changes to the sport’s governance plus sporting and technical regulations.

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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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65 comments on “F1 teams could lose ‘mission control’ rooms in new plan to improve races”

  1. SparkyAMG (@)
    20th April 2018, 15:36

    Mercedes might actually start to win races again if this goes through.

    1. I’d say this would only benefit Ferrari.

    2. Agreed.
      Mercedes race strategy seems to be a good example of paralysis by analysis.

        22nd April 2018, 2:37


  2. I’d love to see an end to drivers radioing into mission control asking “can I attack now?” or “what’s my target lap time?”. Maybe a little naive, but why not let the driver manage his own car and his own race? If the tyres feel bad, slow down or request a pit stop. If you’re leading by 10 seconds, decide whether or not to slow down to protect the engine.

    Taking away team radio is obviously not going to happen, but I’d like to see it limited to pit requests from either side and safety instructions.

    1. I agree, and they’ve already started down that path by limiting the type of technical information that can be shared across the radio. You’d think this is the next logical step. Plus it’s a way of making the racing more exciting whilst not employing a gimmick *cough* DRS *cough* or compromising what F1 is all about. So in that sense, coupled with the resulting costs that are saved, it’s an absolute no-brainer.

    2. They limited pit radio and everyone moaned about it, so the rule-makers brought it back. Now they want it limited aain? By God man, decide!

      1. @major-dev people complained more about the poor implementation of the rule which disadvantaged drivers who were suffering from reliability problems during the race, as well as some other problems.

        It doesn’t help that the cars are so reliant on all of this controlling. Hopefully in the 2021 regulations they will change all that and make the cars more driver focused.

      2. The article, as I understand it, refers to off-track communications.

      3. In fairness “they” are now Liberty Media suggesting removing mission control, whereas previously “they” were Bernie Ecclestone removing technical feedback, so it’s not quite the indecisiveness that it would appear on the face of it. Plus as it is the off-track H.Q. stuff, it goes much further than radio communications.

  3. Did we try this before…and fail miserably?

    1. Those restrictions were pit wall to driver / driver to pit wall.
      This is about limiting all track comm to home base.

  4. My reply was supposed to go under Ben Needham’s radio comment, but website put it as a new comment. Also had to try three times as I was posting too quickly, on my 1st post?!

  5. If teams are using offsite facilities as a loophole to regulations, then that loophole must be closed. However, if there is legitimate value provided by having a remote support team involved I don’t think they should be banned. Especially considering the nature of the cars, its not just a wheel and pedals any longer, we’ve all seen the drivers frantically adjusting various settings at 200 mph. I believe its naïve to think the sport should go back to “just a driver and his car” as that’s simply not the reality of it. This isn’t the 1960’s.

    1. A sensible post.

      These engineering marvels require some intervention- the data down loaded as they arrive in the pits is critical to keep them running. They are not just working on strategy. No driver can manage these things running when they start to play up without some support. Not ever. We saw that very quickly. Particularly with just three engines. You know so the costs are now certainly less than the V8 days! Three engines vs ten or seven plus test units etc etc. Thanks FIA.

      We have to be sensible. No testing vs no costs plus nutty tyres means some guys back in the pits on laptops. All those that want the 60’s back – go watch historic racing and realise your constant carping will create a F1 that is lesser than f3 and f2! In fact less than super kart racing. We area using laptops and sequentially operated gears and have done for years. I mean really?

      These are amazing machines and are astounding to see.

      Remember it’s those garages and lap tops that gave us some unusual results already this year.

      Without them we would have had processions….

    2. I believe its naïve to think the sport should go back to “just a driver and his car” as that’s simply not the reality of it.

      That should be the reality of a true drivers world championship. All this technology has made it too complicated for the driver to be left to his own devices when on the track, this makes it less of a sport than ever before. And they wonder why only the hardcore technophiles (the vast majority of whom are male) have active interest in it?

      I love motor racing and have done for years but it is so bleedingly obvious just how silly Formula One has become with regards to technology. Let’s be honest, there really is little point in scoring the drivers anymore, in fact there is little point in the driver, just use self driving technology because everyone knows that is what all the geeks and nerds are pushing Formula One to become.

      1. I agree with the overall point you are making. I think high technology has its place in F1, such as for innovation in the designs and other things outside of the cockpit, but certainly not for driving or controlling the car.

        They banned traction control in 2008, and there are no ABS brakes, pretty much for this reason. In fact, according to the rules the car must be driven unaided, but we all know that this is vague wording and simply not true.

        1. Nobody within F1 making the decisions is talking about 60’s style basics. That would be just coming from the odd fan who is just in fantasy mode. But it does make for an interesting way of contrasting what they were doing in that era, to fast forward to virtual garages off-site. Lol there’s probably more staff in a virtual garage now, than Jim Clark had on his whole team.

          If virtual garages exist just because some teams can afford them, therefore ‘why not’, then they should be banned.

          If virtual garages exist because the technology is so complex that they are necessary, then that’s a big indicator that F1 needs be made less complex. And that is the direction Liberty is heading and I agree with it.

          In basic terms, the new F1, with slightly less complex pu’s, with less costs, with more competitiveness and closer racing, with less confusing penalties, with less conservation of components, with a better balance of money distribution, and with putting more emphasis on the driver, should go a long way toward removing the need or the sentiment of having virtual garages.

          One big outstanding question I have surrrounds the tires and what Liberty and Brawn have in mind for those. They are currently still way too finicky, way too gadgety, and for me might be half the reason for the ‘need’ for virtual garages to begin with. I want to hear more about the 2021 tire philosophy, of which we have heard not a peep. Tires are still way too much a percentage of the game. Nobody tunes in to see which driver and team can figure out the tires, or hope to luck into getting them hooked up. They’re a symptom of F1 trying to accommodate cars that can’t pass due to dirty air, just as is drs. I suspect we haven’t heard much about new 2021 tires from Liberty because there is only one maker right now, and for them to suggest better tires for 2021 also says the tires today are bad, and it wouldn’t be diplomatic to call Pirelli out when F1 themselves wanted only one maker with a specific mandate, vs a tire competition that would not allow F1 to mandate a type and nature of tire, but instead would result in good tires.

      2. So then I take it you don’t think Formula 1 needs to be the pinnacle of motorsport? Because that very technology is what enables F1 to remain the fastest series on Earth. Without it, you have the GP2 series.

        I count myself as one of those “geeknerds” that you mentioned, and the very last thing I want is a driverless championship, IMO that’s a soapbox claim and not at all where the series is headed or wants to go. They’re not just piling technology on to the car to spend money. Bottom line – the series is technological because it going this fast requires advanced technology.

        1. Exactly

          I love all these chaps and chapseses that do not watch f2 or 3 and realise that they too reqiure people in garages with laptops to make sure the cars can run.

          A yamaha engine from 1990 required a computer controlled warm up prior to starting. Most serious race engines do with tolerances that mean they can only run against such control.

          Imagine today -with just three engines and a complexity never seen before?

  6. I welcome this proposal but in order for it to work, they need to strip much of the electronics off the car, and make them a more basic drivers machine

    1. Keep “Mission Control”, include it in the teams’ budget (cap), make it one way only – to “Mission Control” only during track time, up/down-load between sessions only.
      Or ; Off-track communications charged by KB to the teams’ budget.

      1. “Off-track communications charged by KB to the teams’ budget.” How is that lowering budget costs?

        1. Maybe we can just accept that spending more money is inherently linked to trying to be the best. We’re talking the pinnacle of car engineering. No money restriction should hold the teams back, just make the physically fastest possible car. If nobody can afford the fastest possible car in the world, then it’s time to call it quits. It’s what the sport is about.

  7. Finally some Sense.
    Now stop wanting to dumb down the engines and i might Keep watching Post 20 After all

    1. LOL So you’re OK with dumbing down the strategy, but you are not OK with dumbing down the cars… You do realize they are both engineering right…

    2. Define ‘dumb down the engines.’ Relative to what? As far as I see it, the pu’s (that new terminology alone should be an indicator) have been too complex, and they will still remain quite complex although a bit less so with the proposals for 2021. I don’t see them as dumbing down the pu’s whatsoever. Just making them more reasonable than they were made under BE. They’ll still be far from ‘dumb’. Far ‘smarter’ than V8’s/10’s/12’s.

  8. Maybe they could put all the teams at the track on the same network and restrict outside access to a set of approved sites (like weather)

    1. .. and maybe the teams can get a satellite setup and put two fingers up to the local network.

  9. petebaldwin (@)
    20th April 2018, 17:29

    They limited the number of personnel allowed at the track and teams worked around this by creating off site garages that can analyse data in real-time. It’s clever but it’s not really in the spirit of the rules (to cut costs) so banning this seems like a logical and obvious decision.

    The simple solution would be to ban the transmission of data to and from to the track from the end of FP2 until the end of the race. The people at the track have to manage qualifying and the race on their own – not only will this create more tactical mistakes, it will make good tactical decisions actually mean something. It’s not artificially mixing things up – it’s promoting an equal competition where the best (not necessarily the richest) will shine.

    I should add, I don’t know the specifics about running these power units – if some offsite assistance is required due to their complexity, this can be heavily monitored to ensure that only the required info is passed back and forth.

    1. It’s clear that nothing about this is technically necessary, as long as it’s clear at the design stage that the teams (or the cars) need to be more self-sufficient. The technology obviously exists to let a car drive around without constant remote telemetry and advice.

      There may be a safety argument for allowing a limited form of telemetry, perhaps regarding basic parameters such as condition of tires, brakes, fluid pressures and the electrical system. Some of that could be just part of the car. Technically they could design more intuitive interfaces for the driver if they had to do it, and simplify the engine mode controls (or not have them).

      1. @tigen if they really need to monitor it for safety then they can just monitor it from the garage at the circuit

  10. Here in the US there is a much-aired ATT TV commercial showing Daniel Ricciardo in the car interacting with engineers back in the factory…I like the idea of limiting data transmission after FP2. Similar to NASCAR-they are allowed telemetry during testing but not on a race weekend.

  11. These “virtual garages” are NOT necessary, esp if the teams know in advance that they won’t have them available (i.e with the new regs in 2021). They currently provide another competitive advantage for teams with the most money: they can spend huge amounts for every tiny particle of technical data and analysis for every tiny bit of advantage, which all add up to domination. F1 will still be highly technical without the virtual garage teams crunching race telemetry.

    There is one unavoidable FACT about F1: if it’s to survive, the costs have to come down. Everyone knows it but Ferrari, Mercedes and Red Bull will be content to keep their huge budget advantages and milk F1 for a few more years until keels over and dies. They’re willing to kill the long term health of F1 for short term gains for a few more years. Mercedes has *1500* on their staff, Red Bull has *700*: that’s just absurd and unnecessary.

  12. And how is this to be policed? A remote support center could be anywhere and the equipment to transmit and receive the data no longer needs to be the size of a small house. I think that all this will do is bring about accusations from the teams of others skirting the rules by still having these centers.
    I do think that the drivers should have to make their own decisions on the track and pit to car radio should be banned except to tell a driver to shut the car down. In MotoGP the bikes have engine mapping settings, brake settings etc and the rider is expected to do it on their own while racing. So I believe it’s possible to dumb down the in car controls if F1 while still leaving enough that the driver can change things as they see fit.

    1. Actually the motogp riders receive text messages from the pits now re engine maps etc. Which appear on the dash.

      1. They tried banning technical and driving aid over the radio. But when that kept Hamilton from winning of course it had to be allowed again…

  13. It’ll save costs, yes (and it will probably cost jobs), but I doubt it’s going to do much for predictability.

  14. Keep “Mission Control”, include it in the teams’ budget (cap), make it one way only – to “Mission Control” only during track time, up/down-load between sessions only.
    Or ; Off-track communications charged by KB to the teams’ budget.

  15. F1 is not Nascar. And it’s not the 80’s anymore.

    1. Can you elaborate on your analogies?

  16. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
    20th April 2018, 20:08

    I personally feel that what the teams decide to do with their budget as long as they stay within budget is their own business.

    I’ve already proposed the idea of a tiered targeted budget which allows overruns and which could benefit all the other teams the next season when one team overspends as opposed to a budget cap which is very inflexible.

    1. I think I remember that post, and was impressed, confused, but in favor.
      Would you be kind enough to send a simplified version to paulheppler@sympatico.ca ?

      1. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
        21st April 2018, 12:15

        @paulheppler I don’t mind explaining it again here.

        Essentially there would be a targeted budget and there would be penalties for exceeding the budget. Teams would be allowed to exceed a budget but they would pay a penalty for doing so.

        Mercedes has a targeted budget of $150 million but ends up spending $180 million. There is a flat penalty of $50 cents on the dollar for exceeding the budget (it could be staggered). Therefore, because they exceeded their target budget by $30 million, Mercedes will lose $15 million in prize money at the end of the season which will be distributed to other teams. They could even make this an inverted distribution so bottom teams on the WCC end up receiving a higher percentage.

        This allows a team to exceed the budget if they must and avoids the possibility of a team going bust on round 18 out of 20 which would be catastrophic if it happened to a team challenging for the WDC and WCC for the sport. It also allows a team to make a decision that they want to fight hard in this championship by spending more money but doing so will cost them something next year. Obviously a team would want to stay within the targeted budget or they’ll lose prize money next season and other teams will get that money.

        The budgets could also be tiered based on position in the WCC which would make sense – top teams get more prize money so they get a higher budget.
        Tier 1 has a targeted budget of $180 million (Teams 1-3)
        Tier 2 has a targeted budget of $160 million (Teams 4-6)
        Tier 3 has a targeted budget of $140 million (Teams 7-10)

        Top teams are going to ask for a higher budget and it makes no sense to ask Ferrari or Mercedes to make do with the same budget as Sauber.

        The penalties could also be tiered – we wouldn’t want to severely penalize a team like Sauber if they found $10 million extra to spend 1 year. It’s really mostly meant to deter the top teams which already have higher budgets and prize money and sources of money from spending unlimited funds in search of victory.

        There would also need to be a totally different set of budgets for new teams to address a small team like Haas and a big team like Porsche or Audi joining F1. Both need to be able to enter the sport – the barriers to entering F1 are immense and budgets or regulations can cripple it as we’ve seen with Honda which has been crippled by the testing regulations even though it chose to take an extra year to develop the engine. They need to come up with a strategy that gives teams much more freedom as they enter the sport.

        Consolidation could also be another issue where teams create extra teams to bypass the budget or share costs of the budget. It’s a complicated issue because Red Bull has Toro Rosso and Ferrari is supplying parts for Haas. It has to be addressed and 2 should be a hard limit on the number of teams.

        1. I understand now. Brilliant. THANKS !!! Now how do we get this to Ross and Jean, and the rest? I really like the fact that the overages (Penalties ) go to the lower tiered teams … a natural equilibrium. It would give a new-commer a definitive target budget and that could apply to all outside sources too.
          As far as consolidation goes, I would welcome the idea of a manufacturer “raising one other customer team” and limit it to a 3 year contract. Then the customer must be set free to be on their own or find a new ‘Foster Parent’.

          1. While the principle of this makes some sense, I think it is very complex and might create other issues in terms of hiding or diverting spending. But sure, if they can actually decide on a cap level and actually police that, then perhaps the ‘fine’ for going over the cap could go to the lesser teams.

            One issue I would have with that is that as it is Liberty is talking about a more even distribution of money to the lesser teams. There seems to be little resistance to that. So it sounds like the smaller teams will get more. Add money that they might get from top teams overspending, and now I think the lesser teams may be getting too much help.

            One thing I agreed with BE on is that if a team has put together the ways and means, the mission statement if you will, to be accepted and to enter and play in F1, then that should mean they are there because they can sustain themselves, and will glean massive marketing impact from being in F1. So how much of a handout should they get when they are smart adults who stepped up to be in F1, only to then what? Hold out their hands for more?

            Oh I get that things have gotten very expensive and complex and unbalanced thanks to BE/CVC, but I just think Liberty is already taking measures to make things more reasonable, and I want to see it get to where smaller teams and any new entrants can actually stand on their own two feet. I wonder what some fans would think of some teams growing and succeeding not because they found new sponsors and advanced their cars that way, but because a top team overspent ie. do we want some teams dependent on that money? What if the next season the top teams don’t overspend? What do teams now dependent on that money for paying their now presumably bigger staff/resources etc do if suddenly that money isn’t there one year to the next?

            Sounds to me like it is an interesting idea on paper, but I’m not convinced it’s workable, nor the way they should be thinking. Ie. if smaller teams still need handouts from top teams overspending fines, then they still haven’t fixed the underlying issues of entering and competing reasonably in F1, and Liberty definitely does want to attract new money and new sponsors.

          2. petebaldwin (@)
            21st April 2018, 20:43

            @robbie If the smaller teams need handouts, we’ve still got a problem. They either need to find a way to allow the smaller teams to function as businesses whilst being able to compete reasonably in the sport or they need to find a way to make F1 more attractive the potential new teams with more money to spend.

            If we are going to go with the cost cap, I definitely like the idea of any penalties for breaking it being paid to the other teams though (excluding any who receive unfair historical payments). It’s not something anyone should rely on but it’s something that compensates the other teams for one of their competitors overspending.

            Bernie’s comments about teams being able to sustain themselves is fine but if you remove the teams able to compete and make a profit, you’ll be left with a very small grid. In an ideal world, I’d love 12 privateer teams owned by rich F1 fans with massive budgets so there would be no need for a cost cap and no need for road relevance but we haven’t got that – we’ve got a handful of teams spending unlimited amounts and others looking in thinking “there are cheaper ways to market our brand!!”

  17. What’s the difference between the staff at a team wanting to watch the race in the office and a virtual garage? F1 is famous for teams getting around rules, so why should this rule be different?

    1. Track staff is limited. Open communication to off-track staff is not. Thus a virtual unlimited track staff. This may reign in the advantages and disadvantages to an equal track-side competition.

  18. so basically they want to take everything back to the 80s/90s, simplify everything & take away much of the advanced technology that drew many to the sport…… why not just rename it nascar europe?


    1. One of many similar negative comments, the restriction proposed is not about limiting technical development (as comment implies), it is about limiting computerised tactical analysis and decision making. Yes computers are better (now) at chess but who wants to watch a chess game where the players moves are instructed by computers.

      1. We don’t even need the drivers. Let’s make it safer and more tech savy, remote control the car from Woking!

  19. I like the idea, but I hope this won’t make people unemployed.

    1. The objective is lowering costs. The only costs in a business are labor and capital. Even procured materials are, in the end, made of capital and labor. A significant reduction in costs will result in a significant reduction in labor, i.e. people. There is no other way. Anyone who thinks this won’t be the case, e.g., Joe Saward, has stunted analytical capabilities and economic knowledge.

  20. Wouldn’t they just put the Mission Control team back at the factory? It’s not like they absolutely have to be onsite to perform this job.

    1. What do you mean. It IS at the factory now.

  21. If I understand this correctly, these “mission controls” primary responsibility is real time data analysis so they can supply feedback to the pit wall strategists.

    I don’t think they play any part in “maintaining” the car or safety other than perhaps modelling what a change of tyre pressure or wing might do.

    Surely it can’t be a bad thing to remove it. It’s not a moon landing, it’s a race where drivers should be capable of assessing their performance relative to their competitors with the aid of the pit wall crew and their own “feel”.

    Maybe it would get rid of some of this ridiculous “we need you to drive to xx:xx times” radio coaching and force drivers to actually drive the cars.

  22. can you stop teams from deploying as much intellectual investments as possible? wont they just give them a laptop and tell them to hide in the closet? im not sure you can turn the clock back on this one. data science is here to stay.

    1. petebaldwin (@)
      21st April 2018, 20:51

      Data science is here to stay but this isn’t about stopping that. It’s just putting a list of regulations in place that determine how a sport can be run. X amount of people can be involved in the team during a race weekend – you can hide someone in a cupboard with a laptop just as you can deliberately stop on track to guarantee yourself pole at Monaco but it’s cheating. If you get caught, you’ll get punished.

  23. Might be a good move. It touches the problem but I’m not sure it is a revolution. The problem lies a little deeper.
    Let’s take the other sense of formula: given certain variables, find a solution for a problem.
    For long in F1 the variables where fairly limited particularly by the lack of sensors and computational power.
    The main sensors were the driver (‘s ass, as per Lauda) and a chronometer. The main input were the pedals and the wheel.
    Today, there an unimaginable plethora of sensor feeding enough computational power to extrapolate in real time the most probable result from the multiple interpolation of input in brake temp, fuel flux, aero load, etc and to compare with the competition.
    So, in most of any given sundays, the result of the formula (the interaction of input and output in a F1 car) is previously known or fairly predicted. Thus the importance of the first corner and the lack of incentive to try something the spreadsheet do not recommend.
    Then part of the problem is that F1 took itself too seriously. Yes, if the fate of humanity were dependent on how well a prototype is designed, built and driven, the current template is the correct one. But, no, the fate of humankind, of automobilekind, is not in stake on a GP.
    The commercial success Bernie brought to F1 allowed teams to employ the best resources, especially in sensors and computational power. Both would be desired even demanded if one think in terms of commercial flight. But they had given F1 the best spetacle.
    The crux of the problem is that there were resources (costly almost unaffordably) acessible to teams but they do not translate into 20, 10, or even 5 cars-wide competition. Would then F1 be anachronical refusing those resources? Would F1 be irrelevant to fans if the entertainment is not at par with the actual ticket price?
    For a decace at least F1 tried and have not answer definitely those questions.
    Maybe F1’s problem is lack of communication. If F1 is mainly a constructor championship, let everybody know and nobody should claim any grievance if all GP were treated as a interplanetary rocket launch – every input is considered, nothing is let to chance. If F1 would morph into a driver competition – a la NASCAR/Indycar, then say so and let the constructor adjust to the unpredictability of a lucky draw on driver informed tyre/engine/aero set.
    Now, F1 seems unclear on what it want to be in 21st century. Until F1 has not sort itself out (JBP), measures like banning “mission control” rooms will not be misaligned with every (teams, fans and drivers) intentions.

    1. *But they had not given F1 the best spetacle.
      *misaligned with everybody’s else (teams, fans and drivers) intentions
      – yes there are other typo/grammar problems, but they do not affect the intented meaning.

  24. G (@unklegsif)
    21st April 2018, 9:08

    Its quite obvious what thebig boys will do in this case… all the ‘off-site’ engineers will be relaced by big, expensive AI datacentres and the status que will be resumed


    1. Exactly. The costs will go up, not down.

    2. But if the massive gigabit data streams aren’t making it to the massive AI datacenter, nothing happens.

    22nd April 2018, 2:41

    Not sure how they would implement/audit this. Instead of the teams having a “mission control room” at the factory, the team could invest in expensive hardware and network capabilities for 250 people to work from home!

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