George Russell, Williams, Monaco, 2019

The storm brewing amid F1’s 2021 rules wrangle

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The weather during the Monaco Grand Prix weekend was variable, ranging from sunshine through overcast humidity to the occasional spittle. But is a perfect storm brewing in the background?

Understandably, minds in the principality last weekend were focused on the recent, tragic passing of three-times world champion, sporting hero and, latterly, Mercedes F1 non-executive chairman Niki Lauda.

As was the case when Charlie Whiting passed away on the eve of the new season, the loss of a figure like Lauda reminds everyone of their own mortality. Due respects were paid in fitting style: not only did the drivers don red ‘Niki’ caps but Mercedes cars sported the closest thing to them with red Halos. And his helmet design was carried to first and second places by Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel.

But now the sport moves on without Lauda. His incisive perspectives and oft-pithy comments will be sorely missed by all in the paddock. Another consequence is that Lauda was a 10 percent shareholder in the Mercedes team (parent Daimler have a ‘pull’ option on the stock after 2020) and it remains to be seen what happens to his voting rights in the interim.

This uncertainty may be just one symptom of stormy weather ahead. The decision by the FIA to scrap the much-vaunted tender for a standard F1 gearbox is another.

Last year a summit of all team bosses was held in Monaco on the Friday to discuss F1’s post-2020 transition. This year there was nary a team boss to be seen on the traditional ‘off-day’. It not as though the post-2021 technical and sporting regulations, revised governance process and commercial details are fully sorted, as delegates to the previous day’s FIA press conference made clear, yet – rather surprisingly – the key F1 figures chose not to meet on Friday.

Drivers tribute to Niki Lauda with Chase Carey, Michelle Yeoh and Jean Todt, Monaco, 2019
The F1 community said farewell to Lauda
Whilst the FIA’s U-turn on the gearbox tender directly affects only a single, albeit major, component group, it highlights two crucial factors: obvious team influence in the post-2020 regulatory process, and cracks in Liberty’s standardisation strategy. The residual impact of the decision extends beyond a cluster of gears; the word in the paddock is a number of similar tenders will also shortly be withdrawn.

The wrangling over the sport’s future has not descended into the bitter acrimony familiar from previous years. Many credit the relationship between Liberty CEO Chase Carey, Managing Director Ross Brawn and FIA President Jean Todt for the lack of major polemics in recent times.

What, though, if this situation changes for whatever reason(s)? Carey turns 66 on 22nd November and is thus already at ‘normal’ retirement age, Brawn hits 65 the following day and 73-year-old Todt is in his final term, which expires at the end of 2021.

Not unexpectedly, various sources (re)confirmed in Monaco Ferrari will continue to receive its annual ‘long-standing team’ bonus, albeit reduced from the stratospheric sums it currently receives. Liberty’s justification is that a spend cap neuters any performance advantage Ferrari may derive via the bonus as the team would not be permitted to spend in excess of the cap.

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All well and good, but that logic presupposes that a cap of $200 million maximum will be imposed, and that restrictions on driver salaries etc… are included. If not, we could be heading for the first $50m-per-year driver, who could clearly not be afforded by other teams.

Then there is the question of Ferrari’s historic veto over future regulation changes. After Ferrari team boss Mattia Binotto said in response to a question from RaceFans in Spain that the team was “hopeful [that] we can keep the same [veto] rights” and implied it would protect all teams against willy-nilly changes, this writer posed the question of that retention to a number of team bosses in Monaco, both within and outside the FIA press conference.

Mattia Binotto, Ferrari, Monaco, 2019
Ferrari is likely to retain its power of veto
Apart from comments such as ‘it’s silly’, ‘it’s outdated’ and a mocking ‘how kind of Ferrari to offer to represent the teams’, the overwhelming sentiment in the paddock among Binotto’s rival team bosses was that Ferrari’s veto should be scrapped. But all were resigned to Liberty caving into Ferrari’s demands and permitting the Scuderia to retain its veto.

This is notwithstanding that in a 2018 interview Brawn said, “The sport should be fair for all participants. I think that includes Ferrari.” By implication, then, the sport will not be fair for all participants.

Above all, though, the retention of Ferrari’s veto is significant as it points to a further dilution of Liberty’s stated post-2020 objectives.

Indeed, permitting Ferrari to retain such powers raises pertinent questions about the level of the much-vaunted budget, and whether it will even be introduced. What if Ferrari vetoes the concept of a budget cap in its entirety, as it did in 2009, when the FIA under Max Mosley planned to introduce a $40m cap?

True, the threat was never carried through, but only because the issue was resolved (the FIA cap was eventually dropped), but the fact is that Ferrari commenced legal proceedings against the FIA in the Paris Court of the Grande Instance to block the proposed 2010 regulation changes.

More recently Ferrari threatened to block proposed changes to the engine regulations – proving the veto is effectively ‘a loaded gun’, as Todt once called it. Imagine the state of post-2021 should Ferrari decide to veto some or even all the changes – F1 under those circumstances would be little different from what we presently suffer despite constant reassurances from Liberty that post-2020 F1 will be much changed.

All these factors fall squarely under Liberty’s direct control, yet each has the potential to seriously disrupt F1’s grand post-2020 plans unless skilfully managed. There are, though, a number of further threats that fall outside Liberty’s jurisdiction, all of which are capable of unsettling even the best-laid plans, or possibly disrupting them totally.

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Prime amongst these are potential decisions at motor manufacturer boardroom level to withdraw from F1 – as per F1’s mass 2008/9 walkout. True, this is a perennial threat, but Clause 2.1 of their respective bilateral agreements with Formula One World Championship Limited (now controlled by Liberty) locks the teams into participation only until the end of 2020. That is but 19 months away.

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Monaco, 2019
Has Mercedes won enough yet?
There is increasing talk that Mercedes will exit after that date, potentially remaining as an engine supplier only given that all heavy development expenditure has been incurred over the past ten years, and the engine regulations will be relatively stable until at least 2025.

Despite denials from Toto Wolff that he is considering an offer to join Liberty as CEO – with Carey staying on as chairman – such talk persisted in Monaco. One source was adamant talks are continuing, and brushed off Wolff’s denials saying: “Well, Toto needs tension in his negotiations with Liberty.” Significantly, this came from someone other than our original source…

Naturally, Mercedes has shot down such suggestions. This is to be expected, besides which the final decision may not yet have been taken given the changes taking place at the top. This Friday Dieter Zetsche, Chairman of the Daimler and CEO of Mercedes Passenger Car Division, officially steps down.

His place will be taken by Ola Källenius, the first non-German and non-engineer to head the car company. The Swede was instrumental in devising the company’s e-mobility strategy, recently telling Autoweek, “There’s no two ways about it, the world is going toward zero-emission in the long term. For us, in the next five to 10 years, battery electric vehicles play an absolutely crucial role to go there”, before confirming that he is seeking over £5 billion in cost savings from Mercedes by 2021…

Källenius was the driving force behind 10 purely electric Mercedes-Benz models, the first of which was launched earlier this month. Will he – excuse the pun – pull the plug on F1 at the end of 2020? Particularly given the team’s sparkling run of successes, from which the only way is down.

Not necessarily. But the point is he may well decide to do so, and that is a decision that lies outside of Liberty’s direct control.

Consider the impact of such a move, particularly a worst-case scenario where the F1 engine programme is canned simultaneously – and Mercedes sinks its full motorsport resource into Formula E; what a fillip that would give the nascent series.

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Meanwhile, although Ferrari CEO Louis Camilleri put in an appearance in Monaco, the heads of the other major European motor companies active in F1 – Renault and Alfa Romeo – were conspicuous by their absence. The reason became clear on Monday: the financial media reported that Renault, already in an alliance with Nissan/Renault, and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles were investigating a merger.

Kimi Raikkonen, Alfa Romeo, Monaco, 2019
Alfa Romeo and Renault; Future siblings?
The likely outcome is that the Agnelli family becomes the largest shareholders in what would be the world’s largest motor group, holding 29 per cent of stock. The primary reason for the merger: Renault’s lead in e-tech and zero-emission vehicles…

Renault was one of the first manufacturer entries in Formula E, but once it (re)acquired the Witney-based F1 operation it had sold to Genii after its 2009 exit from F1 as team owner, it transferred the electric racing team to alliance partner Nissan. After an FCA merger the group would have interests in two F1 teams: Renault and Alfa Romeo, neither of whom are currently doing the business, nor pulling massive bonuses.

Following the arrest of ex-Renault/Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn the Franco-Nippon alliance has been under strain, and there is talk that it may be dissolved rather than fully merged, and thus Nissan could well go its own way, both corporate and motorsport.

Whilst it is still early days yet, it is not inconceivable that the envisaged Renault-FCA group decides to pull the plug on one (or both) of its F1 teams, particularly when pressured to commit commercially for 2021-onwards, and dispatches one (or both) its European brands to FE.

Why so? Imagine the internal conflict: Already the Agnelli family controls Ferrari (albeit via a separate entity) and Alfa, with the merger adding Renault to the family’s F1 interests – does it make sense to keep all three brands in F1? Having won the war to retain Ferrari’s LST bonus and regulatory veto, the Agnellis may just decide to pull Renault and Alfa from F1. Why not?

Start, Formula E, Santiago, 2019
Formula E is set to become a world championship
Finally there is the threat from Formula E itself: Where once the electric series was very much the poor relative amongst FIA championships, and was sanctioned only as a series, talk is now of fully-fledged world championship status, placing it on a par with F1, WEC and WRC, and above (Liberty-owned) F3/2 in the pantheon of F1 championships.

Who knows, Renault and/or Alfa Romeo (which recently revealed its Tonale concept car that offers an electric-only option) may well grace FE grids, in addition to Nissan should the Franco-Nippon merger disintegrate. How would Liberty plug the resultant F1 grid vacancies given that no new teams are even on the horizon?

There are no firm indications that any of the foregoing will eventually happen, but each of the scenarios is perfectly feasible. The fact that there are not necessarily direct links between some or all does not, though, prevent a domino effect – for example: a Mercedes exit could lead to Alfa Romeo (and/or Honda) following suit; equally, Ferrari’s use of its veto over budget caps could spark the exit (or demise) of a number of teams.

Ultimately F1 may find itself facing three levels of threat as it ramps up for 2021: threats within Liberty’s direct control and responsibility, and over which it is able to act; those over which Liberty has no direct control, but could yet mitigate the effects; and, finally, those over which Liberty has zero control – directly or indirectly.

The worst global catastrophes have occurred when a series of seemingly unrelated events have conspired simultaneously – and unless F1 manages every single aspect of its post-2020 transition, and meticulously plans for factors outside its control, it could well find itself hit by a perfect storm.

The upside is, though, that the sport could then reinvent itself, shrugging off the shabby remnants of its past, and rise shining and new from the devastation caused by the storm. Some wonder whether that may be precisely what it needs.

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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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76 comments on “The storm brewing amid F1’s 2021 rules wrangle”

  1. A very nice summation of the future, and a very sobering read.

    1. Yep, very good article, very bad news.

    2. Biskit Boy (@sean-p-newmanlive-co-uk)
      30th May 2019, 8:21

      Sobering for some yes. For me as a contrarian it’s exciting.

      F1 is too expensive, even for Mercedes, its becoming less automotive industry relevant, the sport/business balance is all wrong and dare I say it… it’s too predictable.

      I’ve long argued that direct Manufacturer involvement is good for the business of F1 but BAD for the sport of F1.

      With the onset of EVs and loss of Manufacturers could face technical stagnation and that seems like a bad thing as first thought but once the dust settles, a more affordable, more inclusive, more competitive and more exciting form of F1 will emerge. Well that’s my sincere wish and hope.

      1. @sean-p-newmanlive-co-uk – that’s an interesting take on it. Those of us who are fearful are so from the viewpoint of how the status quo would be affected (not the winners, but the regulations and structure).

        If we can look beyond that worry, then I agree, this might be the shake-up that the sport badly needs.

      2. @sean-p-newmanlive-co-uk, the thing is, at the same time there is the question of what might then emerge next and how you might hope to try and rectify some of those issues.

        In the short term, there would be fairly significant supply issues for a lot of teams – teams like Williams would need to find a new power unit supplier, whilst more heavily integrated teams like Racing Point and Sauber-Alfa Romeo would then need to source not just power units, but transmissions, hydraulics and electronic systems from new suppliers as well. In the case of Sauber-Alfa Romeo, the links between them and Ferrari have been historically fairly close for the past few decades, whilst in the case of Haas you have the most heavily interlinked supply chain of the lot.

        Equally, whilst you might aspire towards “a more affordable, more inclusive, more competitive and more exciting form of F1”, on the other hand there is a risk that you could see something very different emerge. The issue is that you would then need to find some way to constrain Red Bull, since you face a situation where you would then have a wealthy independent team which has powerful links with the media that would find itself surrounded by smaller privateers – would the sport necessarily become more equal, or would there be the risk that it would simply result in a different team becoming the dominant influence?

        Budget capping might make some difference, but on the other hand you have the problem that Racing Point’s staff have pointed out in the past, which is that those bigger teams still start off with an advantage as they still have the legacy infrastructure they can turn to their use, whereas smaller teams would not necessarily be able to then build up to those facilities. It doesn’t guarantee that you’ll close up the field that way, such that convergence could take quite some time after any such shake up – and whether the sport would necessarily survive such a major change in the short term is something that remains open to question.

  2. People will burn out the RF site swear filter if Liberty bend over for F as badly as reported. It like they want other teams to quite the sport and join FE.

    1. The people who own Liberty won’t mind as they own FE as well. Liberty Media – F1 & Liberty Global – FE.

      1. David Gerald
        30th May 2019, 14:42

        Not totally true – but there is a link. I work for one of the Liberty companies. Formula 1 is totally owned by Liberty Media, whereas Liberty Global only owns c. 10% of Formula E (but it does have member(s) on the board). The chairman of both companies is the same though (John Malone – a hugely interesting guy that owns large chunks of media, telecoms companies). Interestingly, Liberty Global is a 50/50 joint venture partner in the parent company of Ziggo (the Dutch broadcaster that Max is all over).

  3. Stock listed companies tend to think short term. Keeping Ferrari happy by allowing them to keep a veto is such an example of short sighted short term thinking. But I like to believe. So lets hope Liberty grows a pair. Seriously, what exactly is lost (rather than some entertainment when seeing Ferrari struggle with their strategy and handing wins to Mercedes) if Ferrari leaves? Nothing. It would be positive. More equal distribution of funds, a sincere shot a getting some kind of budget cap, more equal voting rights, new teams entering, Less (in favour of Ferrari) FIA interference. A win win win win win situation

    1. If Ferrari leave. most likely F1 will die shortly after. Mercedes have stated several times that their only reason for being in F1 is to beat Ferrari. Ford had the same attitude in the 60’s and early 70’s when their only goal was to beat Ferrari. Every drama needs a hero and a villain and Ferrari wear a black hat just as well as a white one. Also remember that one of the things that make Ferrari unique and desirable to race promoters is that the majority of people at a race wearing Ferrari gear are fans of the team and not a specific driver. Meaning that regardless of who is behind the wheel, those fans will pay for tickets.
      In my opinion, if Ferrari were to leave, Mercedes would soon follow, greatly diminishing the value of F1. With their departure, race promoters would probably demand to renegotiate their deals, either for a lower price or to allow them to get out of the deal all together as will TV networks and advertisers. Just because you dislike Ferrari you can’t ignore their intrinsic value to F1.

      1. Ferrari cannot leave and survive without F1, for them its the biggest marketing tool. And now without Marchionne Liberty media have it much easier negotiation them out of Veto and Bonus.

        1. Complete nonsense, every Ferrari car is sold over a year before it is constructed. Ferrari don’t need F1, F1 desperately needs Ferrari, and that is exactly why they will keep their bonus and veto. The evidence stares you in the face but you refuse to accept it.

          1. Yeah and they sold those cars a year in advance BECAUSE they’re in F1 as marketing.

          2. @megatron, the payments that Ferrari receives from Liberty Media alone make up a noticeable chunk of Ferrari’s annual turnover, let alone the payments which they then receive from sponsors and engine customers in F1.

            The company could survive, but the overall loss of prize funds and sponsorship agreements would take a fairly noticeable chunk out of Ferrari’s annual turnover, whilst at the same time leaving the company with a large amount of high cost legacy assets that would then have to be mothballed. Leaving F1 might not be terminal for Ferrari, but I suspect that it would be quite a bit more complicated and costly to the company than you seem to think it would be.

          3. Anon, also remember that Ferrari leaving F1 could be as simple as them deciding to race in F1 under the Fiat badge. Perhaps race in F1 under Fiat and race in Formula-E under the Ferrari name. Both efforts could be done from Maranello, they could invest heavily in electric technology and let Fiat run in F1 with a minimal budget.

          4. @velocityboy, that isn’t necessarily easy to do now given that Ferrari was spun out of the Fiat-Chrysler Alliance back at the start of 2016.

          5. Maybe because they are in F1 – that waiting list could shrink if they left. Who knows?

            Flip side: Lamborghini has made massive inroads into that sector and never been in F1 save as an (unsuccessful) short-lived engine supplier.

          6. Biskit Boy (@sean-p-newmanlive-co-uk)
            30th May 2019, 14:34

            There is a waiting list for F1? Really? Who?

            I hope you are right but I thought there wasn’t a waiting list because F1 was too expensive.

            In relation to F1 if anyone mentions business, marketing, vetos or special payments I want to throw up. As soon as the playing field is not level its not a sport anymore. I’d be happy for all of the manufacturers to go. The sport would be better for it. Sure sporting and technical regs would have to change to make it cheap enough for smaller teams to enter, but if these teams are half as good as McLaren or Williams it will still be one hell of an entertaining sport.

          7. @sean-p-newmanlive-co-uk – I think they’re referring to Ferrari road cars on back order, not an F1 waiting list.

  4. Interesting read.

    Speaking for myself, if all the top teams/drivers/designers jumped ship and proclaimed FE as the new F1 I wouldn’t follow them.
    I have tried to like FE but I find it as exciting as watching tortoise’s mating.

    We need manual gearboxes on short block V12’s with stubby exhausts and ban all seatbelts!
    I know … I’m a dinosaur … I’ll get my coat :/

    1. @nullapax Technically, the gearboxes are manual already, though, and have always been. Manual gearshifting is manual gearshifting regardless of whether it’s done by taking one hand off the steering wheel to pull/push a level, or by flicking the fingers against paddle-shifters behind the steering wheel as is the case not only in F1 and its support categories, but in WRC, and most of the motorsport-categories, in general, these days.

      1. @jerejj
        You know what I mean Jere – don’t go getting all technical on me ;)

        Groping for the gear-knob in a bad corner whilst trying to get past the guy ahead whilst wondering what the nutter behind is planning to do next is what I want :)

        1. @nullapax Yes, I indeed knew what you meant all along, but decided to go on the technicalities anyway just to be precise. I also get what you mean in your reply post, but I don’t find that necessary. There’s nothing wrong with the paddle-shifter method. Yes, taking one hand off the steering wheel, or ‘groping for the gear-knob’ in your words whilst focusing on both attempting to overtake, and attempting to defend from behind would be a tougher challenge, but still no need to get rid of the paddle-shifters to go back to how gearshifting used to be done back in the day.

    2. @nullapax ‘I have tried to like FE but I find it as exciting as watching tortoise’s mating.’
      Possibly less :o)

    3. @nullapax you speak for more than just yourself my friend.

      In my humble opinion before Formula E can be proclaimed as the new F1, a FE car needs to compete with and beat an F1 car on the same track over the same race distance – until then it is a nice distraction for non F1 weekends.

      1. AH … Not sure that you have heard the news about “Battery Technology”. The limiting factor that currently prevents them running for up to 2 hours on an existing F1 track at real racing speeds.
        There will be amazing increases in capacity, reduced charging times and awesome peak current. All coming soon. This must be true because we have been hearing the same news for more than the last 30 years.
        Sure am looking forward to it.

        1. @rekibsn

          I see what you did there. I too am looking forward to it.

        2. Battery technology is advancing quicker now than the prior 60 years. But… ice cars are still more affordable. Battery technology is always “within the next 5-10 years BEVs will be better” since 1910.

    4. Actually, I saw those giant turtles mating in a ZOO once and it was pretty exciting. Something like two icebergs colliding. And the suspense before it happened: Will the female succeed in “running” away or not? Much underrated I say.

  5. if so many teams drop out, we will be forced into 3-car teams (or bigger), which would probably result in an even more boring championship. I have a little sympathy for liberty – who inherited the sport in a relatively healthy state, but with all the ingredients for its decline already in place and difficult to reverse – but i feel that they’ve approached the sport’s problems with typical management-speak, 5-year plan kind of attitude. this is not a normal situation/sport/entertainment business, so a normal approach is unlikely to work. when they thought outside the box and it was successful (e.g. F1 Live in london) they didn’t follow up on it. it doesn’t give much confidence that they are the right people to be holding the reins right now.

    1. F1 live London was a huge waste of money, tickets for silverstone were already sold out. Why spend more money on advertising for an event that was already sold out? Poor strategy, they should have put that money towards F1 live events in big cities near Austin, such as Dallas, SAn Antonio, Houston, Ok city to bolster a totally necessary race which is going through a rough period. Should have put more money into saving the Malaysian race.

  6. Though not a fan as such, I like the fact Ferrari are in Formula 1. But there’s a fundamental paradox in F1 needing Ferrari and Ferrari being such a big team with huge resources, which means that other teams need more or less the same resources to compete (some or all). So basically Ferrari ensure that Formula 1 is never ‘level’ and there are always (some) elite teams. Personally I have no problem with that, just pointing out that it’s a constant complaint. A level Formula 1 would surely have to lose Ferrari (and as they’ve threatened, any attempts to level too much would see them leave).

  7. Let’s see if Zetsche & Wolff negotiate a buy-out of the Mercedes F1 operation with an engine supply agreement and some marketing money thrown in…

  8. The only way to make sports/series like this a success is to make sure that the teams are profitable and have inherent value. When a team owner (e.g. Mercedes) wants to stop then they can sell the ‘franchise’.

    For all teams to be profitable they can increase revenue and/or reduce costs.
    Increasing revenue is not easy as there is not that much to go around (Liberty needs their share to pay off loans and shareholders) and even if they were to hand over more to the teams then the big ones would just (out)spend more than the small ones.
    Reducing costs is therefore the easier and necessary short term option. And a budget cap is the only smart way to do it.

    Including driver salaries is not necesary as there will always be good enough drivers who will do it for a lot less (where else can they go for now). And let the big boys spend even bigger on the star drivers; this way they spend less on the car and it will be easier for the smaller teams to catch up.

    1. This summarizes my thoughts. I’ll add that keeping driver salaries separate will keep salaries higher and encourage stars to stay in F1. Which is really important. I want to see the fastest cars and most talented drivers, but other series have fast technical cars that could produce excellent racing.

  9. I have already stated it numerous times – but I am content with leaving F1 behind in 2021.
    Especially if Lewis and Mercedes decide to call it quits, and the sport changes as much as to kill the essence of F1 – then there will be no reason to follow this completely different product.

    1. @dallein I don’t see why there wouldn’t be a reason to keep following F1 even if it were to change as drastically as it could after 2020. I don’t find the essence of the series to be in danger with the looming planned overhaul, but we shall wait and see.

      1. I don’t see why there wouldn’t be a reason to keep following F1

        That’s another downside of single-driver F1 fans; they don’t follow the sport but only their favourite driver.
        They’ll be gone the day their favourite driver retires. @jerejj

        1. Yes and no, @coldfly.

          I see what you are saying, but I came in as an MSC fan 20 years ago. Along the way I became a fan of the tech, the strategy, and the sport more broadly. I also started to find other drivers and teams I liked even before MSC’s first retirement. It can be a gateway into the sport.

          1. @hobo
            I understand your opinion. I can boldly say that the F1 following community in India exists till today (although in small numbers) simply because of Michael’s era. There were many stalwarts back then. There are a few today too.
            Like most others, I got pulled in not just because of the name Michael Schumacher but also because of his exploits and achievements. It was his dominant reign that turned heads around the world.
            Now imagine fans in Denmark– a good number of them perhaps watch it for Kevin. Whether those fans transition themselves into being fans of the sport rather than 1 driver is left to be seen. It may happen. But he is no Schumacher or brother Ralf of Montoya or Rubens.

          2. @webtel – It probably is different for fans with national skin the game. There haven’t been any (good) drivers from the States during my time as a fan—and honestly I wouldn’t be a fan of an American driver just because he or she was American.

            But I can imagine being a younger fan and having someone ‘local’ to look up to and how that might change one’s perspective. I wasn’t all that young 20 years ago and am even less so now, but if I were 8 or 10 and from the Netherlands, I would probably be a Max fan. I hope that their interest grows beyond a driver, or we will have the situation Coldfly mentions above. Some probably will, some won’t.


            Tangent: As for me, I need the sport itself to mature, and become more competitive. Or my tenure as a fan and follower will probably end around the same time that—coincidentally, and not because—Raikkonen’s contract ends. I remember people that hated Schumacher and Ferrari during their run said it was boring. Well, I liked Mercedes when this run started, but I’m about 4.5 years past tired of it.

          3. @hobo
            “I wouldn’t be a fan of an American driver just because he or she was American.”

            I really wish more and more people think this way. Then there would be a genuine interest in the sport itself. Unfortunately, we all need a bait–it can be everything from self interest//curiosity to a compatriot doing wonders.

          4. @webtel – I agree. I don’t mind it that much from children. It makes sense as it is something they can relate to and if it gets them into the sport (bait, as you say), great.

            However, I am troubled by the number of adults who cannot separate country or race (or gender) from being a fan. Or who cannot objectively look at data when it isn’t supporting their favorite driver/team. C’est la vie, I guess.

  10. Personally, I’m glad the single transmission idea was scrapped– If they have to standardize, have each engine manufacturer produce an integrated gearbox assembly.

    As for the veto, if they really want to protect the teams’ interest, give the veto to a group of 3 teams consisting of the 1st, 4th, and last place constructors of last year’s championship– and require a 2/3 vote to activate the veto.

  11. I’ve been following F1 since the 70’s, and I used to be absolutely entranced by it. The sport has finally gotten itself to a state where I have become somewhat ambivalent about the whole thing, and I think what keeps me watching and reading is mostly habit. Hard to just cut off something that has been such a big part of my life for so many years, but I think that if F1 did disappear, I would get over it rather quickly. 20 years ago I might have jumped off a bridge! I hate to say it, but what I think might engage me the most going forward would be if F1 as is has come to be finally imploded, and as Dieter said, re-invented itself entirely.

    1. You just got bored by it over the decades, they are even less competitive period in F1 in the old days then they have been recently. The slowest modern car is only a few seconds behind the fastest per lap behind these days, where they are years in the previous decades where that have easily been 10-15 seconds.

      This is not to say that they weren’t competitive periods of course they were many, but we tend to look at it with rose tinted glasses.

  12. It is very funny to see how the British press tries by all means to discredit Ferrari.
    They are so arrogant that they miss a fundamental fact: outside the United Kingdom, formula 1 is synonymous with Ferrari. Without Ferrari there is no formula 1, only one more category of the many that has the world motorsport.

    1. outside the United Kingdom, formula 1 is synonymous with Ferrari.

      Maybe in Argentina, but in Brazil, Australia, Belgium, Germany (just a few countries where I lived) F1 is a lot more than Ferrari.
      Even in the USA I did no find that ‘synonym’; but then again there were not many F1 fans that I ran into when I lived there.

    2. RP (@slotopen)
      30th May 2019, 0:10

      @jorge-lardone

      I’m a big F1 fan from USA. Not a Ferrari fan. Nor are the few F1 fans I know personally Trifosi.

      I like fast, advanced cars and great drivers.

    3. @jorge-lardone, as others have pointed out in the past, it seems just as arrogant for you to assume that you can automatically represent everybody else in the rest of the world and speak on their behalf…

    4. Errrrr… What? You must be drunk or something. The only place in Europa that F1 = Ferrari is in Italy.

    5. Not British here either, I like that Ferrari is in F1 but I wouldn’t cry much if they did leave.

      They can go ahead and make their own series if they want to. See how fun it is to see Ferrari fight themselves.

  13. I always thought Liberty (or anyone) buying F1 was heading to a dead end. Reading all this it seems.nothing has changed and now they are stuck with a “product” that’s about to go extinct.

  14. The core problems are still the governance structure on the regulations and the distribution of the funds. If Liberty doesn’t fix that now, and it sadly looks like that, F1 is dead within 10 years…

  15. I seem to be missing something here ….
    Mercedes is dominating the 2019 season (so far) and has done since the switch to the current Power Unit architecture.
    On one hand there is a steady stream of talk … “How do we break Mercedes technical monopoly … we’re doomed”.
    Now the voices are crying … “What if Mercedes leaves … we’re doomed.”
    Mercedes is in it to win it. That helps them sell road cars and bolster their technical reputation.
    Switching to F-E in it’s current guise as a spec series on road tyres, doesn’t carry the technical cache nor would it require more than about 5% of the current F1 work force.
    Whatever Mercedes does, it will be well thought out and will be focused on what is best for Mercedes. You may not like it, but they will make the decision without our input.
    If any of the BIG teams leave, then the FIA and Liberty better have their ducks in a row to get more (new) teams racing and soon. That likely means simplification of the series rules and specs and a seriously effective budget cap.

  16. can we stop calling them “zero emissions” cars

    moving the emissions to the power stations is not zero

    or the energy to build then cars or the smelt the aluminium or stell or plastic

    and dont even get me on the lithium production

    1. The cars themselves are ‘zero emission’ if fully electric. I take your point about emissions elsewhere, but the actual terminology is accurate.

      1. A gasoline engined car is also “zero-emission” if you take the fuel out of the equation. Of course it won’t go anywhere – but then neither does an electric car without electricity.

        1. What terminology would please you to describe a car that doesn’t exhaust toxic fumes from the car? Zero emissions is perfectly descriptive, and while I get your point that complete toebrains might think such a car is green when it is not, the rest of us need a term to use to describe a car that doesn’t blow fumes in children’s faces as it passed by – there’s a lot to be said for emitting all the fumes in few selected places rather than evenly across the world, it might not be automatically green but it improves life’s and might make green measures simpler to impliment, unlike when every car needed a car converter , that was not efficient!

    2. andrew, then, taken to that logical extreme, there is nothing that could be called “zero emissions” – any form of transportation will have embodied energy in it. Even a human powered form of transport, such as a bike, could still be argued to not be “zero emissions” when you account for the embodied energy required to produce the food that individual will consume to account for the energy they’ve used to travel, which starts getting to the point where it becomes somewhat absurd.

  17. Formula 1 is dead without Ferrari. All of the teams, the FIA and Liberty know this. They may not like it, but there’s nothing they can do about it.

    1. In a circular codependency, Ferrari needs the other nine teams to continue the commercial reality which lubricates that pays for and makes F1 viable.

      To simply say that only Ferrari is the supremely important cog in the F1 circus is plainly stupid.

      The other teams can form their own league, the FIA can sanction any event they see fit (call if Formula Supreme). Only Ferrari and Liberty have the lot to loose if they break their dependency on the FIA and the other teams.

      I guess Ferrari can run with Liberty and fill a F1 grid with 7 Ferraris, 7 Alpha Romeos, 7 Haas cars and call it a world championship. Quite how commercial that will be is questionable.

  18. This is the first time I’ve read a news piece on what is actually a very big concern for F1 at the moment: It is a house of cards, built on extensive manufacturer participation; bigger than at any point in F1’s history, I believe.

    It is quite conceivable that at the end of this regulation era, i.e. 2020, we will not have Mercedes or Renault, or they will be participating in a different form to now. This is a huge deal, as it means two huge outfits that will have to be sold on once again.

    It’ll come down to the privateers.

    Formula E is actually a great series, but it’s completely different and will not have the prestige of F1 for quite some time. What it is, is cheap, and therefore attractive as an easy promotional tool for manufacturers in the current climate.

    All of which gives lie to the siren song of ‘road relevance’, which gave us this exorbitantly expensive PU era. F1 has for the longest time been about [em]engineering relevance[/em] with rapid prototyping, material science, and manufacturing techniques.

  19. Ferrari is going to try and veto Mercedes’ 6th consecutive double championship.

    1. Nah they won’t, they’ll screw up the strategy and end breaking the voting button.

  20. All I want from F1, cars that weigh about 600 kg, with about approx 1000 hp, that can go flat out for 90 mins to 2 hours on a Sunday afternoon.

    How they achieve this is not my concern, it can be driven by some liquid Elon Musk finds on Mars for all I care.

    1. Simple isnt it!

    2. @jaymenon10 Basically something that’s never existed

      At no period in F1’s history have they ever driven flat out all race because driving flat out all race is never the fastest/most optimal way to run a race. Even when they had refueling they were rarely driving flat out all race, There were rare exceptions where 1-2 drivers did (Hungary ’98, Suzuka ’00 & France ’04 been examples) but those races stand out above the rest as the exceptions rather than the norm.

      Also the current power units are already at around 1,000bhp & are the most powerful RACE engines in F1’s history.

      F1 is the fastest it’s ever been with less management & a faster overall race pace & a closer, more competitive field than was the case in the past.

  21. Very good read and very sobering at the same time. A little worried F1 will become a halfway house. Its not full electric, its a little electric, car manufacturers are going electric. So where does F1 fit now? Im worried for the whole thing

  22. Good article, thanks

  23. Won’t be long before someone comes up with a new word… Ferrexit…..

    1. Good one @mrfill !
      Or Fexit, if you like it shorter.
      And then we get Fexiting as a verb as well. Meaning a team endlessly threatening to leave F1…

  24. Who really holds the power in F1 these days? Liberty bought the commercial rights, but they didn’t buy Bernie’s dealmaking. I think it may be Sky, although they’re sitting quietly in the background for now.

  25. José Lopes da Silva
    31st May 2019, 10:41

    If Ferrari keeps vetoing and every other team leaves, eventually F1 may return to the USA/2005 glory and Ferrari will definitely win again!

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