Announced F1 Engine Regs are a Failure
Not what the Fans or the Teams want
When FIA announced it was going to overhaul the engine regulations for upcoming seasons, it was universally lauded as a needed change in the sport. F1 ratings are not as good as they should be, and fan participation is dropping at some venues.
Fans, radio and TV commentators, and promoters alike have argued that the sound of the current generation hybrid engines is an abomination. While teams and engine developers were less concerned about the actual sound as they were the performance and reliability, the inside pros were equally irritated with the new engine package. Perhaps moist of all, the 2nd and 3rd tier teams had issues with cost. New tech was continuing to drive up costs, and increased costs on engine resources, means less money to be spent on aero package development, chassis development, driver talent and team promotion, all areas that have effects on each team's over-all bottom line.
This is not to say that teams are loosing money, or that F1 does not rake in the cash. Benefits in team payments from F1 to each perspective team are up for 2017 over 2016, amounting to nearly $1.5 Billion distributed among the teams. Autosport presented a great article outlining those payments here.
This week the FIA announced its engine development plans to be implemented in 2021. Immediately the press ran the stories simply touting the rules changes and reiterating the talking points given to them by the FIA. Sadly, I knew two things immediately:
1. These new regulations were into going to do the things for Formula 1 that FIA thought they were going to do (reduce costs, increase a more level competitive field of entries, make fans happier, draw more manufacturers into the sport).
2. These regulations were not going to be well received by the Teams and power plant manufacturers and potential manufacturers.
I was right.
Within 24 hours the push-back started. First from fans, and then from Teams, engineers, and manufacturers.
Mercedes and Renault already announced that these rules changes will create an "arms race". Cyril Abiteboul, Renault's F1 Managing Director stated, "Despite maybe what FOM and FIA would say - what is put forward is a new engine," He went on to say, "That's really for me the most fundamental element. We need to be extremely careful because each time we come up with a new regulation that will come up with a new product; we all know the impact. It's going to open an arms race again, and it will open up the field."
Toto Wolff chimed in rather heatedly as well. "When you look at the bullet points presented, it looks like no big change and is superficially similar - but there's massive change in there. It's all-new engines, with new harvesting and deployment strategies for energy. All of us accept that development costs and sound need to be tackled, but we shouldn't be running away with creativity in coming up with new concepts, because it will trigger parallel development costs over the next three years." Tot went on to call this "a starting point".
Ferrari has also offered their thoughts. They think that this proposed rule package is so bad that they might put a stop to it. And they have the unique power to do so. Being the only team in F1 to have been there from day 1, Ferrari has been granted a special Executive Veto on rules changes within F1. This privledge is exclusive to Ferrari.
Ferrari team boss Maurizio Arrivabene offered, "At a certain point we apply our right to do a veto for good reason at that time, but within serious people and people who have a clear idea, people who understand what they are talking about, I think you don't need any veto." In the end, this is Maurizio's mild mannered way of saying that Ferrari will apply the necessary pressure to get thing changed so that they do not have to use their veto. But he stands ready to do so.
The problem is FIA doesn't listen. They hear what the fans are saying, and what they desire F1 to be. They hear the Teams, their owners and drivers and know what they want. They hear manufacturers and former team associates telling them what is wrong and how to help redirect things in a positive redirection. They just don't listen. The FIA, in their egotistical elitism stand firm in one thing - they know better than we do. And they are wrong. Again.
Their solutions are too expensive. Their solutions do not go to the root of the problems and like doctors of this age, FIA tries to treat symptoms rather than cure the disease. They offer 'pills' that mask the real problem by adding 3K more rpm to the allowable engine perimeters thinking that this increased "noise" will quench the desires of the fans to have loud, powerful naturally aspirated V8's, V10's or V12's back. It won't. You'll have louder engines, but you'll still have crappy turbo-charged V6 engines that are louder, but do not have the heart beat of the bigger engines that the fans long for.
My solution for powerplant rules:
No more than 4.0 liters
No less than 8 cylinders, no more than 12
Total fuel usage limit (not flow limit)
Adjustable flow rates for fuel
Naturally aspired engines
No hybrid systems, period.
This will give the fans what they want, louder massive bhp engines screaming down the straights. It will give FIA what it needs, happy fans. It will also give FIA what it wants - affordable engines that inspire other brands and manufacturers to get into F1. It gives teams what they want, cheaper engines that make more teams competitive.
I'd also lobby for spending limits on aero packages or a general limit on the number of square inches able to be used in front and rear spoiler packages, which will also help to reduce costs to teams.