The Problem with Ferrari Owning Formula 1
The Scuderia has the power to strong arm the Formula 1 regulating group more than you might realize
The Scuderia has the power to strong arm the Formula 1 regulating group more than you might realize, both through contractual agreement and subdued pillow talk. With the new controversial regulations providing arguably the best race in decades, Luca di Montezemolo is taking this moment to steer Formula 1 back into Ferrari's favors.
We all know how Ferrari spins on the road, but their control over our beloved motorsport may end up harming Formula 1 more than we expect, and stripping us of some of the greatest racing of this generation.
Why Did the Rules Change?
Renault was about to leave and Honda wanted back in. In order to keep these names in Formula 1, the regulations needed to provide an outlet for manufacturers to show that the sport was relevant to the vehicles they sold to the average consumer.
"If the consumer is exposed to an advertisement, the message can be regarded as an observable effect which can be attributed to an underlying cause, such as (1) the desire of the advertiser to sell his particular brand, or (2) the actual characteristics of the brand being advertised."
"If the message is attributed to the advertiser's desire to sell, the consumer would be uncertain about the actual characteristics of the brand and the probability of her purchasing it would be expected to decrease."
If these manufactures can't show that their F1 outlet shares "the actual characteristics of the brand being advertised," then why bother? If a manufacturer, such as McLaren, Mercedes, or Ferrari, can't show that the technology from their racing makes its way into something you can buy, then why bother?
Examples of this trickle-down-technology are all apparent in the three new Hypercars from Porsche, Ferrari, and McLaren, though Porsche's racing outlet lies with GT and LMP cars.
The McLaren P1 has a DRS button on the steering wheel as well as "torque fill" electric battery and motor to fill the gaps in power of their twin-turbo V8 when the turbo is coming up to speed (not entirely the same as the ERS system on the 2014 F1 chassis, but nonetheless similar). LaFerrari, on the other hand, utilizes a classic V12 with a simple kinetic energy recovery system (as seen on the last generation F1 cars).
Why Doesn't Ferrari Fit Any Longer?
These new Formula 1 regulations are least relevant to the Scuderia. Ferrari have the luxury of being owned by a larger firm, Fiat-Chrysler, while the likes of McLaren or Mercedes do not. Ferrari don't have to think about reducing emissions in their road cars to comply with the 54.5 by 2025 CAFE standards because the base Fiats, Chryslers, Alfas, and other sub-brands will fill that void for them.
When was the last time Maranello produced a turbo V6? A hybrid? Made a dramatic step to reduce fuel consumption? The 2014 Formula 1 regulations do not provide an outlet for the other side of the Maranello garage. Formula 1 is no longer fit for Ferrari, and Ferrari is no longer fit for Formula 1.
Ferrari have been the most vocal about the new regulations claiming that their fans are upset.
"83% are disappointed with the new format, dismissing it mainly because of the drivers being forced to lift off to save fuel. In addition, the fans don't like the noise from the new engines and are confused by rules that are too complicated."
However, analysts at F1 Fanatic are keen to dismiss these results, claiming
"The data is untrustworthy, the procedure used to collect it is flawed, and the conclusions Ferrari have drawn from it are highly spurious."
"Nowhere in the poll did Ferrari ask about the impact of the fuel rules, the noise of the engines or the complexity of the new formula. The poll results give Ferrari no justification for asserting that fuel conservation, noise or complexity are why those who responded are [criticizing] the sport."
"The poll options also did not ask how strongly fans hold their views. Professional polling [organizations] use five- or seven-point scales to gauge how deeply people care about particular subjects."
So why would Ferrari slip these results to the public, to the FIA, to Formula 1's management?
The sound of Formula 1 cars was the last foundation that Maranello thought it had in Formula 1, until the the rev range dropped and the turbos stifled the noise. No longer does your Enzo, F12, 458 sound, drive, or run like an F1 car.
And don't for a second think that these regulations were a way to slow down the Formula 1 cars as the Ferrari boffins claim, because they didn't. If anything, the 2014 regulations made the cars more difficult to drive.
Ferrari have the most to lose with Formula 1 switching ethos, and you can bet they wont go down without a fight.
What Power Does Ferrari Have Over Formula 1?
Ferrari receive more money at the end of each season for being Ferrari, despite where they finish in the constructors' championship. In 2011, Ferrari was awarded $29.3 million from its 2.5% stake in Formula 1, and this share has since risen to 5%; that is the operating budget of some of the smaller teams (ESPN).
Most concerning, the Italian brand from Maranello have the power to veto any choice for Bernie Ecclestone's replacement. According to ESPN,
"Italian newspaper Corriere dello Sport claimed that Ferrari has a veto over any change to F1's regulations and it added that Max Mosley, former president of motor sport's governing body the Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA), awarded the privilege to the team in 2005 to prevent it leaving."
If Ferrari in fact does have a veto, it means that they ultimately have the ability to pick their own successor to Bernie Ecclestone on their own accord or veto any alternative that is suggested. We best forget about Christian Horner, and expect Ferrari to support a replacement that does what Maranello tells them.
Contrasting to the contractual stipulations that let Ferrari strong arm Formula 1's decisions is their brand's weight. Ferrari's presence in the sport brings fans from all over the globe, and has arguably helped Formula 1's expansion into the far East; this form of advertisement brings with it gifts from powerful people in an attempt to keep Maranello in the sport, as noted above by Max Mosley's gift of veto power and Ferrari's increase in share ownership of Formula 1.
If Ferrari wanted to leave Formula 1, the sport would no doubt be in shambles and struggle to make deals with host tracks and television networks.
So, What's the Big Deal?
I like roaring V12s, you like screaming V10s, and we all love open-throttle blowing, but more than that, Ferrari loves winning.
I am coming to terms with these new 2014 regulations, with the confusing power units and strange aerodynamic regulations, but Ferrari have landed on the back foot, and need to show that they are a winning team; without that, their sales drop and they must lower the price of their vehicles, the Tifosi buy less meaningless Ferrari attire, and they are ultimately less influential.
As a viewer, I'd love for something to be done about the sound, be that from better microphone placement to even higher rev ranges or new engine regulations entirely, but I'd rather take better microphone placement for the time being and see if the noise can be fixed with placement.
Ferrari is using this slight distaste to spin the regulations back toward their favor through twisting the fans' voice and using their influence during Formula 1's transitional ownership.
Is that necessarily bad? We'd bring back wailing V12 engines and make Formula 1 real racing again!
...or would we?
The Bahrain Gran Prix was the best race I've ever seen, and the fuel conservation was miles less apparent than the tire conservation of 2013 (as seen when Lewis Hamilton was passed by a back-marking Williams FW35 in an attempt to conserve his tires). If the fight between Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg for 1st place and the scuffle for 3rd place between the six Red Bulls, Williams, and Force India drivers wasn't real racing in Formula 1, I don't know what is.
If Ferrari gets their way, and you can bet they'll get part of it, then the almighty 'road relevance' will wash away from most of the F1 teams with ties to road cars and they will be forced to leave the sport due to a lack of funding, not to mention that most of the engine manufacturers would leave the sport; Honda and Renault would most certainly be out, making Mercedes the option engine manufacturer (Update: turns out Mercedes would have been out too).
Formula 1 would be a Ferrari party of one.
I fully expect the regulations to change in about 3-5 years to something more appealing, but if something changes sooner, you can guarantee Ferrari was behind it.
(This post was originally published on OppositeLock.Kinja.Com on 4/7/14)