Brawn using superpowers for good, not evil

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Back in 2013—and even before that—Ross Brawn worked diligently to help Formula 1 determine the new path forward regarding engine regulations. As part of the F1 technical group that was charged with defining the way forward, Brawn had sold his Brawn GP team to Mercedes and he knew that the pockets were much deeper and Mercedes fully committed to winning but they, like Renault, wanted to move the formula into the hybrid era. Brawn knew he had an opportunity, as with most regulation changes, to turn the tables on a dominant Red Bull and usher in a new era of Mercedes domination…which he did before leaving the team.

Now on the other side of the fence, he is now charged by Liberty Media to effectively undo his Mercedes world domination plan by finding a way to systematically remove the key ingredients which, combined with Mercedes money well, have contributed to their baked-in advantage for four seasons. He is effectively having to use his super powers for good instead of evil.

The initial reaction to generically proposed engine format changes for 2021 were not well received by Renault, Mercedes and Ferrari. Brawn understands that but he’s not working for a team any longer, he’s working for F1’s commercial rights owners and he has to find a way forward.

To those ends, there was a very interesting article at Autosport in which Brawn summed up the entire issue with the current engine format in one sentence. It’s taken me paragraphs to try and explain this but he does it much more elegantly than I. Emphasis in this next quote is added by me to highlight his succinct phrase.

“What I think we should try to achieve with the new engine is componentry that is economic to change whenever you want,” said Brawn.

“If we go towards a different design of turbocharger, a homologated turbo, and it costs $2-3,000, why would you bother to even worry about limiting the number you use?

“It is not worth it in terms of the scale of the racing.

“But when your turbocharger is as expensive and complicated as it is now, then that’s why we have the limitations.

“The engine is an incredible demonstration of engineering competence, but it is not a great racing engine.”

I’ve been taking incoming mortar fire since 2014 on my position against the current hybrid engines and I have tried to explain that they are incredible engineering feats but, as Brawn puts it more eloquently, they simply aren’t incredible racing engines. Period.

The interested amongst you may find Porsche’s involvement in initial meetings as very important. VW have always been dipping their toe of interest in F1 but have always felt that the sport was heading in the wrong direction. Even when the FIA’s Jean Todt bent over backwards with hybrid engines to be more appealing to manufacturers, it didn’t work. Too expensive and the racing suffered.

“It has been interesting because Porsche have been in the meetings and they have been able to add their opinion because they have seen both sides,” said Brawn.

“And they have been able to add that understanding of what went on, and it did become too much of a technical exercise.

“Sportscar racing has its fan following but even in the environment where the fans were not the biggest thing, it faltered and it failed.

“In this environment, where the fans should be the biggest thing, we can’t afford to have that sort of failure where we get so extreme we lose contact with the fans, because only a very few people can afford the technology and excel in the technology.

“We are four seasons into this technology and we are still getting so many grid penalties.

“All credit to Mercedes. They have done a fantastic job. But no-one else can catch up. That is the reality.”

Brawn gets it. He understands that the current hybrid engines may have moved the sport to an 80% manufacturer contest and 20% driver contest which begets weak, lackluster racing. Red Bull recently tried to make a move to get rid of the three-engine rule for 2018 and Ferrari scuttled that idea. Why? Because Ferrari knows that reliability is an issue for Renault and that’s a big leg up for them if they have better reliability. That’s what I would do too but isn’t it, at the end of the day, silly that this is what we’re calling racing?

Shouldn’t real racing be more than engineers battling brains and crafting regulations and rules that favor their innovation over another team? This isn’t Samsung versus Apple and even if it were, at least in that analogy, the customer wins with a far more exciting mobile phone and better UX. F1 isn’t delivering a better UX. Brawn knows this and I will be very interested to see if he can keep Mercedes, Renault and Ferrari all in the series while radically ramping up the user/fan User Experience (UX).

Hat Tip: Autosport

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Paul KieferJr

We may have to dump Ferrari, Mercedes, etc., if we want to get back to real racing. When I last checked, racing was about the individual driver, and the team and engine were kinda second, and that balance worked. Where are we now? Purgatory.

Salvu Borg

“red bull recently tried to make a move to get rid of the 3 engine rule for 2018 and FERRARI scuttled that idea”. Red bull a team that agreed to race under the present rules tried this move at the strategy group meeting in Monza and according to Horner they had no response or interest at all from the others in the meeting. Red bull tried again at the strategy group meeting in Brazil and FERRARI not only scuttled but shut them off from the very beginning they opened their mouth by telling them that all manufacturers including their supplier… Read more »

Tom Firth

“Sportscar racing has its fan following but even in the environment where the fans were not the biggest thing, it faltered and it failed” Sorry but ‘it failed’ referring to the hybrid era at Le Mans and in WEC being a failure is not fair. It was a fantastic era of top flight motor racing and so many other factors exist in the pullout of Audi and Porsche. The biggest cause was Dieselgate, cost was another, but in every aspect, not just the hybrid systems and whilst reliability was poor at this years Le Mans, these were magnificent racing machines… Read more »

Tom Firth

Just a note, this is in reference to Sportscar racing. In terms of F1’s current power unit regs, perhaps those could be viewed as been a failed set of regulations.

Negative Camber

I don’t disagree with you Tom, I think VW’s issues played large role just as the 2008 global financial crisis played a role in BMW. Toyota and Honda leaving F1. No doubt. I do think there is a correlation very similar to F1 and Sportscar racing in fan lack of enthusiasm for the hybrid engines and too-expensive tech. Again, I think Ross is right…they are terrific feats of engineering but maybe not the best racing engines now. Many would point out, rightfully so, that sportscar series is the best place for this R&D but it does seem to have had… Read more »

Tom Firth

I disagree that lack of enthusiasm for hybrid tech exists in sportscar racing. At least from the sportscar fans I frequently speak with, most of them love the expensive tech in the series, its the innovation and the R&D that bought them to sportscars away from F1’s more closed regulations. The headlines are wrote on who won the race overall and arguably at Le Mans, the car company that won is more remembered than who was driving the car at the time of victory so is even more emphasis on the technology involved in the car than is in F1.… Read more »

Negative Camber

I think the LMP1 battles in the past with diesel engines was great but of late, it is a category is serious trouble. I think if fans were rabid for it, it wouldn’t be. But to your point, fans may like it but it is too expensive.

Rock or Something

I haven’t been reading this website for long but I’m going to stop today because it hasn’t taken me long to realize it’s about one man’s personal grudge against the current engine format, which bubbles up in every post and is just so tiring. The racing sucks because of the aero. HRT is bankrupt because it didn’t have enough money to contest ANY format of series. F1 can’t survive as a historic class. The rest of the world is not driving retro Dodge challengers with 750 horsepower and still pretending it’s little boys like ‘y’all’ in America seem to think… Read more »

Negative Camber

I get your point. I’m not a fan of the current engine. HRT didn’t have a lot of money but Sauber has more and are on life support. Caterham/Lotus had more and they are gone. Manor had more and they are gone. VW, Porsche, Audi, BMW, Toyota aren’t interested in joining F1 due to costs even though it is a hybrid engine of amazing design that could be very road relevant to them. They are interested in Formula E because it is much less expensive even though it has a fraction of the audience. I’ve said that a twin turbo… Read more »

Salvu Borg

NC, When RBR first pushed out the twin turbo V6 configuration as back than advised by ilmor their objective behind their push was to eliminate theirs and ilmor’s biggest stumbling block, the MGU-H. That is because a twin turbo V6 makes the use of MGU-H virtually impossible. Both they (RBR) ilmor, Cosworth, Judd and AM as well as any would be newcomers knows that the MGU-H is the part of the ICE electrification where the technical superiority lies, or better say, can come from. The ICE for the present 4 that gained and mastered the new combustion experience is no… Read more »

Negative Camber

That may or may not be the case but in the end, Ross has also not spoken about a continuance of a MGU-H and I may be wrong but I don’t know any road car using that tech.

Salvu Borg

What may I ask “may or not be the case?” is it what I said about the people pushing to Eliminate their biggest obstacle the MGU-H? or is it about “the MGU-H being the part of the ICE electrification where the technical superiority lies?”. Yes, Ross first target was the elimination of the MG-H, second target was to standardize the Turbo. both of which are backward reasoning/backward chaining and the worst behind them being “evil” and not the “good” for F1 and the fans/small teams, but the real aim being all behind the power struggle which if won will lead… Read more »

Negative Camber

Well, they should be looking at MGU-H because Merc, Renault and even Ferrari spent a fortune on developing it and it makes for a very efficient engine so I would expect them to be considering it in a road-going version. However, I do not know of any cars that use it now and the other question is, how much would it add to the price of a road car? As for may or may not be the case, unless you were in the meetings with Christian and the ilmor folks, I think it would be difficult to say with definitive… Read more »

Salvu Borg

In a production line anything added to the design of the product is an added expense. The more sophisticated or better say the more technically advanced the item being produced the more the cost. As far as I know the first people from on the grid that started pushing for a change of engine to that that everybody concerned agreed upon were RED BULL, they were also the ones that first pushed out the “twin turbo V6” engine, they were the only ones that were pushing MR E in his bit to get rid of the engine that everybody agreed… Read more »

jakobusvdl

But no one is buying EV’s in China? Looks like way off the mark there Todd, “The rise and rise of the Chinese plug-in car market seems unstoppable, with another record performance in September. In total, 59,000 new passenger plug-in cars were registered last month in China, growing 80% regarding the same month last year, pulling the year to date (YTD) count to over 338,000 units, up 48% YoY.” https://cleantechnica.com/2017/10/18/yet-another-record-electric-car-month-china/ It’s not just China, “The number of battery-powered vehicles numbered just hundreds globally in 2005 and passed the 1m milestone in 2015, but sales jumped 60% in 2016.” “The rapid… Read more »

Salvu Borg

JAKO, And all you said which are facts goes to reinforce the fact the only future left for the ICE is it’s electrification.

Tom Firth

So when BrawnGP won a championship with Button, that was more down to the driver than the car was it? Think that was probably 80% car, 20% driver with all due respect to JB pre hybrid era so whats changed? It has always been the car that makes the biggest difference. The rest is the driver and some drivers are far far better at extracting that part, than others. Bottas had the same car as Lewis, he wasn’t and isn’t as good as him. Just like no one was as good as getting everything out of the best car on… Read more »

Negative Camber

The car always makes the difference. Not sure I said otherwise in this article. What I suggest is that the balance is off and too focused on engineering for manufacturer’s R&D efforts and marketing dollar spend justification. It has bled excitement and fans from the sport and bankrupted three teams. I don’t want Flintstone’s cars but neither do I want the races won and lost in an R&D lab before a driver ever has a chance to start the race with 42 grid place penalty.

Tom Firth

Manor was reportedly swimming in so much debt, that it was going to go bust anyway. Caterhams owner himself says that he felt he failed in F1 in a recent interview, I’ll give you the other one but I blame Max Mosley for Manor and Caterhams failures far more than I do hybrid engines. He’s the one that told them one thing and did quite the other. As for the rest, ok fair points but I do think if it wasn’t hybrid development, the teams would just go and focus on another R&D engineering challenge and sink marketing dollar justification… Read more »

Tom Firth

I understand you want something somewhere between the two, but not sure really how realistically achievable that is, without saying goodbye to the manufacturers for a few years. In a privateer focused F1 then maybe you could strike a middle ground. I don’t think you’d get that middle ground elsewhere though in the sport as privateers elsewhere haven’t got the budget to develop. They just need something can plug and play with, therefore would be flintstones effectively elsewhere as is evident by the upcoming LMP1 privateers and WTCC likely merging with TCR for cheap, simple touring cars instead of the… Read more »

Negative Camber

I’ve always said that finding some sort of balance won’t be easy and I’m not sure how possible it is without someone getting their nose out of joint. It is such a fine line between wanting/needing manufacturers but also wanting/needing privateers in the sport. Tough situation and as tech progresses, it starts to make people ask if there isn’t some sort of two-class format within or if regs can be made with affordable V8’s (like Gibsons) and usher in a BoP which no one wants.

Salvu Borg

The balance of F1 was always focused on engineering and innovations, and that dates back to the time of the birth of the Peugeot BISS, the engine design that is said to have showed the way forward. LM wants to unilaterally Americanize formula one and change it from its present state of being the pinnacle of open wheel racing to a plug and play series by having as much specification components as possible, their chosen way forward is backward reasoning/backward chaining because the future of the ICE both in formula one as well as in road use lays in its… Read more »

Negative Camber

I agree that tech has always been a key part of F1 for sure. I would also argue that in the early 70’s with most of the teams using the DFV and March chassis, that wasn’t an era of high tech so much as high racing and teams entering with customer cars. Not arguing it was the best era but I think the point is that tech can ebb and flow in F1. I’m all for tech but not when it is neutering exciting racing. If hybrids can’t deliver exciting racing that is only achievable by two or three teams,… Read more »

MIE

The key difference between the 1970s and today is the involvement of the big motor manufacturers. They have access to budgets much higher than racing teams, and have spent their way to dominance. This started in the 1980s with the first turbo era, and unless all the manufacturers leave together, the sport will always have this problem.

Salvu Borg

manufacturers were always present in F1, it is they that made F1 what it is today, And if the big motor manufacturers leave what will F1 be like?

MIE

It would be predominately powered by engines developed by independent race engine suppliers (Cosworth, Ilmor, Judd etc.), as a results costs would be dramatically reduced for every team. No doubt Ferrari would continue to outspend everyone, with the same sporadic success that they have always had.
The sport would only suffer if one of the big manufactures decided that with no one else involved, they could spend their way to the title.

Salvu Borg

Yes, It will most probably be predominately powered by engines developed by independent race engine suppliers the likes of Cosworth, ilmor, judd ect. and also YES, costs would be dramatically reduced for every team, and so will the value of the racing, and so will the take of the commercial rights holders.

charlie white

“Shouldn’t real racing be more than engineers battling brains and
crafting regulations and rules that favor their innovation over another
team?”
Are you some sort of anarchist, NC? But seriously, I’ve said similar things on other interweb places and it appears fans want their high tech racing totally unencumbered by spec parts, budget caps and closer competition. Ross and Liberty may have to take a sledgehammer to the sport and re-create it all over again.

Negative Camber

You’re right, fans do want tech and I do too…just need better balance and better system that doesn’t bankrupt teams to have an engine supply deal.

Troy F Collins

The fact remains that there is much less realized potential in a naturally aspirated engine and the turbo/hybrid era was a tough nut to crack…save for Mercedes dominance and later Ferrari thereabouts…. If naturally aspirated engines came back then the chassis (read Newey) and whatever runner up for second would quickly take up dominance……Ferrari won 5 in a row…Red bull 4 in a row…now Mercedes 4 as well Its a juggling act for Ross and the powers that be but the cream will always rise to the top

Salvu Borg

Ross Brawn having acquired his LM’S new hat is doing a “MOSELY” by his “UNILATARAL” announcing his plans for a new engine. Only dictators presents plans as a done deal, it has been tried before in F1 and Ross Brawn himself was one of the front fighters against the same system and the same tactics and the same things being presented. those things did not work before and they are not going to work now.

MIE

Would you rather have regulations decided by committee, and have F1 follow the path of single seater racing in the USA?

The sport needs to be run by a dictator, a single controlling mind, who has a coherent vision of what he is trying to achieve. While Ecclestone was a dictator, he never looked far enough ahead. Brown has in the past talked of needing five years to implement the changes required. That gives the team’s time to adapt without spending huge amounts of money implementing changes at short notice.

Salvu Borg

The sports was always run by a dictator, actually two dictators buddies, at the end they managed to make F1 the pinnacle of motor racing, these new owners are acting like a dictator which reassemble a cat-in-a-hurry, they seems to be intent on making F1 another American nascar series. And remember that LM/Brawn have no right to implement rules and regulations on their own, more so imposing them.

Negative Camber

There was a single dictator before your “two buddies”. ;)

Salvu Borg

Yes, correct there was and the two buddies felled him and done a hell of a lot better then him and for themselves and the teams.

jakobusvdl

Were the plans ‘unilateral’?
I thought that they’d come out of the process where the FOG, FIA, teams sat down and discussed the future p.u plans, and the format Brawn announced was a format that was an outcome of those meetings and discussions.
Given the responses from Mercedes, Renault and Ferrari, maybe that wasn’t the case.

Salvu Borg

Of course all that Brawn said wasn’t the case, and it is Precisely because of that that what Brawn is doing and saying is not honest, and in my book anything that is note honest is more of an evil than a good thing.

Giraffes

Why not allow ground effects and get rid of the Aero influence. That would allow closer racing. Also allow complete flexibility to tyre choice. The engines are more reliable so leave them alone for the next few years instead of change for changes sake. Mercedes did not have the best car this year so it shows the field is closing up.

Salvu Borg

“Ground effect” is a thing of the past rejected because of its deadly nature.

jakobusvdl

Who are you, and what have you done with NC?
Suggesting that anyone working in concert with the F…I…A, could be working for the good of F1?

Salvu Borg

“working for good of F1, not evil, and using superpowers at that”.
What is actually being used is much more than evil, it is unilateral imposition exactly like it was done before, the aim of which is to Americanize the pinnacle of the sports down to NASCAR level the aim of which is to gain total power to be able to milk the system best. When the one said to be now using his superpower successfully fought the same exact thing at the very front from on the other side of the fence.

rabbit

While it’s great to get rid of expensive turbochargers, when is Brawn and all the experts he’s assembled as a team going to tackle the aerodynamic problem?
Isn’t 250k for a front wing ridiculous? It’s also one of the many reasons there is limited overtaking.
We need you to start multi tasking Mr. Brawn.

Salvu Borg

Grid penalties issued and accumulated.
Total 730 PU penalties.
Honda 380.
Renault 310.
FERRARI 20.
Mercedes 20.
Yet not a single word against the penalties rule from any of the above who actually make and race the PU.

Salvu Borg

Renault the manufacturer that have accumulated 310 PU related penalties as opposed to the 20 each FERRARI and Mercedes accumulated just confirmed.
“Renault wants to keep same engine in 2021 F1 and joins FERRARI and Mercedes in opposing the plane for substantially different engine”. And that they “cannot approve of LM’S vision for the 2021 engine formula”.

Sakae

Has a commercial license holder a legal mandate to be involved, or act as primary agent in imposing technical regulations to the extent FOG is acting? Until Strategy Group is dissolved and replaced with another governing or advisory body, I really doubt that anyone should take Brawn (FOG) seriously for next 2 – 3 years with their bulldozer-like approach. If they can do this once, they will do it in the future again. Sign of unreliable business partner. Rendering FiA impotent and inducing chaos is for benefit of minority and wrong actors (entities living in this sport beyond their means).… Read more »

Salvu Borg

The commercial rights holder have no mandate to make, change or impose rules or regulation, more so unilaterally impose such things, unless the system (strategy group) comprising the FIA, the top five teams and the commercial rights holder, each of which have 5 votes each group changes they cannot bulldoze themselves through the system, Ross Brawn or not Ross Brawn, superpower or not. before the new owners came in, the previous commercial rights holder and the teams always or nearly always voted together and against the FIA. The new commercial rights holders seems to have adopted a totally different everything… Read more »

Sakae

There is suddenly volatility all over. Financials, Power Plant, Aero (is Ross really buying wind tunnel for FOG?), Rule Book vis a vis penalty system, perhaps FP 1 and FP 2 might be taken of the schedule (empty seats on Fridays), new pay TV rights, new broadcaster (heard some concerns about their quality of broadcast) etc., etc. This is really big bite, and I hope they can also chew on it and swallow without harming anyone. Increased racing schedule, more consecutive races less testing and development…? Quantity over quality? Oh well, I had good run while it lasted.

Salvu Borg

Yes financial, power plants, Aero, wind tunnel, penalty system, FP1 and 2, new pay TV rights, new broadcasters, new F1 LOGO, add and introduce a disco and boxing like format, In fact LM seems hell bend to start a new style of Americanized NASCAR series, with the results so far being that they have managed to reduce theirs and the teams take by several million Dollars. something that the dictators before them constantly managed to increase.

Salvu Borg

NC, “I’ve been taking incoming mortal fire since 2014 (the start of the all new agreed by all concerned) hybrid engine and I have tried to explain that they are incredible engineering feats but, as Brawn puts it more eloquently, they simply aren’t incredible racing engines”. In my opinion they are not only incredible racing engines but the most ever, and with the most ever incredible engineering feats to boost. Your opinion is a right of yours that everybody should respect as (at least) most expect of you in return. Even if as is a right of theirs they don’t… Read more »

Sakae

Ross – as a friend of MS – was a man I thought I could depend on, but here he changed. I cannot recognize the man.

Salvu Borg

I don’t blame you and can assure you that regardless of the usual well known F1 sites and their pushers, the majority of serious long time F1 followers feel the same about the once great ROSS BRAWN.

Negative Camber

When the FIA was keen to usher in a sustainable hybrid engine for a host of reasons, Brawn very much was in the mix and spoke positively about the change. He now has a different role and isn’t representing a team who is looking for an advantage. He is a sporting director looking to fix the sport. As my piece points out, he’s having to work against the very thing he helped usher in back in 2014. A different role has a different projected goal so I understand why he has changed his position. I think there could be an… Read more »

Salvu Borg

NC, ST Paul took part in the persecution of Christians, but then on the road to Damascus he done a ROSS BRAWN.
And by the way, it might interest you that when he was shipwrecked on his last voyage a stone’s throw from where I live when he managed to come ashore a sort of taipan bite him on the hand and having survived the bite he declared all the taipans on the island free of poison ant the locals were so impressed that they en-masa converted to Christianity.