Can 2017 reg changes cut costs? Improve the ‘show’?

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Inevitably, if you want to control costs in Formula 1, stable regulations have always been one of the better ways to do so. Not perfect, mind you, but at least it reduces the need for heaps of R&D costs over new components from scratch. Or so the thinking goes.

With 2017 marked as a singular moment in F1 evolution, some teams are concerned that the big regulations overhaul will, once again, add massive costs to the series. The mid and small teams certainly are sensitive to the notion as Williams F1’s Claire Williams told AUTOSPORT:

“One of the changes around the regs is that it doesn’t incur a significant cost increase. That was one of the objectives.

“I don’t anticipate – and I hope – there isn’t a huge increase, and if there is then we would have to fight against it.”

Here we go again, more regulation changes, more new chassis and power unit development and more costs. Well, yes, that’s how this works. If F1 wanted to reduce costs in 2017, they’d remove the new power units and revert back to a normally aspirated internal combustion engine, leave the wheel size exactly where it is and reduce the aerodynamic impact on the sport as well as take away the artificial constructs such as HD tires and DRS.

What would that leave us? Early 2000’s racing. The series is already keen to use fatter tires in the rear of the car and explore more ground effects instead of aero. At this point, why not do F1’s version of a revers mortgage? We could slowly take today’s technology and innovation and start applying it to F1 regulations from the past. Can you imagine if the teams had to build today’s version of the Lotus 49?

The sport has to progress but in which way it progresses is key. One would hope that, for Claire’s sake, the sport would make regulatory changes but offset the added expense with other regulations that take the teeth out of some of the wild west technology innovations that have the series upside down.

We often talk about the runaway days of open testing and the costs involved but to be honest, I doubt Williams or McLaren were spending the kind of money back then that they are now. Just a hunch. This does bring up the idea of common parts. Common wheel nuts, springs, bolts, nuts, and other components that aren’t mission critical. Could F1 identify 10% of the current F1 car that could be standardized without losing the constructor DNA of the sport?

Perhaps the more troubling comment, for me, is when Claire said:

“Of course we’d like those costs to come down, but they have to come down a considerable amount.

“For the majority of teams who are going to benefit you have to reduce the costs by £20-30million.

“If you try and look at the areas to achieve those cuts it’s very difficult to get rid of £20-30million from your business unless you look at a wholesale change or restructure.

“If you’re looking at your costs and the greatest expenditure is wages then it’s a reduction in headcount across the board, and nobody really wants to do that.

“Inevitably, if you reduce head count then you have to outsource, so it’s six of one, half a dozen of the other, and we don’t seem to be able to find what that magic bullet is.”

In the end, it’s all down to cutting heads? I can’t be getting a more realistic and affordable engine supply and stopping the rampant expense of hybrid technology that has doubled, tripled or quadrupled?

Claire says that teams need to cut £20-30million and that is about the amount the new power units have increased. Again, the elephant in the room will start costing people jobs but perhaps that’s perfectly fine with F1. I tend to place people’s lives as a critical issue over having hybrid engines but that’s just me.

Hat Tip: AUTOSPORT

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Paul KieferJr

Standardizing things is one possible solution. Another solution is to simplify. Why do you need an MGU-K, or H, or other stuff? Why not just a simple engine, be it V6, or 8, or 10, or 50 pistons? That’s the way all cars are supposed to work, right?

geeyore

Isn’t the hybrid market about 3 percent in America, and even less in the EU (where, very sensibly, diesel prevails).

Agree, roll it back to simple NA or turbo engines.

Personally I don’t think MGU-K is the real problem for costs (maybe performance).

But MGU-H is the work of the devil.

mini696

The first and easiest thing for businesses to cut in the name of saving money is to cut staff.

Negative Camber

Yep.

rambaldi

The money for the new power units isn’t all going to fancy expensive metals and machines. Quite a lot of work goes into making the engines and other units. Dropping the cost of those is just going to move where the job losses are.

DRS_Matt

I think european and japanese cars have a history of low displacement, high RPM engines becuase they were taxed based on the size of the engine, in an era where fuel and spark control were prehistoric and smaller engines generally meant smaller power. Even for years after the war fuel was hard to come by for one reason or another and road car users are still taxed at a very high rate. This culture still exists because…. reasons. People want more RPM because more RPM and tech is better, even when it isnt (just look at the world-class performance of… Read more »

geeyore

“Fuel economy and green credibility” You can run your own numbers and they’ll probably be slightly different than mine, but the last time I ran the “fuel savings” numbers – based on this year’s published Williams metrics – it looks like the entire Formula H(ybrid) field, for the entire race calendar, saves approximately the equivalent of removing exactly one American SUV from the roads for one year. That’s a pretty obscene return in exchange for destroying Formula 1. Don’t really care about “green credibility,” since “Auntie Green” would universally prefer to end all motor racing everywhere. It’s wasteful, it’s dirty,… Read more »

DRS_Matt

We actually need to stop wafting oil into the sky in real life right this moment, and using less fuel in f1 is a good gesture. Its the rule, not the exemption. I’d say the same thing about a gasoline generator or a building site. Why not do it and just redesign the engine for more power with the same fuel?

geeyore

“using less fuel in f1 is a good gesture” That’s exactly what I said above. Using F1 to satisfy someone, somewhere (probably not a racing fan) with a “good gesture” is precisely what Formula H(ybrid) is all about. Nothing more and nothing less. It is demonstrably NOT about “fuel savings” across the F1 calendar. Do the math. It’s trivial nonsense. From my perspective, that’s absolutely obscene. Personally I refuse to attend one more Formula H(ybrid) event until this “good gesture” is rolled back to something more sane and satisfying. And it has nothing to do with hybrid per se, because… Read more »

darkalman

As mentioned F1 could cut costs by standardizing a number of non-crucial parts as they already do with tires and the Control units. This has the upside of preventing the teams from exploiting the rules with those parts, while still allow the teams to develop the more important parts like the aero, cooling, suspension etc. Also so many people are offended by the idea of customer cars, but I don’t see the problem with allowing a team like Mercedes or Ferrari from selling key pre-fab parts like survival cells, side pods, and suspension parts like they already do with engines… Read more »

MIE

The problem is that F1 teams do not exist to make a profit, they exist to win races. If the costs are reduced in one area, the better funded teams will find somewhere else to spend the money for even more marginal gains in lap time.

geeyore

“stopping the rampant expense of hybrid technology…. the elephant in the room will start costing people jobs … I tend to place people’s lives as a critical issue over having hybrid engines but that’s just me.” On this subject we are in complete, 100 percent agreement. The irony is that FIA knew without any question whatsoever that costs, complexity, sonics, and a variety of other impacts would ensure from this feckless hybrid maneuver, which by the way is also shortchanging fans (who are defecting in large numbers). FIA recognized all of these probable outcomes in its 2014 technical brochure, and… Read more »

jakobusvdl

The Formula One Group (CVC, Bernie E, and some bankers – thats B , not W), are making a very tidy return from bleeding F1 dry. A different ownership model, or a longer term view on sustaining the sport could see more of the profits from F1 fed back to the teams making it unnecessary to ‘save’ $20-$30 million from their annual budget.