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