Dennis says ‘dramatic’ changes needed in F1…in 2017

Ron Dennis may feel like he’s the Man Utd. Of F1 but he also feels Formula 1 needs a big change—by big, I mean “dramatically”.

The F1 Strategy Group have been pondering the logistics and reality of changing F1 for 2017 and moving toward 1,000bhp turbo engines and maybe even wide tires and more aggressive cars.

F1’s foray into hybrid engines has ramped costs so significantly that two teams have folded in bankruptcy while two more are rumored to be hanging on by their nails. Dennis reckons that F1 does need a change and very significant one:

“If we’re going to change Formula 1, we should change it dramatically and therefore we should change it dramatically for 2017. Then it will be affordable,” the McLaren chairman said.

“If we dramatically try and change Formula 1 for 2016 the cost implications will be huge.”

The key here is to not overact and cause more financial hardships on teams and Dennis figures that a change for 2016 would have the opposite effect on the series and teams rather than planning for a measured evolution to 2017.

It’s a ringing endorsement as McLaren wades into the 2015 season with their new engine partner, Honda, who many believe came back to F1 born from its hybrid technology and road relevancy therewith.

A natural question might be, “will Honda be happy if the sport decided a year into their return to change the entire format”? Sky Sports F1 reported that Dennis doesn’t feel that will be an issue:

“We talk about it a lot and the philosophy we have is that as long as it’s a level playing field, we’ll do whatever’s best for Formula 1. We’ll follow. “But obviously we’ll voice an opinion in that [discussion] as Honda and as McLaren.”

The interesting part of this equation is the issue of costs. The regulatory body of F1, the FIA, has maintained that they would like to have cost-caps instituted into the sport and it was originally—and most likely still is—met with a resounding “no” from the teams. The FIA then felt that perhaps the cost control could be an agreement between teams arriving at a budget limit but ultimately Ron Dennis probably has the measure of it:

“It happens year on year on year: Formula 1 teams spend the money that they’ve got and they always will,” he added.

“They will find new ways to spend money that you wouldn’t even believe. So the actual cost constraint has to be exercised by the senior management of a Formula 1 team. The cost constraints cannot be managed by an outside entity.

“You’ve got to decide what you’re going to spend because it doesn’t matter what people impose on you, if you want to spend more money this is a sport that will absorb anything you want to spend on it.”

Truth told, he’s most likely correct. Teams will spend what teams will spend and the teams that spend too much won’t be long for the F1 world but they wouldn’t be long for any business world with that model. Teams will look for more and more prize money from the series in order to sustain their lack of title sponsors and revenue sources and this leads to a major issue as to if F1’s prize money can be the only—or at least the majority—of a teams operating budget?

In the end, Dennis suggests a methodical change in 2017 but a dramatic one. I’ll still be interested to see if Honda are keen for that change as well as Mercedes and Renault with the latter voicing concerns already over the 1,000bhp engine format.

Hat Tip: Sky Sports F1

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