McLaren’s Zak Brown shares a very similar position as I do and as I have opined on previous editorial pieces. Formula 1 needs to fish or cut bait. It needs to make hard decisions for the long-term success of F1 and not just kick the can down the road with all deference—too much deference—to the current four manufacturers who are spending the most on the series.
There’s no doubt that ushering in significant 2021 technical regulations may be a contentious errand but for the long-term health of the sport, sometimes you have to be a good butcher. You have to remove the bulk fat of the steak and leave just enough marbling to provide flavor.
The four teams, led by Mercedes primarily and Ferrari, are now suggesting that since the proposed regulation changes have not brought commitments from Aston Martin, Porsche or Cosworth, the series should make no changes to the hybrid engines. Zak believes this to be the wrong move telling Autosport:
“We have all seen it coming, and I don’t envy what Liberty inherited because this started a while ago,” Brown told Autosport.
“Bernie [Ecclestone] had control of it and was keeping it together, but it was a bit of a ticking timebomb, and now some things have exploded.
“I’ve said this to [Liberty], and it is not nice, but sometimes you need things to actually break to be able to fix them.
“The mortgage crisis, and the financial crisis, are good examples. Banking today is a lot better because of the financial crisis. And anyone in the financial industry knew it was going to eventually break.
“Unfortunately, some of these things that have broken were necessary in order to be able to hit the reset button.
“I have never thought that F1 is too big to fail. But I think the industry as a whole has an arrogance that it will just take care of itself, it always has.
“I can’t tell you how many times I have heard ‘it will always fix itself’.
“Lehman Brothers went under and that was the start of fixing things [in banking].
“Whether it is a racing team, or a driver who should be in a seat and is going to end up being on the street, those are going to be things that we need to take notice of.”
If sub-prime mortgages were the vehicle that brought the system correction, what are the sub-prime mortgages of F1? I would argue the hybrid engine formula and the sport’s move toward sustainability and other causes have been a real harbinger of the fall and when you compliment that overtly complicated tech that only four teams can afford with an over-the-top dependency on aerodynamic downforce that begets constructs in order to mitigate its impact –such as DRS or high-degradation tires—you begin to create a toxic cocktail you’re asking your fans to imbibe.
The evidence could perhaps be seen in some small way in which fans reacted to Indycar’s attempt at poking F1 in the eye over their bloated corporate responsibility movement in the form of hybrid engines. Indycar knew this was the polonium in the tea and the made a few smart moves regarding their cars, aero and engine formula and even touted they would not become an electric series etc.
The issue for Indycar is that the reaction was very positive but the entire exercise was muted because their Achilles heel is driving around unimaginative oval circuits trying to kill themselves on catch fencing at 220mph. I’ve advocated getting rid of oval in Indycar in favor of imaginative road course and the retention of the Indy 500 as the only oval on the calendar. I digress.
The point is, you have to break a few eggs to make an omelet as they say and perhaps Zak is suggesting just that. Mercedes leaves? Bummer. Ferrari leaves? That’s so sad. In the end, the sport has to think about the sport and in doing so, it has deference to the main manufacturers who are currently propping up the current formula but is it the right formula?
“They need to get it done this year and we have been talking about it long enough,” he said.
“They have got all the right ideas, they have had all the input from the teams, they know where the resistance is – they just need to do it. They own the sport.
“While there are things they cannot do in 2019 and ’20 because of the governance, it is a clean sheet of paper in ’21, and they just need to do what they say they are going to do, and be hard about it. And if people don’t like it, they can leave the sport.
“I do believe Liberty wants to do what is best for the sport, but those teams that have the ability to spend above the budget cap are going to see it as a disadvantage to them.
“But they should have enough confidence in their racing team that they shouldn’t have to be dependent upon money to buy their success.”
Zak seems to be putting pressure on the fact that Liberty’s goodwill is being used against them but he’s chosen not to engage the FIA and Jean Todt’s role in perpetuating the regulations, setting the regulatory course that got us to this point—admittedly with the help of F1 working group which included the then boss of Mercedes, Ross Brawn—and seems to be folding like a chaise lounge on the desires of Mercedes to keep kicking the can down the road as Zak mentioned above.
It’s a tough time and as I have said a thousand times before, this is perhaps the most critical time in F1 history…unless they all punt and just stick with what we have now but that has big risks too…namely losing more fans.
Hat Tip: Autosport