There is a fine line between manufacturer involvement and affordable Formula 1. Even though the sports seem to have convinced manufacturers to reduce their engine supply cost to smaller teams and will also agree to covering the entire grid with engine solutions, there is still the lingering issue of cheap engines.
Perhaps the words of Gerhard Berger can help understand the position of the manufacturer in F1 when he says, and I am paraphrasing here, that manufacturers need to be able to demonstrate their competence and restricting or developing a simple V8 engine package doesn’t allow for that anymore.
Berger reckons you can’t put the genie back in the bottle and that’s not necessarily a bad thing if you think about ways to really push the manufacturers that showcases their technology and development skills. He has a point there.
Perhaps the 2020 regulations should mandate a single engine for the race season? Berger reckons the small customer teams should get the same engine spec as the manufacturers except for electronics and fuel. He says those two elements may be worth 20bhp but a good chassis can overcome the deficit to the manufacturers.
What bankrupted Manor, HRT and Caterham was the outrageous cost of their engine supply contracts and the price tag was arrived at in order to recapture the R&D the manufacturer spent on developing the engine. Berger says that has to be be absorbed by the engine maker and the only cost to customers is materials and assembly time or labor leaving the R&D as an expense for the manufacturers.
He also warns that the Red Bull situation cannot happen in F1 and I would agree strongly with him. You cannot have manufacturers involved who will not sell an engine to a team over fear they may be beaten. The regulations have to be changed in order to avoid such situations. What if it were Williams or McLaren that were denied an engine over fear they may beat Mercedes, Renault or Ferrari? Not a good place to be.
Berger believes the sport needs to be completely overhauled from the ground up and while we are all frothing at the mouth over engines, that’s only one component of the virus the sport currently is fighting. Too many compromises have to be made in a democratic form of approval in F1 and perhaps the most salient comment he made is that there needs to be a neutral organization that represents the fan and the sport. Tough to do when manufacturers spend so much in F1 and are placed in a position of having little say.
Going forward in technology is fine but Burger reckons we have to go back to the days when Bernie Ecclestone and the FIA hadn’t sold their power. When they made the decisions and those who wanted to play could but there was no ambiguity as to who was in charge and he reckons the future is dependent upon it. To be honest, his keen insight and wisdom is why many people feel he would be a good successor for Bernie Ecclestone.
An interesting closing comment in his interview in that the WEC currently has the attention of manufacturers and that’s the way it should be. As he says, he knows the Porsche won last year but recalling the drivers is difficult. It should be the opposite in F1. The driver’s Championship is important and they should be the first thing we think of when recalling last year’s championship. To his point, I’ll be honest, I know Lewis won but I must say that I feel like Mercedes won instead. Of course they did win the constructor’s title but Toto Wolff and team have really amped up the manufacturer role in F1.
It’s a really good interview and I recommend reading it even if you have to translate it on Google.
Hat Tip: Auto Moto und Sport