FIA president Jean Todt has admitted that Formula 1’s move to a hybrid system that includes an MGU-H was taking the regulations a “bit too far”. Specifically, he was talking about the MGU-H and not the MGU-K or what we fans used to call KERS.
Recently the FIA and F1’s technical boss, Ross Brawn, offered an outline for proposed 2021 regulation changes and initially they were met with strong words by Ferrari who threatened to leave the series if f1 went backwards or became a spec series. Now Todt is saying the series needs to go a bit backwards.
After another meeting, Ferrari softened their tone and said that the proposed changes may be a workable solution but there was still a lot of work to do and eluded to costs and spec parts etc.
Regardless, Jean Todt clarified the new position on the 2021 recommended changes as well as the MGU-H saying:
“We wanted to take as much as we learned from the existing regulations and to try to make things more simple,” said Todt.
“It’s a beautiful piece of art, of technology, but I hear well that it’s maybe not what the fans are expecting.
“It’s not something that is absolutely needed to have a good championship.
“So I think it’s important that we can learn out of it, and propose something which is supposed to be more simple.
“For me motorsport, and I have been saying that every time, is on one side a show, but it is not enough.
“It has to be also a laboratory. A laboratory for the manufacturers, a laboratory for the teams, and a laboratory which can then be profitable on road cars as much as we can. And it is what is happening.
“Saying that, if you think that it has been maybe a bit too far, you must be prepared to go a bit backwards.
“At the end of the day I’m sure that over the years the engine will be even more efficient without MGU-H.”
I was very outspoken against the MGU-H, as well as other constructs in F1, when it was announced. Around the time that the regulation changes were announced for 2014, I happened to have lunch with the heads of state of Ferrari at the Cavallino restaurant in Maranello Italy. I heard firsthand what they thought about the MGU-H and the challenges it would bring to F1.
There were many fans against the hybrid and the recurring refrain would be lamenting the dog-eared phrase about F1 being road relevant for manufacturers. Let’s be fair here, Mercedes, Ferrari, Renault, Honda and even technical groups such as Williams engineering and McLaren applied technologies stand to gain from advancing the technology of the power unit. It truly is an amazing piece of kit by all measures.
While it is amazing, I argued all those years ago that it might not be the right technology for F1 regardless if Mercedes or Renault threatened to leave or not. To be fair to Todt, his hands were a bit tied as the small teams were struggling and he needed the big teams to stay.
The problem, for me, was that the FIA showed too much deference to Mercedes and Renault and Ferrari reluctantly went along. Now Ferrari are heavily invested and on the same page as Mercedes and Renault of course. They see the benefit of the technology as well as anyone else.
Regardless, the hybrid was forced on the series and on fans. I understood the continuance of KERS but definitely did not understand the MGU-H and the massive reduction in sound as a consequence. The Ferrari guys told me that was going to happen during our lunch, boy were they right.
Todt says they are making good progress on the new 2021 regulation set:
“We are progressing quite well on the engine,” he said.
“We are close to respecting the deadline we have to publish the engine regulations for 2021, and I hope that it may create some interest for some new manufacturers.
“There is interest, but between interest and commitment there’s a big difference.”
The issue at hand is a reversal on the MGU-H which was a bridge too far as it were and there are many F1 fans who dislike the hybrid and a move toward electric engines. They feel it is politically motivated. Other fans love the move toward the hybrid and feel it is not on inevitable but that it is the responsible thing to do as well.
KERS? I understand, MGU-H? Not really road relevant yet or in a nascent stage. If you think about it, I have been critical of the MGU-H, DRS, HD tires and the massive reliance on aero…all things the sport’s technical director is trying to now move away from in some large or small fashion.
It doesn’t make me any sort of Delphic Oracle by any stretch of the imagination but it does highlight how an entire series can move via group think or agenda even when the consumers of their product are not in favor of the direction chosen. They said the majority were in favor but if that were true and I was the sound of one hand clapping, why tack and reverse course? Why would Jean Todt say they need to take a step “backward”? The issue, however, is more complicated than Jean wanting to be sustainable and I understand that.
Thankfully Todt understands that many F1 fans are not happy with the hybrid direction but I also think he has to reconcile the expense and impact it has had on the sport from a negative view as well as a positive view. He is a very sharp cookie and I would suggest that he has measured the pro and cons and now we know the answer. Overwhelmingly negative
If you were really a conspiracy theorist, you may even argue the move to a simpler engine with KERS is to lure in more small teams and be less beholden to the big manufacturers but that’s just silly talk, isn’t it?
Hat Tip: Autosport