The problems affecting single seater racing are wider than just Formula 1. With so many championships on the racing ‘ladder’ competing for money and driving talent, it is hard to judge which drivers are truly talented as they progress through the junior formulae. The number of different series competing for drivers sponsorship funding is also causing each series difficulty as they try and attract a viable number of teams and drivers to their championship. I think something needs to be done, and this is what I would propose, in the extremely unlikely event that I were to run the FIA. Hopefully this article will promote some debate on the subject, from which some viable ideas could emerge.
I propose that change is needed across all categories of open wheel racing cars. I would propose four classes (and for the sake of this article I will refer to them as F1, F2, F3 and F4, although they could equally well be called GP1, GP2 etc.). To ensure full grids, no other single seater championships would be authorised by the FIA, and all the classes would be open chassis formula.
Recognising that teams and series organisers have significant sums invested in the current racing cars, I would formulate rules now, but not mandate that the series start until the end of the current F1 regulations cycle (2020). This would give ample time for teams to get value from their existing cars in the lower formulae. Should organisers for series want to adopt the rules earlier, they will of course be able to, with the hope that over this period the competing race series at approximately the same level will be able to merge together to a common set of regulations.
To enable taller drivers to compete on a level with the smaller (and hence lighter) drivers, there will be an FIA mandated driver seat to be used in all four classes. Like that used in F1 currently, this will allow the removal of an injured driver from the car while still supported by the seat. The minimum weight for the combined seat and driver (complete with race suit, helmet etc.) will be 90kgs. If Ballast needs to be added, it will have to be added at a defined position on the seat level with the driver’s shoulders. The standard size of the seat will enforce a minimum cockpit size, again so that the taller drivers are not unfairly penalised.
To control speeds, rather than mandating prescriptive bodywork regulations, I propose that FIA approved sensors be used to measure the suspension loads on all four wheels. In the lower classes this data will be read after the practice session or race, and drivers penalised / excluded following the event. For F1 and possibly F2 the data could be monitored in real time by telemetry, with penalties applied as appropriate. I would set the maximum load to be recorded from these sensors, steadily increasing for each class:
F4 – 105% of the mass of the car (fully fuelled) + driver;
F3 – 120% of the mass of the car (fully fuelled) + driver;
F2 – 140% of the mass of the car (fully fuelled) + driver;
F1 – 160% of the mass of the car (fully fuelled) + driver.
The idea is to limit the effectiveness of just throwing money at the constant redesign of the car, all team should be able to achieve this level of downforce now, the development will be to achieve this with the minimum drag. This is possibly a more ‘road relevant’ line of direction for aerodynamic research.
Chassis as stated will be open for production by any manufacturer. To control costs, there will be a price limit on the chassis (this will be the fixed sale price of the chassis from the supplier):
F4 – £30,000 (homologated chassis);
F3 – £60,000 (homologated chassis);
F2 – £120,000 (teams free to modify the chassis supplied);
F1 – teams must produce their own chassis.
Current crash tests for chassis will be required (the crash tests will be required for all classes, the limits will get higher as the mass of the cars and their expected speeds increases). Minimum weight limits for classes will be:
F4 – 350kg;
F3 – 450kg;
F2 – 600kg;
F1 – 700kg.
Power units will be as follows:
F4 – a production 4 cylinder in line 1600cc engine rev limit of 7,500 rpm, approximately 110 bhp, single source supply engine contract for five years;
F3 – any four cylinder in line 2000cc engine rev limit 9,500 rpm, breathing through a restrictor as per current F3;
F2 – V6 1600cc turbo charged engines (as per existing F1 Power Units, but without ERS), this should enable the manufacturers to sell a by then proven design for several years, while allowing new manufacturers to come in.
F1 – free, any power source, but the total amount of energy carried by the car be it chemical (petrol, diesel, hydrogen etc.), electrical (batteries, super capacitors etc.) or kinetic (spinning flywheel of death ™Grace), will be limited to 4,440 MJ (approximately that of 100kg petrol).
The size, weight and centre of gravity of each power unit will be defined by the regulations, to enable teams to readily change between different suppliers if they wish. The cost of each power unit will be defined by the regulations, and should a competitor wish, they will be able to purchase a rivals power unit for the cost specified. This is to prevent too much being spent on the power units.
Race durations will be expected to be:
F4 – 20 – 30 minutes;
F3 – 35 – 45 minutes;
F2 – 50 – 60 minutes;
F1 – 90 – 120 minutes.
F4 will be aimed at drivers either at the start of their racing career, or fresh out of kart racing. There should be enough drivers at this level to have National championships in most countries, and possibly some single circuit championships. Novice drivers, or those too you to hold a road license, will need to compete in a ‘stars of tomorrow’ class, which will require chassis at least one year old. This should create a market for second hand chassis for the teams that run in the main championships. An end of year event, like the Formula Ford Festival could be held to enable drivers from across the many different National championships to compete against each other for the first time. A single tyre that can be used in either wet or dry conditions should make tyre choice easier (and cheaper) for these comparatively inexperienced drivers.
F3 would be expected to have a few National championships in the stronger markets through the world, with a few one off events (Monaco, Macau, Zandvoort) where drivers from different National series can compete against each other. The National series could appear alongside F1 in their country’s Grand Prix meeting, increasing the exposure of the drivers to F1 teams.
F2 would need continental championships (Europe, Asia, North America, South America), and once again these championships could appear at Grand Prix as part of the support races. The champion F2 team would have the option to move up to F1 the following year.
F1 would be limited to 13 teams, and at the end of the season the team in 13th place would be relegated to F2. If there were fewer than 13 teams, then this would not be necessary. By having open chassis formulae all the way through the four championships, not only the drivers get to learn about car set-up and development, but the teams, engineers and designers get to learn and develop as well.
Sufficient freedom would exist within the regulations to give scope for relevant research and development, but the price limit on power units, and the down-force limit on chassis would hopefully diminish the advantage gained by excessive spending.
Those are my thoughts, I expect you all have lots of different ideas. I am not saying this is the only way to do things, it is merely a strawman for discussion. Feel free to pull it apart (with decorum and civility) and rebuild it in a better way.