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.

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Andy Gibson (@Lopek)
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Andy Gibson (@Lopek)

This seems like a very good framework for a single seater ladder – far better than where we are now! The one area that I think is a real problem is the promotion/relegation between F2/F1. IMO there is no way that an F2 team could ramp up to full chassis production from the end of the F2 season & be competitive & a relegated F1 team would have to lose a lot of now unneeded staff & infrastructure. In principal I like the idea of promotion & relegation, but it’s just not realistic between a formula with a supplied chassis… Read more »

Cody
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Cody

I think promotion and relegation would work just fine in motorsports. Just as in soccer, senior teams have reserves and players loaned out to other teams. Most of the F1 teams would likely have similar agreements or scenarios, thus they would have the equipment and be more capable of transitioning.

Thinking about the budget differences and having to cut salaries, pay off drivers for breaking contracts, and diverting more money into development of the smaller cars, they would receive “parachute” payments to help with the current expenditures and hopefully retain their drivers/staff et cetera.

rj
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rj

I like the ideas, my main concern on the F1 power units is safety. Imagine what the fire crews would need to be trained for if some of the cars ran on hydrogen, others on jet fuel, and others still on some liquid salts.

Negative Camber
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Negative Camber

That would require definite contingency planning and serious thought across the board regarding safety.

Andy Gibson (@Lopek)
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Andy Gibson (@Lopek)

Additionally, I’d make it so that any F1 Grand Prix has to have at least 2 of F2,F3 & F4 on the support bill. If a host country can not achieve that due to their being no local series then it shows there is no local interest in motorsport, so what is F1 doing there?

The Field of Dreams built it and they’ll come mentality has no place in F1 calendars imo. Countries should demonstrate a solid fan base for motorsport before they can have the premiere class.

jeff
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jeff

Really interesting and common sense approach. There are certain details that require think tank time, such as at what speed should suspension load be measured and the F1 load levels too low/don’t take into account track undulation/air density, but overall a sound model. To me however, until a time when those responsible for F1 direction and health, namely CVC and Ecclestone’s successors in conjunction with FIA, are willing to invest the money, time, and suffer reactionary press while making wholesale infrastructure and goal changes, solutions will continue being band aids. There are many subjectively real or perceived problems with the… Read more »

Rapierman
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Rapierman

1. Duration in terms of time suggestion should also include a recommended target distance (i.e., 308 kilometers / 192 miles, etc.) 2. Admittedly, I’m more used to “gallons” of gas (petrol), but this year has showed that the gas limitation has had a negative effect on racing. I want my guys “on the limit” instead of just puttering around. That’s what racing’s supposed to be like, isn’t it? 3. Would also suggest adding in the following: Teams that exceed a limit “x” will pay a tax equal to 100% (or some such figure) of the amount of money exceeding the… Read more »

Cody
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Cody

2. I agree with that. Would you want refueling to return?

3. Also agree. It works well in American sports and are famed for parity, which is what F1 should strive toward, at least at the moment.

Rapierman
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Rapierman

I don’t think refueling has to return to make this work.

Tom Firth
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Tom Firth

Ok, interesting proposals. I have one quick question to begin with before starting looking at the proposals further, you wrote, “To ensure full grids, no other single seater championships would be authorised by the FIA” – Would this be FIA approval or local ASN approval? Meaning could Renault or Mazda for example launch a national championship with sanctioning from the MSA or for example a sanctioning body outside of the F1 ladder, such as Indycar ? F4 – I’m personally quite happy with the work the FIA Single seater commission have managed to do in regards the 2013 onwards FIA… Read more »

Cody
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Cody

In regard to the downforce limits, would this figure be set before the season, before each race, or calculated during the race (meaning as fuel is burned, they would have to take out wing)?

If a car weighed more, intentionally, it would have the advantage of increased downforce. Obviously, racing is focused on lightness, but would teams pursue a bit more weight for aero-dependent tracks? Would the limit be per wheel or would it be an average?

Final Lap Podcast (@FinalLapPodcast)
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Final Lap Podcast (@FinalLapPodcast)

Some really nice idea in there. The only one I can’t see being practical is the relegation one since the lower formulas aren’t running the same cars so it’s not really fair. I’d compare it to being relegated from the premier league and then finding out the championship plays rugby league! :D I’m very intrigued by the concept of the free enginer\power unit rule, could be fun to see some cars using more electric power for more torque versus more combustion for higher power output. Again the trouble could be that there is an “ultimate” combination between the downforce and… Read more »

Jamie
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Jamie

I like it. Let’s get this going.

Mr. Obvious
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Mr. Obvious

“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.” — Excuse me, but let’s just put the shoe on the other foot for the moment: In this scenario, doesn’t the requirement for ballast “unfairly penalise” lighter/shorter drivers?

jeff
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jeff

The weight is an equalizer, bringing slight drivers up to MIE’s minimum weight limit. The weight is actually ballast in the proper definition of the word, mounted low and as ideally placed as possible within MIE’s regs to afford a low CoG and the desired distribution. Because of this, they’re advantaged over the bigger driver, who’s carrying the same weight in broader shoulders/taller torsos and the like i.e.; higher CoG with less room for balance manipulation. I see your point, it could be argued a driver’s stature is as fundamental a differentiator as skill and budget. However, a driver and… Read more »

Rapierman
Member
Rapierman

Just as a thought: In the USA’s Major League Baseball, there is what we call a “farm system”, where there are minor league teams associated with a major league team by contract, forming various leagues at certain levels (called “Rookie League”, Single-A (split into “Low” and “High”), Double-A and Triple-A). These minor league teams are used to train and prepare new draftees for MLB (sometimes referred to as “the majors”), and the MLB teams by themselves promote and relegate players based on performance or in times when a player is injured and they need someone to fill in. The same… Read more »

Rapierman
Member
Rapierman

Sorry, I should clarify: Promote and relegate drivers.

JakobusVdL
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JakobusVdL

Hi MIE, a great idea to put your ideas out for discussion, you have obviously given a great deal of thought to finding ways to bring a sustainable structure to formula racing. I like alot of the concepts and structure you have proposed, I particularly like the promotion / relegation idea, though I’d imagine that for that to be viable there would have to be payments over a couple of years to the promoted / relegated teams to allow them to scale up or down to their new formula. And/or the cost steps between each formula would need to be… Read more »