There was a report today but Mr. Noble that said it was Red Bull and McLaren who voted down the tweaked version of qualifying therefore leaving the new format in tact for Bahrain.
Now before you go ballistic, there is a reason they voted no and I can’t say I blame them. Horner was adamant in Australia that the series didn’t really vet the system very well and suggested that any changes need to be fully explored to the nth degree prior to making them and it seemed F1 didn’t do that regarding the new format.
Now simply keeping the new format for Q1 and Q2 and reverting to the old format for Q3 may sound perfectly harmless but is it? Do we know for sure? Have we tested it, ran simulations and sought expert advice on how strategists will approach that format? Most likely not. Therefore, Red Bull and McLaren were lobbying to simply revert back to the old system but the FIA aren’t very keen to do that and this begat the retention of the new system that everyone dislikes.
So much has changed in the last five years. Luca, a one-time supporter and ally for Ecclestone—has been supplanted by Marchionne and as Kevin Eason points out, you have new power struggles where Mercedes and Ferrari are in cahoots and one would presume this has more to do with Sergio choosing to sidle up to Mercedes for reasons other than racing. This gives, in Kevin’s opinion, Toto the loudest and most influential voice in F1.
It makes you wonder, after getting the team all set up to succeed, why they felt compelled to jettison Ross Brawn—what would his thoughts be on the team I wonder? I’ll be honest, supplying 8 cars on the grid between them and making niceties at each other does set up a very difficult situation in this new democracy so feverishly cherished by FIA’s Jean Todt.
Eason’ piece leaves very little to the imagination and rightfully so, he’s a veteran F1 journalist with strong opinions on what is happening to the sport he covers. Joining him is a phalanx of fans who, like Eason, are heavily invested in the happenings of their beloved sport and furious with it’s current tail-chasing activities.
The F1 Strategy Group and F1 Commission isn’t the best setup for the series and if I ranked Mr. E’s “deals” this would be among the lowest in his career. He’s used to calling the ultimate shots and now he can’t. Unfortunately, most fans don’t understand that reality and blame him for everything still thinking he is the ring leader and able to make anything happen in F1. That isn’t the case anymore. He’s become the whipping post for fan ire but to be fair, he’s not the biggest target for it.
Mr. E’s words lately may seem duplicitous but I believe that’s because he is mired in the middle. He’s trying to assert himself but has to tack when the sport decided, led by Mercedes, that they want something else. He even brought Max out of retirement to do a TV interview to effectively kick Jean Todt into actually doing something more aggressive than what he’s done so far.
If a mandate was given, then surely Todt and Ecclestone could make immediate changes but that, seemingly, isn’t the case either because we head to Bahrain in gridlock. Probably no mystery that Todt and Ecclestone aren’t each others favorite people and that adds to the consternation.
So here we are. Is there an arbiter in the house? Ecclestone and Horner versus Wolff and Marchionne and the FIA versus all of them. Then there’s the drivers who are tertiary in this drama as they are effectively neutered in how much they can do.
We often talk about how much the teams spend, and it’s true, but in the end, a large portion of that spend is mitigated through lucrative FOM prize money payouts leading one to wonder if Mercedes isn’t spending that much more than other teams mid-field. These contracts are in play until 2020 unless something drastic is done and I’m not sure that is achievable.
The FIA were very vocal about getting a bigger slice of FOM money for their efforts (and they did with a new contract) and the teams were threatening a breakaway—although that would never have happened—and Mr. E broke apart FOTA with individual deals with Ferrari and Red Bull and ultimately Mercedes who winged publicly about their involvement unless they were let in on the FOM elite deals.
I suspect that’s what the drivers were trying to say diplomatically—a change has to come in the overall structure of F1 to get it moving forward. Will CVC Capital do that? Chances are they won’t. The big questions is…who will? Could this be Mr. E’s swan song move? A radical scorched earth policy to wrest the control of the sport from the big manufacturers or are they, actually, the real players in this play and the ones who should be running the sport? I would ask about the FIA but Todt is MIA.