The interesting part of Formula One boss, Bernie Ecclestone’s, diatribe over at the BBC is that he effectively says lump it or leave it to the sport’s biggest manufacturers. He says they are “destroying” F1.
“There is all sorts of things we know we can do and should do to make F1 back on the road where it should be, because we are in show business.
“We are there to entertain the public. We are not there to put on a show for Mercedes to demonstrate and sell their cars. Or Ferrari.”
The point is that Mercedes is here to put on a demonstration and sell cars—or at least that’s the conventional wisdom of manufacturer involvement but then again, in F1 they often tout the technology and road car relevancy as an engineering proving ground for road cars more than just brand recognition to sell cars on Mondays.
Apparently the two juggernaut teams are not happy with the mandate given to Ecclestone and FIA president, Jean Todt, in making all decisions regarding the ways in which to fix F1. Particularly the 2017 changes planned. The teams fear these could be draconian steps given Ecclestone’s recent criticisms of the new power units and other facets of the sport.
For Mercedes, who have a comprehensively dominant car and engine combination and lobbied heavily—even threatening to quit—for these new engine regulations, they are not keen to see all their hard work in R&D thrown out the window. Makes sense given their investment and current success with their investment.
The other side of that coin is Ferrari’s stance on the matter. The Ecclestone says they sent a legal letter to the FIA explaining how the World Motor Sport Council did not have a right to give the mandate to Messrs. Ecclestone and Todt. That leaves a couple of options according to Ecclestone:
“So the only thing we could do is to ignore what Ferrari have said and carry on with it and say: ‘You’ve got a choice – you can leave or go to arbitration and see what the arbitrators think.'”
“I think if we went to arbitration, we’d win easy,”
What’s interesting is that Ferrari, who were not keen on the hybrid power unit in the first place, have leveraged a lot of resources into the design and are now, possibly, catching Mercedes so magically they are for hybrid engines when once they scoffed at the notion. Again, understandable given the current success with their investment.
Ecclestone even implied that Mercedes had given Ferrari help with their engine design and perhaps one has to parse words here but he could mean the recent legal action Mercedes filed against a departing engineer who is alleged to have stolen intellectual property from the team on his way to Ferrari—issue there is that Ferrari aren’t hiring him. Maybe he means that Mercedes and their concept prompted Ferrari to really re-think their design and get with the program. Whatever it meant, Ferrari denies it of course.
Ecclestone is still keen to have a new engine in 2017 and he doesn’t care what it is as long as it is “simple and cheap”. A far cry from what we currently have. He still seems to be rattling the cage about continuing with the engine tender for a second engine format in F1 as well.
Bottom line is, Mercedes and Ferrari have invested heavily and are seeking to recoup their investment through engine supply contracts. In Mercedes’ case, they decide who gets the best engine on the grid and who doesn’t as was the case with Red Bull. It’s also not great that only two teams, who also compete, are the predominant engine suppliers of the sport with no real stiff competition although McLaren Honda would like to change that and so too would Renault as they just bought their own team for 2016 and have 32 engine development tokens burning a hole in their pocket.
Ecclestone is right, however, in that the big manufacturers come and go just like Toyota, BMW, Honda and Renault did in 2009. Mercedes might run their team until the engine regulation changes were originally set to expire in 2020 and if not competitive with the new specification or if it didn’t fit their road car goals, they could leave. That’s why Red Bull staying as the largest privateer on the grid is very important. Just like Williams, Sauber, force India and Toro Rosso.
If anyone would leave due to Ecclestone and Todt strong-arming an immediate change, it might be Mercedes in my opinion but lately Ferrari seem very vocal about the whole debacle. Mercedes did reply to the BBC article by giving a bullet point list highlighting their commitment to F1 in the past. Not sure what that was meant to convey but regardless, something has to be done. Would you be fine watching an F1 series without Mercedes or Ferrari should they leave the sport?
Hat Tip: BBC