Mercedes, Ferrari ‘destroying’ Formula 1

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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

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Andreas Möller

To answer the final question, yes. If the racing was good, I’d watch it. On the other side of the coin, F1 with Mercedes and Ferrari, but also sprinklers and gold medals, play-offs or whatever other “entertainment” might be dreamt up…? Not so much. Yes, there is a special allure to Ferrari – because, well, they’re (cue dodgy italian accent) F e r r a r i. And the silver arrows have their own special draw to them – partly because of the history, and partly because of their supremacy. But even that won’t help if the racing is forced… Read more »

Paul KieferJr

1. Well, see, the thing is that the more money someone has, the more they tend to lord it over everyone else, and that doesn’t play well amongst the commoners (Magna Carta, US Declaration of Independence, etc.). That’s what we hate the most. Ergo, I recommend a rule: If all your assets combined (race or otherwise) total over a certain amount, then you don’t get to play with the rest of Formula 1. Instead, you get to go over to this other division where you can play to your hearts content but won’t ruin it for the rest of us.… Read more »

MIE

While not quite the same now, Ferrari only sold road cars to fund the racing team. The same was true of Lotusin the early days, and you could argue that it applies to McLaren now.

geeyore

“Ferrari only sold road cars to fund the racing team” Correct. Even Enzo said that. Under his reign, what was sold in the showroom was what was “race relevant” for the Ferrari enterprise. Almost the opposite of today’s marketeering emphasis. There’s a very good Mark Hughes article in Motorsport this month. I think he gets it about the complexity, expense, and disappointment of the MGU-H formula, and how it’s adversely affecting F1. But in the article, multiple disappointing quotes from Claire Williams and others about “road relevance” and “advanced technology,” all designed to support the Formula Hybrid PU. This is… Read more »

Junipero Mariano

Although I think some good will come from the new mandate, I can feel the teams need for wanting the Strategy Group to mitigate interference from Bernie and the FIA wanting to turn the racing into sprinklers, standing restarts, and double points. But they can’t get anything substantial done anyway.

Mercedes can survive leaving, it’ll just go to WEC. I don’t know about Ferrari, they seem so intertwined with Formula One. Likely they will make a loud noise, get a concession and suddenly decide to stay.

Tom Firth

I doubt Mercedes would go to WEC. It will just quit and do engine supply and DTM probably. They’ve not exactly had a fun time racing at Le Mans in general …

Junipero Mariano

True, I forgot about 1999 and 1955. I’d think they’d have some idea on how to tackle it though.

Tom Firth

it’s too late in the night / early in the morning to try and answer this one in a sane way… so yeah it must be the time a day when throwing Ferrari and Daimler under a bus after already having played a game with a disillusioned Red Bull and just saved them from running away, seems like a great plan!

geeyore

Benz and Ferrari will just have to whip out their copies of MS Excel and redo the numbers. Seems they’ve had no R&D amortization problems in denying RB an engine. Did they have that petulantly lost revenue in their balance sheet? The road relevance idea these teams (esp. Benz) promote is a nonsense ruse. There is no road relevance in an F1 racecar except that it’s a vehicle in contact with a tarmac pavement and a driver (somewhat) operating the vehicle. The teams asserting road relevance is like NASA asserting the aeronautic relevance of the space shuttle to private aircraft.… Read more »

Pietersen

BERNIE want to destroy Formula 1
he was not even a race driver ever. control freak, that’s what he is.

Splatterdbastard

No team should be greater than the sport.
Let ’em go.

charlie white

Manufacturer involvement in F1-this is what Bernie wanted many years ago and now he has regrets. You reap what you sow. I could see MB jumping out of the series if there is a serious re-write of engine spec rules. Luca Montezemolo is gone and no one from the team is making the annual “Ferrari will leave F1 if ______” statement. Since they’re getting $120million as a “historical” team, they’re not leaving anytime soon.

thomin

Mercedes or Ferrari leaving would be the death knell for F1. Also think about the reasons: Cheap, simple engines mean in effect spec engines. It might lead to “purer” racing, but it would be as appealing as GP2. Great for a few hardcore fans, but unappealing to the masses. I think there are four pull factors at play here: 1) The racing 2) The drivers 3) The technology 4) The brands By pushing out the manufacturers, you lose #4. By reducing costs via spec parts, you lose #3. That’s 50% of your appeal gone. And with the current plan for… Read more »

Shocks&Awe

” And I repeat what I have said for years: They should get rid of 90% of their technical regulations and let smart minds roam free”

The regulations are there to slow the cars down, and have been for a while now. So while I too long for the days of the Garagistes tinkering away with wings and skirts and fans, the danger is that speeds and G-forces could quickly escalate beyond human endurance.

So I don’t disagree in principle, but I also don’t think it’s that easy.

thomin

It may not be that hard. That’s why I said 90% and not 100%. Just to give you an example: 1) Let’s obviously keep all the safety regulations, crash tests etc. and only tweak them where they’re tailor made for the current regulations. 2) Let’s define a cube that gives is the maximum dimensions an F1 car could have. 3) Let’s give the teams 4 standard wheels around which they have to build their cars. 4) Let’s define a maximum amount of fuel they can use during a race. In this case, the fuel would be the limiting factor. No… Read more »

Sakae

A few points of contention as I know them: 1. Marchionne purportedly stated: hybrids were MM’s idea. 2. Automobile companies play by the existing (inept IMHO) rules, and I do not see any specials for anyone on the table, or under the table. Not today. if anyone knows different based on facts, publish it, please. 3. FiA together with FOM, add Williams, McLaren, Force India and Red Bull hold vast majority of votes in the Strategy Group, thus it is hard to accept allegations that Ferrari and Mercedes together are responsible for the mess, and rest of them are without… Read more »