Mosley had it right; now he’s got it wrong

And right on cue with my recent editorial regarding the equity of F1 prize money comes former FIA president Max Mosley in a BBC interview stating the very notion I say won’t matter:

“From a sporting point of view, the sport should split the money equally and then let the teams get as much sponsorship as they can,” added Mosley.

“A team like Ferrari will always get more sponsorship than Marussia, but if they all get the same basic money, then they all start on a level-playing field, particularly if you have a cost cap where you limit the amount of money each team is allowed to spend.”

With Red Bull spending $300+ million on their racing program and teams like Marussia or Caterham spending a $100 million, you have to ask yourself what the reduction in prize money would do to large team’s interest in the sport as juxtaposed with their level of investment and spending on the sport.

You also have to ask that if these small teams were given a larger share, perhaps $50 million more of the prize money would this take them to the sharp end of the grid? Is that the point? Or is it simply keeping them afloat and in the series as proverbial blue-flag fodder? (say that three times quickly)

As for sponsors, I think it is well-known that they are not beating down the doors of teams and McLaren might be a good example of that as they haven’t had a title sponsor the whole year and perhaps Mr. Dennis is asking too much for his title sponsor space on the car be regardless, it isn’t working so the small teams aren’t going to supplement their shortcomings with logos on their car. Not in a very meaningful way, anyway.

Mosley couches this argument of equitable payments by suggesting a cost-cap, which I alluded to in my recent editorial. This is a very complicated issue and as it has been stillborn more than once, it may not work as it doesn’t meet every teams interest level for being in the sport and would most likely cause big teams to leave.

Like nearly everyone these days, he won’t say a jaundiced word about the new “green” engines but clearly they are the back-breaker in this sport in 2014. Mosley praises the tech while then suggesting that the manufacturers take a bath on the cost of development by limiting what they can charge for an engine supply contract.

“I’m in favour of the greener engines,” he said. “The mistake was not saying to the big manufacturers that you can spend as much as you want on research but the maximum you can charge per season is something like £3-4m instead of the £15-20m, which I believe it is now.”

So it’s great tech and important to have because we want to be “on the right side of history” but no one should pay for it—or at least those who do should eat it. Well that dog don’t hunt.

The more I think about it, the more I like his original intent before he became a mouthpiece for the FIA’s green movement when he suggested a new set of regulations for a new class of privateer team.

Unlimited innovation with no rev limits for engines, movable wings, a different underbody, no restriction on the number or types of updates, no homologation, no limits on testing, wind tunnel or simulation work, higher KERS output and perhaps even bespoke tires (I added the tires idea).

This would be a breeding ground for engineers to take the challenge and these teams could work with a cost-cap concept of an account with deposited cash in which to draw from and monitor. Sure, the cars would be less refined but they would be competitive as hell!

Max is right, it’s not a fair competition but 4-5 seconds off the pace isn’t insurmountable although it takes millions to close that gap under the same regulations. It might not under a set of privateer regulations. If you balance the regulations correctly, this could be really fun to see. The FIA could actually do their job and develop a comprehensive test and analysis of the regulations and determine a set that would really open things up and be relatively accurate with some tweaking over time.

F1 could showcase two technologies, the hybrid development and the furthering of the internal combustion technology that continues to be road relevant in reducing the fuel used for the power and efficiency gained. Both systems need continued development as both are here and very much a part of our daily lives.

I like Max. A lot. I like the way Max approaches things and opens dialogs but you have to parse his words at times, he’s a brilliant guy. In doing so, the BBC interview shows that he knows F1 has an issue and the long-term is in serious need of adjustment. He also says he likes the green engines but he knows that they are the elephant in the room and a large part of the reason Marussia and Caterham are gone now.

The sports heavyweights insisted on hybrids and they are paying for it. I’m not suggesting they scuttle the series but I would recommend some out-of-the-box thinking in order to get the privateers settled and get the series under cost control or make a few phone calls and get Audi/VW, Toyota, Mazda, BMW and other big manufacturers to get their arses in the series now because that’s what they said this new format would do.

If you aren’t going to get big players who can afford this technology in the sport, then you had better come up with a way to allow for smaller teams to afford the show and if you divided the prize money equally this year, most of those gains would have been spent buying engines so the point is moot.

All that said, I’m sure Max is right and it is I who is wrong but I’m trying to offer some thoughts for discussion as a fan and trying to help in my own small way. Very small way.

Hat Tip: BBC Sport

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