With the new year comes a new set of regulations including larger wheels and reduced aerodynamic downforce along with increased weight and possibly slower cars. It also ushers in the era of the cost cap to reduce the money spent by the teams. The big question is, will it all work?
I was a bit flummoxed when Liberty Media announced they hired Ross Brawn to assemble a team to really dig into the technical side of F1 in order to improve the series. At first blush, I thought they were speaking in sporting terms but it quickly became obvious that this working group was focused on regulations, car design, cost-caps and engine formulas.
When I read that, a couple of years ago, I asked the question at that time on our podcasts…isn’t this the job of the FIA and shouldn’t there remain a line between the commercial rights holder and the governing body? I was promptly reminded to be quiet because Ross has pedigree and the series needs more passing.
First, as a Ferrari fan, I know Ross’s pedigree very well and if you are a Mercedes fan or fan of the hybrid engine, then you are enjoying his handiwork as well as Toto Wolff is. His credentials aren’t being questioned in my inquiry, what was being questioned was the FIA’s role in governing the sport it legally is obligated to govern.
Regardless, now we head into 2022 and the question is, will the Brawn model of F1 work now that he has completed his job and handed over the specifications to the FIA for governance? Also, a new FIA president could see things differently or not be as excited to have the commercial rights holder so involved in the FIA’s main job. Will he want to make immediate changes?
In the end, I’ve never been one of those clamoring for prolific passing in F1 because it isn’t that kind of motorsport. I have also never demanded that any team on any given Sunday could possibly win a race. That’s unrealistic on many levels.
What I do think is that the new regulations will work in full for some issues and in part for others. The cars may make less turbulent air allowing for other cars to follow with more alacrity but perhaps the bigger impact will be the cost cap and how it neuters the teams in their development cycles. This, I believe, will be ground zero for allegations and possible litigation as team’s push the margins and try to develop beyond their cost cap if possible.
As we mentioned on the last podcast, the longer a set of regulations remains in place the more stable the costs become, the more stable and understandable the science and technology becomes and the closer the teams get to each other competitively speaking. If these regulations don’t fire on all cylinders straight off, they’ll need adjustments to fine tune them for the series. That is normal.
What could throw a wrench in the works is if the new FIA president wants sweeping changes again and this would be a very difficult situation for the teams and their cost caps. Teams are invested well ahead of revenue and making big changes regularly is a very big ask of the FIA.
Making the cars smaller with less downforce and less expensive to create is something I think needs to happen in F1. Changing the regulations frequently is not something I am in favor of. In fact, I think the regulations should be viewed in 5-year segments so all teams know where and how to budget for car development.
If these new regulations aren’t hitting it out of the park initially, then make changes needed to help them work better. Evolve the regulation set so they are effective and if that isn’t possible, then you may have to look at more drastic measures quicker.
Either way, the people to do this work are the FIA and while Jean Todt seemed more than happy to allow F1 to wrest a large portion of his organization’s duties away from him, I am not sure if the new FIA president will follow suit.