The debate over Formula 1’s current regulatory impact continues as Mercedes tried out a new exhaust trumpet to increase the sound of the car. Whether it worked or not has not been the topic of discussion rather the lampooning of the concept and appearance of the contraption.
While FIA president Jean Todt has transformed the cause célèbre of the organization from safety to sustainability, the regulations have brought a raft of earth-saving technology initiatives due to pressure the car manufacturers placed on F1 as a contingency to their involvement.
The changes were antithetical to the other “noteworthy” cause of the FIA which was cost-cutting and budget caps. Teams struggling under the stable regulations of 2013 and prior are now faced with meteoric rises in their costs to participate in this year’s specification.
Certainly saving F1 was a major concern and keeping manufacturers involved was important. Many suggest that F1 was being threatened by Mercedes and Renault if they didn’t make the 2014 engine regulation changes. Meanwhile, teams such as Sauber, Caterham and Marussia can barely stomach the massive cost increases.
Jean Todt told AUTOSPORT that the overwhelming concern from fans regarding the sound of the cars will simply go away:
“It is a question of taste,” he said. “I don’t have any problem with the noise, but I need to take it into account if a lot of people say they want more noise.
“I never heard any complaint about the noise in Spa [at the World Endurance Championship round]. And in Spain, again, those who complain they are more vocal than those who do not complain.
“We have asked some manufacturers to prepare some suggestions.
“But believe me, in a few months’ time, nobody will speak any more about the noise. We will have found something else.”
Amidst the debate, and unlikely champion of plain thinking has emerged in the form of Pirelli motorsport boss Paul Hembery. Leave it to a supplier to make the most sense of the F1 errors and nonsensical moves. AUTOSPORT has the call:
“When you are in business, the first thing you do is try to understand your customer,” said Hembery, speaking before the Mercedes exhaust test.
“I think it is very dangerous for a sport like F1 to invent rules, regulations and ideas without extensively understanding what the customer expects from it.
“It is the fans we need to appeal to. What do they want to see? What do they expect to see?
“Do they expect a WWF version of motorsport? Or do they expect a technology race? Those are the two extremes – what is it that the public expects from the pinnacle of motorsport? Once you understand that, they you can start.
“At the moment, you risk putting the cart before the horse in trying to solve the problem without actually knowing what the problem is.”
Perhaps Todt is hoping it will go away but as Hembery points out, the circus isn’t providing what the majority of the fans want. Todt says that there is a silent majority who prefer the new changes in F1 and those who don’t like it are a vocal minority. We could spend an hour discussing how that actually works with topics such as Sustainability, politics, cultural diversity and more but that’s for another blog.
In the end, we’ll see if F1 loses viewers and attendees over the very expensive regulatory changes and current Mercedes domination. Teams and sponsors are getting nervous and nothing changes F1 quite like a reduction of income. Hembery’s notion of WWF(E) style racing may still be a pertinent element but there is an agenda that is being pressed as well and as we’ve seen from daily headlines, that agenda is not a unanimously endorsed concept.
Whatever changes are made will require unanimity amongst the teams and that will be a very difficult element in the desire to change F1. Honda has been labeled as company who’s motivation for returning is the new engine/hybrid format. Renault and Mercedes have been labeled as bullying F1 into the new engine format as well. Can F1 make changes that will keep these three happy?
In the end, it’s nice to see how F1 pundits are all speaking for fans and making bold statements as to what we will and won’t watch and what is important to us. It will be more interesting to see who is closer to interpreting the fan sentiments than others.