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The reality is, according to former FIA president Max Mosley, is that sponsors and boards will be asked about their green credentials. Supporting a racing series that is Neolithic could be troublesome. Refusing to change or changing back to an older technical regulation would face the threat of Renault and Mercedes leaving the sport.

To Mosely, F1 is about change because it’s about being fashionable and fashion changes—so goes Mosley’s logic. Those changes have brought about one of the biggest cost increases in F1 history and with the grave-side service over the cost cap idea having just finished, the smaller teams are sending clear signals of a catastrophic future for F1 if something isn’t done immediately—namely, the institution of a cost cap for all teams.

According to AUTOSPORT, a letter from Force India, Sauber, Caterham and Marussia has been sent to FIA president Jean Todt detailing certain doom should the cost cap discussion not be reinstated into the current dialog. They question the legality of the Strategy Group, which consists of Red Bull, Ferrari, Mercedes, Williams and Lotus, as a regulatory body capable of deciding the rules for F1. This letter may have prompted a quick call for a May 1st meeting or summit of the teams to discuss the situation.

It takes a lot of green to be green. There isn’t anything cheap about it and F1 is finding out the hard that deploying hybrid technology and a turbo V6 engine is not only a game-changer financially but competitively as well. The new regulations have dethroned, for now, the clearly dominant and paved way for a new juggernaut in Mercedes AMG Petronas.

Red Bull dominated the last four years but 2014 represents a return to humility and humble reflections on a car design that is struggling to be married to a Renault power unit and find any matrimonial harmony. It’s not a case of spousal abuse yet but should the team remain uncompetitive throughout the season, one can sense irreconcilable differences at best.

Perhaps no one will know how expensive F1 has become and how competitive it can be than American businessman Gene Haas who has thrown his hat into the ring of fire. Haas says he can beat those wily Europeans at their own game and if he doesn’t succeed at first, he’ll simply tack and make the corrections needed.

Can America’s first F1 team in decades compete on the global scale and within the financial demand of green and the competitive demand of teams such as Mercedes and other similarly powered cars? Time will tell but getting a power unit supply will be a big first step. While Stewart-Haas racing is powered by a Hendrick Motorsport Chevy engine, I don’t see GM beating a path to Haas F1’s door to supply a lump. Beyond advertising for his own company, is it a good move? Not according to Juan Pablo Montoya.

Montoya, a former F1 driver himself, told AUTOSPORT that Haas has to be mad to get into F1. While that may be one man’s opinion, it could be a look-back statement when American fans say, “you know, Juan was right”.

The interesting plot-twister in this entire conversation over the cost of the new green F1 is the issue of the Strategy Group that excludes six teams from having a voice at the table. Force India’s Bob Fernley doesn’t think this system works and while many may agree, the FIA’s Jean Todt says that each team signed the “Concorde Agreement”—his words, not mine—and they knew what they were signing up for.

In the end, perhaps being fashionable isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. I don’t wear Kiton K50’s—not because they don’t look good but because the price is much too expensive. Perhaps I’m just not a slave to fashion like F1 is.

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An F1 fan since 1972, NC has spent over 25 years in the technology industry and as a CTO, he focuses on technology integration in commercial workspace design, AV systems integration, digital media strategies, technology planning, consulting, speaking, presenting, sales, content strategy, marketing and brand building.
  • The cost argument and Mosley’s “green” meanderings are unrelated. The small teams aren’t rallying against the reg changes per se; they’re arguing for equality between the teams. They want an equal voice in F1’s direction and decision-making, more equitable (for them) profit-sharing; it has nothing to do with the green message.

    Yes, FIA and now Mosley have stamped “green” on the new formula (or is it fuel efficient? or ecologically responsible? all distinct. Poor branding, FIA). And yes reg changes have produced massive cost increases, but one doesn’t automatically include the other.

    If for example FIA had instead moved to (non-green) 3L V10’s, does anyone think the costs would be minimal? Of course not, as the new engines would be completely different to the previous incarnations; whatever tech rules FIA would impose (direct injection or VVT e.g..) ups the cost, and the smaller teams would be in the same position; imposing costs hindering progress, with less incentive than the big teams to perform due to their marginalization.

    Despite my leaning of “if you can’t afford it, get out,” I feel for the smaller teams in how the F1 is run. Ferrari’s special dispensation agreement? What other sport shares this absurd situation, in which one entity of many has overarching veto power over the others, who’s awarded an exclusive and additional fee solely for its participation? How does a coalition/union/group exist that speaks for a whole while excluding the input of the majority? What a mess.

    And who cares about Mosley/Montoya ramblings? No matter their previous positions or accomplishments (or lack thereof Montoya), neither are officially in the sport. Like an “analyst” on a news channel, they’re leveraging past experience and equating it to a current situation with which they have no intimate knowledge, for the sake of exposure.

    • No change is cheap, that’s the real story as you point out. Moving to a V10 would have been expensive too. I think what Mr. E was advocating was staying with the current engine and working the regulation changes around a know lump and transmission etc for a few more years until things hopefully stabilize. I tend to agree with him on that point but I could argue the case for change as well given the domination that was occurring and how changes can always upset the apple cart. It’s not an easy question but regardless, they chose to go green and it has proven to be damned expensive to the point of putting small teams under water, not just at the kiddie table. They may be upset about that but I suspect their P&L is more upsetting.

      • What regulation changes did Bernie advocate? The narrower front wings/blown floor bans were step change refinements to a formula already in place; they weren’t new regs like grooved vs slick tires, severe flow conditioner limitations, or reintroduction/banning of active suspension.

        The green message idea is a mess, I agree, however F1 needs to change. The regulations are rules which promote innovation, engineers striving for superiority. As speed outgrows safety or the rules prove too broad, F1 narrows the focus until the designers focus on comparative minutiae. Then, the formula fundamentally changes again, providing new challenges.

        That was the stage we were at w/ the ’09-’13 formula; something needed to be done to mix up formula 1 again, to challenge the engineers. The V8’s had been in overall development stasis since their ’06 intro.

        Historically, F1’s revolved around a 5ish year evolution in its power plants, the outlier being the mid-60’s to mid-80’s, in which the formula was so open there were N/A vs. Turbo, V8 vs V10, etc. So, F1 has either needed to change it’s restricted formula (expensive) or allow widely disparate (and expensive) variation.

        So, the time was right for an engine change, and it just so happened to coincide w/ a step change in how we perceive power, and a general public awareness (however faulty and ill-thought-out) of “green” and fuel efficiency, so FIA took that route. Whether that was the correct one or not is debatable, but what’s not IMO is the change was necessary, and historically in tune w/ F1’s past. Either way, it would have cost all teams absurd amounts of money, just as developing the V10’s/V8’s of the recent past did.

        Would I be happy w/ an open formula, say 2.5 Liters NA 1.2L FI, direct injected, variable intake/valvetiming? Sure, as it’d be advancing the design, per F1 history. Am I happy w/ the concept behind the new PU’s, also yes, as it sums distinct energy potential into one thing; torque and it’s byproduct HP.

        It’s not the green message or the specific formula that’s threatening the small teams, it’s F1’s very nature of evolution; if they can’t cope, well…

  • Rapierman

    Nobody should ever be a slave to fashion. Doing something like that would make one be perceived as being “shallow”. I sure as hell am not “shallow”. If the only thing the FIA cared about was being fashionable, then it doesn’t say much for their “shallow” personality or intelligence.

  • Nasar7

    Montoya didn’t say it’s mad for Haas to enter F1, he said it’s mad to base his operations in the US.