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Blame The Teams

FEATURE BY MAT COCH
17/04/2014

The budget cap, that ideologist concept that would safeguard the sport, almost single-handed, by controlling costs and provide an even playing field for all the teams, is dead. Deceased.

The grand plan, touted by FIA impresario Jean Todt, which he assured us just weeks ago would be part of the 2015 regulations, hit the proverbial brick wall that has been built over the years by the Formula One teams themselves.

It is somewhat ironic that, now FIA President, it has been Jean Todt championing controls designed to limit a Formula One team's expenditure when the fact of the matter is that in his previous role as team principal of Ferrari he was one of those who stood in the way of any making meaningful financial restraints. When there was talk of reducing testing to save money he baulked at the idea, citing the tyre war back in 2004 and the fact Ferrari was Bridgestone's only top team. He was coy about restrictions on what teams can spend, too busy protecting the Italian marque's own interests to be bothered with helping the likes of Minardi survive by reducing costs.

But as time has gone on and Todt changed roles, so too did his attitude. In 2012 he was pro-cost cutting saying that the sport "must reduce the costs in order to keep everybody on board.

"My job as president of the FIA is to make sure things happen," he declared, "and as long as I am president of the FIA, they will."

Unsurprisingly though, despite Todt's assertions that he will make things happen, nothing has changed. That is not entirely Todt's fault, more that of the self-absorbed teams which baulk at any suggestion which may erode a competitive advantage they may have. Follow that thought a little further and perhaps it is also the fault of previous FIA President, Max Mosley, for his insidiously democratic approach to the sport which allowed the competitors a say when formulating the regulations. There are working groups and sub-committees and meetings of all and sundry, each individual with their own agenda, all expected to miraculously come to a unanimous decision about the direction in which the sport is heading and how it will get there.

Of course the teams have no incentive to work together. On track they are competitors fighting for victory and television time while off it they're rivals for the corporate dollar. Nothing about the competitive Formula One environment lends itself to co-operation, without which democracy falters.

President Todt can make all the bold statements he likes but while the teams hold any degree of power the sport cannot progress, because they are simply too opinionated and selfish to glance at the bigger picture, let alone see it. And that is evidenced by the ongoing cost cutting rhetoric.

"Most other global sports have introduced - for the better of the sport - financial mechanisms which do work to greater or lesser extents," said Marussia's Graeme Lowdon, "but they do work and therefore I think one of the things that I would be really keen to see emphasised is that these mechanisms do work, they can be done and it's certainly not impossible."

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READERS COMMENTS

 

1. Posted by GoodPublicity, 25/04/2014 23:35

"Typically the FIA has a blinkered 'half-empty glass' view of the undersized F1 grid.

Instead of trying to control costs, which is futile, the FIA should focus on the teams' biggest expenditure item: the engine ('power unit' - ugh!).

With a paltry four engine suppliers (including Honda), F1's latest engine Formula clearly doesn't appeal to the overwhelming majority of the world's car makers.

The FIA doesn't need to dictate a plethora of engine specifications, only the dynamic (ie. real-time) energy consumption from whatever fuel is used. It's the engineers', not the FIA's, job to come up with the most efficient configuration of engine and energy recovery system.

That simple change will free the FIA of the burden of re-inventing the engine, and inundate the teams with approaches from prospective engine suppliers.

Problem solved!"

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2. Posted by MKI, 20/04/2014 20:56

"I don't think you can blame the teams Matt. You can look very hard at the FIA though. If your job is to govern and you trade away responsibility that makes it impossible to do your job expected of you it stands to reason problems will build up. No sport can function properly long term if its competitors are empowered to set rules. Motor sport has dug quite a big hole for itself over quite some time. It is going to need to recognise it pretty soon I think."

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