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Ru(i/n)ning the show


If ever proof were needed of how the self-interest of the teams could destroy F1 as we know it, one need look no further than Friday's press conference.

Present were representatives of some of the biggest teams in the business and, as one would expect, there was little they could agree upon.

While Paddy Lowe, representing championship leaders and hot title favourite Mercedes, is happy with the 2014 rules, design guru Adrian Newey, representing four time successive champions Red Bull, currently sixth in the Constructors' Championship isn't.

While Rob Fernley, representing Force India, looking to be the best of the midfielders and running Mercedes power units, welcomes the new technology, Luigi Fraboni, representing Ferrari, whose last title win was in 2008 (constructors’), feels the new rules will drive away the fans.

Veteran Newey, who has designed championship winning cars for McLaren, Williams and Red Bull, was asked how he ranks the 2014 rules alongside those in place during previous championship winning years.

"That's a very complicated question," he admitted. "I guess the other obvious answer to that is probably whether you have a Mercedes engine, a Ferrari engine or a Renault engine will cloud your answer to it, in truth. Such is the nature of Formula One. My opinion of it is that from a technical aspect first of all you have to question whether... the whole thing behind. When you get into things like batteries then an electric car is only green if it gets its power from a green source. If it gets its power from a coal-fired power station then clearly it's not green at all.

"A hybrid car, which is effectively what the Formula One regulations are then a lot of energy goes into manufacturing those batteries and into the cars which is why they're so expensive. And whether that then gives you a negative or a positive carbon footprint or not depends on the duty cycle of the car - how many miles does it do, is it cruising along the motorway at constant speed or stop-starting in a city. So this concept that a hybrid car is automatically green is a gross simplification.

"On top of that there are other ways, if you're going to put that cost into a car, to make it fuel efficient. You can make it lighter, you can make it more aerodynamic, both of which are things that Formula One is good at. For instance the cars are 10 per cent heavier this year, a result, directly, of the hybrid content.

"So I think technically, to be perfectly honest, it's slightly questionable," he concluded. "From a sporting point of view, to me, efficiency, strategy etc, economy of driving, is very well placed for sportscars, which is a slightly different way of going racing. Formula One should be about excitement. It should be about man and machine performing at its maximum every single lap."

"I think as a business we ought to focus on the positives," argued veteran Pat Symonds, now with Williams, "and I think that the technology that we're employing in Formula One now is impressive. The road car industry - rightly or wrongly - has to hit CO2 per kilometre targets and those are very difficult targets to meet. And they will have to employ technologies such as we are using in Formula One. So we are moving things forward, we are more relevant than we used to be and I think that's very important.

"I think there was a great danger - and I mentioned this in one of these press conferences last year - that we would become irrelevant," he continued. "We would become the focus of gas-guzzling and not having social responsibility. And I think it was really important that we did move away from that. And you've got to remember that the seeds of this were sown many, many years ago, before the world economic recession hit which of course has had a bearing on things.

"Now we're in a good place," he insisted, "and I think as a business we should focus on the positives. I think many people from the UK will remember a guy called (Gerald) Ratner who basically killed his business by negative comments on it. I think we should be positive. We've done something good and we should tell the world about it."

"I was very interested in Pat's Ratner comment," added Paddy Lowe, "because we've seen a little bit of that going on and I don't understand it because I think there are so many positives around this formula. For an engine to deliver similar power to last year, with more than 30 percent less fuel consumption I think is just an incredible achievement and it's something we should celebrate.


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1. Posted by Spindoctor, 06/04/2014 8:13

"I think Mr Newey has rather missed the point.
The new powertrains are very complex, and are heavier than the engines they replace, but that, surely is the challenge that RBR and others face in making cars this year. Newey is the acknowledged master of the old formula, its time for the old dog to learn some new tricks!

The thing that jarred a little was his strong implication that the new formula is too "complex" and that this complexity somehow clashes with the existing spirit of F1.
For the last 20-odd years Formula 1 has become increasingly complex (and expensive) as the regulations have pushed more and more emphasis onto aerodynamics.
Newey has been brilliant at packaging his cars, and exploiting aerodynamic complexity in order to gain advantage. The new regulations have switched a lot of that emphasis onto different technologies and as we have seen this has disadvantaged RBR.

As a mere spectator I think that changes, no matter how much they have disturbed the status quo, are both long overdue and will stimulate development at a rapid rate. With Renault, Mercedes, Ferrari (Chrysler\FIAT) and soon Honda involved with these hybrid systems it will be interesting to see if, and how quickly, some of the challenges to do with weight, bulk, heat soak and so-on are resolved.
I agree with Newey that F1 isn't some kind of "laboratory" for testing real-world technologies, but if innovations made as a consequence of competing in F1 find their way on to my road car, I won't be complaining.

What's fascinating is that after only a couple of races RBR has improved its car to the extent that it appears to have gone from no-hoper to 'best of the rest', beating most of the Mercedes-powered cars in the process.
This is even more impressive at a circuit where the Renault motor's lack of drivability and ultimate "oomph" puts RBR at a serious disadvantage.

Without casting any aspersions, I'll wait and see if Mr Newey's criticisms continue after Renault and RBR have tweaked their car up to competitiveness (or better!) with Mercedes."

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2. Posted by ape, 05/04/2014 22:15

"in short nothing will change this year.!
oh and was Luca not complaining about too much importance of the aerodynamics last year and the double diffuser before that. Luca is just a whiner when the reds do not win."

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3. Posted by GoodPublicity, 05/04/2014 12:09

" Only when Planet Paddock's cossetted inhabitants watch an F1 race from the grandstand will they realise how monotonous 22 cars with fundamentally identical slow-revving engines sound, and how ridiculous their venetian blind front wings and other aero paraphernalia look.

F1's emperors have no clothes, and unless they open their eyes and ears soon they won't have jobs either."

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4. Posted by Paul RB, 05/04/2014 10:47

"It's certainly true that, over the years, F1 innovations have contributed to road car designs, albeit in a highly attenuated manner. Disc brakes are but one example but we would struggle to find much in common between F1 and road car disc brakes beyond the name used to describe the piece of equipment. And here lies the problem; posing as a test bed for the good of mankind’s vehicular design is illusory at best. This hasn't really mattered up until now, the focus being on performance at all costs and who cares if they only do 4mpg - that goes with the territory. Now F1 has decided to sport "green" credentials, which is a joke in itself, as if extending 4 mpg to 8 mpg is serving mankind in any way. The only way that F1 could declare itself green is to disband and cease activity, so why pretend? There is some truly phenomenal engineering in the new power units but in the quest for racing performance while accommodating fuel economy (a bit!) will F1 hybrids, with all their complexity ever have serious relevance to road going hybrids, which themselves are already at an advanced stage of development to serve the purpose for which they are intended. F1 should be only about racing excellence. It is not green, never will be and we should stop deluding ourselves that F1 could ever serve a wholesome purpose beyond racing. I think this is a retrograde step for F1 - and we haven't got anywhere near the subject of the demand for cutting costs - this current direction makes a mockery of that cause."

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