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Ecclestone: Let's tear the bloody rule book up and start again

NEWS STORY
09/07/2015

Bernie Ecclestone believes the sport needs a complete overhaul.

Even as the World Motor Sport Council meets in Mexico City to discuss suggestions put forward by the F1 Strategy Group with a view to improving the sport, Bernie Ecclestone believes an even greater revolution is needed.

As pointed out in the Pitpass podcast, whilst Sunday's British Grand Prix was entertaining, the fact is that at the end of the day Mercedes scored its sixth 1-2 of the year and for the sixth time this season the same three men stood on the podium.

Whilst the race has silenced the critics, and stopped the (media) negativity, for a few days, once the racing resumes on tracks such as the Hungaroring the drama of Silverstone will soon be forgotten.

Former FIA president Max Mosley warns that the sport is heading for a major crisis, whilst his successor insists it is only suffering a headache. F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone, a long-time critic of the new formula believes a complete overhaul is needed.

"If I had a clean sheet piece of paper the first thing I would do is make an engine that is not as complicated as the current one is," he told the Guardian.

"We need another Cosworth to supply teams," he added, ironic really considering the last three teams to enter the sport (in 2010) were effectively ordered to use Cosworth engines, the legendary manufacturer opting not to continue when the new formula was introduced last year.

"If we had a simpler engine it would allow other people who wanted to make engines to come in," he insisted. "Look at Toyota, who I know - maybe - would be interested in coming back into Formula One.

"But no way would they come back with this power unit. They know that they would be in trouble before they start. If Ferrari are in trouble what chance have they got?" Again an interesting comment, if you know your F1 history, or are a devotee of Mike Lawrence.

"Mercedes have got a super team, a super engine which is an incredible piece of engineering," he admitted. "But if you and I and go the grandstand and ask a spectator 'How many cylinders has that engine got?' one or two might get it right. And then you ask them what capacity it is. They don't know, and they don't care. They couldn't care less.

"They want to see Williams winning, Ferrari winning, Red Bull winning - they want everybody to have a chance of winning. At the moment people like Vijay at Force India spend an awful lot of money and have got zero chance of winning. And it's not on. Let's tear the bloody rule book up and start again."

In his quest for a 'new F1', Ecclestone claims to have the support of the drivers, who, he says, are unhappy with the current formula.

"I speak closely to most of the guys and they say the same thing, 'It aint any fun any more'. Because they're on the limit but they're not on their limit, if you know what I mean.

"When you get in a car and you're on it and somebody says 'be careful, you're going to run out of fuel!' We're not a sport for saving fuel.

"Somebody said to me the other day that the way we're going anyone will be able to drive these cars. A kid will be able to drive it, or anyone who has mucked around with PlayStation and can listen to instructions."

Whilst he still wields enormous power, the fact is that Ecclestone no longer has the control he once enjoyed. Other than the fact that the sport is owned by CVC and others, there is the small matter of Jean Todt.

Whilst Ecclestone was keen for him to succeed Max Mosley, it is clear that like the former FIA president, things haven't worked out quite as expected.

"The trouble is we have an FIA president who wants everyone to agree. And that's not possible," said Ecclestone. "We don't want to have to have a committee before you do something. That's what we've got, and you're never going to do anything that way.

"We need someone who will turn the lights on and off, whoever that is. But it's going to happen. We're going to make it happen."

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1. Posted by scf1fan, 13/07/2015 0:01

"@RDFox - So in regards to a common fuel, that's pretty much what they have now . . . Basically a premium automotive grade gasoline. (100 Kilos worth.) In which case, technologically, they can't really use anything too far from the current ICE, like a turbine or a diesel. The best current way to get the most out of that fuel is either with a hybrid, or a very light weight straight ICE only car, turbo or not.

As I see it, there are two main problems with the current fuel regulations, other than its limiting effect on the kinds of engine technologies available for use in F1. First is that each car is limited to 100kg of fuel for the race, and secondly, no car can use fuel at a rate (instantaneously) of more than 100kg/hr.

Dealing with the second issue first; a turbo charged 1.6 liter motor @15,000 will outstrip its 100kg/hr max fuel supply. So that functionally limits a car's ability to generate its maximum speed. There is no easy way around this other than to up the limit. One could also down size the ICE to say 1.4 L to give a more useable RPM range, but the displacement is currently regulated as well . . . (I'll admit that I haven't seen a "low" value for the displacement regulation; typically though teams will try to max that out subtracting for expected wear. Perhaps with a hybrid providing the low end torque, a smaller ICE might be a viable design option if allowed.)

The second is that a typical F1 race is somewhat more that 305 km in length (except Monaco) and I believe the folks that did the "typical" fuel load calculations were a bit optimistic about the hybrid in "worst case" (fuel use) conditions! Since most cars fuel tanks are integral to the design of the car, the "rational" solution, which would be to carry more fuel, is very limited; to 100 kg max. The more workable answer at this point would be to shorten the races by a lap or two.

A change in the regulations to shorten the race (to the first lap over say 285-290 km) and then by getting rid of the fuel flow rate maximum (while continuing with the current design fuel capacity of 100 kg) would all but eliminate the function of fuel use during the race. (Unless a team really wanted to push their own limits.) It would also allow for a slight increase in the maximum race speed.

Those would be good things for short run solutions. Next season/cars might go with slightly larger tanks if the races really missed the extra laps."

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2. Posted by RDFox, 11/07/2015 22:27

"@scf1fan: What I meant by "common fuel" was that all teams would use exactly the same fuel specification, set by FIA. Could be LPG, could be gasoline, could be kerosene, could be ethanol--the only requirement being that they all use exactly the same fuel, so everyone has the same energy budget.

My rule 2 doesn't actually prohibit hybrid systems--if anything, it would encourage them, by allowing the recovery of kinetic energy shed under braking. The point of rule 2 (which probably could be worded better, I'll admit) is to keep teams from deciding to just sell the fuel to the local electric company in exchange for an equal energy content of electricity, which they then store in supercapacitors on the car to power it. Basically, it's meant to say, "Yeah, you've gotta have the engine on the car itself."

I acknowledge that it's not a long-term solution, for the reasons you mention--although FIA could always mix things up once the power units become homogenous again by a radical change in fuel specification--but it would, if nothing else, open up the formula and allow teams to try different ideas instead of the exceedingly narrow box that FIA has now legislated them into."

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3. Posted by Jonno, 11/07/2015 6:43

"As and when Bernie shows real interest in F1 as a sport and not a money maker, I might care about what he has to say. I'm rather enjoying hearing him whine, because he's pretty much lost the power that he's misused so much in the past.
Things much be bad for the poor old chap, because he's had to drag back his old mate, Mosley to stir up some nonsense to cloud the issue of not paying the teams their rightful money from the income of F1.
"

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4. Posted by You Started It!!, 10/07/2015 18:08

"The problem is there's too many governing bodies/think tanks/etc trying to control F1"

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5. Posted by scf1fan, 10/07/2015 11:48

"@RDFox - So, best case, the first season every one tries something different . . . One or two teams will dominate, probably the ones with the most money to spend and who utilize something between the current F1 engine/PU and what they run at Le Mans. (Though by your rule 2 you are making the current hybrids that are winning most of the primer races illegal? (So you would actually be baring today's fastest technology.) And define common fuel? Avgas? LNPG?) Many of the other teams will just fall flat on their faces. And since each team (or maybe groups of teams if allowed) has to develop their entire engine/drivetrain package on their own, or in combination with other suppliers; say Hewland and/or Cosworth as examples, the costs will be enormous compared even to this years'.

So the next year everyone will tend to gravitate toward last years winning designs, but the last year's winners will more than likely have moved ahead and will still dominate, and some teams will still spend a ton of money trying to optimize some minute parts of their car. Where has that gotten us?

I'm all for a more open formula, but the reality is that there are only a very few more optimal solutions to any given set of problems, and engineers will quickly gravitate toward those solutions. (Which "common fuel" has the most energy available/liter . . . ? There you go, most teams with choose that!! Then that choice will dictate many other criteria for the combustion/power cycle.) The ones that do it better will get more money and that will keep them ahead of the rest of the field. (And dealing with the car; chassis, wheels, wings and things have their own similarly torturous path to go down.)

I'm not being critical of your idea, I'm just surmising that a couple of years out, we would be back to a similar situation that we are in now. (Teams spending the most money to optimize the preferred solution will usually win, unless that solution is provided equally to all teams . . . )"

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6. Posted by Spindoctor, 10/07/2015 11:45

"More old "crap" from the Rattner of F1!

A lot of good ideas in the comments here. My two 'pennorth is that the problem with F1 has virtually nothing to do with the Power Units, everything to do with:

1. Over-reliance on aerodynamics
2. Lack of In-season testing.

"1." is self-explanatory.
As SCfifan pointed out in his comment the combination of Brawn\Ferrari & Schumacher's constant testing and improving the car was a hugely significant part of their long dominance in F1. It would never have happened with today's rules.

At present the teams have basically one shot at making a fast car. Get it fundamentally wrong and there's effectively no way back. Mercedes, by luck or judgement, or the usual combination of the two, got it right last year, and have incrementally developed this year.
Most other teams also developed the same ideas, if not the same car as they had last year, with much the same results: Mercedes rules the roost!

I'd put the relatively poor performance of both McLaren & Ferrari in the last few seasons down to lack of in-season testing\development. Of course next year Ferrari might find the same sweet spot as Mercedes, but then again, they might not......"

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7. Posted by RDFox, 10/07/2015 4:24

"Very simple engine formula that'd make for a MUCH more interesting field here:

* All cars competing in the Championship shall be allotted 151 liters of a common fuel to be specified by the FIA per race. This does not include fuel for practice or qualifying, and each car shall carry at least one liter of fuel at the completion of the race for post-race scrutineering.
* All cars must be powered entirely internally from the allotted fuel, with the exception of the use of external power for starting the engine and sufficient stored electrical power to run the vehicle electronics until the car has come to a safe halt in the event of engine failure.
* The car must be propelled solely through the use of its wheels for traction purposes; pure reaction engines such as jets or rockets are prohibited.

And that's it. That's the only rules on the powertrain. If someone wants to bring a turbodiesel with a hydraulic transmission, they can. If someone wants to show up with a fourteen-liter turbocompound V-12 bolted straight onto the differential, they can. If someone wants to show up with the current power unit, but driving the front wheels through an eight-speed gearbox, they can. If someone wants to show up with a gas turbine (i.e., turboshaft) engine with an electric transmission, they can. If someone's convinced that he can win with a direct-drive reciprocating steam engine, well, good luck with that, but you can.

No restrictions on engine displacement, no restrictions on engine type, no restrictions on transmission type, nothing--just simply, "Here's the fuel you have to burn, and here's how much of it you get to complete the race distance. Figure out a way to do it." (Using a spec fuel would limit the total amount of energy available to the teams, thus effectively limiting horsepower to a reasonable figure--they could come with much more power available, but then they'd not be able to use it for the full race distance without running out of fuel. No matter what you do, 150 liters of a given fuel will only have a certain number of kilojoules of energy available, after all, and engine power is really just defining how much energy it releases per unit time...)"

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8. Posted by petes, 10/07/2015 2:46

"Taking the headline, Bernie is correct. BUT.....
There's recently been talk of the oversight of the sport being undertaken by a 'triumvirate' of F1 cluey persons.....Ross Brawn's been mentioned as one person, forget who the second is but the third is that absolute idiot, Charlie Whiting......
Now, why on earth would you include the fool who is single handedly responsible for the knee-jerk that has become the F1 rule book??!!"

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9. Posted by petes, 10/07/2015 2:46

"Taking the headline, Bernie is correct. BUT.....
There's recently been talk of the oversight of the sport being undertaken by a 'triumvirate' of F1 cluey persons.....Ross Brawn's been mentioned as one person, forget who the second is but the third is that absolute dick Charlie Whiting......
Now, why on earth would you include the fool who is single handedly responsible for the knee-jerk that has become the F1 rule book??!!"

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10. Posted by scf1fan, 09/07/2015 23:47

"I'll add one more comment primarily to the engine/PU/green discussion . . .

Going fast is pretty easy, but invariably you need to use more energy (fuel) to go faster than the other guy. The thing about the Hybrid is that you can save a little bit of that energy when it would other wise be wasted, and then apply it when it is wanted. This is something a straight internal combustion engine can't do! So in a given scenario, all other things being equal, if the straight IC engine takes 10 kilos of fuel to go from A to B, the Hybrid will do the same trip faster on the same amount of fuel! In my mind that's not just being green for being green, that's still racing; though it is utilizing "green" technology which the engine manufacturers want to showcase. Does a Hybrid system cost more? Yes, apparently about 1/6th to 1/3rd of what MB is willing to pay LH per year. (I.E. 5-10 million more than a straight ICE; that savings, while significant, I don't believe is the real problem.)

So, for engines/PUs . . .

Improvement number 1 - for the hybrids, get rid of the fuel flow rate and capacity limitations (short of a max/max for safety) in the car. This is a self solving problem, if they want to burn more gas to go faster, at a certain point the car will weigh more and go slower; or the added weight at the start will burn up the tires. (Or even if they refuel - hate it - they will have to do it more often.) Then we don't have to hear the engineers endlessly talking to the drivers about that subject!! At that point it will be part of a teams initial strategic choice, not a limitation that has to be managed around. (A second way to achieve this would be to keep the current fuel limits but then downsize the ICE one more step. This would probably make the cars slower than they currently are though.)

Improvement number 2 - I don't disagree with an IC engine formula, I just don't think it's the fastest way around the track. To be faster than a hybrid, the IC would have to burn a prodigious amount of fuel (which, weight wise, just might make it slower anyway) or it would have to be significantly lighter. (I like the last part.) But if you are going to have a minimum weight on a car that requires ballast, you might as well ballast the car with something useful, like a turbo, battery/generator/E-motor, etc.. If they could somehow equate the engine outputs, (between Hybrid, non-hybrid, turbo, non-turbo) then they could have a lighter minimum weight for ICE only cars.

On that note, it will always be difficult to balance the volumetric capacity between a Turbo and a non-turbo engine. A 2L turbo (ideally) runs like a 4L non-turbo when it's running at 2 atmospheres . . . need more power, turn up the boost! (Much more easily done today than in prior iterations, and that is what many believe MB does.) They could run non-turbo/non-hybrids, but then many of the engine folks would just leave and you'd have the equivalent of F5000. Or they could run turbo/non-hybrids and people would complain about the sound again. (Though I can't remember anyone complaining about the TAG/Porsche's 1k hand grenades. ;-) If you try to mix turbos and non-turbos, no one will be happy with the equalization formula.

So I think they have the basic engine formula about right, though I dislike the flow/capacity limitations and particularly the limitations and penalties for the number of engine components used. (Another "cost savings" edict!) That leaves total costs/funding (totals and distribution) and race performance (does DRS, tire compound change requirements, etc. help or hurt the racing competiveness) as areas that can be addressed. I think that what we all would most like to see is a full field of cars with close (but not exactly the same) performance capabilities."

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11. Posted by Yeyox02, 09/07/2015 20:56

"Finally Ecclestone has said someting coherent. Another thing F1 needs is FREE TESTING, testing must not be banned. If there are teams that do not want to test it is up to them and if there are teams that want to test it is up to them. Testing ON TRACK is escencial when a new technology is being developed. If testing was not banned, Honda and Renault would not be having the problems they have."

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12. Posted by Oldbuzzard, 09/07/2015 15:21

"I've been saying this same thing for the last 20 years. "

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13. Posted by Paul C, 09/07/2015 13:30

"Bernie actually made some sense. We certainly need to make the cars less expensive. The rules need to encourage racing, not conserving. F1 needs to be green (it's only politically correct to capitalize it like God) in where the races are located. Keep most of the races in Europe with only a few out of Europe where the fan base an economies can really support it. Regional series will do more to conserve resources, build real local fan bases and develop talent for F1 in the long view."

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14. Posted by GrahamG, 09/07/2015 13:24

"The most "ungreen" thing about F1 is the way they cart hundreds of people and tonnes of equipment around the globe to out of the way places with no interest in the sport, the engines are irrelevant in terms of environmental impact, not least because the resources needed for those KERS systems far outweigh the small amount of fuel saved. Yes get rid of KERS and DRS and daft tyre rules and other than essential pit stops, make the sport simpler, that will soon make it cheaper and easier to follow.
Just use the existing engines with simple straightforward turbos, modern tyres (and wheel sizes) capable of lasting a race, make mechanical grip king rather than aero grip and all pitstops a minimum of 2 mins to reduce the benefit of constant tyre changing."

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15. Posted by ape, 09/07/2015 12:04

"Le Mans was a very great race , I watched nearly all 24 hours ,let these engines come in F1 ...oh what ?...these where 4 cilinders turbo hybrids and quiet diesels hybrids ... OMG "

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