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Lauda slams Liberty's vision for F1

NEWS STORY
12/11/2017

Though the odd expletive has to be bleeped out, when three-time world champion, airline owner and Mercedes F1 team non-executive chairman (and owner of 10%), Niki Lauda, talks, one listens.

Days after Liberty Media unveiled more of its vision for the sport's future, and as the teams await news on the sport's new owner's plans to redistribute the prize money, the Austrian has admitted his concern.

"I'm worried," he tells Gazzetta dello Sport. "It is right that the American owners needed time to understand what F1 is, but that is about to expire. And what they think about the future is worrying me.

"The FIA, Chase Carey and Ross Brawn repeat that we need to level the performance, but the DNA of F1 is the opposite," he adds. "You are a fool if you think that to make grands prix more attractive you need to have a different winner every weekend. F1 is about competition. Developing cars is one of the important foundations, as well as the bravery of the drivers. Instead, you want to penalise the best teams, and protect the drivers as if they are babies, with the introduction of the Halo for example."

Indeed, for when speaking to investors on Thursday, Chase Carey said: "If we can tackle issues like costs, the engine, revenue distribution and things like aerodynamics where the cars are not built for passing..." all that was missing was the intention to find a cure for Cancer and peace in the Middle East.

With the teams yet to be told how Liberty plans to redistribute the prize pot a move that will also see the end of historical bonuses, as we report today, they already face a 31m drop in prize money as the sport's new owners appear to be in a spending war of their own, what with new offices in London, proposed offices in New York, Ross Brawn's in-house F1 team and events such as that ahead of the British Grand Prix and the infamous Michael Buffer nonsense in Austin.

Lauda all but confirmed that the unease over the proposed engine changes for 2021 is a side issue. Asked if it is right that Liberty is seeking cheaper engines he admitted: "Yes, and I'm sure we will find a satisfactory compromise...

"But the heart of the problem is something else," he continues. "In the face of cost growth of some 70 million euros from one year to the next, revenues have declined. Where do we want to go from here? There should be ideas for generating more money, but I do not see them.

"I heard that Sean Bratches would like to see the drivers accompanied with grid kids. Is imitating football having new ideas?" he asks.

"It needs a more open project," he insists. "For example, the budget cap. It is logical and correct but it needs a three-year plan to realise it. We have employees, so what do we do with them? Do we just cast them off and throw them on the road?

"For now Liberty has only announced that they want to introduce it, but they have not explained how they intend to realise it."

And that, Niki, is when the fun and games will really begin.

Check out our Sunday gallery from Interlagos, here.

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1. Posted by Greg, 13/11/2017 7:58

"Fully agree with oldbuzzard. If you look back to when the cars had less wings that 20 flies together and much simplier, the racing was still close and very competitive. There was still winners and losers, top and bottom teams depending on drivers, budgets etc. Top teams still sent more money than the lower teams. Nothing there has changed. Simpler cars, simpler engines, possibly closer racing "

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2. Posted by Greg, 13/11/2017 7:57

"Fully agree with oldbuzzard. If you look back to when th vars had less wings that 20 flies together and much simplier, the racing was still close and very competitive. There was still winners and losers, top and bottom teams depending on drivers, budgets etc. Top teams still sent more money than the lower teams. Nothing tjere has changed. Simpler cars, simpler engines, possibly closer racing "

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3. Posted by FormerF1Fan, 13/11/2017 7:51

"Yes indeed, Oldbuzzard. It's not going to be long until the American mindset kicks in. Their goal (and they have said as much) is to Americanise F1. But what they haven't said is their role model is to make it as close as possible to basketball. Endless shouty, uselss, ignorant MCs (think Austin). Plenty of pauses for ads and American viewers to run to the fridge. Think four half-hour heats? Excuse me while I go and puke..."

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4. Posted by Oldbuzzard, 12/11/2017 17:05

"Under my fake name no one knows who is writing this, but trust me I have been around F1 for quite some time and I know Niki Lauda and Ross Brawn and Bernie Ecclestone, but not the Liberty Media folks.

I have great respect for Niki, as a three time world champion and as a businessman. He is, along with Bernie, the most intelligent person I met in the F1 world. But, I don't agree with everything he puts forward. His game is/was driving racing cars and running airlines, very successfully. My game was/is motorsports marketing and promotion; almost 40 years experience. I have also built and raced my own cars,certainly not F1 level, not even in the same universe, so I do have a deep interest in the technical side of racing. I used to have animated discussions with Patrick Head over technical issues. He favored NASA engineering for dominance, I wanted close racing on TV to attract viewers. No viewers, no money....except for teams like Mercedes, Red Bull, Renault, Ferrari, etc. There in is the rub.

If Niki was co-chairman of, say, Sauber, or Haas, or Force India, he would be preaching a different sermon. But he is the co-chairman of a team with 1500 employees, its own windtunnel, an entire department of designers, engineers all with the best tooling in the world; and, a $500million budget. Mark Donahue wrote of the unfair advantage that Team Penske developed in the old Tran Am series of the '60's-'70's. That is exactly what Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull (and soon Renault) have. And the advantage is MONEY.

With $500m you can hire the best of every position on the team: drivers, designers, engine builders, etc. There is no limit what you can do with that kind of budget. Haas has said they have a five-year plan that calls for steady improvement in performance, expecting to win a race by the fifth year. Ha, only if the front 8 to 10 leaders of the Brazilian GP aquaplane of the track in front of them. Without the caliber of key team members as the big money teams, the smaller teams don't have a prayer.

That is, unless the rules are changed. The aerodynamics now allowed on F1 cars are ridiculous. Not only do they make the cars look goofy, things like the front wings are so fragile that they can't withstand the slightest bump. I shudder to think of the costs for windtunnel time to design, and build, such monstrosities.

So, my mantra is simplify the cars wereever possible. The engines must be simplified, gradually of course, but they are not racing car engines, they are road car engines on extreme steroids. They don't attract the money spending public who provide the funds that provide the circuits and the TV contracts, which the smaller teams
live on.

I do believe that Formula One cars should be the pinnacle of racing technology, as they always have been. The cars are safer than ever (talk of halos here,that's for another time), the chassis and suspensions are exotic. But the aero and engine designs are way off the track IMHO. Simplify those two areas and you will lower costs.

Finally, in motor racing where the rules allow innovation and advanced designs (not NASCAR or Indy Car where technology is all but locked in a vault) there will always be winners and losers, it's the nature of sport. There will always be the top three or four teams and there will always be the top four or five drivers. Again, it's the nature of the sport. But offthe map wings and engine systems do not make better racing; faster cars for sure,but not better RACING. Sorry, but Niki's rant about money sounds like the billionaire whining about taxes.

Just look at some history, and see the competition when 80% of the field ran Cosworth engines and still competed and won against Ferrari. Think about that long and hard. "

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5. Posted by Anthony, 12/11/2017 13:55

"As ever, Niki talks a lot of sense."

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