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MAKE RACING AWESOME AGAIN!

Stefan Johansson

TABLE OF CONTENT

BACKGROUND

  • KEY AREAS OF IMPORTANCE

  • ECONOMICS

    • BACKGROUND

    • COST CONTROL

  • STANDARDIZED PARTS

    • AERODYNAMICS

    • FRONT WING

    • BRAKES

    • MONOCOQUE

    • GEARBOX

    • FACTORY COMMUNICATIONS

    • F1 DNA

    • COST SAVINGS

    • REVENUES

  • COMPETITION

    • BACKGROUND

    • MASSIVE REDUCTION OF DOWNFORCE

    • FIXED MAXIMUM LEVEL OF DOWNFORCE       

    • DESIGN ELEMENTS                  

    • BIG INCREASE IN POWER         

    • NOISE                     

    • NEW FORMULA FOR SPEED       

    • WEIGHT REDUCTION                 

    • IMPROVE TIRES          

    • TIRE COMPETITION                

    • 18” RIMS                               

    • SUMMARY OF NEW FORMULA FOR SPEED          

    • 4 WAY MATRIX FOR PERFORMANCE                

    • ELECTRONICS             

    • GOVERNANCE              

    • RACE TRACKS                  

    • DRS VERSUS PUSH TO PASS (P2P)            

    • RACE FORMAT                

    • PITSTOPS                    

    • DRIVER PENALTIES                

    • ENGINE & GEARBOX PENALTIES           

  • ENTERTAINMENT            

    • DRIVER ACCESS              

    • LESS PREDICTABILITY        

    • THE AWESOME FACTOR        

    • BROADCAST GRAPHICS            

    • PRIZEMONEY         

  • RELEVANCE                   

    • BIG PICTURE                

    • F1 GLOBAL LEADER IN INNOVATIVE THINKING                  

    • ELIMINATE IMPORTANCE OF AERODYNAMICS     

  • OVERALL SUMMARY                



BACKGROUND

This document is an effort to offer my views on the current state of Motorsport, and Formula One in particular. For some time now, and for whatever reason, there seem to be a lot of negative comments and chatter from the people inside the business as well as from the fans all over the world.

Why is that? How did we arrive at this situation from a time not that long ago when things were seemingly mostly positive, viewership was huge, the cars were fast and spectacular to watch, we had some great personalities in the paddock, superstar drivers racing the cars and plenty of action and drama on the race track, both between the teams and the drivers. Money was flowing into the business and global corporate sponsors as well as manufacturers were all lining up to be part of the show. Teams were selling at a huge premium and everyone involved in the business was prospering.

Of course, there is not a simple answer to any of this. For sure, the majority of negative comments today is in part due to easy media accessibility for all, but it  seems to me there are real elements of concern in the sport and they have arisen from a gradual process of poor decisions. In some cases on the technical side, knee jerk decisions based on either a bad accident, complaints from the fans and media about the racing not being good enough; in other cases, based on pressure from certain teams or manufacturers in order to keep them in the championship; and finally, but very importantly, a level of political correctness has crept in that, at least in my opinion, has done nothing to make the racing any better on any level, but has instead only contributed to pushing the costs through the roof and created a greater division between the teams, and, as such, made the racing too predictable and less interesting to watch. As a result of all this, the technology has evolved to where we are today, and most importantly, was allowed to evolve to a point where the budgets suddenly went into the stratosphere.

At the same time, the business model for the commercial rights holders have changed dramatically since the introduction of pay-per-view instead of terrestrial TV, which means that there is (theoretically) more revenue, even if derived from significantly fewer viewers. The byproduct of this is that there is less interest for sponsors to spend big money as their metrics are primarily based on the number of eyeballs watching, and in particular, eyeballs in places where the demographics support purchase of the sponsors’ products – not all eyeballs are created equally in the minds of the sponsor – Unilever and Heineken differentiate between reaching eyeballs in Azerbaijan versus Germany and the US. In addition, there are now a number of different viewing platforms besides TV, which is causing even more confusion and a hard to quantify environment for companies to select the best strategy to market their products. The challenge the series and the teams are now facing is how to grow or even just maintain their eco-system.

So, as a result of there currently being a less attractive return-on-investment proposition for the global sponsor, we now have a situation where every team is more or less wholly dependent on the money they receive from the series, i.e. from the FOM, as this represents the bulk of their income. This was never the case before, when major sponsors were the main contributors and the money the teams received from the series was almost the icing on the cake, especially if they did well. Hence, there are now several teams racing without a main sponsor, or if they do have one, it’s for a fraction of what a title sponsor used to pay.

Through all these various rule changes that have occurred in recent years I have a feeling that Formula One has somehow lost its identity and I am not sure anyone, whether it’s the FIA or Liberty (FOM), really know what Formula One stands for anymore. I believe we are now at a point where another two or maybe three decisions in the wrong direction could spell the end of F1 as we know it. People are already tuning out because they have either lost interest or it’s too predictable or not exciting enough or whatever the reason may be. The younger generation doesn’t seem to care, F1 and motorsport in general is struggling to catch their attention. I challenge anyone to define in 3 words what F1 stands for today.

In order to arrive at a situation that has the right balance between ECONOMICS, COMPETITION, ENTERTAINMENT and RELEVANCE - it’s important to first identify the individual areas that matter the most and focus on getting these right and at the same time eliminate the areas that matters the least.

I will first attempt to identify the areas that I feel are important and will then go into more detail on each individual item and come up with what I believe could be a solution, or at least open the door for a debate or dialogue in order to find the best way forward.

ECONOMICS

BACKGROUND: There’s been talk for some time now about various ways to bring the costs down but no decisions have been made on how to achieve this.  In the meantime, the costs are gradually creeping up every year and it's now gotten to the point that even the world’s largest automotive manufacturers and the largest corporate sponsors are reluctant to compete in Formula One.  This being the case, the cost to compete is so high, so prohibitively expensive, that it serves as a barrier to those who would naturally be and traditionally have been involved in the sport.  It’s been clear to everyone for some time now that the costs are unsustainable under the current set of rules.

The major cost is in the constant development war, with the aerodynamics and the power units being the largest contributors of excessive expense for the teams and the engine manufacturers. Despite efforts to curb the costs through various sets of rules, such as limitations on the number of engines and gearboxes used in a season, all it seems to have done is the exact opposite and in fact driven the costs of producing these units much higher. The cost of manufacturing an already developed engine or gearbox is not that expensive in the overall scheme of things, but the cost of developing and manufacturing an engine that must last 1/3 of a season is extremely expensive and seemingly far outweighs the cost of using several engines during the course of the season

Adding the hybrid component to the powertrain has done more damage than all the other rule changes combined in my opinion. It seems that in order to meet the politically correct agenda that is now creeping in to every facet of life, it’s somehow been decided that this is the future of automotive engineering and needs to be part of Formula One as well. Pushed by the manufacturers (under the premise of wanting the formula to have relevance to the manufacturer’s production lineup) who put pressure on the FIA, Formula One had to follow, along with the WEC. Interestingly, both series are now completely controlled and dominated by the OEM’s and would not survive in their current formats without the money being poured in by the manufacturers competing. The privateer or independent teams are now just the clowns that make up the show in both series and have no realistic chance of ever winning a race. So, this means we are stuck with three teams in F1 and currently only one team in the WEC that have any chance of winning. This seems an incredibly high trade off just to be doing the politically correct thing. By introducing this rule and subsequently allowing the manufacturers to effectively take control of both series, it will take some major undoing to get things back on the right track again. What we have now is an engine formula that is turning manufacturers away rather than inviting them to join, which is a very dangerous path. As we all know from past experiences, it’s only a matter of a board decision for any manufacturer, except Ferrari, to stop any racing program if it doesn’t suit their purpose for whatever reason. None of them have any real emotional attachment to racing, which has been shown by Toyota, Honda and BMW who all pulled out of F1 within a few years of each other.

I strongly believe that the current concept of race car design needs a complete reset in almost every major category, but particularly in Formula One. There has been no real innovation since the discovery of aerodynamics. Every aspect of a current race car design always has the aero as the first priority, as this is what gives the most gain in lap-time by far. But as we all know, aside from making the car go faster, there are very few benefits from aerodynamics, if any. It’s the #1 factor in driving the costs higher, it’s the #1 factor in making the racing less interesting, it has no relevance aside from making the car go faster, yet it’s been the primary focus in every single form of racing the past 30 years or more. It’s time for a major reset. The cost of the development war is escalating every year and will continue to do so as long as aero is the prime factor in making the cars go faster.

Another contributing factor to the high cost is the fact that each team must build most components themselves rather than buying “off the shelf” components already manufactured and tested. A loose interpretation of the old “B” team concept (using the parts and resources from another team that is legally allowed) has slowly crept in with teams like HAAS, Sauber (Alfa Romeo), Toro Rosso and Force India to some degree. Under the current set of rules this is by far a much better approach rather than trying to design, manufacture, test and run every single component yourself. We can clearly see the result of this where HAAS and Sauber (Alfa Romeo) are now consistently the “best of the rest” teams.

The result of this is that the “A” teams are starting to gather more and more control of the teams they are supporting, including the choice of drivers in some cases. The concern the midfield teams have is that if we are not careful the entire grid will be controlled by the major manufacturers and it will turn into another version of the DTM where three or maybe four manufacturers control the entire field with satellite teams that are under their complete control.

There has been much discussion about a cost cap, and how to implement it. I don’t believe you can ever entirely control a fixed cost cap because teams will always find a way to circumvent a rule like that. The most effective way in my opinion is to limit the development in all the key areas on the cars that are irrelevant in the bigger picture. There are many areas or components on a car that I believe could be standardized and no one would even know or notice the difference. This would have the same or similar effect to the “B” team concept but it would be the same for everybody, and it would automatically level the playing field in the process. Some of these areas are:

 AERODYNAMICS:

  • Set a fixed limit on maximum downforce (more details to follow in the chapter of Competition). This will eliminate the massive spend on aero development that is currently by far the biggest line item in the budget.

  • No aero add-ons allowed on any surface parts of the car. This will still allow for each team to design a car that is unique looking and will have its own interpretation of the rules, but the emphasis will shift away from purely being made to optimize aerodynamic downforce, and instead shift to other areas that will be of equal importance.

By having a fixed limit on downforce, it will stop teams spending time and money on constantly finding different avenues on aero development in order to gain back the original loss. If the amount of downforce is always fixed, they will be forced to look in different areas to get more performance out of the car. This will drastically reduce the budgets as a large majority of the R&D budget is spent on the never ending aero development war.

FRONT WING: Provide a standard front wing issued by the FIA (no one can tell the difference anyway so it really wouldn’t matter). Even Adrian Newey agrees that if you painted all the wings white and put them next to each other no one would know what wing belong to what car. A large portion of the aero budget would go away if the front wings were fixed and the same for all the teams, supplied by one manufacturer chosen by the FIA. As there is no innovation involved in any aspect of this because of the way the rules are written, it is purely a matter of optimizing to the umpteenth degree. Whoever has the most resources will eventually gain an edge, and the money being spent on this entirely worthless endeavor is just mindboggling.

BRAKES: To put things in perspective, a top F1 team’s brake budget is nearly equivalent to a winning IndyCar full season budget. No one can see or relate to the insanely complicated brake ducting systems each team now must develop, all for nothing in the end. If they were all given the same brake system and brake ducts it would be the same for everyone and no one would even know. With the greatly reduced importance of downforce, it would make sense to go back to a simple brake system whose primary function is to stop the car, not to add more downforce or create more efficient aero.

MONOCOQUE: The FIA should produce a standard tub for all the teams to use that fits their safety criteria and that’s been crash tested by them. It’s a very expensive and unnecessary cost to have every team design, build and then crash test their monocoques before the start of each season. It would make much more sense for the teams to build their engine, cooling and aero package around a tub that is being provided by the FIA at a fixed and reasonable cost. It would save a huge amount of money and again no one would know the difference. Whatever creativity goes into the design of the tub would simply shift to a different area. It may not be the ideal solution for every team and engine manufacturer, but so what. The tub has little relevance apart from bolting the engine, suspension and all the aero bits onto it.

ELECTRONICS AND DRIVER CONTROLS: Implement standard electronics for all the teams. Eliminate most of the current adjustments on the steering wheel. Every button, dial and switch on the steering wheel ultimately leads to somewhere on the car, whether it’s the diff, engine, brakes, steering or whatever. Assume then that each one of these functions requires a significant number of people to design, develop, build, test and maintain for each system. Rinse and repeat every race. The sheer manpower required to develop and maintain all these functions is staggering, and in the end, every team must do the same in varying degrees, and all it does is eliminate more and more skill elements in the driver’s arsenal. This may be the most obvious area that needs to be addressed in order to make the racing a little less predictable and put the emphasis back on driver skills, and by doing so reduce the costs dramatically.

GEARBOX: The gearbox on a current F1 car is a work of art, the engineering is simply mindboggling and the size of some the components are so small they almost look like a Swiss watch in certain areas. Then bear in mind that each team must design, build and maintain these gearboxes. It would be very easy to have one independent manufacturer build the same gearbox for all the cars, no one would know or indeed care. We are already at the point now where the “B” teams are using the complete backend of the “A” team they are associated with. This includes the gearbox, differential, rear suspension and electronics. It would bring the costs down massively if everyone would just use the same gearbox, supplied by the FIA. It would also help level the playing field as this is one very costly component that has very little relevance to the overall importance of the package.

BAN ALL FORMS OF COMMUNICATION WITH THE FACTORY DURING RACE WEEKENDS: This is another area which is completely and utterly unnecessary. I have seen the set-up from one of the top teams first hand and although it’s incredibly impressive, it does absolutely nothing to add to overall package. Do we really need a team of 20-30 people at the base to assist the race team with set up and race strategy, including test drivers running intra-session set-up scenarios or overnight full-race simulations of various set-up alternatives? It’s just another added cost that one team started and then everyone else had to follow. Why they did not nip this in the bud immediately is beyond me. It’s only helping teams to optimize the set up and race strategy, and by doing so, taking another element of unpredictability away, again at a huge cost.

WILL THESE CHANGES MAKE F1 LOOSE IT’S ORIGINAL DNA? F1 lost its original DNA a long time ago as far as I’m concerned. The original rule which was kind of the foundation of F1 and what made it different from almost every other category in racing was that “every team had to manufacture their own cars.” The argument from the purists is that if we allow standard parts F1 will just become another form of IndyCar, where all the teams use the same chassis. If we are brutally honest, F1 is already at that point more or less due to the incredibly strict rules every team have to operate under. There is little room for innovation in any area under the current rules, so every team basically ends up doing the same thing, instead of just using a number of items that are supplied directly from the FIA at a fraction of the cost of having to manufacture every component themselves.

COST SAVINGS: A very rough ballpark estimate of the potential savings from the suggested changes above would be somewhere in the region of $80-100M/year maybe a lot more than that for the top teams as their development would effectively stop in many areas. The breakdown would look something like this:

  • BRAKES:                                  $5-7M

  • AERO DEVELOPMENT:     $30-40M

  • MONOCOQUE:                       $3-5M

  • FIXED FRONT WING:         $10-15M

  • GEARBOX:                              $10-15M

  • ELECTRONICS:                     $5-7M

  • POWER UNIT:                       $20-30M

I’m not sure how many jobs these changes would eliminate, but it would be more than a few. Payroll is always one of the highest line items in the budgets. I understand and I am sympathetic that there will be many jobs lost due to these changes but like in any business, sometimes you need to change to make things work. Car manufacturers are not afraid to shut down entire factories, with tens of thousands of jobs lost, if it doesn’t fit whatever decisions they make at the time. Just because the teams have themselves gradually created a monster, in large part thanks to the manufacturers pouring crazy money into the series, and the governing body not recognizing this until it was too late to stop it, they are now faced with how to fix all this in order to ensure their long-term survival.

REVENUE FLOW: The total payout from Liberty (FOM) to the teams over the past 3 years is averaging around $950M/year. This is then distributed through a complex formula among all the competing teams with a very complicated set of rules based on different tiers and how long each team has been competing, the importance of each team, and not insignificantly, what deal each team was able to cut with the old F1 owners when they needed some sort of concession.   As things stand today, the FOM payout is heavily biased towards the top teams. Hardly any fans or followers of the sport are aware of how this works except the die-hard fans. It would be much fairer and also more interesting to the fans if a payout system was used that started with a fixed amount for each team. The total amount could be $500m ($50m/team). The remaining funds would be the official prize money paid out based on performance in each race, so a rough total of $450/year paid out over 21races. These number should be official, transparent and the same for each race. If the winner of each race, for arguments sake, get $5M, then there would be something to talk about. Money talks and people are intrigued about it, it’s human nature and the way we are programmed. Why keep one of the key talking points for people a secret when it’s already one of the highest payouts in sport and would create some excitement and intrigue among the fans. If we use a very simple formula that everyone can understand based on $200,000/point scored, the total payout for 2018 would look like this:

  • Mercedes         655 points X  $200,000             $131M+50M            TOTAL $181.0M

  • Ferrari             571                                              114M+50M                 164.0M

  • Red Bull           419                                             83.6M+50M               136.6M

  • Renault            122                                             24.4M+50M                84.4M

  • HAAS               93                                             18.6M+50M                  68.6M

  • McLaren          62                                             12.4M+50M                  62.4M

  • Force India      52                                             10.4M+50M                  60.4M

  • Sauber              48                                               9.6M+50M                    59.6M

  • Toro Rosso      33                                                6.6M+50M                    56.6M

  • Williams              7                                                1.4M+50M                    51.4M

TOTAL                                                                                                    $925M

 

In addition, there could be a $25m bonus for winning the championship, bringing the total payout to $950M.

With the proposed technical rule changes, there will be sufficient income for every team to operate and be fiscally sound. If they then wish to improve their competitiveness it is up to each team how hard they are willing to work to find more sponsors, hire better drivers and personnel – and there will still be a level of skill placed on spending money efficiently on the right things to bring the success each team aims for – whether it be winning the championship or having the nicest hospitality unit.

COMPETITION

BACKGROUND: What I am proposing below are very radical changes that will require a complete reset philosophically on every level of how we go racing. Over time, the focus on downforce and aerodynamics have completely taken over every other aspect of racing to the point where it affects not only the car design (that only keeps growing each year on a massive scale), but also how every new race track is designed. Sadly, the end result is that the racing is getting more boring, with less passing as each year goes by, to the point where we instead have to come up with band-aid solutions to try and spice up the show by implementing artificial ways to pass such as the DRS device, and forcing the tire manufacturer to essentially produce a inferior product to make the racing a little less predictable. As we know, none of this has worked out very well. In addition, over time there’s always been attempts at slowing the cars down either by reducing the horsepower and at one point they even went down the road of introducing treaded tires. Yet at no time has there even been a decision to stop the focus on aero development, except for tiny isolated solutions that have been minimally effective and only added to the overall cost each iteration of change.

Learning from other racing series can be extremely instructive as the same physics apply universally. IndyCar and NASCAR have in the past gone in the wrong direction by increasing aero grip, only to find out it was a huge, expensive mistake, and in each case backtracked to a less aero dependent package. If we count how many times there’s been small changes to the aero rules to slow the cars down, or speed them up, or help the overtaking, or whatever the reason was each time, and then count the amount of money that was spent by each team, it’s staggering. A perfect example is the 2019 rules, expected to cost each team an additional €15M and they likely won’t make any difference whatsoever. Yet, not once has the problem been fixed, maybe masked it slightly for half a season before the teams catch up to where they were before. At some point the penny has to drop!

MASSIVE REDUCTION IN DOWNFORCE. REDUCE DOWNFORCE TO A LEVEL OF DRIVABILITY, BUT NOT MORE: (70% or more with most cars) Obviously, the cars should always be safe to drive  and this will not be a problem. But beyond that, they should always be balanced on the edge of adhesion in both low and high-speed corners. By doing this there will be more emphasis on the drivers requiring the use of delicate car control and, in some corners, bravery will again make the difference. The engineering focus will shift more towards mechanical grip – to the vehicle dynamics and tire performance to get back the lost grip from the limited aero downforce. The cars will be much more difficult to drive which will force teams to hire the best drivers available. Many of the great traditional tracks that have been outgrown by the current cars and become boring due to the massive downforce will again become interesting both from the driver’s and the spectators’ point of view. Someone recently suggested a drop of 40-50% downforce but I don’t think it’s enough to make the cars lose their aero sensitivity enough to be able to follow another car closely. The current F1 cars have such a huge amount of downforce that I believe a minimum 70% drop is required to reach the right target where the cars won’t be fully dependent on aero for performance. The Turbo cars of the 80’s had roughly 70% less downforce than the current cars, and they were already on the limit for being aero sensitive when you followed another car. With the current knowledge and technology, I think a lot of the sensitivity can be eliminated compared to back then, but it’s a good indicator. And no one at the time considered those cars to be undrivable because they had too little downforce and too much power, we just wanted more, as you always do as a driver. But one thing was for certain, the cars were awesome to drive.

IMPLEMENT A FIXED MAXIMUM LEVEL OF DOWNFORCE: In order to eliminate and enforce the overwhelming importance of aerodynamics on any current car design, there should be a fixed maximum level of downforce. This can be monitored real time from the strain gauges off the suspension pushrods. It will be no different than checking the engine parameters to make sure they are always within the legal parameters or the tire pressures or any of the other multitude of parameters that are currently monitored in real time. It will feed straight into the ECU along with all the other data being collected from the car while running. So, for example, if there are spikes on the boost level for more than a certain time, or the fuel flow, there will be a penalty, or perhaps the car will be disqualified. The same thing would apply to downforce levels. We have fixed limits on almost every other aspect on the cars today, so why not also on downforce. There are several different methods that can be applied on how to control this so there will be no room for interpretation or ways to cheat the system by the teams. It could either be controlled by a form of an active ride system, that would alter the ride height by small increments in microseconds once the maximum level is reached. The active ride system was already quite well developed in the early 90’s, so with the current technology available, it would be a relatively easy system to implement. It could also be controlled from the front and rear wings or the rear diffuser, all with microsecond adjustments so the car would be safe to drive at all times. Once the research on how to best achieve a consistent and safe way to control this is under way, the right answer will be found very quickly. The FIA will then issue and manage the same system for each team.

 SORT OUT THE DESIGN ELEMENTS SO THE CARS WILL LOOK ATTRACTIVE, AGGRESSIVE AND FAST: By implementing the rule on maximum downforce the current hideous front wings will be eliminated automatically and if the rule of standardized parts will be implemented there will be one front wing design for all the teams to use. No add on aero bits will be allowed on any of the car’s surfaces. Any aero development will be more focused on drag and aero efficiency, which will then also translate to road relevance eventually. As a result of this we will hopefully find a number of interesting and visually appealing solutions.

INCREASE POWER BY 30-40%, WITH A FORMULA BASED ON THERMAL EFFICIENCY AND ENERGY CONSUMPTION. ALLOW MORE FREEDOM TO EXPLORE NEW TECHNOLOGIES BASED ON THIS FORMULA: Create a formula based on thermal efficiency and energy consumption that will have a maximum limit on how much energy a car can use for the duration of a Grand Prix. This will allow and hopefully encourage manufacturers to develop new technologies that is not restricted to the hybrid/internal combustion engine concept only, which is now the only option allowed. Everyone with even a basic interest in engineering knows that there are a number of far more interesting alternatives on engine technology than the electric/hybrid version that is currently the only option. This would truly open the door for F1 to genuinely be at the cutting edge of technology instead of constantly fine tuning a politically correct concept at a cost that is astronomical to everyone involved. Set a target of around 300-400HP increase in power as long as it can meet the energy consumption criteria, which will offset about 30% of the loss in lap-time from the reduction of downforce. By using this formula, it will eventually become apparent what energy source is actually the most environmentally friendly and efficient from a performance point of view. The immediate response I get when I mention this idea to anyone is that the manufacturers will never accept it and will leave instantly. If this is the case, F1 is doomed anyway. If there is one thing that is historically consistent in any form of motorsport, it’s when the manufacturers end up controlling a championship, they will eventually screw it up or simply pull out when it doesn’t suit their purpose any longer. Sometimes they then come back again when they’ve had a rethink (Honda most recent example), but there is zero loyalty or emotional engagement to the sport - for them it’s purely business. If the current manufacturers don’t like the idea for whatever reason, I am certain that there will be other manufacturers that would look at F1 very seriously if it had a more sensible set of rules that would allow for more innovation and had a lower barrier of entry than the current rules provide. Interestingly, there is not one senior executive from any car manufacturer that I have spoken to that is in favor of the electric concept, they all feel this is a political agenda that’s been forced upon them.

NOISE: If the rules are open for different alternatives on engine technology, we will again get back the engine noise as a factor in the overall experience. Fans can hear the difference between the different engine concepts and there will be very noisy engines and some that are not, but there will be something for everyone to relate to and talk about.

MORE POWER-HIGHER TOP SPEEDS-LESS DOWNFORCE-LONGER BRAKING DISTANCE-SLOWER CORNERING SPEEDS-MORE OVERTAKING. With the massive reduction in downforce and a significant increase in horsepower we will see a huge increase in top speed, and as a result, much longer braking distances. This should radically improve the opportunities of overtaking as the entry and mid-corner speeds will be significantly lower, which will again require the drivers to slow the cars down much earlier and a lot more before they turn in to the corners. The target should be somewhere close to 400kph in top speed, it will be super exciting to watch and it will definitely give people something to talk about. It’s hard for people to relate today when there are road cars with higher top speed and more horsepower than a Formula One car, no one cares or can appreciate that the F1cars are insanely fast in the slow and medium corners. We were close to the 400kph in some cases in the 80’s with the turbo cars, at tracks that were infinitely more dangerous than any of the tracks are today, yet there were hardly ever any incidents except when a freak accident of some sort occurred, when something broke on the car for example. We need to get the “AWESOME” factor back somehow. With the added horsepower and less downforce the cars will become beasts to drive and you will see the drivers really wrestling with the cars on exit and entry to the corners. I can guarantee that Lewis, Seb, Daniel, Max and all the rest of the top guys will love every moment of it, and it will automatically weed out the average guys as the teams will be forced to hire the best drivers they can.

WEIGHT REDUCTION: Put more emphasis on weight reduction. With all the focus on the current electric vehicles being the future of not only motor racing but also road cars, the weight of all these cars has increased dramatically, due to the weight of the batteries and the systems to run them. A current F1 car is now 50% heavier than they used to be. At one point the weight limit was 500kg. As an example, 30kg equates to roughly 1 second in lap-time on an average lap of 1m30s. If there was an emphasis on weight reduction as well as an option on engine technology, based on my idea of a fixed amount of energy over the duration of a race distance, there would be some very interesting alternatives surfacing very quickly. And if a good portion of the money currently being spent on the endless and worthless aero development would instead be spent on material technologies and more efficient engine technologies, we would very soon find some very exciting alternatives that would eventually filter down to road relevance. Imagine if every car on the road weighed 30-40% less than the weight of a current car, how much would that save in fuel consumption and subsequently in emissions each year on a global scale? The results would be massive! It seems strange to me that all focus is on electrification when the gains from light weight cars would most likely outweigh the benefits from all electric vehicles, yet there seems to be almost no effort in this area. Road cars today are essentially made of the same materials they were in the early 1900’s, surely with some effort there has to be a lighter, safer and cheaper alternative. There are already materials in existence, both alloys and composite materials that could be implemented, and if there was more focus in this area it would not be long before we would see some incredibly light and strong materials surface that would also eventually be cost effective enough to use for production vehicles. I refuse to believe there are no better alternatives than what is currently being used.

TIRES: IMPROVE TIRE TECHNOLOGY, WIDER TIRES AND BIGGER DIAMETER. Another by-product of the high downforce cars is the current generation of tires. For years, Pirelli has been forced to make a tire that is purposefully poor in performance just to slow the cars down or “make the racing more interesting” since it’s nearly impossible to pass when you follow another car due to the turbulence and the highly sensitive aero on today’s cars. None of this has worked out very well as we can witness every weekend watching any form of racing with aero-dependent cars. In order to offset the reduction in down force, the tires could very easily be made to have significantly more grip and durability. It’s almost comical that every weekend teams at the highest level get caught out with the tires not working at their optimal level. Teams spend $100’s of millions on aero development and engine development, yet on the day, they lose races because the tire pressures were off or the temps didn’t come up their optimal working range, or the front’s didn’t heat up as quick as the rears or whatever. Literally, most races are won or lost depending on how the teams make their tires work. So why isn’t there more focus on the tires in the overall performance of the car from the outset? There are chassis and engine manufacturers competing fiercely against each other, why not allow the tire manufacturers to do the same. Aside from the driver, there are three things that make a car go fast or slow:  engine, chassis and the tires. And the tires are at least equally important to the overall performance of the car as the chassis or the engine. If they would open up the rules and allow more than one tire manufacturer, we would very quickly see a dramatic increase in speed and lap times. This would also be by far the easiest and also cheapest way for the teams to get better performance as the tire companies would pour money into development and marketing. Tires have always and will always be the cheapest and easiest way to get more performance out of a race car. Like I already mentioned, teams spend millions in almost every category of racing on aero, chassis and engine development to gain an extra second in lap-times, yet you can bolt on a set of tires that cost $3,000 and gain far more than that by just having a different compound or construction in the tire. Tires are by a huge margin the cheapest way to gain performance.

ALLOW MORE THAN ONE TIRE MANUFACTURER TO COMPETE: There are at least four tire companies I can think of today that would look at F1 very seriously if the rules were changed to reflect a more modern style tire. Each of these companies is already spending considerable amounts of money in other forms of motorsport, both on development and team support. If they were to engage in F1, we would see benefits not only on the competition side, but also in marketing and development as they would all spend significant money to promote their products through F1. This would help the series, the teams and the entire eco-system would grow accordingly.

18” RIMS TO CORRELATE TO ROAD CAR TECHNOLOGY: All other forms of racing except F1 have by now adapted to the more modern, low-profile size of tire versus the mandated 13” rim that has been part of F1 for nearly 50yrs. F1 has been slow to adapt as it would interfere to much with the current aero packages, and as it’s the engineers that now write the rules, this idea has been shut down every time it arises. If there’s a wholesale rule change on aero reduction, this would be the perfect time to switch to the bigger diameter wheel and tire to make the tires more relevant to tire manufacturers high-performance road tire production, make the cars look more relevant to current road car design, and it will make the cars look far better from a pure aesthetic point of view rather than the image created by these silly looking little balloon tires they are currently running on. If F1 claim that they are on the cutting edge of technology and that it’s important to have some level of road relevance, you’d think one of the first things they would move away from are tires that have not been seen on any road car since the late 70’s!

SUMMARY OF PROPOSED CHANGES: To summarize these changes and how they will relate in overall performance, I’ve provided a “ball-park” guess at the loss or gain from the different changes based on an average lap of 1m 30seconds:

  • REDUCE DOWNFORCE BY 70%:                                 +10-15 sec.

  • WIDER, TALLER AND IMPROVED TIRES:                   - 3-5 sec.

  • INCREASE HORSEPOWER BY 300-400HP:                 - 3-5 sec.

  • REDUCE WEIGHT by 150-200Kilo :                              - 3-5 sec.

Again, this is a ball park guess without having done any significant research but based on my own experience and discussions with other drivers, engineers and designer. But it’s clear that we will be very close to the current lap times quite quickly, but it will be achieved in a completely different way. Hopefully in a way that will bring back the AWESOME FACTOR to F1, with a visually fast looking car that the drivers will have to really fight with in order to get the most out of them. The spectators will be able to see the drivers working hard with the cars moving around a lot more.

 

4 WAY MATRIX consisting of CHASSIS / POWER UNIT / TIRES / DRIVER:

Based on the ideas I’ve presented above, when the new rules are being created, there should always be a focus on what I refer to as a 4-way matrix mentioned above. The rules should always strive for each of the four elements to have an equal importance in the performance of the car. This will also help spread the load of development costs between the teams, engine manufacturers, the tire companies and it will help promote the best drivers to graduate to F1.

 

REDUCE THE IMPORTANCE OF ELECTRONICS: By eliminating all the electronic aids the drivers currently use, except the ones absolutely necessary to operate the car, the emphasis will shift back more towards car control instead of the engineer’s optimizing the car’s performance by studying the data to see where the drivers need less or more support in certain areas, with the help of a multitude of settings all controlled via the electronics on the cars. One of the Technical Directors was quoted recently saying, “We need to throw some things in there to make the racing more unpredictable”. If we instead threw a bunch of things away, we would get to that point a lot faster, and save a lot of money in the process. The electronic driver aids would be a good starting point of that. This is a perfect example of poor governance, that could and should have been stopped immediately when this trend started and has subsequently gotten completely out of hand.




GOVERNANCE: ELIMINATE THE DESIGNERS AND ENGINEERS IN THE RULE MAKING PROCESS AND SIMPLIFY THE RULES: Since the rule making process became a democracy of sorts, which allowed all the teams to have a say through the introduction of the “Technical Working Group” we have seen a progressive decline in the overall quality of the racing. The rules have become more and more complicated each year to the point where the team principals no longer bother to even try to understand them. They simply leave it to their technical team to make the decisions – the 2019 aero rules are a perfect example of this. We have yet another new rule on the aero, apparently to make overtaking easier. This rule will make absolutely zero difference and will only add tens of millions of expense to the already stretched budgets for most of the teams. The engineers are all great and highly intelligent people,  and it’s great working with them and talking to them, but they only have one thing in mind which is to make the cars go as fast as they can. It’s very difficult for them to see the bigger picture of what is required to make all the elements of the package work. I think it’s actually irresponsible of the team principals and the FIA to allow this to have happened in the first place, bearing in mind that the car rules are by far the most important element to make the business model work. The engineers are there to make a car go as fast as possible within a set of rules handed to them. Now we instead have this bizarre situation where the inmates are running the asylum – what could possibly go wrong! Allow the engineers to do what they are good at and leave the governance to people that know what they’re doing. It’s evident that the democratic approach is not working. The teams can’t agree on anything most of the time, and, as such, we always will end up with some form of a compromise that will in the end make no difference, or at best, very little. Instead, it should be governed by putting together an unbiased and well-rounded group of independent people that understand the business from a competition, technical as well as a practical and economic point of view - people who can see in advance when things are heading in the wrong direction before they do, and then act forcefully before it’s too late to course correct. Make a set of rules that are challenging and exciting for manufacturers and private teams alike, and make them fair and equal and, most of all, easy to understand for both teams and the fans.

 

MODIFY THE RACE TRACKS TO MAKE THEM MORE DIFFICULT AND MORE INTERESTING TO WATCH: Virtually every race track today is either designed or modified to suit the current type of high downforce cars. As such, we end up with tracks that are full of low and medium speed corners, 1st gear hairpins, and boring chicanes. These types of corners are not very interesting either for the drivers or the spectators, but are merely there in order to slow the cars down. Chicanes should be banned as far as I’m concerned, and for a track designer to put one in when they have a clean sheet of paper is beyond me. Abu Dhabi is a perfect example, they could have done pretty much anything they wanted with a budget that was through the roof, and we end up with arguably the most boring race track ever made. If the downforce is reduced significantly, many of these tracks can be modified, or in the case of some of the older tracks, put back to their original design as the cornering speeds will again be much lower. Brake distances will be longer and with run off areas now much bigger than they were when they changed them in the first place, they will be much safer. The fans will love watching the drivers balancing the cars on the limit rather than perfecting the art of jumping a kerb in a low speed chicane which is currently the case and where you gain the most time in a modern car. Although the runoff areas are there for a reason, it’s important to find a method to “punish” a driver if he goes over the limit, something that will significantly slow him down to the point where there will be an automatic loss of time that far outweighs the potential gain of trying too hard and going over the limit. As it is today, every driver can find the limit on most tracks within the first 5 laps as there is no real penalty for going too fast and all you have to do is peg it back slightly the following lap. Interestingly, there are no more incidents on the street circuit where there are often no run off areas at all, which goes to show that drivers will be more disciplined when they have to be.

 

REPLACE DRS WITH PUSH TO PASS (P2P): The introduction of the DRS system was a typical knee jerk reaction based on the fact that there were too many complaints that the racing was getting too boring and there was not enough overtaking. Although it has certainly helped the overtaking, it is of no interest as the driver in front is nothing more than a sitting duck, and there is no skill or strategy involved as you can use it as many times as you like during the course of the race. The Push to Pass system that is being used in IndyCar, for example, is far more interesting in that each driver is given a certain number of seconds per race where they can use the P2P, it is then up to the driver to distribute this to his best ability for the duration of the race. For example, if he’s too aggressive in the beginning of the race and he’s run out of seconds he’ll be in trouble at the end of the race if there is a restart or a dice for position with another driver who still has enough P2P time left in the bank to attack. The time consumed could be displayed on the TV monitors so the fans can see what each driver has consumed. It adds another element of intrigue both on the track and for the commentators to discuss during the broadcast. Depending on what engine concept is used, a percentage performance gain could be used to achieve the same result.

 

RACE FORMAT: The current race format is working quite well, it has a good balance of speed and endurance for both drivers and cars. By reducing the downforce significantly, the importance of gaining positions in the first couple of laps will become less important and we will see a more balanced approach from the drivers of where and when they decide to attack in the races, rather than risking everything in the start as they know that’s pretty much their only chance to overtake the way the current cars work. Allow teams to run the full distance if they wish to gamble on tire strategy, no mandatory pitstops. Race tactics will become more important, with more options on fuel strategy, tire wear and overall speed of the cars as the race progress. With the new rules drivers should be able to attack at full speed for the duration of the race, with enough energy and tires to race hard from start to finish.




LONGER PITSTOPS / 1 PERSON PER WHEEL: Although it’s fascinating to watch the coordinated ballet of 16 people during an F1 pitstop, once you’ve seen it a couple of times it’s all the same as far as I’m concerned. It doesn’t bring any further elements that add to the show. In fact, because the pitstop is so fast, it makes the overall race strategy more predictable than if you had a longer stop. If you only have one person on each corner, it will make the time of the stop about 5-7 seconds longer than the current 2-4 second stops. This will alter the strategy calls and we will most likely see some drivers choosing to stay out and others going all out risking the extra time the pitstop will take. Tire strategy will become more important and as such add an extra element of unpredictability.

 

FEWER INVESTIGATIONS AND PENALTIES: Eliminate the endless investigations and penalties for every little incident that occurs during the races. By using a random group of former drivers as Race Stewards, we are only causing confusion as each one of them have their own views of what is acceptable or not. If these things have to be policed based on a subjective viewpoint, it’s critical that the decision is made by the same person or team of people every time, otherwise it’s inevitable that there will be inconsistency. We need one person with great experience and is somewhat current, that is respected by everyone, to be appointed Chief Steward and attend all the races. This way, there will be consistency and all the drivers will eventually know what they can and can’t get away with. This person needs to be extremely tough and firm at all times. Because as we know, each generation have at least one driver who is pushing the envelope to the absolute limit to what they can get away with. They’re always in trouble with the stewards and historically these guys have such a strong conviction that they’ve never done anything wrong, that they are able to gradually wear the stewards down and often get away with stuff they shouldn’t. As it is, we currently get some very odd penalties and decisions depending on who is stewarding each particular race. Again, a lot of this is an unfortunate side effect of trying to sanitize the tracks to a point where there is no longer any punishment for going over the limit.

 

NO PENALTIES FOR ENGINE AND GEARBOX CHANGES: Can anyone even remember the original purpose why this rule was implemented? I think it was in the interest of cost reduction that it was decided that teams would only be allowed a maximum of 3 engines per season and the gearbox had to run at least 5 consecutive races before it could be replaced. It is clearly evident that this rule has had the exact opposite effect and have made the costs spiral even higher. By implementing a Draconian set of rules that are being enforced in an equally Draconian manner, the manufacturers are being forced to develop and build engines that are infinitely more expensive to produce than it would be by simply allowing a sensible number of engines and gearboxes over the course of the season. Every team and manufacturer is struggling to meet the strict criteria of making both the engines and gearboxes last, and by enforcing the rule as strictly as they do, the competition and subsequently the entertainment side have become a complete farce in many instances. The constant grid penalties are ruining the races and the competition is becoming a joke when a driver starts a race from last on the grid with 50 or more grid penalties. The team’s (rational) behavior of strategically taking penalties in order to position themselves for a better future race leads to even more confusion amongst fans and adds nothing to the racing. As always, the best way to reduce the costs in the long run is by having rules stability, the constant tinkering with the rules are just driving the costs higher every time, and the top teams with big budgets will always gain more from these rules changes as it’s the R&D that drive the costs through the roof, not the manufacturing of parts. 

ENTERTAINMENT

 

MAKE THE DRIVERS MORE ACCESSIBLE: The drivers are the stars and they will always be more important to the fans than the cars or the teams. Every series other than F1 have some form of planned fan engagement either the day before the race weekend starts or for an hour at some point during the race weekends. Make it compulsory for each driver to do a certain number of days as part of the super license. It’s a pain for the drivers but in the long run it will benefit everybody. Make it mandatory for the promoters, broadcaster and drivers to provide X hours of promotional appearances prior to each race in each country.  By forcing / helping each promoter to better promote the races, each driver will be helping themselves by building a better audience and a more valuable ecosystem.  Cross promote the drivers in other forms of entertainment in order to gain a larger following and new demographics.

 

MAKE THE RACING LESS PREDICTABLE: By implementing some of the rule changes I have already mentioned in the chapter on Competition, the racing will become less predictable without the use of any artificial devices such as the DRS. The combination of less aero, more power, less forgiving tracks, less driver aids and longer pit-stops will all contribute to more human errors and will not only make the racing a lot more interesting to watch but it will also sort out the good from the average. By definition, the more well engineered a car is, the less chance of something unpredictable to happen as it makes the life of the driver much easier. By eliminating some of the electronic aids and making the cars have significantly less downforce, this will automatically help making the races less predictable. By enforcing the track limits there will be more occasions for drivers to make a small mistake which is often all a following driver needs in order to make a move that would otherwise be impossible. The reduction in downforce will help the car following to stay much closer to the car in front, and as such he will be able to get a run on the car in front on the exit of a corner without having to rely on DRS to pass on the following straight. It's no coincidence that some of the best races we’ve had in recent years have come when there have been changing conditions, usually unexpected weather, thus making it difficult for the engineers to model the race strategy to the nth degree in their race simulations. We won’t be stuck with “he’s now in the DRS zone” or “will he do an undercut or an overcut” which it is pretty much what it’s reduced to at the moment.

 

BRING BACK THE “AWESOME” FACTOR: F1 should be defined by one word, AWESOME! With these proposed rule changes, we will arrive at a point where we will again have some beautiful and spectacular looking cars that will also sound great. Make bravery one of the tools that count in a driver’s arsenal, and allow the drivers who are willing to stick their neck out to gain a couple of extra tenths in a high-speed corner do so, and let the fans enjoy that show! The massive reduction in downforce will visibly show the car control of the drivers as opposed to the current cars which are on “rails” all the time. We will have talking points like “top speed around 400kph” and “1,300-1,400HP” Power Units, which to anyone is AWESOME and it will get people’s attention. It’s difficult to explain that F1 is the ultimate in motorsport when we have a number or regular road cars today with similar power and top speeds. How do you explain why F1 is the ultimate when you can buy a Jeep Truck with 800HP for less than $100,000. “Well, the F1 cars have a huge amount of downforce which means they are really fast in the slow and medium speed corners…and because they are so fast in these corners they have had to reduce the power in order to slow them down. And because the cars have so much downforce it’s made it very difficult to follow another car which makes overtaking really difficult, so to fix that we came up with this idea called DRS. This is a really clever device that that the engineers who design these cars came up with, that the driver following another car can use when he wants to overtake the car in front. There is nothing the driver in front can do at that point to defend himself, but it’s supposed to spice up the show.”  Not a great or easy explanation for someone who is trying to understand the sport. Anytime you have to explain why something is great you’re already in trouble, this is why we need to simplify everything so that anyone can immediately see and understand that this is really AWESOME!

How simple would it instead be to use the formula of “Less Aero/Lower Cornering speeds/More Horsepower/More Acceleration/Higher Top-speeds/Longer Braking distance/ More Passing/More Visible Car Control”? No one understands or can appreciate downforce, you can tell them the cars produce 5,000KG of downforce or 50KG, most people wouldn’t know the difference between that and a bar of soap. But everyone understands 1,400HP and 400KPH top speeds, everyone is immediately impressed by that!

 

IMPROVE THE BROADCAST AND THE GRAPHICS:  I find it very difficult to follow any race and fully understand the dynamics of what is happening especially once the pitstops have started. The graphics and the information you get is very limited and quite poorly presented. It has gotten better this last year (at least in the U.S. now that we see the Sky broadcast) but there is still a massive amount more that could be done to keep the viewers better informed of what is going on. I don’t think you can have too much info or data displayed, anything that will keep the viewer better informed is a plus. The teams already look at a lot of interesting data so a lot of the information is there and just needs to be presented to the audience so they can better understand what’s transpiring. With the emerging Drone technology it would be possible to show a completely different view of the cars and how a battle between different cars transpire that will add a whole new element. I’ve seen some prototype footage of this already done at some minor events, and it’s a completely different experience than with fixed cameras. This is one area that I believe could really be a game changer for the viewing experience.

 

CREATE A HUGE PRIZEMONEY FUND FOR EACH RACE THAT IS TRANSPARENT AND OFFICIAL: As I have already outlined earlier in this article, allocate a large portion (30-40%) of the total pool of funds from FOM as prizemoney rather than a guaranteed amount before each season starts. This a common management tool to align incentives with performance. Money talks and people are always curious when there’s big money involved in anything. If Mayweather would be fighting for a few thousand dollars each match no one but the absolute die-hard boxing fans would bother tuning in, but because it’s tens of millions at stake everyone is curious of the outcome, even people that don’t like boxing. This is human nature. As it is, not many even know what the prize money is in F1, only the diehard fans have some idea what each team get before the season even starts, based on an incredibly complicated payout schedule. If we use the already mentioned formula of $200.000/Point, the prize money for each race would be:




  1. 25 points x $200.000           $5.000.000

  2. 18                                                  $3.600.000

  3. 15                                                  $3.000.000

  4. 12                                                  $2.400.000

  5. 10                                                  $2.000.000

  6. 8                                                    $1.600.000

  7. 6                                                    $1.200.000

  8. 4                                                    $   800.000

  9. 2                                                    $   400.000

  10. 1                                                    $   200.000




RELEVANCE

HOW IMPORTANT IN THE BIGGER PICTURE IS IT THAT FORMULA ONE OR MOTORSPORT IN GENERAL IS RELEVANT? Does anyone know what F1 stands for today?  This may be the most important question of all in order for F1 or motorsports in general to survive. In order to be relevant it is obviously important to understand in what context you want to be relevant. In the case of Formula One, does this mean you must be socially relevant or more relevant towards the fans, or can both be achieved in a realistic way. If you focus on being socially relevant, it is critical to understand if you are following an objective and realistic path or just a narrative. Is it more important that we have an engine formula that is seen to embrace the environment than it is to have fast, loud and spectacular cars? Is it more important that we have engines that can last 1/3rd  of a season than it is to have a hugely powerful engine that may break every now and then, but will either reward or punish the driver and team instantly if they win or the engine breaks? Is it more important that we have race tracks that are so sanitized and safe that it’s become almost impossible to have a bad accident than it is to have tracks that will punish a driver if he goes over the limit?

 

Political correctness has now crept in to every aspect of life. In some cases, it seems that companies are more interested in doing what is perceived to be the politically correct thing, than it is to make a profit or even do what makes good common sense. Everyone is paranoid about not upsetting anyone. Is motorsport about being correct in every way, does it have to satisfy all the various agendas that are currently being promoted through every possible platform by anyone who cares to voice their opinion. Is it even possible to keep everyone happy anymore? I think it’s time to do some serious soul searching in order to work out what it is that really matters both for the competitors and the fans.

 

FORMULA 1 COULD BECOME THE GLOBAL LEADER IN INNOVATIVE THINKING AND IMPLEMENTATION OF NEW TECHNOLOGIES: By creating a formula that will be based around a maximum amount of energy, wherever the source is coming from, it could be gasoline, electric, hydrogen fuel cells, kinetic, or anything else that may not even be invented yet.  I believe this is the one area Formula One could really make a difference and lead the automotive world towards a truthful and honest direction in power unit technology. Instead of following one politically motivated directive it would be better to do the complete opposite and create your own directive, that will by default eventually become the correct and obvious path forward. It will very soon become apparent which is the most efficient alternative based on the principles of thermal efficiency, energy consumption, weight and power output. For the first time in a very long time, F1 could justify the spend of the manufacturers by inventing and creating things we may not even know exist at this point. Unleash all the bright minds that are already working in F1 and let them get creative! Instead of pouring away money on silly aerodynamic tweaks, it could be spent on something that would truly make a difference. Imagine if someone realized some of Nikola Tesla’s ideas for example, or a number of other incredibly brilliant concepts that are already out there. Sport is the perfect arena for this as we are talking about competition before a concept is proven. Once it is proven and everyone can see how brilliant it is, it’s hard to put the genie back in the bottle and the world will have to follow whether it’s following the politically correct agenda or not. Whomever comes up with any of these new concepts will be known worldwide for doing something that really made a difference in human history and Formula One will again find its rightful place in the automotive world.




ELIMINATE THE IMPORTANCE OF AERODYNAMICS: I’m repeating myself here, but it’s important to understand that aerodynamics is the only item that falls under all four categories that are the key areas of Formula One. The fact that aerodynamics is affecting all four categories in a negative way should be a wakeup call more than anything.  Aerodynamics have the least relevance of anything on a racecar, except making the car go fast. Yet it’s the highest spend by a massive margin for every team. It’s the largest contributor to the lack of racing and the entertainment is suffering because of this, yet we just keep on piling on more and more of the same, year after year! Eliminate the importance of aerodynamics and shift the focus to other areas to gain back the speed. I have already addressed the details on how to achieve this earlier in the article.

 

SUMMARY: It’s become quite evident that in order to get things back on the right track it will not be enough to continue with small band-aid fixes here and there, in fact, it will only make it worse as history has shown over and over. What I am proposing is based on what I believe is a realistic and objective analysis rather than following a narrative based on a number external factors and political motives – motives that will never add anything to help maintain the popularity or grow the sport into the future. In order for the sport to survive, it is imperative that we all understand that it’s unsustainable in the long run to deviate from the core elements of what made Formula One such a huge sport to begin with.

 

There are a number of initiatives being proposed – adding to the show, bringing the costs down, make the racing less predictable, branding , digital media etc. None of this will make any difference unless we get to the core of the problem, which is the cars and how they are designed. If I may use the analogy of a restaurant, you can do all the slick and fancy stuff, new signs on the front, social media campaigns, celebrities, new menu’s, etc. but if the food sucks no one will come back or show up in the first place.

 

If we don’t fix the cars and make them exciting and interesting to watch again it won’t matter what else we do. Once we fix the cars everything else will fall into place automatically. The tracks will become interesting and challenging again, the racing will be close and exciting to watch, the human component will become at least as important as the technical, and the drama will unfold accordingly.

 

Formula One have always been about brave young men driving these crazy fast cars on the limit, and if we lose that stigma, there is nothing that makes it unique in any way. It will be just as interesting to watch a bunch of gamers racing online. From a drivers perspective there is nothing that comes close to the experience when you’re on the limit and you decide to step into that unknown territory by taking a highspeed corner flat for the first time in order to gain that extra tenth or two, not knowing for sure what the outcome will be, when you’re literally staring at your own soul for that brief moment. Those are the things that every driver worth his salt is craving. They define who you are as a person and go much further than just that brief split second. Everyone who is present can see and appreciate it, and this is what makes, or at least used to make, our sport so incredibly different and special compared to most other sports.

 

Formula One should and could write its own rules. It’s a big enough sport to set the directive for anyone that wants to compete in it or follow the sport. If not, as we can clearly see at the moment, we will end up with a very confusing and complicated product that’s neither here or there, and no one can fully understand it. We want to see brave drivers on the race track, but we also need brave leaders in the boardroom to make this happen.  



 

Stefan Johansson © March 2019

The Star Drivers of the Rolex 24 at Daytona, F1 News & What to Expect in 2019

Eric Graciano

#SJblog 99

JT – The Rolex 24 at Daytona kicked off the 2019 season for many this year. The field was stacked with competitive cars, teams and star drivers from the DPi ranks down to the GTD cars. Just a few of the famous drivers racing included two-time F1 champion Fernando Alonso, five-time IndyCar Champion Scott Dixon, CART champion and F1 star Alex Zanardi, DTM champion Rene Rast, Rubens Barichello, Kamui Kobayashi, Helio Castroneves, Alexander Rossi, Juan Pablo Montoya, Simon Pagenaud, Sebastian Bourdais, Romain Dumas, Felipe Nasr, A.J. Allmendinger, Simona De Silvestro and Timo Bernhard with many more on hand.

Video via NBC Sports YouTube Page

In fact, with its early season date and the quality of competition (with very few gentleman drivers these days), it’s reasonable to argue that the 24 Hours of Daytona now boasts a higher level of driving talent than the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Do you agree?

SJ – Yes, you’re absolutely right. Because it takes place in January there is no conflict for any drivers apart from the one’s racing in Formula E, which means we get some really high quality drivers from every category of racing. Daytona is always a great way to start the season, because it’s a 24 hours race you get a lot of seat time and most of the time the conditions are far from ideal which means you have to improvise quite a lot both with the handling issues of the car and also with the constant traffic between faster and slower cars.

There’s a very good mixture of single-seater guys, NASCAR guys and sports car drivers. It’s a very strong field of drivers that’s for sure, and you often find yourself in a group of 3-4 great drivers duking it out over a double or triple stint. It’s a lot of fun and it really gets you in racing mode before the real season starts.

JT – The race itself was very interesting and very competitive throughout the field until rain began falling near 5 am. Ultimately, Fernando Alonso, Jordan Taylor, Renger Van Der Zande and Kamui Kobayashi won overall. That means that Alonso now adds the Rolex 24 to his two F1 championships and his Le Mans 24 win last year. Next up for him is the Indy 500 this year.

What did you think of Alonso’s drive and the competition overall?

Photos via @fernandoalo_oficial

Photos via @fernandoalo_oficial

Unfortunately, Scott, Ryan Briscoe and Richard Westbrook lost five laps in the No. 67 Ford GT due to early contact with the wall by Briscoe. But they rallied back to 4th place overall, just a lap behind the GTLM class-winning No. 25 BMW M8 GTE. It’s a shame the race had to end under red flag.

SJ – It was a pity the rain came, it really ruined what could have been an epic race, with great battles going on in all the different categories, but it was sort of an anti-climax at the end. Alonso had some fantastic stints and really put on a clinic at one point. Being the great racer that he is, he must have been loving it out there, actually racing hard against some of the other top guys in the prototypes. It was a tough one to swallow for Scott and the guys, fighting back from where they were laps down, had they stopped one lap later for what became the last stop in the race, they would have won. Scott had a couple similar monster stints as Alonso in the middle of the night where he was just flying.

JT – In pre-season F1 news, the Formula One Promoters Association (FOPA) recently complained that Liberty Media would significantly harm the series if it proceeds with a plan to move to more pay TV for coverage of the series globally. FOPA is concerned that such a shift will dramatically decrease the number of viewers of F1 on TV.

The group also protested an apparent deal between Liberty Media and the promoter of the upcoming F1 street race in Miami. The promoter was offered a profit share partnership rather than the more traditional model where races pay tens of millions of dollars for the right to hold the event. What are your thoughts?

SJ – I have to agree with the promoters. In terms of TV, this is a dilemma that started a while back. Now the promoters are starting to feel the crunch too but I think the teams have already felt that for some time.

It may be coincidental but since F1 started being televised on pay-TV (cable TV) rather than broadcast TV the eyeballs have dropped dramatically. So has sponsorship. What used to be a $100 million title sponsorship deal is now in the range of $15 million. It’s totally changed the dynamic because sponsorship is so much harder to come by. It has completely changed how revenue flows to the teams.

Every team, apart from the manufacturer teams, is now 100 percent dependent on Liberty Media or the series to fund the bulk of their programs. Sponsorship used to be what kept the teams going and whoever was willing to work a bit harder was able to find more money and hire the best people, etc. The money that came from Bernie [Ecclestone] at the time was the icing on the cake. That’s definitely not the case now.

A pay-wall might help the bottom line for Liberty Media short term but at the same time the whole eco-system of the series is shrinking. The more viewers you lose – at some point a line is crossed and that model can’t work, so unless they are able to find another method, whether that is through digital media or other forms of generating real interest and growth it will be problematic.

I never understood why Liberty made it public knowledge that they’ve offered Miami a race essentially for free? No wonder the promoters are frustrated. It’s inevitable that they’re now all asking “What about us? We’ve been paying you tens of millions per year to host a race with fees on top of that.” There is most likely more to this story than we know and we have to assume they are on top of this situation.

Personally, I am not convinced all the effort of cracking the US market is really worth it in the end, they have been trying for the best part of 40 years now and things have not changed a whole lot. To me it seems like a lot of heavy lifting to try and penetrate the cultural differences between US Sports and European or Global sports in general. Soccer, or football as it’s called in Europe is still minor compared to the NFL, NBA and Baseball for example. The US have always had their “own” sports that are equally minor in most other parts of the world.

JT – Looking ahead to the 2019 F1 season with rules changes going into effect what kind of impact do you think they can make?

SJ – Well, I think the 2019 aerodynamic rules which are aimed at supposedly helping more overtaking happen will make absolutely no difference – zero percent. All it’s doing really is costing the teams another 15 million Euros each to develop their new aero packages.

There was a recent article in Autosport with Nikolas Tombazis, the FIA’s aerodynamicist, where  he is attempting to explain why the FIA made this rule. And what they were trying to achieve.  I read first three paragraphs of it over and over again, and just glazed over in the end, it’s so complicated to even try to understand his explanation. I even talked to a former F1 technical director and designer and he said, “yeah I read the same thing and I didn’t understand a word of it.”

I think this sums up the current situation quite well, I am a huge fan and am trying to stay in tune with what is happening in the business from both a technical and business point of view, we have a highly qualified F1 designer and we both agree that it’s now gotten so complicated that it’s impossible to make any sense of any of it. If these are the guys making the rules, we’re in serious trouble. No one, excepts the boffins that wrote it, can understand the rulebook anymore.

JT – Since the announcement that Charles Leclerc would join Sebastian Vettel at Ferrari this season was made there has been speculation about how much Leclerc will push Vettel and whether that could destabilize Vettel or the team itself. What do you think?

Photos via @Charles_Leclerc

Photos via @Charles_Leclerc

SJ – I think he will push Vettel, there’s no doubt. The only thing that separates the really good drivers from the rest today is race-craft. Speed has little to do with it anymore because the way the cars are engineered, drivers are going to get to the limit of the cars pretty quick. I think Leclerc will be up to speed quickly, how he will go in the races we will have to wait and see. Every indication until now would say he will do a great job, but we won’t know until the pressure is on.

One would hope that Ferrari would stay away from politics and look at the bigger picture and what the best strategy would be to win the championship. Ferrari’s been known in the past to let emotion get in the way of an objective, balanced approach. Their best hope to win the title is still with Vettel, so I believe that’s where the emphasis will be.

Leclerc has had a full season now with Sauber (Alfa Romeo) so he’s not exactly a rookie. But I think race-craft will come into play at some point. It’s a similar situation to what Max Verstappen had coming into Red Bull. He was obviously mega-quick from the start but you didn’t really see the flaws until he got into a car that could actually win races.

When you throw away a race you could have won, it’s a different story than if you’re fighting for 6th or 7th place. So that will be different for Leclerc but I think his pace will spice things up a little bit. He’ll do well. He’s got good management with Nicolas Todt who knows the business very well and that will probably help him too initially.

JT – Of course, Leclerc’s signing last year isn’t the only development at Ferrari. Shortly after this year began it was announced that Maurizio Arrivabene would be replaced as team principal by Ferrari’s technical chief, Mattia Binotto. What do you think of Ferrari’s move to put Binotto in charge?

SJ – I don’t think it’s necessarily a good move. To put all of the responsibility on Binotto I don’t think is a good idea. He’s been the technical director and he’s obviously very good at that. Why would you distract him from doing what he’s good at? He’s too valuable as technical director in my opinion.

They had a car last year that was, at least for a while, the best car on the grid. Now Binotto is going to have to clutter his brain with all of the other nonsense, sitting in the FOM meetings, dealing with all of the politics and the daily dramas of running a top level F1 team. It’s a tough responsibility and a lot for one guy to handle.

JT – One of the most significant changes to the F1 grid for 2019 is the transition of Force India to “Racing Point F1 Team”. Canadian billionaire businessman Lawrence Stroll and a group of investors acquired the team last summer and are taking it into a new era with Sergio Perez returning as a driver alongside Stroll’s son Lance who moves from Williams to Racing Point. How do you think the re-made team will perform in 2019?

Image via: @thisisf1

Image via: @thisisf1

SJ – I think they will go very well. If they keep doing what they’ve been doing in recent years and just add the better resources and stability that Lawrence will bring, I think they’ll be very competitive. Lawrence is successful for a reason as he’s proven in all his other business endeavors. He hires good people and lets them get on with it – a bit like Flavio Briatore was when he ran Benetton and Renault. I think they’ll be very strong.

JT – How do you think Haas F1 will perform this season? Though they continue to receive criticism from other F1 teams for their mode of entry into the series as a client of Ferrari, they’ve been solidly in the mid-pack.

SJ – Haas hasn’t done anything that wasn’t in the rules. I’ve been advocating that path for years. That’s what I tried to do when I had a stab at creating a new Formula 1 team some years ago - the “B team” principle if you like. 

Why wouldn’t you do that if the rules allow it? I think it’s going in that direction across the board now anyway. Teams like Williams and McLaren will find it harder and harder to stay competitive being independent. When you look at the resources Mercedes and Ferrari have, not only do they have money, the best people and equipment, they now have two extra teams of cars running. That’s more data, more of everything at a time when testing is basically banned. They can utilize every possible opportunity they have to gather data.

I think Haas has the potential to improve but they’re dependent on what Ferrari gives them. If Ferrari’s good, particularly on the engine side, I’d say they’ll be good too. The engine is the big leap for Haas and for Sauber as well obviously. Last year Sauber all of a sudden leapt from the back to the front of the mid-pack.

JT – Sauber has been the stand-out of the F1 paddock since Alfa Romeo/FIAT took an interest in them and installed Frederic Vasseur as team principle. They also have Kimi Raikkonen driving for them this season alongside Antonio Giovinazzi. How do you think they will perform?

SJ – With Alfa Romeo now taking a bigger stake in the team I think they will be the favorite underdog now. Kimi has such an incredible following and his fans will be pumped up. And Vasseur is very good. He has a winning mentality and he knows the business inside and out. You can see that he has definitely lifted the whole team since he joined last season with his approach and discipline and how driven he is.

JT – Renault has also experienced significant change with Daniel Ricciardo having joined the team and the manufacturer having ended its relationship as engine supplier to Red Bull Racing. Now the team has one of the top drivers on the grid and can focus more on its own philosophy for engine development. Where do you think they will figure in the 2019 season?

Image via: @danielricciardo

Image via: @danielricciardo

SJ – I think if Renault is still committed to delivering the resources they’ve promised – and I think they are – they have a pretty good engineering group to rely on. The leadership of the team isn’t really F1 or racing people and that can lead to the wrong decision being made here or there. But I think they’ll be pretty strong.

JT – Further back on the grid are McLaren and Williams F1. McLaren made what some consider positive news with the hiring of Andreas Seidl, the ex-boss of Porsche in the WEC, as its new managing director. His arrival along with new drivers Carlos Sainz and rookie Lando Norris has created a small amount of momentum.

At Williams F1, the return of Robert Kubica to F1 alongside rookie George Russell is the main news. How do you think both teams will perform this year?

SJ – I think hiring Seidl is a very good move for McLaren. That should definitely help the whole program. But it will still take more time to rebuild everything there, even with Seidl coming aboard. An F1 team is like a big ocean-liner these days in terms of how long it takes to respond or change course. Once you make a policy decision or a philosophical decision on the design of a car it’s very hard to change direction. You kind of have to stick with what you’ve got which is what happened last year to McLaren with their aerodynamics. They discovered at some point early on that they went down the wrong avenue with aero and they were stuck.

Unfortunately, it’s hard to see Williams improving much. They made some poor decisions in previous years and I don’t think they have the resources or the budget to crawl out of the hole they are now in.

JT – Back at the front, Mercedes goes into 2019 with the same basic cast of people and will likely be strong again. Red Bull now has Max Verstappen as its clear number one driver with the departure of Ricciardo. They also have Honda stepping up, supplying them as well as Toro Rosso. How do you think these two will fare?

Image via: @lewishamilton

Image via: @lewishamilton

SJ – It will be the usual suspects up front, no question. Mercedes will be right there. Lewis is getting better and better every year and I don’t think he’s even close to his peak yet, which should be a huge concern to all the other teams and drivers. He’s the one driver who at the moment you can say with 100% certainty is really making the difference when it matters.  I think Red Bull, not necessarily this season but maybe by 2020, will be very strong. I’ve got a feeling as long as Honda is fully committed, and as I’ve been saying for three years now, they will eventually get it right. And when they get it right they will dominate.

With Red Bull it will only be a matter of time before they crack the code. I think we’ll see Red Bull, Honda and Verstappen totally dominating at some point in the next five years.

I think Verstappen really blossomed last year. He had a couple of bad races at the beginning of the season with some silly mistakes. But along the way it seems like something clicked and he’s now kind of figured it out. I think he’s at the point now where he can see the big picture. I think you’ll find that next to Lewis he’ll be the most complete driver among the guys out there. He’s going to be very hard to beat.

JT – In more refreshing racing news, IndyCar is looking stronger and stronger for 2019 and beyond. The series has signed a new title sponsor – Japanese tech firm NTT - continues its multi-year TV deal with NBC/NBC Sports which will now televise all IndyCar races including the Indy 500 and has gained a new presenting sponsor for the Indy 500 - insurance provider Gainbridge.

Logo via IndyCar

Logo via IndyCar

There’s talk of additional races with a return to Australia in 2020 and possibly Japan as well. Car count is up with grid numbers likely to be in the mid-20s. Ex-Formula One drivers and hot-shoes like Felix Rosenqvist are joining the series, and the level of competition should be higher than ever. What are your thoughts looking ahead to the 2019 season?

SJ – I’m excited about IndyCar. Jay Frye (IndyCar president) and his guys are doing a great job. They’re racers and they know the business inside and out. They’re pragmatic in their approach and I think the competition decisions that have been made have been great. It’s going from strength to strength.

And they’re doing it in increments. It’s not like knee-jerk wholesale changes. It’s just fine tuning it a little to make it better every year. I know they’ve also been trying hard to get a third manufacturer onboard. They’ve talked to everybody and I’m pretty confident that at some stage one of them will join, which would be great.

Amongst the top level racing series in the world, IndyCar is relatively affordable in the overall scheme of things and a very attractive proposition for any team or manufacturer to join. The support the manufacturers give definitely helps. If a third manufacturer joined in, then I think IndyCar would really take off. We are seeing more and more teams joining, and the grid is now limited by the engine supply more than anything. If there was a third engine manufacturer we would see even more teams joining.

We now also have two Swede’s in the series which is great for all the fans back home, I know both Felix and Markus are both fully committed to IndyCar and it will be exciting to see how they get on.

Image via @scottdixon9

Image via @scottdixon9

Scott in the meantime is quietly preparing to defend his title for the fifth time, and I fully expect him to come out just a little better than he was the previous year. He never stops to amaze me, the discipline and work ethic is incredible after so many years. He’s definitely one of the best in history in my opinion. The competition is getting stronger every year and he just keeps grinding away, racking up points and wins.

Scott Dixon and Lewis Hamilton Win their 5th Championship, and Scuderia Corsa enters IndyCar

Eric Graciano

#SJblog 98

JT – Let’s begin the blog with recognition of Scott Dixon’s amazing fifth IndyCar title, second only to AJ Foyt in number of championships. He clinched the title at the Sonoma Grand Prix finale, beating championship runner up Alexander Rossi by 57 points. Dixon scored three wins in 2018, a number equal to the three wins taken by Rossi, Will Power and Josef Newgarden. But Scott finished in the top-five in 13 of the season’s 17 races.

Photos via: @ScottDixon9

He now has 44 IndyCar wins, third on the all-time list behind Foyt and Mario Andretti.

“To do that in this era of racing with reliability the way it is, the evenness and competitiveness of teams, is unbelievable. It's amazing to think of what he's accomplished,” said Sonoma winner Ryan Hunter-Reay.

The mayor of Indianapolis declared Monday, September 24, “Scott Dixon Day”. And there’s a feature-length documentary on Scott called “Born Racer” that debuted on October 2. 

Image by:  @BornRacerMovie

Image by: @BornRacerMovie

You’ve been with Scott, as his manager, for all of the 18 seasons he’s raced in IndyCar and beforehand when he drove for your Indy Lights team in 1999. What are your thoughts on Scott and his accomplishments?

SJ – It was an amazing end to a very tough season. Scott, like all the great drivers through history, has the obvious natural talent to be fast, but the raw talent will only get you so far. It’s really how hard he works that makes the difference.

scott-dixon-gym-bw.png

Scott is relentless in chipping away at being the best he can be, at going after championships and always looking at the bigger picture. Whatever weak area he feels he’s got left he just keeps working on it. He’s in the gym like probably no other driver in the world. Every little aspect that can make him a little better he just keeps working on them. It’s extraordinary to have that level of motivation, especially after doing it for so many years. Each year after a Championship win it becomes a little harder than the one before, and remember he’s been in the hunt to win the Championship every year for the past 10-15 years now. If he’s not in the top 6 after qualifying he’ll be the last guy to leave the track in the evening, digging through the data with his engineer until they find why they’re not faster.

Michael Schumacher was the same. Senna was the same. Prost was the same. They might have five percent more talent than the others to start with, but they’d put in 20 percent more work than the rest. Michael, instead of cruising around on a yacht in the Mediterranean like the rest of the drivers in the summer, he was at Maranello testing. All the great guys are the same, in any sport, it’s the work ethic and the mental attitude that makes the difference, not the raw talent.

And it’s true, it’s an amazing achievement what Scott’s done, particularly given how difficult it is to win in IndyCar now. Back in the day (CART), IndyCar was a little bit more like Formula 1 in the sense that one chassis usually wound up dominating when there were multiple chassis available. That’s not the case now, today it’s virtually impossible to have that dominance you could sometimes achieve by being in the best car and the best team. As we can see from the results every year, it’s impossible for one driver or team to dominate. This is why every year it’s down to 3-4 or more drivers fighting for the championship all the way to the final round.

JT – Do you think there was one turning point for Scott this season that really put him on a path to the championship?

SJ – The season started pretty badly if you remember. He was nowhere until we got to Detroit where he won the first race and then won again in Texas. In the span of a week the whole thing turned around. He was like fifth in the championship until that point and then all of a sudden he was leading it.

Photos via: www.scottdixon.com

Sometimes you have to be lucky too, like he was at Portland. But how many times was it the other way for him when he could have locked the championship up but then something happened. But even there he had the presence to keep the engine alive instead of stalling and was able to pull away without going down a lap.

But what really clinched the Championship this year more than anything was the consistency and perfect execution. Even in the races when where he was “nowhere” he still scored strong points and that all adds up at the end of the year.

JT – Lewis Hamilton was also crowned champion recently, taking his fifth title alongside the only other F1 drivers to achieve that feat - Juan Manuel Fangio and Michael Schumacher. Despite lackluster performances in the last couple races, Hamilton’s 4th place finish at the Mexican GP was enough to earn him the 2018 world driver’s championship. What do you make of his success?

Photo via:  @LewisHamilton

Photo via: @LewisHamilton

SJ – I think it’s an extraordinary accomplishment, and it rightfully put’s him in the company of the greatest drivers in the history of our sport. I have always claimed that there’s never been a World Champion that did not have the best car, but this year it is arguable if Lewis did not win it more on his own then because he had the best car. Much like Scott, if I’m allowed to make a comparison between the two, he’s honed his craft to a point where he’s nearly flawless in the execution and that’s what makes a champion. He made less mistakes than anyone else and made the bad days as good as was possible, scoring big points when he should normally not have been able to. Formula 1 should be thankful they have him as he is truly a Superstar in every sense of the word and people love that. He’s got his own style and his own thing going and he delivers every time he gets in the car. As long Mercedes stay committed there is no reason why he could not beat Schumacher’s records before he’s done racing. It’s almost a certainty that Mercedes will always be challenging for the Championship as long as they stay involved given the resources they have compared to the other teams.

JT – With the 2018 season in the rearview mirror, IndyCar is carrying some very positive momentum into the off season. New teams will be on the grid next year, as well notable new drivers. The 2019 race calendar was recently released and a new addition to the schedule is Circuit of the Americas on March 24.

This has created more excitement and is of interest to fans as Formula 1 also races at COTA. Many have said IndyCar should race the track using the same configuration as F1. But you have a different take.

SJ – I think it’s great that IndyCar is going there, it’s without a doubt the best venue in North America and it makes perfect sense that Indycar is racing there also, and not just F1.  But I actually think they should experiment with the track layout. IndyCar has an opportunity to make it a track that has great racing by eliminating a couple of the corners and getting rid of the go-kart track nature of the Tilke design which only ruins the racing and contributes nothing to the overall experience except adding a few unnecessary corners.

I think they should cut out the twisty section between the end of the back straight (Turn 12) and the fast right-hander (Turn 16). If you just made it a longer straight you would arrive into the fast right hander with one gear more speed which would make the entry much more challenging and you would then carry more speed into the second part of the corner which would make the whole section more difficult.

Image from Google Maps

Image from Google Maps

Likewise, the last one of the sweepers going downhill from Turn 1 – all of the left-right-left-right stuff – get rid of the last one (Turn 8) because it ruins the rhythm completely and you would then carry a lot more speed to the top of the hill (Turn 11). It will be spectacular to watch when the cars come over the brow at the top of turn 11 because they’ll be carrying a lot more speed and you’d really have to aim into the corner, and the cars will probably get light as they cross the top of the brow. Plus, an IndyCar has significantly less downforce than an F1 car so that would add up to be very challenging and a lot of fun to watch.

Whether they’d do that or not is another question but I think there’s an opportunity to do something that could make the track really special and spectacular to watch.

JT – You’re involved with one of the new teams that will be on the IndyCar grid next year. IMSA sports car racing stalwart Scuderia Corsa will expand its operations to compete in IndyCar in 2019, joining the series for 13 rounds of its 17-race calendar including the Indy 500. Ed Jones will drive for the team which will be an affiliate of Ed Carpenter Racing.

It’s exciting news for Scuderia Corsa coming on the heels of the team’s win at Petit Le Mans earlier this month for Cooper MacNeil, Gunnar Jeannette and Daniel Serra in the No. 63 Weathertech Ferrari 488 GT3.

Photos by: Scuderia Corsa

SJ – Yes, the stars lined up perfect and it ended up being a very good situation for everybody – for Scuderia Corsa, for Ed Jones and for Ed Carpenter. Everybody’s happy and it’s very exciting.

Road Atlanta was a great win for the team. Daniel Serra who was brought in as the Pro driver did a great job, along with our regular drivers Cooper McNeil and Gunnar Jeanette, and it was good to come out on top finally. It was about time, we had a tough year for a number of different reasons.

JT – There has been some reporting lately that some current IndyCar teams may be considering some of the likely refugees from Formula 1 for next year. Marcus Ericsson has been confirmed to drive with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports for 2019 and Brendon Hartley has been mentioned as a possibility for a seat if his Toro Rosso drive ends this year. It’s another indication that IndyCar has momentum and is an attractive alternative.

SJ – It’s not surprising that the teams might talk to those guys but that doesn’t mean it would be easy to put together a deal. I know there’s a lot of interest in Indycar from many of the F1 guys, they can see how good the racing is. They talk a lot about how fun the cars look to drive and the fact that you have to drive them hard from start to finish, no driver aids to speak of and proper race tracks that punish you if you make a mistake. This is what any driver worth their salt is looking for.

It's exciting to see that Indycar has now become a real alternative to F1, with Alonso also showing serious interest earlier in the year, although it doesn’t look like it will happen for 2019 anymore.

If you look at the cost of IndyCar, it’s spectacularly affordable compared to almost any other premium series. And it’s so hard to win in IndyCar compared other series because there is so much competition and no one can get an edge on the rest because of the way the rules are written. You just never know who might come out on top depending on strategy, caution flags, the quality of the drivers and teams, all of that stuff.

I think the car count will go up a lot next year. I think we might end up seeing maybe four to six more cars. IndyCar is really on a roll at the moment. It’s getting stronger and everyone is starting to realize how good the racing is and how it makes more sense financially than other series. There are a couple of sports car teams from Europe looking at it, a couple of Indy Lights teams that are going to move up and maybe a few others. I think manufacturers are starting to pay attention to it as well.

It would be ideal if they could get one more manufacturer to come and share the load of supporting more teams with both engines and technical support. I think both Honda and Chevy are on the limit with their engine supply and support budgets to the teams that are currently competing. With more competition comes more spending, which is good for both the teams and the top drivers as each manufacturer will do what it takes to win.

JT – Steve Letarte, a former crew chief for Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr. who’s now part of the NBC NASCAR television broadcast team, made a great point during the race at Richmond a few weeks ago. Referring to Brad Keselowski leading the race at one point even though he didn’t have the fastest car on track, Letarte said, ‘it’s a race, not a speed contest”.

That struck me as a terrific observation and it’s a big problem for Formula One where a lack of racecraft among drivers and the absurd amount of money it takes to compete with the top teams exaggerates F1 as a “speed contest” with very little actual racing. Do you agree?

SJ – Yes, it’s a very good observation. Racing is a speed contest, of course, but only to the point where you obviously have to go fast in order to win, but it won’t help if you don’t know how to race. Qualifying is a different story of course, but unfortunately, race craft seems to be a skill that most team owners have almost forgot about. I don’t know exactly what the teams in F1 specifically are looking for in the young drivers they’re bringing in but for the most part, it certainly isn’t adding to the end result.

If every team owner were looking for the best racer rather than the driver who could set the fastest time over a lap, it would be a whole different scenario. It’s long been the case in F1 that whoever does the quickest lap time in a shoot-out test ends up getting a drive – at least 95 percent of the time or more. But most often that’s completely irrelevant to race results over the course of a season and where they eventually end up in the championship. There’s been hundred’s of really fast drivers over the years in F1 that never accomplished anything except being fast over a single lap, but it’s extraordinary how they were able to hang on to their drives for this reason alone.

We can see it clearly. I don’t know if it’s the nature of the cars or whatever but in every single race, people are taking each other out in the first couple laps. If this is supposed to be the highest level of motorsport none of this makes any sense. It’s unforgiveable that very highly-paid professional drivers, supposedly the best in the world, can’t make it past the first two laps without constantly driving into each other. Unfortunately, F1 has evolved into more of a speed contest rather than pure racing due to the nature of the cars and also the tracks to a certain extent. The cars are getting more and more aero sensitive when you follow another car which prevents a driver getting close enough to have a go, hence the DRS system to help overtaking. This helps overtaking but it doesn’t help the racing as the driver in front is more or less a sitting duck. So, instead we now have a committee of people at each race determining what is legal and not when a driver is defending his position by blocking the guy behind who’s got his DRS system wide open. It’s a bizzare situation that sadly seems to get worse and not better with each passing year.

I’m not saying that driving a race car fast is easy by any means, but it’s a hell of a lot easier than racing well. F1 is a bit unique in that unless you have the best car there’s not a lot you can do. You’re basically circling within a three or four-car segment of competitors at best. But Alonso, for example, has certainly shown that you can haul an underperforming car up to places where it shouldn’t necessarily be. It shows that if you’re a good enough racer you can make a difference.

I guarantee you that many of the drivers in F1 now, if they came over to race in IndyCar, they’d struggle to get results, at least initially because in IndyCar it’s all about execution. If you make one little slip up, if you’re too slow on an in-lap for a pit stop, you lose three spots. Every little detail has to be right. That’s how Scott won his championship this year. He simply made fewer mistakes than everyone else.

That’s how racing should be. Not only do you have 20 other cars you theoretically have to beat on speed on any given weekend, you also have to be error-free or you’ll pay for your mistakes.

JT – You also make the point that – weirdly - teams seem to be trying to develop the very young and comparatively inexperienced drivers they’re recruiting in F1 itself, rather than bringing in drivers who’ve gained considerable experience lower formulas.

SJ – Yes, it’s a very strange situation. Apparently you’re finished by the time you’re 23 years old these days, too old for F1. They’re bringing in guys who are 19 or 20 who have been in a lower series for a year or two maybe. When did Formula 1 become a development series for drivers?

I always thought the whole point of F1 was that you hire the best drivers in the world. How the hell do you know if a guy who’s 20 years old and has very little experience is going to be good enough? Fast enough, yes, but getting the job done on Sunday afternoon, no one knows at that stage of their career until they’re thrown in the deep end.

Verstappen is an extraordinary exception, but even he with all his speed and natural talent has had to develop in F1. He’s certainly made errors that you wouldn’t necessarily expect from a driver in F1.

And now they’re giving Kvyat a third chance at Toro Rosso. Apparently he is now in a much better place and is “very calm” compared to how he was when they fired him a year or so ago. How do they know that if he’s not even done one race since he last raced in F1?

It’s one thing the be calm and in a “good place” over dinner, it’s a whole different matter when you sit on the grid and the red mist starts to rise, it’s only then you can really judge how good a driver is. Let’s hope they are right but I’m having a hard time understanding how a driver can become a better racer by not doing any races? It all seems a bit odd to me.

JT – Since we last chatted, Scuderia Ferrari announced that F1 rookie Charles Leclerc would leave Sauber Alfa Romeo in 2019, taking the seat Kimi Raikkonen has held for five years. Meanwhile Kimi announced that he would return to Sauber next year where he began his F1 career in 2001. He’ll be joined by Antonio Giovinazzi. What do you make of the changes?

SJ – First, I think Kimi has done a very good job this year. I don’t think anyone could expect a huge amount more in the circumstances. Leclerc is clearly a star of the future but as Ferrari is sort of in control of Sauber I would have thought it would make a lot more sense to keep the momentum of the dynamic they have between Kimi and Vettel because it’s a pretty strong relationship and they’ve been able to develop the car in a pretty positive direction.

Photo via:  @Charles_Leclerc

Photo via: @Charles_Leclerc

At the same time, they could have left Leclerc to hone his racecraft a little bit more and get the inevitable silly mistakes out of the way. If you make one silly mistake at Sauber and it doesn’t work out it’s like “Oh that was ballsy, what a shame it didn’t work out this time.”

But if he does the same mistake at Ferrari, the press will be all over him like a ton of bricks. It’ll be the usual, “He’s finished, it’s over. He can’t handle the pressure, yada, yada, yada…”

That’s just how the F1 press is and especially the Italians, and sooner or later, that’s going to happen. If you look at Verstappen in year one he was pretty spectacular. In year two he started to make one mistake after another. Year three was a bit of a disaster and now he’s sort of getting a bit of momentum back. It’s inevitable that Leclerc will go through the same thing. That’s how it goes when you make these moves with very young inexperienced drivers.

And of course, the dynamic within Ferrari is going to change. Vettel’s going to have to defend his territory now. Leclerc is going to come in young and fresh and try to blow the doors off him. I don’t think it’ll be happy days necessarily. I think there will be some politicking and other stuff that you don’t have going on at the moment.

JT – On the other hand, some would say that even with a relatively harmonious relationship between himself and Raikkonen, Vettel has been making quite a few mistakes this year. Maybe a teammate who can push him might make him a bit better? What do you think?

SJ – In the case of Vettel I doubt a team mate that can push him would help. It’s not exactly as though Kimi is not pushing him. They’re very close to each other pretty much every race, so it’s not a matter of speed in either case.

It looks to me that a lot of the moves he’s made are just coming from being a bit impatient and we’re talking tiny margins which sometimes work and sometimes don’t, very similar in fact to Verstappen in that one race every move you make will stick - the next race you do exactly the same and they don’t. But in the case of both drivers, the moves have been very low percentage and that is subsequently what happens, sometimes they work and sometimes they don’t. It’s not a way to win a championship no matter how you look at it.

I don’t know anything about Vettel’s situation in terms of how he’s set up with the people he has around him, but he apparently doesn’t use a manager and instead does all his own deals.

Knowing from my own experience and working with both Scott, and more recently with Felix and some of the other drivers I work with, we talk quite a lot about all the things going on both before and after the races. The teams, the technical stuff, the races in general and about the other drivers they’re racing against.

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At least if I view it from my own perspective, it’s always good to have someone who first of all you can trust 100 percent - who’s “your guy” - someone who you can just blow off some steam and frustration with every now and then. Or someone you can discuss differences you may have with your team – how they may be focusing on one area when you think there’s something else that needs to be addressed.

Whatever it is, just to have someone to bounce things back and forth with that actually understand all the little nuances of racing and all the different aspects of it is important I think. Racing is an incredibly complex sport with so many layers of different information and issues that constantly need to be dealt with, which makes it even more difficult than most other sports to be consistently on top. I think maybe Vettel is missing some of that. Maybe he has someone who he talks with like that but I don’t know that he does, and maybe he doesn’t think he needs to. Every driver is different. Personally I think it can be quite helpful at times.

JT – The other moves in the driver market that transpired this summer, beginning with Ricciardo’s switch to Renault for 2019, make it clear that not only are the barriers to entry for F1 somewhat ridiculous but there are unforeseen barriers to staying in the series - even if you’ve “made it” as a driver.

Consider Estabon Ocon. He’s caught between a rock and hard place – one made more difficult by outside factors. As always, money is a big part of the equation and in this case, even his Mercedes management hasn’t been helpful. It seems counter-productive for F1, to the point that people like Mercedes’s Toto Wolff have suggested F1 constructors run third cars to accommodate more drivers. But how can that be a solution when even more resources will be required?

SJ – It’s really becoming evident now that the junior programs for drivers that the teams have been obsessed with aren’t working that well. One team starts a few years back and then everybody has to follow. It’s always the way. Red Bull had Verstappen come through the ranks and he’s been successful and become an asset but that doesn’t mean that everyone who comes out of a junior program is.

Now, Mercedes has got all of these guys locked up. There should be a natural culling system but the problem is that because everything is so expensive, even in the junior formulas now, it’s gotten completely screwed up. Most of the young drivers that are any good are part of a junior program of some kind, whether it’s McLaren, Mercedes, Red Bull or Ferrari.

But very few of them ever get anywhere because they’re stuck in these programs. Their options are limited to literally those programs. What are the chances that one of those maybe 10 guys will filter through? It’s almost impossible. Once they’re discarded you don’t even hear of these guys anymore. Most of them end up out in the wilderness – lost, gone.

Mercedes has now released [Pascal] Wehrlein. He was the great hope for a while but he’s now out of the system. It’s definitely counter-productive and as usual, money is the problem. If you don’t have the right backing, particularly in the junior categories, you’re not going to go forward. Money is always the problem and no one is taking their foot off the gas in terms of trying to diminish the costs of running these cars.

Image via:  @MickSchumacher

Image via: @MickSchumacher

JT – Looking beyond Formula 1 at its junior categories, Mick Schumacher, Michael Schumacher’s son has been dominating European F3, winning rounds at the Nurburgring and the Red Bull Ring, taking poles for six races in a row and winning five of them. Lewis Hamilton recently remarked that he’s 100 percent sure Schumacher will make it to F1.

In fact, Schumacher’s performance has improved so much recently that Red Bull’s Daniel Ticktum said he finds it “interesting” how Schumacher and teammate Robert Shwartzman are dominating Prema's other three drivers, and the rest of the grid.

Ticktum added, “I appreciate I have lessons to learn still! I’m not denying that. You don’t know the real story because you are not at the track looking at everyone’s data. Unfortunately however I am fighting a losing battle as my last name is not Schumacher.”

SJ – I don’t know anything about Mick really but Felix tested with him in F3 and he thought he definitely had potential then. That was two years ago when he was very green and new but I think something must have suddenly clicked in the second half of the season because now he’s really on top of his game and leading the championship. Obviously people are starting to take notice.

Needless to say if he did make it to higher categories it would be a fantastic thing. It’d be a lovely story if he could carry his father’s legacy on. He’s obviously got tremendous pressure living up to the legacy of his father but he’s done a good job so far. I don’t know what the next step is in his career but if he keeps this trajectory we will probably see him in F1 very soon.

JT – Toro Rosso head Franz Tost said recently that he thinks cost caps could work in F1 despite the long stated skepticism from some teams that they cannot be policed. He says F1 already does a good job of policing its technology rules so why not costs? Do you agree?

SJ – Well, if history is anything to go by the teams will spend exactly the amount of money they can get, whatever that amount is. As long as the engineers have free reign the spending won’t stop. If you gave every team a billion dollars I guarantee you they’d find a way to spend every penny, it’s just the nature of the beast, everybody wants to win and they will spend whatever amount available to do that. The engineers will always dream up some new development program that will give them that extra edge they are all looking for.

And if you’re going to talk about costs, I don’t understand why the rules have to be changed again for next year. What is the logic behind that? This will just add more spending yet again to what are already exorbitant budgets. I can’t even remember the reasoning behind this latest rule change.

Times change, this whole argument that everyone’s been holding onto for the past 60 years now, which says if you make standard parts for the cars you lose the DNA of F1 is ridiculous. At some stage you’ve got to make a decision. As long as you have the responsibility or freedom to design the major parts of the cars, you’re always going to have a big separation between the level teams can compete at. When the brake budget alone for a top F1 team is equivalent to a winning Indycar budget you have to stop for a moment and think. Who cares if they run a standard brake system for all the cars?

Over the whole history of Formula 1 there have been at most three teams that could win in any given season. Most of the time it’s only two teams with a chance of winning and often only one. Ferrari had their years of domination, McLaren had theirs, as did Red Bull and now Mercedes. Eventually one or more teams catch up competitively but then in their infinite wisdom the powers running F1 decide to change the rules again and you end up with one team dominating for a while again.

It’s a cycle. The gaps narrow and what do they do? They change the rules again. Rules stability is historically the best way to close the gap between the front and the back of the grid and to lower the R&D costs. With new rules it will always be the teams with the biggest resources that will come out on top.

JT – Additionally, as you’ve said previously, when the rules are changed in Formula 1 they seem to address the wrong issues or even make changes that lead to further issues.

SJ – Yes. Most of the time it seems like it’s a knee jerk reaction to one specific item that bothers them for whatever reason and they end up tinkering with the cars and do all kinds of things with the aerodynamics to either slow them down or make them faster depending on what bothers them at the time. But why not fix the tires before they fix anything else?

How can we have a situation where Formula 1 has one tire manufacturer and they can’t make a tire that lasts a race distance without blistering? That means everyone is just cruising around the whole race saving their tires and no one can have a proper go for the full race distance. The whole situation is just bizarre.

Aren’t we supposed to have the most spectacular cars that you drive as fast as you can all the time? Even qualifying is almost pointless now to watch. Half the teams don’t even try. Apart from three or maybe four cars having a go at the pole, and not even that many sometimes because they have an engine penalty or there’s some other pointless rule that prevents them from running hard. There’s hardly anything to watch.

I think we’ve almost reached the point where they should just throw out the rule book and start from scratch with the main focus on keeping things simple and understandable. They need to look at what’s really important in the bigger picture, from a lot of different aspects - starting with the competition, then the economics, followed by entertainment and relevance. At the moment I don’t feel they’re ticking any of those boxes anywhere close to the way it could be done. However, in order to achieve this, there needs to be a complete philosophical recalibration of how a race car should look and behave and this will never change as long as the engineers are allowed to be a part of the rule making process.

JT – In sports car racing news the WEC, FIA and ACO announced that the new Hypercar class the WEC has proposed for the 2020/2021 season will have a revised/lower budget target of €20 million or just over $23 million for a two-car team per season. That’s down from the previous estimate of €25-€30 million per season.

The series’ goal for lap time at Le Mans for the class is in the 3 minute, 25 second range. This means that LMP2 class cars will have to be slowed to allow the Hypercar class to be the top category. Performance targets for each area of the car that cannot be exceeded will be set. There will, for example, be maximum downforce and minimum drag numbers specified in the rules. Testing and development will be limited. Upgrades of homologated designs will only be allowed between seasons in the name of safety and reliability. What are your thoughts on the emerging rules?

SJ – I’m having a hard time understanding the point of it all. The hypercars will look like souped-up GT cars to me so why not soup up the current GTE/GTLM cars and take off all the restrictions they currently carry under the BoP regulations. Let every manufacturer build the best car they can, which is exactly what will happen with the Hypercar.

Let’s say they make every manufacturer homologate a GT car for that category with unrestricted engines. Most of the road car versions of the current GT cars are nudging 800 horsepower now so it would be relatively easy to get 800 horsepower from them to begin. Give them 10 percent more aerodynamic downforce and one inch wider tires and some wider wheel arches. The cars will look a lot more aggressive and racy and the lap times will be in the low 30’s very soon and eventually they will creep into the 20s.

Every manufacturer would simply build a car without BoP and all of that nonsense, a proper racing car, like the Ford GT is now for example. If you took all the restrictors of that car it would be flying around Le Mans. We know what the waitlist is for the road car version of that car and I’m sure there would be a three-year waitlist for every one of the other cars from every manufacturer that decide to compete. All of the manufacturers are already there, more could be attracted and nobody would have to spend stupid money on developing entirely new cars.

They could then sell the same cars to private teams that would run with either pro drivers or gentleman drivers if they so wish but everybody would compete with the same cars. The grids would be full at every race without a doubt and fans can immediately relate to the cars they are watching.

On the other hand, some of the things they mentioned for the new class are very good. You put a limit on the amount of downforce and a minimum limit for drag. That’s a step in the right direction for sure. If they limit some areas rules-wise, hopefully that will encourage people to find different areas to develop instead of keeping all of the focus on aerodynamics.