F1 frontline: May 2018

Browse pages
Current page

1

Current page

2

Current page

3

Current page

4

Current page

5

Current page

6

Current page

7

Current page

8

Current page

9

Current page

10

Current page

11

Current page

12

Current page

13

Current page

14

Current page

15

Current page

16

Current page

17

Current page

18

Current page

19

Current page

20

Current page

21

Current page

22

Current page

23

Current page

24

Current page

25

Current page

26

Current page

27

Current page

28

Current page

29

Current page

30

Current page

31

Current page

32

Current page

33

Current page

34

Current page

35

Current page

36

Current page

37

Current page

38

Current page

39

Current page

40

Current page

41

Current page

42

Current page

43

Current page

44

Current page

45

Current page

46

Current page

47

Current page

48

Current page

49

Current page

50

Current page

51

Current page

52

Current page

53

Current page

54

Current page

55

Current page

56

Current page

57

Current page

58

Current page

59

Current page

60

Current page

61

Current page

62

Current page

63

Current page

64

Current page

65

Current page

66

Current page

67

Current page

68

Current page

69

Current page

70

Current page

71

Current page

72

Current page

73

Current page

74

Current page

75

Current page

76

Current page

77

Current page

78

Current page

79

Current page

80

Current page

81

Current page

82

Current page

83

Current page

84

Current page

85

Current page

86

Current page

87

Current page

88

Current page

89

Current page

90

Current page

91

Current page

92

Current page

93

Current page

94

Current page

95

Current page

96

Current page

97

Current page

98

Current page

99

Current page

100

Current page

101

Current page

102

Current page

103

Current page

104

Current page

105

Current page

106

Current page

107

Current page

108

Current page

109

Current page

110

Current page

111

Current page

112

Current page

113

Current page

114

Current page

115

Current page

116

Current page

117

Current page

118

Current page

119

Current page

120

Current page

121

Current page

122

Current page

123

Current page

124

Current page

125

Current page

126

Current page

127

Current page

128

Current page

129

Current page

130

Current page

131

Current page

132

Current page

133

Current page

134

Current page

135

Current page

136

Current page

137

Current page

138

Current page

139

Current page

140

Current page

141

Current page

142

Current page

143

Current page

144

Current page

145

Current page

146

Current page

147

Current page

148

Current page

149

Current page

150

Current page

151

Current page

152

Current page

153

Current page

154

Current page

155

Current page

156

Current page

157

Current page

158

Current page

159

Current page

160

Current page

161

Current page

162

Current page

163

Current page

164

Current page

165

Current page

166

Current page

167

Current page

168

Current page

169

Current page

170

Current page

171

Current page

172

Current page

173

Current page

174

Current page

175

Current page

176

Current page

177

Current page

178

Current page

179

Current page

180

Current page

181

Current page

182

Current page

183

Current page

184

Current page

185

Current page

186

Current page

187

Current page

188

Current page

189

Current page

190

Current page

191

Current page

192

Current page

193

Current page

194

Current page

195

A break-away series led by Ferrari might not be as outlandish as you thought. In fact, it might even save the sport.

As the 2018 season begins, so does the countdown to 2021, when the next chapter of the sport is set to begin with new contracts, new technical regulation – and the possibility of no Ferrari or Mercedes, who might (or might not) embark upon setting up their much-vaunted breakaway championship. This threat mentioned at regular intervals by Ferrari’s Sergio Marchionne might just be seen as a very aggressive negotiating ploy in ongoing discussions with F1’s owners Liberty Media about the financial terms of their F1 participation 2021-onwards. But it’s also possible that the very speaking of a rival series’ name could set into motion other unintended consequences. Which might actually be a good thing.

At least two potential randomisers could take this into a bigger orbit and escalate the discussion from a bit of typical F1 squabbling into something that radically changes the sport’s trajectory. Consider the business world in which Liberty operates and the strategic planning of its rivals. Think of Amazon, already going into competition with organisations as diverse as DHL, supermarkets and digital streaming content providers. Its recent toe-in-the-F1-water with the McLaren documentary follows taking the Top Gear baton with Grand Tour.

The potential future rewards of streaming content for a sport as popular as F1 are vast. What if an aggressively expansionist company thought backing Ferrari and Mercedes in forming a breakaway championship (to which it would have the digital and other rights) would be doubly attractive, in that not only would it be a big gain for them, but it would hurt Liberty, one of its key marketplace rivals?

If such a thing were to get to the feasibility study stage (if it hasn’t already) and, beyond that, to the planning stage, then that Ferrari threat wouldn’t be so empty. In this scenario Ferrari would be seen by most as the bad guys, the team that split apart F1 into parallel-series obscurity. But what if there was a way of bringing the public on side? What is the thing the fans say they dislike most about current F1? The quiet engines. Enter randomiser number two.

If Ferrari (and Mercedes) were to say their series was for agile, light, beautiful cars with screaming 1500hp naturally aspirated motors, filled with the true DNA of F1, what then? If F1 continued in its parallel series without Ferraris and with quiet hybrids and cars about 200kg too heavy? If Ferrari, Mercedes (and whichever independent teams came with them) competed in this rebellious, noisy ‘Amazon’ championship versus the official ‘Liberty’ traditional F1, with perhaps Renault (signed to F1 on commercial terms through to 2024), Honda and their satellite teams in their quiet 800kg hybrids, spending the manufacturer R&D budgets. Which series would win?

Formula 1 is already committed to continuing with some form of the existing hybrid turbo V6 post-2021. They are only arguing over the details now. They are incredibly impressive pieces of engineering but remain hugely unpopular with fans. Furthermore, the batteries and cooling needed have made this generation of F1 car truck-like. They’re mighty fast in isolation but at about 250kg heavier than a 1980s/90s car, aren’t good at what Hamilton calls ‘close combat’. So why is F1 wedded to this concept when the opportunity is there, post-2020, to wipe the slate clean and start with something better?

Answer: because Liberty insists it and the FIA are aligned, so that they cannot be divided and conquered by the teams. The FIA’s President, in turn, is adamant that the sport is aligned with the car manufacturers – and these manufacturers fund F1 from their R&D budgets (which are much bigger than their marketing budgets in terms of F1 spending). The manufacturers are therefore imposing, by proxy, a formula that the fans – and most of the teams – do not want. Renault pushed for the hybrids in the first place and is keen to retain them, as is Honda. Mercedes has always been ambivalent about the formula but set about dominating it regardless. It remains ambivalent about a post-2020 formula, especially as it has a reserved place in Formula E with which to claim road car relevance. Ferrari? Having spent a lot of money getting up to speed with the technology, it’s been keen so far to continue with it – but is strongly against the greater standardisation of parts Liberty hopes to introduce.

But surely if Ferrari is smart, it will withdraw its support of the hybrid and make a big play of how its proposed future series would bring back the glamour and noise. The potential of a highly motivated Amazon underwriting an alternative series and making it feasible might be the only thing that could break F1’s insistence on shackling itself to the unpopular hybrid. Either by going ahead with the rival series or threatening with real intent to do so if F1 remains hybrid, Ferrari would be seen as throwing its considerable weight around for the good of the sport rather than just itself (which is how it is perceived at the moment).

So we could have a field of beautiful cars with simple wings, most of the downforce derived from the underbody (did you see how good the new Indycars looked on track in the opening round?), weighing 500kg, agile and raceable, powered by wailing 20,000rpm V12s, V10s and V8s, all easily buildable by Ilmor and Cosworth for the independent teams. You might even get Red Bull – usually anti-Mercedes and Ferrari, pro-Liberty, but also long-opposed to the hybrid – to lend its support. Then you’d have all three top teams aligned against the imposition of the hybrid and for the curtailment of the excessive sway of the manufacturers. The current top three teams and their star drivers (and how difficult would it be to convince McLaren to join up if supplied, say, with a Mercedes engine?) would carry enormous clout if they had something like this they could rally around.

In this way the Scuderia could eventually be seen as the saviours of the sport. Wouldn’t that be something?

Since he began covering Grand Prix racing in 2000, Mark Hughes has forged a reputation as the finest Formula 1 analyst of his generation

You may also like

Related products