F1 star in an unreasonably priced car

This might sound strange, but although I have loved and been watching Formula 1 for 90% of my life, I still don’t really know what I want (or expect) it to be about.

Should it just be about drivers? In which case the FIA would logically have to give drivers equal equipment – and that would lead to a GP2 v Formula 2 style debate. With GP2, there are still “good” teams and “less good” teams, and driving for the “good” teams is consequently more desirable (aka expensive) than with other teams. In contrast, Formula 2 cars are maintained by a central company, and engineers are rotated over the season so that no one driver is likely to gain an unfair advantage over the entire season. That’s fine, but then you have, no Ferrari, no McLaren…

Maybe it should be “the best drivers in the world in the fastest cars in the world”? Which would mean that regulations limiting performance of the car would have to go – looking back we used to see cars with qualifying engines (now we just have “Qualifying DRS” – why?) or gearboxes that would need to be rebuilt after each race, or (heaven forbid) have gear ratios changed between Qualifying and race (I’ve done that myself on my old FF2000, so I really can’t see how that saves money).  We’ve been down the “ultimate car” route before, and it accelerates into an unsustainable spending war. I don’t think anyone wants that.

Or should it be about technical (and technological) advancement? Well that makes more sense (at least to this scribe) but then why do we allow so much development on aero (the technology doesn’t translate significantly to other areas like cars or trucks) when things like KERS are rigorously restricted? I wouldn’t mind betting that if the amount of energy that could be deployed per lap using KERS was suddenly doubled in the regulations, it would take teams less than three months to have it working and reliable. This is incredibly useful technology with uses throughout the motor and other industries, so why limit it?

It strikes me as crazy that the engine of an F1 car is defined as not being “performance relevant”. Especially when teams know that all current engines perform differently. Although the Cosworth is a good engine, if HRT or Marussia were offered a free swap to Renault or Mercedes, they’d almost certainly jump at it.

So is it (shock, horror) about money? The best car you can produce for a certain amount? Well, not really, as although the Resource Restriction Agreement limits lots of things, it doesn’t boil down to a cash limit. And as ever, since the F1 Championship began in 1950, the teams with more money to spend still perform best on the track.

In reality, it’s a mixture of all these ideas. But how to state it?

I’ve never liked mission statements. Especially if they begin with something like  “Providing quality services to deliver added value in the field of…”. But I can’t help thinking F1 needs to decide what it’s all about, and state it. Simply. Then it would be easy to decide whether the idea of Double Diffusers or Double DRS is against the spirit of the rules or not.

I think that what I want to see is: “The most talented drivers in the world working with the most talented engineers in the world to provide entertainment at a sustainable price that both teams and spectators can afford.”

Which would mean that the CRH (Commercial Rights Holder) might have to allow promoters to charge fair prices for admission, rather than what he wants to see on his bank statement, but that’s another issue. As is the fact that we would need to have rules limiting the financial spend of teams. Give the teams a maximum amount to spend – just as the Badger GP Fantasy GP game does!

So, what do you believe F1 is all about? Next week I’ll look at some potential regulations, and the possible ways in which they could be enforced. Let us know what you want!

Use the comments below folks and let us know your thoughts