Formula 1

Formula 1 losing focus as rulemakers look to the future

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Is it me or is this F1 winter among the most negative in history?

From constant gripes over young drivers coming in to whether the same hybrid technology deemed the future of the car industry is really the right thing for the sport all I've seen since the final race in Abu Dhabi is what is wrong with Formula 1.

I've written about this several times now because I just find myself amazed at the short-sightedness the sport's bosses seem to be suffering from.

Sure F1 isn't perfect, teams are struggling to survive financially and maybe the new V6 turbo hybrid's are a little quieter to what the sport is use to but lets be honest were we really complaining during the 18-car United States Grand Prix or whining about the noise during the great on-track battles seen throughout last season.

Political games

Then I've seen how some teams are looking to play on the themes from some disgruntled sections of fans for their own political gain.

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'We don't like the engines' some fans cry, 'Yes, we need to scrap the whole thing and start again' says Christian Horner, the boss of the team who lost out the most from the introduction of the new power units last year (and that's coming from a Red Bull fan).

As it is those calls have since gone strangely quiet, whether it be because of the Christmas and New Year break or because Ferrari and Red Bull, the main Renault powered team, have gotten some of want they wanted with the admission of a loophole in the FIA's rulebook that will allow engine development during the upcoming season.

FIA inadequacy

I mean that story in itself highlights just how lackadaisical the FIA were in the writing of the new regulations, 'sure you can have some tokens to use over the winter to make your engines better but we'll forget to mention when they have to be used by'.

And now, even before they have even fired an engine in anger, Honda are left wondering what have they come back to as they face the prospect of being severely disadvantaged because they will have to freeze their development on February 28th.


Oh and the issue of cost-cutting, you know that thing that's supposed to allow a group of people without a billion in the bank to run an F1 team, well that seems to have gone by the wayside too.

I've heard how new engines are the answer to that too but now we have Caterham and Manor Grand Prix (the entry name for the former Marussia team) who, it is reported, have mere days left to be able to make the 2015 grid but in reality we know that come March only 18 cars will be lining up to take the start in Melbourne's Albert Park.

F1 bosses focussing elsewhere

And now, rather than finding sensible solutions to those issues mentioned above, F1's rulemakers i.e. the FIA, Bernie and those teams with money coming out of their ears, are focussing their attention on other things like how to make what are incredibly difficult cars to drive just that little bit harder.

During a meeting last week in Switzerland the focus again was on the V6 turbo hybrids and how they could be improved.

Well, last season the all-new technology was producing between 750-800 brake horsepower, roughly the same as the V8's that preceded them, with around 600 of those horses coming from the turbocharged V6 and the rest from the ERS (Energy Recovery System).

Already we have heard Mercedes have found approximately 50 more horsepower in development taking the overall power output to upwards of 850bhp, I know what you're thinking 'blimey those F1 cars, so under-powered' and it seems the rulemakers agree so now plans are afoot to reach the holy grail of 1000 horsepower likely in 2017.

Of course if we ignore the fact that natural progression and development could mean engine makers are knocking on the four digit door within a few years then you would think another round of major changes were needed to find that extra 150-200bhp.

Boosting F1's eco-engines

But while it seems the need for a new formula of engine isn't all of a sudden so high, there are suggestions that by allowing a little more fire into the belly of the current power units that landmark figure would be reached.

Increasing fuel flow for example, allowing the engines past the current 15,000rpm limit (even though they barely surpass 12,000rpm) and upping the fuel limit from the current 100kg per race are all being mentioned as ways to reach 1000bhp.

Now don't get me wrong I like the sound of more power, but was that really the point of these new engines?

These were meant to be the cutting edge in modern hybrid technology achieving incredible speeds while using only a fraction of the fuel burned by the naturally aspirated engines of old.

This was meant to be F1 going 'green' and yet now they want to move away from that and chase after a figure that rulemakers believe would make fans happy?

If they were really thinking seriously about keeping F1 at the forefront of new technology then they would forget what goes into the ancient internal combustion engine and look at ways of increasing the output from the ERS, currently around 160bhp why couldn't that be 200-300bhp in the next 10 years?

It may not increase the noise but was that really a problem in the first place? And if it is such an issue and they did want to amplify the gutsy rumble of the new power units could they not try and move the optimum performance bracket higher up the rev range? I'm not an expert on mechanics so maybe someone could comment why I'd be wrong or otherwise.

Reversing a long-time trend

Finally they moved onto the cars, now ever since their introduction in 2009 I must admit the huge wings and the increasingly inauspicious front nose designs haven't really made the current generation of F1 cars among the best looking.

But now with the talk of increased power there is a consensus to go against what the sport has tried to do the past 15 years or so and actually give the cars greater downforce and grip.

I mean we've had double diffusers, blown diffusers and all the little appendages that were attached the pre-2009 spec designs outlawed in recent years but now it seems that could have been a waste of time.

F1 bosses want more aggressive designs and for that they should be applauded because nothing is cooler than an extreme racing car pushing the laws of physics but why now, why has it taken GP2 cars within a few seconds of the slowest F1 cars for them to realise maybe they went a little too far backwards.

Forgetting an essential need

But perhaps the most important question is how all this makes F1 more sustainable going forward?

All of the studies and development into what bosses want to achieve will only increase costs and as I've said there remains little circulating about where they can be reduced elsewhere.

How will more power and more downforce improve the F1 show? Sure they'll look great but I doubt we were bored watching the Mercedes' battle in Bahrain or Daniel Ricciardo come through to win in the closing laps in both Canada and Hungary.

As fans we want more racing, closer competition and this doesn't really solve any of that instead it points towards a sport with fewer teams and less relevancy to the ordinary road going cars of today and tomorrow and without that what is really the point of F1 at all?

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