Monday, December 28, 2009

F1 is still too expensive; still needs more 'green'

"F1 is too expensive," are the words of newly FIA president Jean Todt in an interview Le Figaro. "I am sad that Honda, BMW and Toyota have left, but when one spends enormous amounts of money without the desired results, it is inevitable. On the other hand, it is great that new teams are coming in." Although Todt plans to be a big advocate in F1 cost reduction just as former FIA president, Max Mosley, he was not very keen on the idea of budget caps but obviously wants to work to find a solution, "if we want to sustain F1, we need a true awakening..."

For perspective the average budget in F1 in 2008 was 279 million dollars with the big spender being Toyota at 445 million. In 2009 when there seemed to be fears of an eminent collapse of the economy never mind F1, the average budget was 232 million dollars with McLaren being the big spender at 298 million. Although everyone knows F1budgets are not particularly sustainable, the powers in that be could not slash their costs to the point where teams like Toyota, BMW and Honda could justify their participation. It will be very interesting to see how Todt will tackle this problem. Will his efforts be seen as more constructive than those of Max Mosley?

In addition to reducing the green on one end, Todt wants to increase the 'green' on the other end by continuing to investigate new energy sources and eco-friendly technology for F1 and motorsports in general. "I am convinced that we absolutely must reflect the environment with new technologies. After giving up on KERS, we will accomplish nothing innovative next year. I'm sorry about that. I have therefore decided to create a working group...Gilles Simon, former boss at Ferrari engines, will join the FIA in this context."

Two things that I think will help achieve his goals on the cost and the environment are the facts that teams are moving towards more reliance on CFD and simulator based car development. This can definitely be less expensive than running a windtunnel 24 hours a day and having to send a test team out on the track. Also, with the FIA plans of introducing a world engine, a new 1.6-liter turbo-charged formula pushed by the FIA with the goal being use in many racing series, would definitely help push cost down as teams (manufacturers) that race in different categories would be able to use one engine. For example, BMW could race world engines in F1 and World Touring Car. Moreover, Volkswagen, who races through various brands and divisions is very interested in supplying engines to F1 teams with the world engine concept being a motivating factor.

As the FIA moves forward we will see if Todt can avoid having a caustic relationship with the teams; something that Mosley could not avoid after many years in F1, as Ecclestone's 'partner', and as FIA president. Given the current economic situation I am sure Todt will have some cooperative partners. We will just have to wait and see what it looks like in a few years.

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