It’s no secret that Formula 1 has its fair share of problems. Like any sports it’s seen plenty of highs and lows throughout its colourful history. Moments such as Jack Brabham pushing his car over the finish line to win the 1959 world championship, or the 1966 Monaco grand prix, where only 3 of the starting 21 cars managed to cross the finish line, are moments that will be remembered forever, as will those of a much more unsavoury nature. The crash gate scandal that got Flavio Briatore banned from the sport as well as many of history’s greatest racing drivers deliberately crashing into a competitor to gain a championship advantage are strewn throughout the years like discarded pieces of carbon fibre from a crash inevitably involving Maldonado.
The biggest problem these days is not how commercial the sport is, or how money controls pretty much every decision made by teams, but the catch 22 situation that is created from it. Formula 1 is billed as the pinnacle of motorsport, leading the charge forward into the future with the latest and greatest technology. Of course all that comes with a price, and therefore you need massive sponsorship. Getting a Formula 1 team going requires many years of experience, with very few backers willing to put up the huge amount of money year after year for mediocre results.
This has of course led to spending limits, which in turn has undermined the whole idea of being as fast as possible. It also has not helped the minnows catch up, who are still languishing at the back, hoping against all hope to pick up a point or two from the season. Added to this more and more drivers are coming in with their own backers, which of course sweetens the pot for any team, providing another element for them to look at, rather than just talent. This of course in turn makes you wonder if we’re truly seeing the best open wheel drivers in the world battling it out.
Two problems to tackle then. Not bringing in young talent anymore unless you have rich uncle Venezuela to back you and small teams still being left behind.
Luckily I think there is a solution.
It starts with an extra practice session for young drivers over the grand prix weekend. The restrictions to this session would be quite simple. The teams may use any driver affiliated with them for this extra session, providing that the driver used in this session will not be racing on Sunday and that they have been with the team for less than two seasons. This will essentially encourage all teams to try out young drivers on a regular basis as no one will want to miss out on an extra opportunity for data collection. In addition, this session should have a separate tyre allocation so that no one is disadvantaged.
Furthermore, that extra session can also be used to test new bits on the car. This will allow teams to constantly develop the car in front of our eyes instead of always being done on a computer with minimal real world testing, which so often has led to a dead end or decreased reliability.
But I hear you say, this will lead to the big teams spending hundreds of millions on development, leaving the small teams far behind again. Well here’s where the genius of my plan comes in.
At the beginning of the year, teams will be required to disclose their development budget for the season as well as provide proof they’ve stuck to it at the end. How much you wish to spend will not be in anyway restricted, however based on the figures provided and using a sliding scale of money vs testing sessions, the teams will be allowed to utilize a certain number of the aforementioned extra practice sessions during the year as testing sessions as well. Therefore R&D will become more about efficient utilization of funds rather than throwing massive amounts at it.
Lastly, to help out the minnows, teams will be allowed to enter into partnerships with each other to test parts. For example Mercedes could draught an agreement with Force India to test parts for them, which will allow Mercedes to spend more money on development and not have to sacrifice testing sessions. Force India will then of course charge Mercedes for that service, which will help alleviate financial difficulties faced by privately owned teams. In addition regulations would then state that any parts given for testing may be reworked by the testing team for their own use; however design specifications need not be given over.
With these few changes I think Formula 1 can become even more amazing than it has been this year, giving smaller teams a better opportunity to close the gap to the big boys, while the big boys can really flex their muscles and show us what they’ve got.
Bernie, like the idea? Give me a call and lets chat.