Formula 1’s decision making body, the Strategy Group, met at Biggin Hills on Wednesday to review and revise the suggestions of a previous meeting. Some new ideas were also put to table and are currently being evaluated by various members of the F1 fraternity. The overall response, surprisingly, has been positive, although a comprehensive overhaul of chassis regulations is likely going to increase the cost of going racing.
But let’s start with some positive suggestions and rules. Firstly, the Strategy Group has decided to clamp down driver aids and coaching, starting from this year’s Belgian Grand Prix. Although this won’t go down well with those who argue F1 is a team sport, it is a step in the right direction. This move puts the focus firmly back on the drivers, the star attractions of the show. Particular emphasis would be made on race starts. Hence, any mistake by those 20 men(or women in future) will spice up the action.
Penalties for overusing the designated amount of power unit elements have come under severe criticism this season, with Jenson Button handed a 25 place drop, when the grid only comprises of 20 drivers. Keeping this in mind, the Strategy Group has put forward an overhaul of engine penalties to the F1 Commission via an express fax vote.
On a similar note, every new manufacturer can use a fifth engine in its first season, without incurring any penalty. This measure will apply retroactively to Honda for 2015 season - a major sigh of relief for the troubled Japanese auto giant and its partner McLaren.
The burgeoning World Endurance Championship allots two extra engines and double the testing time to new manufacturers in the LMP1 class. Unsurprisingly, Porsche and Nissan have re-joined the series in consecutive years, with Ford set to enter the GTE class next season. F1, in contrast, was not offering any such incentives until now.
Continuing with the positive changes, the manufacturers will work on improving the noise of engines for 2016 through simple changes to the exhaust layout. Return to a double-exhaust has been pinned earlier this season and might again be considered with the view of increasing the decibel numbers. Although noise is not as important as quality racing, some still consider it high up their priority list.
A mandate has been given to the FIA and the FOM for a comprehensive overhaul of power units, including its supply cost. A budget cap for engines would be great for the customer teams, while subsided engines would bring rejoice among them.
However, proposed changed to increase the maximum fuel allowance would require teams to build bigger fuel tanks, resulting in increased R&D cost. This coupled with further changes to the 2017 cars - now detailed by the Strategy Group - will make life difficult for the independent teams and offset any cost-saving from the power unit front.
Wider cars and wheels, new wings, floor shape and increased aerodynamic downforce are all considered for improving the speeds of the car by five to six seconds. FIA and the teams should discuss in advance as to how to keep the development costs down while introducing these changes.
And finally, a comprehensive overhaul of a grand prix weekend has been discussed, however, no light was shed on the details in the press release. The main race should remain untouched, in our opinion, although a secondary sprint race might come as a welcome addition for fans craving for more action.
The Strategy Group has come up with some sensible measures for the first time in its 18 months history. Although reducing the supply price of power units has been discussed, cost-cutting has been mostly sidelined. This is against the Strategy Group’s earlier promise of reducing the costs and ensuring sustainability of the sport.