F1 has been embroiled in negativity ever since the introduction of V6 turbo engines at the beginning of the 2014 season. Different aspects of the sport have been targeted, ranging from lack of sound to the agenda of the regulations itself.
But much of the arguments are rather baseless. For the quality of racing continues to remain high, with TV viewing figures also showing improvement over last year. The craze shown by the Japanese fans gave another glimpse of the continued popularity of Formula 1.
But one area where efforts need to be made is the competitiveness of the grid. Perhaps the incoming of new manufacturers might lead to more teams fighting at the forefront of F1. But only if they follow the right approach.
Independent outfits in current-gen F1
F1’s prize pot is heavily skewed towards a handful of teams, preventing the independent outfits from posing a serious challenge to the manufacturers. And while there have been calls for a redistribution of the prize money, no change is expected to take place until the expiry of current contracts in 2010.
This leaves us with new and existing manufacturers to take the fight to Mercedes.
Mercedes and Renault’s 2005 and 2006 triumph justify manufacturers abilities
Mercedes have successfully exploited the 2014 regulations to dispose off Red Bull as F1’s new dominant force. To achieve this feat in such a short term, the board readily threw resources, with a strong technical and managerial team making the picture complete.
Renault’s mid-2000s success can also be attributed to the same reasons.
Downsides of manufacturers
Okay, it is well known that manufacturers undertake motorsport programmes for the sole purpose of marketing. They may join and quit as and when they want, drastically affecting the grid numbers.
Further, past has shown that a big budget isn’t the magic formula for success in F1. Toyota, Honda and BMW spent fortunes on F1, yet failed to score standout results . So when the recession severely impacted the world economy, they quickly pulled the plug.
The right approach
Hence, it is important that car makers follow the right approach in Formula 1. That means putting together a strong team, with such a managerial department in place that allows them to function properly. It also means putting in money at the right time, with the aim of getting the first mover advantage. Yes, we are talking about the upcoming 2017 regulations.
Renault - who are set to return to F1 next year - and Honda should be the first ones to learn lessons. The Japanese car maker has decided not to poach engineers from Ferrari and Mercedes, despite being asked to do so by car partners McLaren. So how do they expect to speed up the development rate?
It is widely known that the current generation F1 power units are complex pieces of engineering, making it difficult for new manufacturers to immediately make a mark in the sport.
WEC's LMP1 class - which also uses hybrid engine - allots double the testing time to new manufacturers and two extra engines in their debut season. And, therefore, Porsche made a successful return to the top echelon of sportscar racing, winning the curtain-raising Six Hours of Sao Paulo. However, the same can't be said about Nissan and their radical LMP1 car.
F1, in contrast, only allows one extra engine to new manufacturers in their debut season. And this regulation was only introduced in the middle of this season, indicating how this aspect was completely ignored by the rule makers when the rules were being initially framed.
Manufacturers need to understand that car running a Formula 1 team is not the same as running a car company. It requires quicker decision making. Also, putting in the money won’t alone do the job. F1 requires looking after each and every aspect of the team, and not just the finances.
If Mercedes can quickly turn its fortunes, so can their rivals. The marketing benefits of competing in F1 are immense. It’s time for car makers to join the sport and add to its appeal and value.
by Rachit Thukral