Teams optimistic as F1 unveils future blueprint for series
ABS-CBN Sports on Apr 07, 2018 08:46 AM
Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel of Germany gremaces as he answers to reporters at the Formula One Bahrain International Circuit in Sakhir, Bahrain, Thursday, April 5, 2018. The Bahrain Formula One Grand Prix will take place here on Sunday. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)
By Jerome Pugmire, Associated Press
SAKHIR, Bahrain (AP) — Claire Williams from Williams felt like cracking open some champagne, while other Formula One teams also reacted positively to series owner Liberty Media's plans for their future.
The key initiatives are the introduction of a cost cap and helping to make engines cheaper and louder.
U.S.-owned Liberty took over last year after Bernie Ecclestone's 40-year reign. F1 managing director of motorsports Ross Brawn presented the ownership's blueprint beyond 2020 when the current rules — known as the Concorde Agreement — expire.
The proposals focus on engines, revenue, governance, regulations, and cost-cutting. Teams have yet to agree on it, with Ferrari and Mercedes previously expressing concern at the direction of F1.
F1 wants cheaper, louder, more powerful engines — but also wants them more reliable to reduce the amount of grid penalties. The new engines, or power units, must also be accessible to any new teams — such as Aston Martin — planning to enter the series.
"I was extremely positive about today's meeting. We've all hoped for change under our new management and they presented change," said Williams, her F1 team's deputy principal. "For a team like ours, based on what they presented, it was an extremely good day for us. I came back thinking let's crack open some Champagne."
Aston Martin president Andy Palmer also approved.
"We are extremely pleased to hear today's news," Palmer tweeted. "These prospective changes support many of the requirements needed for Aston Martin to enter the sport as an engine supplier. This is a very positive step in the right direction."
However, there are likely to be ongoing tensions.
Mercedes head of motorsport Toto Wolff previously said teams must overcome their differences in the face of a threat by Ferrari to quit. Ferrari chairman Sergio Marchionne has spoken out against simplifying engines and redistributing prize money more fairly.
McLaren executive director Zak Brown said teams must compromise more in the wider interest of winning more fans.
"The sport starts with the fan and that's what Liberty are focused on. And if the fan wins, we all win," Brown said. "We all recognize that the sport is not where it needs to be today, so it's in our collective interest to improve the show. That means we're all going to have make varying degrees of compromises."
Guenther Steiner, team principal of the U.S.-owned Haas team — which uses Ferrari engines — remained tight-lipped about what reservations teams may have had regarding the proposals. However, he also sounded optimistic.
"The detailed discussions are behind closed doors, we all agreed on that one," he said. "It's a good starting point. A very good one, actually."
Although F1 says new engines in 2021 will have "some standardized elements, car differentiation must remain a core value" — which may help appease Ferrari in particular.
The idea of a cost cap may, however, give Mercedes and Ferrari even more financial clout than other teams. F1 did not give any figures for the proposed cost cap, but it is reportedly estimated at $150 million (122 million euros), around half of Mercedes' annual budget.
F1 also hopes to level the playing field in terms of revenue distribution, which it says "must be more balanced" and "based on meritocracy" rather than long-standing prestige.
F1 also wants to increase overtaking. F1 races have become somewhat predictable, with Mercedes dominating the past four seasons and Red Bull doing the same before them. Drivers making a strong start from pole position in a more powerful car are rarely troubled. F1 hopes that reducing the impact of engineering technology and putting more emphases back on "driver's skill" will help that goal.
While teams will remain free to develop aerodynamics, suspension, and engines, F1 wants standardized parts for other areas "not relevant" to watching fans.
Finally, in a bid to improve relations between motorsport governing body FIA, teams, and owners, F1 hopes for "a simple and streamlined structure."
Drivers, who have minimal input, are also divided on future changes.