Formula 1

Palou vs. Ganassi, Piastri vs. Alpine

Right now, top-flight single-seater racing news in the USA and the rest of the world is being dominated by contractual disputes involving drivers.

In Indycar, Chip Ganassi Racing (CGR) is suing one of its drivers, Alex Palou, for breach of contract after they announced on July 12th that he had extended his contract with them to the end of 2023, and Palou responded “No, I never agreed to this”. Palou and his management believe that he has a signed agreement with McLaren, although it is not clear what racing series he will be driving in in 2023, since McLaren co-owns an Indycar team, and owns a Formula 1 team and a Formula E team. Several hours after Ganassi’s announcement, McLaren announced that it had signed Palou for 2023 and beyond. However, the press release carefully avoided mentioning which series Palou would be driving in.

Palou, it must be mentioned, is the current Indycar series champion, having won the title last year driving for Ganassi in his second season in the series. So we have a championship-winning team suing its championship-winning driver. Not a common occurrence.

In Formula 1, following the shock news that Fernando Alonso is leaving Alpine to join Aston Martin for 2023 and beyond (replacing Sebastian Vettel, who is retiring), which was announced on August 1st, Alpine announced that its reserve driver Oscar Piastri, would be racing for Alpine in 2023, replacing Alonso. To which Piastri immediately responded “I have not signed for Alpine, and I will not be driving for them in 2023”.

It is widely believed that Piastri and his management have been in talks with McLaren about Piastri joining the team, presumably replacing Daniel Ricciardo, who is not performing at the same level as Lando Norris.

Both situations are messy. In the case of Palou and Ganassi, CGR has sued Palou in Marion County District Court (the court handing civil matters in the county in Indiana where CGR has its headquarters). Palou’s lawyers have applied to have the case moved to Federal court, which, if granted, may slow down its progress, and more awkwardly, force Ganassi to reveal more details of the contracts that lie behind the lawsuit claims. (Palou’s lawyers have also hinted that Palou may file counter-claims in the case).

The main issue in this lawsuit may be whether Palou’s contract with CGR contains any sort of “out” clause that would allow him to leave to join a Formula 1 team. Some racing contracts in lesser series have an “out” clause allowing a driver to leave if he is offered a drive in Formula 1. This is entirely dependent on the detail wording of the contract, since the contract might have an “out” clause for Formula 1, but it might only apply if Palou is going to be a full-time driver for McLaren. A test driver role, for example, might not qualify to trigger the clause.

In the case of Piastri and Alpine, the main issue, if Piastri has signed an agreement with McLaren, is that Daniel Ricciardo signed a 3 year contract with McLaren for the 2021-2023 seasons. The contract has no get-out clause on the team’s behalf, but it has an option on Ricciardo’s side for the 2023 season. So, if Ricciardo has already exercised the option, which he would be a fool not to do, he is contractually bound to McLaren for 2023, and if McLaren wants another driver to replace him, they will either have to buy out his contract, or sell his contract to another team (which might also require his express consent, depending on how the contract is worded).

The big backdrop to the Piastri-Alpine dispute is that many option contracts and pre-contracts in Formula 1 expire on July 31st. Teams want to have their drivers locked down for the following season as soon as possible, in order for them to do other commercial deals before the next season commences, and drivers whose current teams may be terminating or not extending their contracts also need to know in time what will happen so that they can look for other opportunities.

What is generally believed is that Fernando Alonso was negotiating a new contract with Alpine, but he had not signed it, because he wanted a multi-year deal, while Alpine was only prepared to offer him a 1 year deal. The insistence on a 1 year deal apparently came from Alpine CEO Laurent Rossi. Alonso’s contract had an exclusivity clause that expired on July 31st, after which time he was free to talk to other teams.

Alpine has had Oscar Piastri under contract for some time, and supported him in the lower formulae. Piastri is reckoned by many people in the sport to be a once-in-a-generation top-flight driver, and his performances of winning both an F3 series and an F2 series in his first season in both certainly suggest that he is highly talented. Alpine had Zhou Guan Yu under contract, but lost him to Alfa Romeo at the end of last year, because they could not offer him any Formula 1 seat. They did not want to lose Piastri the same way.

Piastri’s contract with Alpine also is rumored to have had an exclusivity clause that expired on July 31st. Piastri’s manager, Mark Webber, has been in talks with other teams for a while, trying to find a drive for him next year. Basically, it has been clear all along that if Alpine could not find Piastri a drive in F1 next year, he would become a free agent and any team could sign him. Normally a manufacturer team like Alpine would do a loan deal to another team for 1 or 2 seasons. However, many teams are not keen on taking a driver on loan only to have to give him back after he has spent 1 or 2 seasons honing his craft. Piastri was also not keen on a loan deal to a back-of-the-grid team where he might not be able to show his talent to the full.

There is an additional complication that Alpine/Renault does not have any customer teams. In the past, manufacturers would loan a driver to a customer team, often paying his salary and offering the B team a discount on powerplant supply. Alpine does not have that option available.

Up until last week, the most likely outcome was for Alonso to agree to the 1 year offer from Alpine (which was also rumored to include a clause guaranteeing him the lead driver role in the Alpine WEC car project after 2023), with Piastri being loaned to another lower-tier team for 1 season to allow him to gain experience, possibly Williams or Haas. Alonso had no other options with any other team, and his track record of acrimonious splits with teams has left him with the image as a difficult person to deal with.

Then…Sebastian Vettel announced his retirement on 27th July. That changed everything.

Suddenly, a potentially top-flight team with a wealthy, ambitious owner was on the phone to Fernando Alonso, offering everything that Alpine were not offering – a multi-year contract for a start, and a salary that was rumored to be higher than any salary that Alpine was prepared to offer. (Rumor has it that Esteban Ocon’s salary rises next year as part of an escalator clause in his contract, and the salary that Alpine was offering Alonso for 2023 was less than Ocon’s 2023 salary).

Alonso, a man for whom pride and ego plays a big part, suddenly felt wanted and needed in a way that Alpine were not signalling. In his mind, Alpine wanted to underpay him, then rapidly pension him off and send him to sports cars. Aston Martin wanted him to drive in F1 as long as he wanted to. Big difference.

Legally, Alonso could not sign anything until his exclusivity clause with Alpine expired at midnight on July 31st. But within a few hours after that, Aston Martin announced that Alonso had signed a multi-year deal with the team.

However, at exactly the same date and time, Oscar Piastri’s exclusivity contract with Alpine also ended. He was free to negotiate with other teams, and it just so happened that another team (believed to be McLaren) was very interested. Seeing Piastri as a generational talent, they offered him a contract.

Alpine’s announcement that Piastri would be driving for them can be seen as a throw of the dice. The team, caught entirely unawares by Alonso’s decision to sign for Aston Martin, needed a replacement, and what better than the driver that they have been supporting to get into Formula 1?

However, Piastri’s categorical insistence that he will not drive for Alpine in 2023 is a powerful indication that he has already signed to drive for another team. If the Alpine exclusivity clause in the contract had expired, it is possible that Alpine has no legal recourse. In which case they are left with a vacant seat for next season. If Alpine was unable to commit to Piastri, because they still wanted to have Alonso in the team for 2023, they might have been stringing him along to the point where he lost patience and confidence in them, and signed an option deal with McLaren, to be triggered after 31st July.

Now…if that happened, then things get murky if there was an exclusivity clause attached to Piastri’s contract with Alpine. If Alpine could, for example, show that Piastri and/or his management were negotiating with McLaren in advance of 31st July, when the contract forbade it, then they would have a case against McLaren for tortuous interference, as well as Piastri for breach of contract. However, I doubt that is the case. It has been an open secret for months that Piastri’s management have been trying to find him a formula 1 drive for 2023. They probably already banged on every team’s door a long time ago.

At the same time, 3 into 2 will not work at McLaren, at least not next season. With Daniel Ricciardo essentially unsackable, McLaren will either have to buy out Ricciardo’s contract, find him a seat acceptable to him in another series (i.e. Indycar or Formula E), or trade his contract to another team, if they want to slot Piastri into a race seat for 2023.

One big unknown is whether Ricciardo’s contract contains offset language. If (to use an example) he is being paid $10m by McLaren, and McLaren terminate his contract, and there is offset language in the contract, and he signs a contract with another team for $8m, McLaren would only owe him $2m, because the new team would be paying him $8m of the $10m that McLaren would otherwise owe him in 2023 under the terms of the contract. Absent any offset language, Ricciardo could potentially “double dip”. He could collect the money owed for his McLaren contract in 2023, sign with another team AND get paid by them. Assuming he can find another team willing to sign him at this late stage.

Alpine now has a driver vacancy…

The fact that Mclaren is a suitor for the services of both Alex Palou and Oscar Piastri is probably not a coincidence. Zak Brown, the CEO of McLaren Racing, is ambitious to build up all of the three single-seater teams. McLaren formally enters Formula E next season, when it takes over the Mercedes Formula E team, Arrow SPM McLaren is expanding to 3 cars next season, and Colton Herta has tested with McLaren this season in a 2021 car.

UPDATE – This morning’s addition to the rumour mill is that the contract Piastri has signed with McLaren is for a reserve driver role in 2023, with him becoming a race driver in 2024 and beyond, after the expiry of Daniel Ricciardo’s contract. This is logical from a financial point of view, given the costs that McLaren would likely incur if they terminated Ricciardo’s contract a year early, but the rumour makes little sense from an overall strategy perspective. Alpine would have been extremely keen to have Piastri also continue in a reserve role for 1 year while Alonso saw out his contract, so he was not going to be racing for Alpine.

The only part of the rumor that makes sense is that Alpine planned to loan him to Williams for 2023, and Piastri and his manager felt that was not going to be good for him. However, any racing experience is better than watching from the garage. George Russell was loaned from Mercedes to Williams for 2 seasons, rapidly acquired the nickname “Mr. Saturday” because of his consistent ability to extract the maximum from a mediocre car in qualifying, and is clearly ready to race at the sharp end in 2023 for Mercedes. Being loaned to another team certainly did not hinder him.

UPDATE 2 – The case filed by Ganassi against Alex Palou is now headed for Federal court.

UPDATE 3 – A lot of people seem to think that the Alpine mess with Alonso and Piastri is somehow the fault of Otmar Szafnauer. This is unlikely. Fernando Alonso was apparently negotiating his contract directly with Alpine CEO Laurent Rossi, and it is therefore safe to assume that the same was occurring with Oscar Piastri. Szafnauer, like the rest of the Alpine team, found out that Fernando Alonso had signed for Aston Martin when he read that team’s press release on the Monday morning.

There may be issues with Rossi’s leadership style. Since he became Alpine CEO, three senior leaders – Marcin Budkowski, Cyril Abetiboul, and Alain Prost, have left the team. Alpine also lost Zhou Guan Yu to Alfa Romeo last year when they were unable to offer him a race seat. There is an emerging pattern that suggests strongly that Rossi does not really understand or respect top-flight racing team culture.

UPDATE 4 – It now seems that McLaren intends to replace Daniel Ricciardo with Oscar Piastri in 2023, and has already commenced talks with Ricciardo’s management to buy out the remainder of his contract. 

This explanation from Dieter Rencken shows that Piastri probably signed a McLaren contract before Alonso signed for Aston Martin.

UPDATE 5 – Adam Cooper, writing in Motorsport, explains the events that have unfolded. Included in the article is the revelation that a deal had been agreed for Piastri to be loaned to Williams, with a Renault powerplant deal as part of the arrangement. So the signing of Piastri to Mclaren has pissed off not only Alpine, but also Williams. Alpine would have gained a B team, which they currently lack, which would have increased their influence inside the sport. The relationship between Piastri and McLaren had better work, or his management may live to regret the move.

 

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The rumoured McLaren staff revolt and the underlying realities

Reality can be harsh.
Mclaren, a team that has not won a race since November 2012, signed a deal with Honda during 2013 for the 2015 season. Ron Dennis, the founder of the modern McLaren that we know, stated in 2015 that in his opinion, it was not possible for any team to win without being a “factory” engine team for a major manufacturer. McLaren had been nowhere compared to Mercedes in the 2014 season, and Dennis concluded that no customer team could enjoy the same access, and hence the same level of integration and optimization, as a factory team.
We know the history of the McLaren – Honda relationhip since 2015. The relationship, never a good one, finally collapsed last Spring and Summer, when Honda turned up for Winter testing with a powerplant that kept failing, vibrated the hell out of itself and the car, and was lacking in power. After putting Honda on a strict plan to force them to provide a powerplant by the end of the Summer that approached Mercedes customer power, McLaren walked away from the relationship in September 2017, and the Honda engine deal is now with Toro Rosso. The Honda program is now on its third leader in 4 seasons, so there have been consequences inside Honda for the poor performance of the powerplant.
However, all of the time that McLaren was struggling to be competitive with the Honda powerplant, the team had a ready-made excuse for poor on-track performance. It was the same mantra: we would be a lot more competitive with anybody else’s powerplant in the car. This narrative of a potentially front-running team hobbled by a sub-standard power unit was bought into by the drivers, and team management, who said it consistently a lot in the 2017 season.
Following the break with Honda, McLaren, having failed to agree a deal with Mercedes, signed a 3 year deal with Renault. Zak Brown and other McLaren leaders made encouraging noises, pointing out when asked that Red Bull, despite not being a “factory” team (and in fact, despite having re-badged their Renault powerplant as a Tag-Heuer), were winning races. The expectation was that McLaren could be a top 8 team again, capable of podiums, with a chance of a win.
Although the McLaren-Renault car of 2018 is more reliable and more competitive than the McLaren-Honda car, it is still not competitive enough. The car qualifies in about the same place as it did when powered by Honda, and is more consistently competitive in race trim, but it is still not fast enough. So far this season, there is not even the sniff of a podium.
Formula 1, under the current hybrid powerplant formula, is a two-tier series. Mercedes, Ferrari and (on a good day) Red Bull are in Tier 1. The remaining teams are in Tier 2. Absent a sudden change in aero regulations or car development, this is likely to be the status quo until the end of the 2020 season and the beginning of a new engine formula.
In the meantime, Fernando Alonso has seemingly shifted gears away from trying to win in Formula 1 to achieving the rare feat of a win at Monaco, a Formula 1 world championship, a win in the Indianapolis 500, and a win at Le Mans. He appears to have realized that, out of options for any further wins or championships in Formula 1, he should chase the quadruple crown, only achieved by one man (Graham Hill).
McLaren is reported to be keen to keep Alonso in the organization, and to that end is involved in detail discussions with Andretti Autosport to set up an Indycar team for Alonso for 2019 and beyond. The series would be delighted to have Alonso, and if enough sponsorship can be found, it is possible that 2018 will be Fernando Alonso’s last season in F1.
The lack of competitiveness of the Mclaren-Renault car, plus the seeming diversion of resources away from F1, has led to rumours of a staff revolt. There have already been staff changes, with Tim Goss, a long time employee, leaving his job as Technical Director (chassis) in April.
The coalescence point for the rumours appears to be the potential availability of Martin Whitmarsh. Whitmarsh was the CEO of the racing team until he was fired by Ron Dennis in 2014. He was given a generous severance deal that apparently prevented him from working in Formula 1 for a lengthy period of time, so he took a job as the CEO of the UK’s Americas Cup yacht team for several years, a job that he relinquished in November 2017.
Whitmarsh was eventually replaced at Mclaren by Jost Capito, poached from VW by Ron Dennis, but Capito, being Ron’s man, was dismissed soon after Dennis left the organization that he founded, and Zak Brown became the CEO.
Recently, Whitmarsh has been seen in and around the McLaren garage at races, having seemingly been welcomed back into the fold following the departure last year of Ron Dennis. He has now (wittingly or unwittingly) become a lightning rod for the rumours of staff discontent.
The rumours seem to have the following narrative: Eric Bouiller has no credibility as the team manager, because the car is noncompetitive and he cannot explain why. Zak Brown has no credibility because he is distracting McLaren by trying to set up a team in Indycar, and allowing Fernando Alonso to drive in other racing series.
Solution: Bring back Martin Whitmarsh.
There are some problems with this idea, in no particular order:

1. Whitmarsh is supposed to be well-liked in McLaren. This may be true, but sometimes the reason why a leader is popular is that they are not kicking the corporation along. McLaren’s on-track performance declined while Whitmarsh was the CEO. It is not clear how or why the expectation that it will improve if he returns is valid. The idea of getting Whitmarsh back seems to be more rooted in “his name is not Bouiller or Brown”.
2. There is next to no chance of Mclaren winning a Formula 1 race prior to 2021. Renault’s powerplant is not at the level of Ferrari or Mercedes, and the performance of this year’s car shows that it is a good, not great, car. (The problem with blaming your powerplant supplier is that when you change suppliers, your stock excuse disappears). McLaren does not have the engineering bench of Red Bull, so the idea of a “wild card” win is over-optimistic.
McLaren, if it wants to plausibly be a winning racing organization, has to move into another series. The WEC is expensive at the top level, the regulations are in flux, and the series lacks enough promotion muscle outside of Le Mans. Indycar is the next best series from a fit and financial standpoint. A winning McLaren indycar would be a powerful distraction from the average performance of the current F1 team, and if enough sponsorship can be found, it would be self-financing. Winning cures a lot of ills within a competitive organization.

The idea that parachuting a single person into McLaren will magically restore the team’s fortunes is not realistic. Most of the issues with the F1 team are the result of poor strategic decisions. The strategy of going with Honda was the correct one, but the results were not there. McLaren, realistically, is in survival mode in F1 until 2021. Any new CEO is unlikely to be able to change that reality.

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The F1 engine life fiasco for 2018 and beyond

The FIA and LibertyF1 are digging themselves into a hole over their attempts to reduce F1 powerplant development and running costs.
The current generation of F1 powerplants are extremely complex, comprising 6 component sets:
Internal Combustion Engine (ICE)
Motor Generator Unit – Heat (MGU-H)
Motor Generator Unit – Kinetic (MGU-K)
Turbocharger (TC)
Energy Store (ES)
Control Electronics (CE)

Over the last several seasons, the FIA has been reducing the allowed number of sets that any powerplant supplier can use in a season without penalty. In the 2017 season, powerplant suppliers were allowed to use four of each of the six components during the course of a season without incurring penalties. If any car used more than 4 of each component type, penalties were imposed.
Meeting the reliability and life requirements for the component sets proved challenging in 2017 for powerplant suppliers. Honda, in particular, essentially debugged and tested their entire new-specification powerplant in public, chewing through 11 MGU-H units, 9 ICEs…the penalties were enormous. Renault also had numerous reliability issues, especially towards the end of the season when they seemed to deliberately run down their stock of spare components, which led to a public row with Toro Rosso, who at one point suggested that Renault was deliberately supplying them with end-of-life components in order to make it possible for the Renault works team to leapfrog them in the Constructors championship and gain more revenues from the F1 prize pool.
The practical target mileage for an entire powerplant package in 2018 is to be able to run for 7 race weekends – 3 free practice sessions, qualifying (which uses higher-power modes and is harder on the powerplant) and the race. This is reckoned to be around 750kms at nearly all race weekends. That is around 5300 kms for 7 races.
As a comparison, the Porsche 919 that won last year’s Le Man 24 Hours race travelled a total distance of 5000 kms in the race…
So…the ask for F1 powerplants is now for them to be as long-lived and reliable as a Le Mans LMP1 powerplant. Requiring that a 2-hour race powerplant be as reliable as a 24 hours endurance powerplant seems to be a mismatch of expectations vs. function.
Mario Ilien, who should know a wee bit about F1 engine and powerplant design and support, said this in July 2017:

…Next year, having three engines is more expensive than producing four engines.
All the new parts you are developing have to go through testing on the dyno, to make sure you have achieved the mileage for three engines a year. And that is expensive.
I think even four is not enough. We’re half way through this season, and half the field has got a problem.

Well, today, Cyril Abetiboul of Renault effectively admitted that Renault may actually formulate a powerplant usage strategy for its works team based on accepting that they cannot survive on only 3 sets of powerplant components. He appeared to be hinting strongly that Renault may decide to use more than 3 sets of components, and work out how to accept the penalties at the most advantageous points in the season. This is a pretty strong indication that at least one powerplant supplier is not prepared to stick to the 3 component set limit if it feels that exceeding it will allow it to provide a more powerful powerplant package.

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The F1 engine supply mess

THe current complicated negotiations involving Mclaren, Honda, and Scuderia Toro Rosso are said to be reaching a conclusion over the Monza Grand Prix weekend.
The situation is complicated partly because none of the other F1 power unit suppliers are keen to supply Mclaren. Earlier in the season, Mclaren was said to have an outline deal in place to return to being a Mercedes customer from 2018. However, that proposal seems to have disappeared off the table. Mclaren cannot sensibly obtain Ferrari power units because the two companies compete in the luxury car market. That left only Renault, but the French company is publicly reluctant to expand to supplying a fourth team.
Numerically, the three other power unit suppliers currently supply three teams each. Under the terms of the current power unit regulations, if Honda withdraws from Formula 1, one of those suppliers will end up supplying Mclaren in 2018. Here is a summary explanation from Fabrice Lom, the FIA Head of Powertrain:

For the obligation to supply: the idea was to have no team that is not able to have access to a power unit. This was a big part of the discussion because we also don’t want people to be able to play with that and to change from one power unit to another from one year to another in order to have the best one. So there is a quite complex system in place, but the basic [premise] is that if you are a team with no offer, so nobody is offering you a power unit, you can ask the FIA to have one and there is a system of ballots. So we will take the power unit that has the smallest number of customers. If there is only one, this will be the one that will be required to give the power unit. If there is more than one there will be a ballot between the two to decide which one will supply, and there is a low price of €12m from 2018 for this supply.

This rule is one that none of the power unit suppliers wants to see invoked. If Honda does withdraw, one of the current suppliers will, by ballot, be told to supply Mclaren with power units for 2018 for the bargain price of €12m, a price which may not even cover their costs.
So…Mercedes, Ferrari and Renault would much prefer that Honda stays, in order to avoid that scenario. They want to negotiate their own power unit supply contracts, not have a supply contract mandated for them.
So, there is a deep imperative by the FIA and LibertyF1 to ensure that Honda stays in F1. The ideal current solution is essentially a power unit supply swap where Toro Rosso has Honda power units in 2018, and Mclaren has Renault power units. However, that requires Mclaren to negotiate an end to its current contract with Honda. Since that contract was 10 years in duration with lots of money attached, that is proving difficult. Honda is also said to be demanding that any Toro Rosso contract contains the option for Honda to supply Red Bull racing from 2019 onwards, since the Toro Rosso driver line up does not contain a world champion.
So, all of this, as Jean Todt admitted, complicated…

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The edges of legality in F1 – the FIA approach evolves and not for the best

An interesting article in Auto Motor Und Sport (WARNING: It is in German) explains how the FIA, in its attempts to crack down on cheating by the top teams in F1, has been relying on complaints or observations submitted by other teams, and as a result, have been tightening regulations and modifying comppliance testing processes.
The article gives some examples from this season:

1. The suspicion that one or more teams (the suspect team was ID’d rapidly as Ferrari) were using engine oil partly as a fuel, diverting some oil into the combustion process. The FIA has reacted in two ways (a) they have reduced the allowable consumption limit per 100km, and (b) they will be fixing the precise specification of oil at the end of the season
2. The use of special airflow devices on the front axle of the Ferrari cars in Baku to increase straight-line speed
3. The excessive deflection observed on the t-wings of some cars early in the season, believed to be an attempt to increase straight-line speed
4. A ban on pre-heating hydraulic suspension actuators in the garage prior to running the car. The practice was designed to ensure that the cars enjoyed a constant ground clearance from the moment that they entered the track.
5. Further evidence of flexing of car floors and underbodies has been countered with a new series of expanded deflection tests.
6. More stringent deflection tests for front wing components, after Red Bull (surprise surprise) was caught with a wing part that was clearly deflecting at speed to reduce drag.

While superficially, the changes seem to be perfectly sensible and smart, there is a point made in the article (my tidy-up of the translation of the article):

The policy of the long leash has been well received by the big teams. They can experiment at the edge of the rules without being disqualified. The smaller teams are annoyed by the new approach of the World Federation. Because they do not have the means to bring risky technology tricks to the car, with the fear that they end up in the dustbin.

In my opinion, the FIA is being way too lenient with the top teams. If teams are violating the regulations, then they should be penalized. The “fix this by the next race or there will be trouble” approach may be non-confrontational and ensures that there are no public rows, but it is the equivalent of a “tsk tsk ” slap on the wrist. This is not going to stop teams from attempting to circumvent the regulations. The objections of the smaller teams are correct. If they cannot afford to try numerous different evasion tactics to circumvent the regulations, they will perpetually be watching the large teams to see what innovations they bring to the race track and what circumventions are allowed or ignored by the FIA. This is not a correct way to enforce technical regulations.

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If I Ruled The World, F1 Style…

Revenue Distribution
1. All current distorting “legacy” payments that do not form part of the constructors performance prize money system to be scrapped
2. System shall reward teams for positions in constructors championship in a transparent and consistent manner, with no teams enjoying special prize money increases due to “legacy” or other status
3. A special bonus of $5m shall be given to the team that wins the Drivers championship

Technical and Sporting Regulations
1. All significant technical regulation changes to be stable for 10 years, after an adjustment period at the end of year 1. No constructor is allowed any preferential input or veto on any aspect of the F1 technical regulations.
2. Allow underbody ground-effect downforce once more
3. Severely limit size and shape of front wings
4. Limit the size and downforce generation from rear wings
5. All components not considered to be the source of competitive advantage such as wheel hubs, uprights, differentials will be standardised and provided from a common supplier to all constructors.
6. Introduce an engine formula based on limited development avenues, but with no token system and less onerous engine life requirements
7. Minimum weight of the car to be reduced.
8. Weight limits on car/driver combinations to be measured in a way that does not penalize taller and heavier drivers, while still allowing for movement of ballast to strictly defined areas of the car
9. DRS to be converted to a limited-use push to pass tool
10. Penalties for engine usage or regulation infractions and car regulation conformance infractions to be levied as constructor points and fines, instead of car starting grid penalties, unless significant performance advantage can be proven, in which case disqualification, up to the entire team for a race event, is an option
11. Driver penalty point system to be abolished. Initial driver infractions to be dealt with by putting a driver on probation for a set number of races. Further infractions will result in the driver being immediately suspended for one or more race weekends.
12. Appeal management – if an appeal by a driver or a team is deemed to be frivolous, the FIA shall, at its discretion, have the ability to (a) immediately impose the penalty, (b) increase the penalty or suspension by up to a further 50% as a penalty for the waste of governing body resources.

Broadcasting and Media relations
1. Teams to be required to make most telemetry data available to broadcasters in real-time, with some more sensitive data (such as fuel usage and engine modes) available on time delay.
2. Teams to be required to perform a minimum number of media functions every race weekend with both drivers present

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Vettel vs. Hamilton incident at Baku – what it tells us about rule enforcement in Formula 1 and sports

A lot of light heat and sound is being created over the incident during a Safety Car period in the European Grand Prix at Baku where Sebastian Vettel, angry at what he thought was an incident of Lewis Hamilton brake-testing him at the exit to a corner, drove alongside Hamilton and then deliberately bumped him.
Vettel was penalized for the incident by being given a stop-go penalty. Predictably, opinion is split between people who believe that Vettel was not punished severely enough, and should have been disqualified, run out of town on a rail etc. etc. and people who believe that the incident was a storm in a teacup between two competitors, and that the media is against Vettel (in the case of the UK media, it must be because Vettel is German and “Don’t Forget Ze Var!”).
Lost in a lot of the discussion is that Vettel has a track record of behaving petulantly on-track. There was the infamous “Multi 21” incident in a race in 2013, where Vettel essentially refused to obey team orders to let Mark Webber pass him on-track, and then lawyered up to weasel out of punishment from the team. More recently, last season Vettel unleashed a string of expletives at Charlie Whiting in a race after another incident. So his behavior in Baku was not exactly new, nor was it totally unpredictable.
There is a simple reality at work here. Competitors in any sport will do what they think they can get away with. They will read the rules, watch how other successful past and current competitors and their role models in the sport behave, and then go out and push the rules to their limits. Talk about “the spirit of the rules” would be regarded by hard-core sports competitors as so much naive fluff. In the case of Sebastian Vettel, he has made no secret of the fact that Michael Schumacher was his hero growing up, and Lewis Hamilton has made no secret of his reverence for the late Ayrton Senna. Both men, as drivers, were bristlingly and uncompromisingly competitive, and both pushed the rules and norms of the sport up to (and in some cases, beyond) previously accepted limits.
It is up to the rule enforcement bodies in a sport to determine what the competitive limits are, and what to do about incidents where competitors go over those limits.
Unfortunately, most competitive sports governing bodies merely fine competitors or put them on probation. Partly this is because many sports leagues are essentially run by team owners, and team owners, as a general rule, do not like to see their highly-paid star performers sitting disconsolately off to one side while the game or event takes place without them. The same applies to Formula 1, where teams like Ferrari would be publicly indignant if one of their drivers was suspended. However, as Joe Saward explains in this commentary, the FIA may be about to come down hard on Vettel for several reasons, and Ferrari, who have been behaving like a bunch of horse’s asses towards the media for months, are likely to find that there is no reservoir of sympathy for them.
However, trying to regulate competitor behavior with fines and probationary warnings never works. Most fines are chump change to athletes earning millions (and some cases, tens of millions) or dollars annually. They will regard a fine as merely part of the cost of doing business.
Competitors will only change their behavior if their actions cause them to be denied the opportunity to compete. Competing is what they live for.
So…any discussion around consequences for Sebastian Vettel’s actions in Baku involving monetary fines, penalty points or minor losses of grid position is total fluff. If he is guilty of dangerous driving, the FIA should have suspended him for 1 race, or disqualified him from the race in Baku and then made him start the next race from the pit lane with a 10 second penalty on the rest of the field.
It is my belief that if the FIA had suspended Ayrton Senna for 5 races and docked him 25 championship points for running into Alain Prost back in 1990 at Suzuka, we wouldn’t have to had to watch this incident, or the Schumacher-Hill and Schumacher-Villeneuve incidents in 1994 and 1997. The message would have been sent along time ago to formula 1 competitors “if you collide with another driver deliberately, it WILL cost you a championship”. The current behavior patterns by drivers are the direct consequence of 20+ years of pussyfooting and inaction by the FIA.
UPDATE – Whenever I read articles talking about “making an example” of a competitor to “send a message”, I know I am dealing with a scenario where a sport has failed to correctly regulate competitor behavior in the past. If Sebastian Vettel, for example, knew in advance that running into Lewis Hamilton would have resulted in an immediate black flag, preferably supported by past incidents where drivers were black-flagged, he would most probably not have run into Hamilton.

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No, Honda and Ilmor cannot re-badge their Indy V6 engines for F1

The FIA and FOM are going to ask engine manufacturers to tender for the supply of a 2.2 liter twin turbo V6 engine from 2017.
Some of the first comments that I saw on discussion forums were that it would be easy for Ilmor (who provide engines for Chevrolet) and Honda to re-badge their Indy V6 turbo engines for use in F1 from 2017.
Nope, this is not going to happen, for commercial and technical reasons.
Leaving aside the question of whether an existing engine supplier in F1 is allowed to bid on the new engine contract (I am unable to determine whether that will be allowed), it is difficult to see why Honda would want to bid on this contract when they have a program under the current regulations. Now…Mugen might bid on it, or Honda could fund another third party to develop a second tier engine (as they did in 1988, when they sponsored John Judd’s V8 F1 engine program in order to help keep F1 grids full).
Ilmor appear to have no such restrictions, although they have been helping Renault this season with ICE design and reliability. Nobody knows how that contract might restrict their own involvement in F1 as a separate entity.
That is just the commercial side. The real issues are in the technical regulations, in several key areas.
1. Size and weight
The Indycar engine formula was designed to minimize costs of development and operations. The engines have a minimum box size (i.e. a minimum overall set of engine dimensions) that is a very large by F1 standards. They also have a minimum weight which is also high by F1 standards. Both of these rules were introduced to the series to prevent suppliers from engaging in “arms race” spending to reduce the size and weight of their engines, as was happening in F1 at the time. A visual image of an Indy V6 shows an engine that is tall and large by modern F1 standards.
2. Rotational speed
Current Indy V6 engines are limited to 12200 rpm. This is an rpm limit substantially below that of the current F1 engine technical regulations and ICE capability. In practice, current F1 engines are rarely exceeding 12000 rpm except in qualifying, due to current fuel flow limits. However, those limits are due to be lifted for 2017 and beyond, which means that ICE rpm will be a lot greater than 12000 in races.
3. Boost levels and power outputs
The boost levels in Indycar, as they have been for a long time, back to the CART era, are modest compared to the historical and current boost levels in F1. The maximum current boost level allowed in Indycar is 1.6 bar (23.2 psi) which is substantially less than boost levels in F1. Indycar engines, because of the lower boost levels, rotational speeds and fuel, do not use intercoolers.
Because of the modest boost levels and rotational speed limits, Current Indy engines generate a maximum of 750 bhp. Current F1 engines are generating 800-850 bhp in races and in excess of 900 bhp in qualifying. The F1 power outputs are expected to rise above 1000bhp when fuel flow limits are increased in 2017.
4. Fuel
Indy engines use 85% ethanol, which has a massive latent heat of evaporation, which reduces thermal stress in the top of the engines. F1 uses gasoline, which has less of a cooling effect.

To sum up: the current Indycar regulations have created an engine which, compared to the current hybrid F1 V6 engines, is heavy, large, with lower rotational speeds, boost levels, no intercooling, and no energy recovery systems. Even a basic F1 V6 turbo engine for use from 2017 onwards will need to be capable of much higher rotational speeds and boost levels in order to generate competitive power outputs, while being much more compact and lighter than current Indycar engines. This will require a brand new custom engine design, not an adaptation of current Indycar engine designs.

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Honda and F1 – remember the 1980s history

As people continue to chortle and poke at Honda’s poor track record on its return to F1, supplying hybrid powerplants to McLaren, it is worth remembering the history of Honda’s involvement in the last turbo era.
Honda returned to F1 in the Summer of 1983 with a V6 twin turbo engine that was initially supplied to Spirit Racing, who had been the lead Honda team in F2. The engine was an all in house effort, with all ancillaries farmed out to Honda sister companies. The engine was powerful, but that was about the only thing it had going for it. Williams, needing a turbo engine desperately, soon signed on to become the lead Honda team in F1, leaving Spirit out in the cold for 1984. (The 1983 Honda engine installation for the interim Williams car was designed totally by Williams, Honda having no idea about heat rejection or ancillary positioning in a car).
In 1984, the Honda engine was powerful, but overweight, with bad throttle lag, and a poor power curve that made Honda-powered cars difficult to drive. There were also questions about engine and chassis rigidity. Keke Rosberg won in a Williams-Honda at Dallas, but that was a fluke win, with all of the faster rivals retiring their cars due to collision damage. The extreme heat of the race caught out a number of drivers, but Rosberg, equipped with a cooling system in his helmet, kept his car on the circuit.
Elsewhere, the cars would qualify well but usually go backwards or retire in races, as the engine’s inconsistently high fuel consumption made it difficult to even get to the end of some races. Rosberg ran out of fuel in one race, coasting to a halt in the pit lane in front of none other than Nobuhiko Kawamoto of Honda, who was visiting for the weekend.
Honda ended 1984 with one lucky win, a couple of podiums, and little else. The engine was regarded by most observers as crude, and uncompetitive compared to rival engines from TAG, Renault and BMW.
For the first half of 1985, nothing much changed. Williams had a new all-carbon car, but the drivers still found the car difficult to drive because of the engine’s bad throttle lag and power delivery. The breakthrough came at Detroit in the early Summer, when Honda debuted a completely new engine design, with a seriously stiffer block, all new internals, and re-designed control systems. The drivers found an engine in the back instead of an on-off switch, and results soon came. Rosberg set a new record by qualifying faster than 160mph at Silverstone, and Williams began winning races. The engine was now more powerful than the Renault and TAG engines, with only BMW beating it on peak power.
In 1986, Honda raised the bar further with the new engine now boasting lower fuel consumption than rivals, which allowed higher race boost and horsepower. By now, Honda was leading the engine supply field, and would do so through the turbo and normally aspirated eras until 1992, when it retired after its V12 normally aspirated design proved overweight and insufficiently competitive.
Highlights included the famous “steamroller” season of 1988, when Honda produced an incredibly frugal engine that allowed McLaren to build a dominating turbo car, winning 15 out of the 16 races.
So…when people write off Honda today in F1, we have to remember that it took 2 years from their debut in F1 in the 1980s before they produced a competitive engine. However, within 12 months they were in the lead, and stayed there for a long time.

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