Tuesday, December 23, 2008

F1 Cost Containment Proposals for 2009.

After much drama, the FIA and FOTA have come to some agreements regarding rules changes for 2009 and beyond. It is hoped that these changes will reduce team expenditures by up to 30%, more for independent teams.

Changes to engine rules:

• Engine life to be doubled. Each driver will use a maximum of eight engines for the season plus four for testing (thus 20 per team).
• Limit of 18,000 rpm.
• No internal re-tuning. Adjustment to trumpets and injectors only.
• The three-race rule voted on 5 November remains in force.
• Cost of engines to independent teams will be approximately 50% of 2008 prices.
• Unanimous agreement was reached on a list of proposed changes to the Renault engine for 2009; all other engines will remain unchanged. Comparative testing will not be necessary.

There's a little inconsistency where they say that "engine life will be doubled", which implies four races from the current target life of two, and "the three-race-rule" which implies three races. At this point I'm still waiting to see something which is clear.

Policing the use of engines for testing will be a lot easier with testing limited to Friday afternoons. It may improve the Friday show at the tracks, since teams will now have the incentive to do their running then, since other avenues are denied them; however depending on how fragile the engines turn out to be it could lead to hoarding of engines early in the season, or a lack of running at the end of the season due to a shortage of engines... and no further reason to run testing. This is one rule which could have an effect on what happens on the track.

I'm a little undecided about the changes to the Renault engine. While the Renault engine is probably down on power compared to some, it did win two races this year. Allowing changes at this point opens the door in future years to official meddling when other engines prove to be uncompetitive...

With regards to testing:

• No in-season testing except during race weekend during scheduled practice.

This alone should save the teams a metric buttload of money.

Aerodynamic research

• No wind tunnel exceeding 60% scale and 50 metres/sec to be used after 1 January 2009.
• A formula to balance wind tunnel-based research against CFD research, if agreed between the teams, will be proposed to the FIA.

Wind-tunnel testing is another area which becomes a money pit. It does mean that teams which have invested in large facilities will suddenly find that they are not permitted to use them as designed, and I suspect policing this rule will be rather difficult.

Factory activity

• Factory closures for six weeks per year, to accord with local laws.

It'd be nice to have six weeks a year off; I am clearly in the wrong business. It is hard to predict when the teams would choose to take this time (if it is optional). Would you shut down the factory during the season for a week in between some of the more widely-spaced events (especially now that in-season testing has been banned)? Or perhaps a block of time after the end of the season before the rush to get the new car delivered -- although there are no restrictions on testing in the off-season, making this potentially very valuable time indeed.

Race weekend

• Manpower to be reduced by means of a number of measures, including sharing information on tires and fuel to eliminate the need for “spotters.”

Making the tires visibly distinctive makes it easy to see who's wearing what tires. And eliminating refueling (from 2010 on) takes the guesswork out of fuel load -- either they have enough to get to the end of the race, or they don't.

Sporting spectacle

• Market research is being conducted to gauge the public reaction to a number of new ideas, including possible changes to qualifying and a proposal for the substitution of medals for points for the drivers. Proposals will be submitted to the FIA when the results of the market research are known.

This is basically a carte-blanche for the FIA to fiddle with anything else it cares to under the guise of "sporting spectacle". My views are that the medal system is nonsense, and that single-lap qualifying was the best format that has been tried so far.

Taken as a whole, though, a couple of deep money pits have been removed, and the teams should seem some savings through 2009. Whether or not this will be reflected in reduced spending is another question. I personally think that the only way to effectively reduce the team's expenditures is to reduce their budget -- if they have the money, I'm pretty sure that they will find a way to spend it.