Saturday, December 27, 2008

F1 Cost Containment Proposals for 2010

As part of the omnibus agreement with FOTA from early December, there are further cost containment proposals for 2010. While we can examine the details of these proposals, it is important to note that this fall's exercise has shown that while F1 regulations do not exactly change on a dime, they can change over any given three week period. Therefore anything we look at now is purely speculative and subject to change.

Proposed changes to power train regulations:

• Engines will be available to the independent teams for less than €5 million per team per season. These will either come from an independent supplier or be supplied by the manufacturer teams backed by guarantees of continuity. If an independent supplier, the deal will be signed no later than 20 December 2008.
• This same engine will continue to be used in 2011 and 2012 (thus no new engine for 2011).
• Subject to confirmation of practicability, the same transmission will be used by all teams.

Developing a new engine is expensive, no matter what the formula. FOTA is currently floating the idea of a "low cost, but not standard, turbo engine" for 2010 and beyond; obviously the specifics have not been decided yet.

While engine development freezes sound good in theory, in practice you end up with some engines better than others, and if they are frozen you end up either with a huge demand for the better ones or rules fiddling like what is happening to the "frozen" Renault engine for 2009.

Changes to chassis rules:

• A list of all elements of the chassis will be prepared and a decision taken in respect of each element as to whether or not it will remain a performance differentiator (competitive element).
• Some elements which remain performance differentiators will be homologated for the season.
• Some elements will remain performance differentiators, but use inexpensive materials.
• Elements which are not performance differentiators will be prescriptive and be obtained or manufactured in the most economical possible way.

This is all very vague at this point, whether or not it is actually practical or workable is all dependent on the details. The last thing we want is a "spec" formula where all the cars look essentially the same except for their sponsor colors.

For race weekends:

• Standardised radio and telemetry systems.
• Ban on tire warmers.
• Ban on mechanical purging of tires.
• Ban on refueling.
• Possible reduction in race distance or duration (proposal to follow market research).

Standardized communications systems are a good thing, but probably not that expensive since most teams probably purchase their gear off the shelf as it is.

Tire warmers are something that the FIA has gone back and forth on. The actual warmers themselves are not expensive in terms of the amounts of money being thrown around. The drivers claim that the warmers are a safety issue, as driving around on cold tires can be more dangerous, but on the other hand F1 drivers got on for decades without them.

No refueling -- hooray! -- I've always thought that refueling was more an attempt to show that there was strategy at work, in an attempt to get TV watchers thinking about the race rather than just mindlessly following along. With its removal, maybe we can go looking for sub-four-second pit stops again, that would be great to see.

Factory activity:

• Further restrictions on aerodynamic research.
• Ban on tire force rigs (other than vertical force rigs).
• Full analysis of factory facilities with a view to proposing further restrictions on facilities.

More general rather than specific suggestions. Again, the problem with restrictions on the factory operation is the question of policing and enforcemetn.

In general, though, these proposals should see sharper cost reductions for 2011 and 2012, once the costs of developing the new engines has been sorted. The devil, as always, will be in the details, as well as the willingess on the part of some teams to spend money that they have in ways which are not anticipated (and therefore prevented) by the regulations.