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How F1 Could Save Money

Monday 5th May 2014

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Maldonado's is the re-inforced one...

Maldonado's is the re-inforced one...

Last week there was a critical meeting about saving money in F1. The small teams: Caterham, Sauber, Force India and Marussia are threatening to bring in the EU to investigate the business practices of F1 unless there is a move by the major teams to cut costs. This after the big teams decided the cost-cap promised to the small teams by FIA boss Jean Todt, was unworkable.

The way forward suggested by the big teams is by regulation and standardisation of certain parts on the car - a ban on tyre warmers, restriction on creative brake ducts etc. The small teams say that what the big teams have suggested is not enough.

PF1 puts forward five ways that may or not make a major difference to F1 finances...

1. Ban Front and Rear Interconnected Suspensions
F1 has spent an extraordinary amount of money emulating the kind of suspension used successfully by the Williams team in the early 1990s - active suspension. Active suspension constantly adjusts the car to the correct angle (a bit like the fabulous old Citroen hydro-pneumatic suspension) for each corner) to give the perfect ride height.

FRICS, as it is known, does this passively through a great deal of complex and difficult-to-set-up engineering. Mercedes and Lotus were early on the technology but the larger teams are constantly evolving their own solutions. Active suspension would be much cheaper to install and has far greater road-car relevance than the current system

This is a suggestion that has been put forward already and commentators like Martin Brundle have characterised it as a return to "Scalextric" racing. But right now with the removal of downforce cars are going slower round the turns and so this would increase lap times, and help the smaller teams.

2.Limit Aero Changes
The intensely complicated front wings of cars have little or no road car relevance and cost millions to research and develop. Luca Montezemolo is right to rail against this enormous investment in fiddly bits of carbon fibre that in the hands of some drivers don't survive Turn 1 (although now front wings are narrower, the attrition rate is much less).

Limit teams to five changes of the aero package a year. This won't stop creativity, it will just concentrate the teams' ideas. Alternatively, let them change what they like but cut back the wind tunnel and CFD time to a quarter of the current level.

3. It's Simulator OR Testing
The top teams have very sophisticated bespoke simulators that have taken years to assemble and perfect. These have been done in response to the lack of testing.

Give the smaller teams who don't have a simulator eight extra test days. Or let teams decided which they'd sooner have. F1 teams would have to weigh up the balance of advantage. Do they keep their simulator or go for the extra testing?

Alternatively The American sports teams run a successful draft system where the bottom team gets first draft pick of college players, levelling the playing field to a small degree. In F1, the team finishing last in the constructors championship would get the most test days. An alternative for F1 would be for teams to receive a number of core test days - 12 - and then the top team gets no more, second place gets two extra, third gets three extra, fourth four extra, etc.

4. Bernie Pays For New GPs
When the Commercial Rights Holder of F1 suggests a new GP, almost always so they can get a nice fat sanctioning fee, in future they have to pick up the teams' travel and accommodation costs for the first five years. It's all very well suggesting races such as the Azerbaijan Grand Prix but with no history of F1 support the first few years are like the Turkish GP - races in front of empty grandstands.

Most businesses have to invest money before they see a return, yet with new GPs Bernie gets a payback straight away and the host country picks up the enormous cost of building the circuit. Having to pay the teams for the first five years will certainly concentrate the mind about which GP should be added to the calendar.

5. Ban Remote Data Teams
With a limit on the number of personnel at grands prix, the big teams have built up shadow data teams back at the HQ to monitor the telemetry on cars and work out strategy options as the races unfold. At McLaren they have 'Mission Control' which looks like the Houston equivalent with rows of strategists, engineers looking at vehicle dynamics and aerodynamicists.

These could be cut without a significant loss in the spectacle of the race.

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