The Who’s classic rock anthem, Won’t Get Fooled Again, couldn’t be applied to F1’s new racing boss…
Formula 1's new racing boss Ross Brawn says he wants to develop a purer, simpler sport in which more teams and drivers can win. Good luck with that.
In the best western movies, the cavalry arrive at the critical moment when the circle of prairie wagons are down to their last few bullets and all hope is fading. If F1 was a western, the cavalry have arrived to find a bunch of smoking wagons and no horses.
Brawn’s vision of the future would certainly have included teams such as Manor, and now Manor have gone to the wall because of a funding shortfall brought on by the need to develop a brand new car for 2017. At the other end of the grid, (in income terms) Ferrari have just announced details of a massive investment in piston technology.
Working with a new micro-injector design from Magneti Marelli, Ferrari have made extensive use of 3D printing techniques to remodel the ignition chamber to create what they hope is perfect combustion. The 3D printing has been employed to redesign the piston heads which will have to work at a potentially metal-distorting 400 bar of pressure.
3D printing allows engineers to build up thin layers on material one at a time, a method which would be impossible using traditional casting and machining methods.
If they are successful, you can bet there will be an engine ‘arms race’ from Mercedes, Renault and Honda to match Ferrari. To be fair, if Enzo Ferrari would have wanted Ferrari to be known for one thing it would have been for the strength of their engine. So the Scuderia are being quite traditional in their approach to the way they go about winning GPs.
Ross isn’t a big fan of complicated, expensive engines, at the press conference ushering him in as the new racing and rules guru for Liberty Media he said he needed to talk about engines to the teams. "They have made a huge investment in these engines so you can't just discard them and say: 'We are going to change the engines.' But how do we get from where we are today to where we want to be in two or three years' time with a great racing engine that everyone admires and enjoys?"
Presumably not by spending millions of euros on pressurized pistons that could explode their way out of the side of an engine with the force of a Saturn V rocket.
Ross is already eyeing up some kind of technology brake or budget cap. Brawn said: "The level of resource the top teams are using has made an enormous gap… We have to see if we can develop the rules to reward innovation less. Because as we have it now, innovation is heavily rewarded and if you can afford it, the slope is still quite steep – more money, faster cars. If we can flatten that off with the regulations that would go in the right direction."
Surprisingly, for an acknowledged aero specialist, Adrian Newey has already volunteered that wind tunnels could be banned entirely. That would save teams an enormous amount of money.
Even though F1 will see a new set of rules introduced in 2017, Brawn is ready to make changes. "I have ideas we should study and perhaps use in 2018 or 19," he said. And one of those might be to dump DRS. Brawn’s world view of a ‘purer simpler F1’ would have no such artifice as a drag reduction system: “…everyone knows it's artificial. We need to find purer solutions.”
He also spoke up for the smaller teams saying, "We need to stabilise the small teams and get them on a better financial footing.”
So it’s unfortunate that just as a real force for change arrives at the helm of F1, one of its perennially struggling teams has to close its doors. Ross cares. Bernie couldn’t care less. And we can be pretty certain that Ross will not be contemplating certain things in his ‘purer, simpler’ vision of the future. There will be no ‘five short-cuts a race’, no ‘gold, silver and bronze medals’ for the top three in each race, no ‘soaking the track for an artificially wet race’, and no ‘double points’ for the last race of the season.
How Ferrari get on with their pressurised pistons? We’re about to find out.