Formula 1 is still grappling with its vision of the future, as a stalemate appears to have been reached on the way forward for the sport.
Last month, when the latest Strategy Group meeting ended, Bernie Ecclestone and the FIA jointly announced that sweeping changes are coming for 2017.
But over the Monaco and now Canadian race weekends, subsequent meetings between team bosses have chipped away at the earlier plan. The reintroduction of refuelling, for instance, is scrapped.
“It came out that it is expensive and would not improve the racing,” a spokesman for Mercedes is quoted by Kleine Zeitung newspaper.
A plan to move from the outdated 13-inch wheel rims to more road-relevant 18 or 19-inch ones has also fallen by the wayside.
“I think the broad consensus is that going to bigger wheels is not a good direction,” Mercedes’ Paddy Lowe said on Friday. That move alone may be enough to dissuade Michelin from applying to be the 2017 supplier, as an official for the French marque said this week that 13-inch is “the opposite of our philosophy”.
What has been broadly decided is that the F1 tyres and cars will be wider in 2017, but Mercedes’ team chairman Niki Lauda is quoted by Auto Motor und Sport: “Wider cars and wider tyres will not be enough”.
Team boss Toto Wolff agrees: “F1 has to become more extreme. “If a 30-year-old guy goes into a cinema and sees The Fast and the Furious, he thinks it’s pretty normal to finish a race backwards,” he told the Toronto Star newspaper.
“It’s going to be pretty tough for us to challenge that, but you see what attracts audiences — it is definitely spectacular racing and something F1 has to shoot for,” Wolff added.
Team bosses, however, are still arguing about how to implement that vision. It is believed there are still several proposals on the table about how to handle the issue of ‘free tyre compound choice’ for next year.
“We are all convinced that something has to change,” said Lotus’ Alan Permane. “But we need more time together in order to talk through the details.”
Arguably the most divisive issue is ‘customer cars’, as small teams like Force India and Sauber rail against the idea their status as full constructors could be taken away.
After the latest meetings in Montreal, Auto Motor und Sport claims it has been decided that customer cars should only be introduced as a last and temporary resort.
In that way, big teams might licence a ‘franchise’ to a smaller outfit, who would pay €50 million for the complete two-car package. Former Ferrari and Jaguar driver Eddie Irvine thinks F1 is paying the price for changing too many rules over the past decade.
“They’ve just bastardised the whole of formula one for the sake of chasing viewers that never arrived,” he told Beanbagsports. “They didn’t care about the fans who knew the history and the circuits and those who really worshipped the way it was.”
Sauber chief and co-owner Monisha Kaltenborn thinks a solution for the sport would be to abandon its current governance system and give the rule-making power to the FIA and Bernie Ecclestone.
“I think this would be a sensible approach,” she is quoted by AFP news agency.
“The sport is about racing on one side, in which the commercial rights holder has a vested interest, and the federation on the other side, which sets the rules.
“We could take some things from the system we had before, like working groups which would consider the teams’ views and where ideas or strategies could be discussed, but they (the rules) would be decided somewhere else,” Kaltenborn added.