Formula 1 is working hard to speed away from its current predicament, which has alienated fans and is fast turning away those that remain loyal – but is it a classic case of too little too late?
Former FIA president Max Mosley told the Telegraph: “There are no two ways about it, if Formula One continues on its current path, it is headed for a major crisis.”
“The futures of six out of 10 teams on the grid are uncertain, there is too much artificiality in the racing, costs are far too high, and all that is giving us uncompetitive and, at times, boring racing,” he added.
Most of the sport’s stakeholders agree, so it was no surprise that after a lengthy meeting of the Strategy Group at Biggin Hill, further measures have now been announced. And so pressing is the apparent need for change that F1 will no longer wait until 2017 – or even as soon as 2016.
In a statement, the FIA and Bernie Ecclestone’s organisation announced that “driver aids and coaching” will be banned as soon as the Belgian Grand Prix in August.
Draconian engine change penalties, slammed as “ridiculous” on Thursday by Red Bull’s Daniil Kvyat, will be scrapped ahead of an emergency fax vote in time for the World Motor Sport Council meeting next week.
Also agreed by the Strategy Group are changes to exhaust systems to “improve engine noise for 2016”, the statement added.
And Ron Dennis’ angry plea for Honda, and any other new manufacturer in future, to get an extra engine without penalty in their first season has been answered.
“For the sake of fairness, the measure will apply retroactively to Honda for the 2015 season,” the FIA confirmed.
Additionally, the engine freeze ‘token’ system will be reviewed, the possibility to increase fuel studied, and there are rumours a ‘mini grand prix’ will be added to the race programme for 2016.
Mosley’s successor as FIA president, Jean Todt, has taken flak for appearing to sit idly as F1 crumbles around him, but the Frenchman says he is now ready to force changes through, “If I feel it is good for the sport, I will do it.”
Mosley, who regularly urged teams to cut costs during his time in office, suggested the problems could also affect the transfer of ownership from controlling rights holders CVC Capital Partners.
Recent reports have indicated RSE Ventures, which owns the Miami Dolphins NFL team, and Qatar want to buy CVC’s 35.5 percent stake in Formula One in a deal that would be worth $7-8 billion.
“Once spectators stop coming, the grands prix are no longer viable for the organiser. If television audiences go down, Bernie Ecclestone has to trim down the contracts,” he said. “From then on it becomes a downward spiral.
“And for CVC Capital Partners, the majority shareholders, it becomes especially difficult when they are trying to offload the sport.”
Mosley, who was a close ally of Ecclestone over decades in the sport, said he would allow teams more technical freedom if they adhered to a cost cap of about 60 million pounds ($93.55 million) a season.
He also advocated a “drastic rethink” in how the sport made up the rules, describing as “utterly hopeless” the current Strategy Group, which brings together the top six teams, commercial rights holders and FIA president Jean Todt.
“The best suggestion I have heard was to scrap the Strategy Group and replace it with three independent advisors; people who know the sport well but are not partisan,” he said.
Mosley listed former Honda and Mercedes team principal Ross Brawn, race director Charlie Whiting and FIA safety commission president Peter Wright as ideal candidates.
“When I was president, by some means or another we would push what we wanted through, usually by asking for more than I actually wanted. I don’t know if Jean is unable to do that, but I don’t think he wants to,” said Mosley.