Red Bull driver Max Verstappen has side-stepped political correctness to declare that Formula 1 needs a leader to make decisions, as it seeks a way towards a future beyond 2020 but with no road map or agreement on the cards until at least October.
As time marches on relentlessly the powers that be have dragged their feet, with the FIA, under president Jean Todt, negligent in not providing the road-map for a Formula 1 of the future. They are the governing body, should they not get the house in order.
What happened to the ‘world engine’ idea that was killed when F1 decided to go the route of the current engine formula?
However, the discussion and decision-making process (if any indeed has been going on of late) has been laboriously slow and in an interview, with De Telegraaf, Verstappen blames it on lack of leadership, “Everyone’s talking for their own interests.”
“Of course, Mercedes is very happy with these regulations and in their view little should be changed. Teams who are not doing so well at the moment want different regulations but then maybe they have a less of a say in the matter”
“If you area Ferrari engine customer, you are obviously with Ferrari, and if you are a Mercedes customer team, then you are with them. There is so much politics behind all of this. There should be only one person at FOM or the FIA who says: OK guys, this is how it is.”
As for the dominance of Mercedes in this current era, the Dutchman said, “One team will always do a better job than the others with the rules. In the end, I think it’s better if the rules stay the same for a long time because then everything stays together.”
“At some point, you just have to say: these are the rules for the future and we will stick to these for the next ten years. And after five or six years you will see that it will be really very close. I also think that if we left the rules unchanged for this year, with the front wings and all that, it would have been a lot closer now.”
The age-old problem of F1 cars that cannot follow one another continues to be a problem which the new rules failed to address according to Verstappen, “As drivers, the big problem we have is that we can’t push when we’re behind someone because the tyres overheat, and you can’t follow other cars because there’s too much downforce loss.”
“In the end, those are the most important things we have to work on to make it better for fans. On certain tracks you can go a second slower than you actually have to go, and nobody will be able to pass you because we can’t follow one another.”
Meanwhile, as the sport’s chiefs plot a blueprint for the future they are adamant that the door has always been open for drivers to provide input during sessions, an open door policy that was unthinkable not too long ago.
Verstappen explained, “We [drivers] did say in 2015 and 2016 that the cars were too slow, gave too little grip and were sliding too much. Then we went to the wider cars with more downforce. But of course there are other ways to create downforce, so you lose a bit less when you’re chasing someone.”
“I think they should take a look at that. We’re now setting a track record here and a track record there, but in the end, I don’t think that’s what it’s all about.”
“If you just want to go faster and faster, you might as well put a robot in the car. It also has to be fun for the fans. If everything slows down by one or two seconds, then that’s fine, that doesn’t matter, as long as we can follow each other closely,” suggested Verstappen.
F1’s first and only dictator, Bernie Ecclestone, created the ‘package’ that the sport is today. He ruled the roost for around four decades, before him teams all did their own thing with promoters. There was no cohesion and deals differed vastly from team to team. Appearance money it was called back then.
But with the promoter’s rights in his hands and commercial TV deals pouring in, it was a license to print money. Crucially all major decisions and deals (shady ones too) were made by him and him alone while he reigned supreme.
Granted Ecclestone was not alone, he had trusted lieutenants in key posts of the race weekend and championship organisation who were indispensable to him and at the same time extremely loyal but ultimately he sought no one’s council to implement changes.
When he has shoved out the door of F1’s ‘oval office’ in January 2017 he was replaced by a triumvirate headed by F1 rookies Chase Carey and Sean Bratches as well as motorsport veteran Ross Brawn – the three making calls on matters that Ecclestone had sole mandate during his reign when changes could be made on the fly.
Big Question: Does F1 need a dictator?