OPED: F1 Today North American Editor Tom Spithaler
This is an intricate topic. I like the idea of spending cap to allow the smaller teams to be more competitive. That’s the utopian in me coming out. F1 has advanced so much technologically over the last 40 years that back in the 60’s and 70’s. Back in the day, most organizations that has the gusto to get involved in Formula One racing could do so, if they had reasonable backing. Guys that had an idea they wanted to test could sign-up, buy a chassis one place, a motor at another, add their new fad improvement and test it on the track all season against other teams doing the same thing. Granted, there were the obligatory ‘works’ teams from Mercedes, Ferrari, Lotus and the likes, but they were frequently beat by the Tyrell’s, Brabhams, and BRM’s of the world, doing it all out of pocket (before the big sponsorship deals came along) with blood, sweat and tears invested more than anything. Sure, sometimes their ideas were bad and teams went bust. But if you wanted to get involved, you could, and many did. And let’s be honest – it made for some GREAT racing.
On the other hand, a spending cap limits technological development, and the teams that do have the means to bring about rock-solid technology like reliable semi-auto transmissions, power steering, traction control, active suspension and more (yes, many have been outlawed along the way), couldn’t do so. I like that F1 brings to the table the best motor racing engineers in the world, and that it becomes a put-up or shut-up proposition. After all, bragging rights are only good when you are the one bragging, right?
Answer; I’m torn. I’m not sure which way to go with this. My suspicion s that FIA feels the same way, and because they have not been able to come up with an equitable method to control spending, they’d rather do nothing, than do something and get iot wrong. Why? Because there’s too much money at stake, and the public is already second guessing the rules changes that have been implemented for this season. Under scrutiny for engines that sound like wind up tops, why take a shot at changing more rules now?
Here’s what I’ve settled on as to why teams cannot afford to do what they did back in the 60’s and 70’s and join in the fun with F1. In the “golden years” technology was affordable. Now it is not.
Technology back then was building a batter, strong, springier part. It was changing the design on the intake or exhaust manifold to develop more horse-power. It was designing better brakes, that cooled faster. It was going with the tire company that offered the compound that best suited your card. It was locating your spoiler sin different, sometimes God-awful places to try and get cleaner air over your car for downforce. Now it is spending a million dollars to pay some software developer that has no interest in auto racing, and has never heard an F1 car roar down the straightway to write a program that better controls fuel flow. It’s about $10 million on wind-tunnel testing. It’s about discovering new materials that can take more heat, developing lighter materials that are equally strong at half the mass. All of which cost developing teams tens if not hundreds of millions of dollars.
If F1 were 50 years ago what it is today, you’d have never seem Jackie Stewart going airborne over the crest of the hills of Nurbergring. We’d have never seen the likes of so much of what is now precious F2 history. We saw that because people who loved the sport at heart, could get involved. i miss that in so much of the sports world now.
My heart of hearts wants to see a spending cap. Everyone wants the underdog to win, but in today’s F1, the underdog can’t even get on the track until he pays his $15 million fee to FIA to get a license to compete. We cry for Chaterham and Sauber and Maurussia. Next year we might see a US team return to F1, a team that has a great history in open wheel racing in Haas (of the Newman/Haas teams), but Bernie seem hell-bent on trying to price them out of the arena, publicly belittling them in front of the world motorsport community in the way only Bernie can.