F1 needs a new engine manufacturer to verify the rise of its manufacturers RaceFans

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Formula 1 was so simple: the sporting arm of the FIA ​​made the rules and governed them, the race promoters – who held the television rights to the events held on their property – asked the FIA ​​to organize rounds of world championship and offered starting funds and prizes based on team attractiveness to draw crowds, and the teams decided to compete, have built or bought compliant cars. The driver who scored the most points was world champion.

The constructors’ championship was more complex, but still simple to understand: first awarded in 1958 as the “F1 International Constructors Cup”, points were scored by teams who built and entered their own cars. This requirement was, however, “folded” in 1969 when Tyrrell cooperated with Matra to win the title, but there was no doubt that the operation was Matra’s de facto “factory” team. The combined rule books were 20 pages long.

Compare these early situations to today. To start with, a commercial rights holder (who started out as a collective of teams before becoming independent) negotiates with promoters and TV broadcasters, pays a 30% royalty and then pays the teams; the rules are the result of hundreds of sports, technical and financial advisory committee meetings, with some provisions going beyond the FIA ​​international sporting code, and others not.

Teams collectively have one-third of the votes in the process, but can block motions if half of the votes against them – whether the FIA ​​and the commercial rights holder are fully in favor or not. This is because teams can veto any rule changes unless they are motivated by good faith safety concerns. For the record, the current hybrid power units, incredibly expensive and horribly complex, are the direct result of the wish lists of the teams …

Honda’s departure reduces number of car manufacturers in F1

Likewise, pressure from teams to “let them run” and not finish the grand prix under a safety car (or full yellows) contributed to the Abu Dhabi debacle. Remember that all teams, including Red Bull and Mercedes, have been involved in regulatory changes over the past 12 years. This has been the power of the teams collectively. Combined rule books are now over 400 pages!

The situation has been exacerbated by the gradual withdrawal of manufacturers, the latest being Honda, thus forcing independent teams to pass into the hands of (now) three engine manufacturers – Mercedes, Ferrari and Alpine (Renault), the latter not being catering only to itself. Mercedes supplies four teams – its own, Aston Martin, McLaren and Williams – while Ferrari maintains the Scuderia, Alfa Romeo (led by Sauber) and Haas.

Red Bull, having acquired the intellectual property rights to the Honda powertrains, will share the loot between the main team and its sister AlphaTauri from 2022 under the name Red Bull Powertrains. While during the 2000s there were seven “camps” with each providing at most two teams, there are now four – an average of 2.5 per supplier. In descending order, they are: Mercedes (four teams), Ferrari (three), Red Bull (two) and Alpine (one).

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Mercedes supplies both Aston Martin and Williams with complete powertrains and ‘rear ends’ including the suspension mounting points that determine geometry and supply a series of unlisted parts to the old team, to so much so that the AMR21 is often called a “green Mercedes” in F1 circles

Mick Schumacher, Ferrari, Fiorano, 2021
Close ties exist between Ferrari and Haas

Ferrari supplies its customers with complete powertrains and rear axles; with Haas, it goes further: a subsidiary of Ferrari, based in Maranello and staffed with redundant staff as part of Ferrari’s budget realignment, provides engineering and design services to Haas. Haas racing driver Mick Schumacher is listed as a Ferrari reserve and there is talk of Antonio Giovinazzi undertaking simulation work for Ferrari and Sauber.

George Russell described himself as a ‘Mercedes backed driver’ while at Williams and was called up to reserve duty in 2020 when Lewis Hamilton was struck down by Covid. Russell’s reward? A 2022 Mercedes in the car.

So there are now two main “engine camps”, with Red Bull / AlphaTauri historically aligned – regardless of the engine supplier (s) over the years – due to their common ownership, while Alpine is on its own. The political potential is obvious, especially with the two biggest formations in F1 holding a potential of 70% of the collective votes of the team?

Of course, client teams regularly protest against their complete independence – they would, right? – however, there were quite questionable voting patterns; indeed, eyebrows have risen on the rare occasion that a team votes against (or criticizes) its engine supplier.

Previously, parts groups were binary: listed parts, those whose teams must own the IP, and unlisted parts, whose supply was open. But the number of categories doubled to four in the 2022 regulation. Only one of them requires teams to own the design rights to the listed components, while another relates to procurement by tender. With two “open” categories, the potential for oversight of client teams by the majors is effectively doubled.

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This unhealthy situation is expected to continue throughout the 2022-25 regulatory period and is unlikely to change unless other engine suppliers join F1, crucially dividing the balance of power to the extreme. The top prize goes to both Porsche and Audi – if one spins the Red Bull constellation and the other acquires a team, they are still likely to be called upon to supply customers, diluting the powers vested in the majors. .

The majors argue that they have made substantial investments in F1 and therefore should have a say in how the company is run, with the implicit threat being that they could leave and take their engines with them if regulatory changes are made. or decisions went against them. However, the flip side is that these investments make them unlikely to leave anytime soon, and if they chose to do so, they would likely sell their teams.

Until then, the FIA, now under a new president in Mohammed Ben Sulayem, and F1, under former Ferrari boss Stefano Domenicali, have to hold their own in the face of increasing pressure from the majors, while doing all that is in order. their power to attract at least one incoming engine supplier and / or a new team.

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