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Future of Formula One


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Fans and those involved in the sport seem to spend as much time talking about the future of Formula One as they do talking about the present. There is always uncertainty about the future of the sport, and disagreements about the direction in which Formula One should progress.

Formula One went through a tough time in the early 2000s. Viewing figures dropped, and many fans simply switched off. This was largely attributed to Ferrari's dominance of the 2002 season, and a period in which Michael Schumacher won the World Championship for five years in a row. The massive commercial interests of car companies and team sponsors are also at odds with the demand for an exciting spectator sport as the drivers are encouraged to reduce risk to satisfy the funders.

Other factors include the use of driver aids supposedly taking the skill away from the driver and putting it in the hands of the mechanics. Furthermore, many of the smaller teams such as Minardi and Jordan found themselves subject to takeovers as they struggled to keep up with the high cost of the sport. For this reason many rule changes have been proposed for the future.

Contents

[edit] The thinking behind rule changes

There are three key areas which determine changes to the rules of Formula One: increased safety, lower costs and increased excitement for the spectator.

[edit] Safety

Since the deaths of Roland Ratzenberger and Ayrton Senna in the San Marino Grand Prix in 1994, safety has been the most important motive for rule changes. The FIA see cutting speeds as essential, and it is now common for there to be a radical overhaul of the rules every few years in an attempt to cut speeds. However, designers and engineers always manage to get speeds back up eventually.

[edit] Cost-cutting

The announcement at the end of the 2004 season that Ford (former owner of Jaguar Racing) would pull out of Formula One is seen as evidence of the need to cut the cost of running a Formula One team. However, many believe that, rather than reducing costs, rule changes may actually lead to an increase in costs, as the bigger teams pour huge amounts of money into research in order to get the most out of the new regulations. This leads the smaller teams to be in an even worse position than before.

[edit] Excitement

Many would also like to see drivers demonstrate more skill on the track. Some believe that it would be silly to have road cars which are more technically advanced than Formula One cars. However, most now agree that getting rid of electronic driver aids would be a good way to increase the excitement of Formula One. The format of the sport is also a hot topic, and there is always talk of changing the format of qualifying.

[edit] Technical regulations

Over the coming years, radical changes will be made to the rules. On October 5, 2005, the FIA's proposal to improve overtaking regulations won the support of the teams by conceding to a new rear wing concept that would replace the current single rear wing with two box-like wings, one behind each rear wheel. These changes are due in 2007. [1]

[edit] Changes for 2005

The FIA decided on the following rule changes, effective at the start of the 2005 season:

  • Each driver will be allowed just two sets of tyres per weekend - and just one set of tyres to last them for qualifying and the race.
  • Engines must last for two race weekends.
  • Changing tyres during pitstops will be banned, unless a tyre is damaged.
  • Simultaneously refueling and changing tyres will be banned.
  • The front wing will be raised by 50 millimetres to reduce downforce.
  • The rear wing will be moved forward by 100 millimetres to reduce downforce.
  • Rear diffusers will be reduced in size.
  • There will be increased bodywork restrictions around the rear wheels.

There is also an unofficial agreement between the teams to restrict testing to 30 days per season. However, this is nothing more than an agreement, and Ferrari notably ignore this agreement. Template:Fact

[edit] Questions over the tyre rules

A number of events during the 2005 Formula One season have led to calls for the tyre rules to be changed. During the 2005 Monaco Grand Prix, the Renault F1 team experienced excessive tyre wear, and during the 2005 European Grand Prix a badly worn tyre caused by a flat spot led Kimi Räikkönen's suspension to break at high speed. The infamous 2005 United States Grand Prix saw just six cars take part in the race as the Michelin tyres were deemed to be unsafe. Furthermore, Williams suffered several tyre failures during the 2005 Turkish Grand Prix weekend.

There have been calls to scrap the rule banning tyre changes. It is argued by many that making tyres last a full race distance is causing tyres to end up at dangerously worn levels. There is an increasing consensus that the tyre war is also causing tyre manufacturers to push the boat out too far, making tyres that are too dangerous in the pursuit of speed. There have been calls for the FIA to introduce a control tyre.

While tyre rules usually are implemented primarily for safety and/or cost reduction, some detractors felt that this rule was an attempt to mix the grid up due to Ferrari/Schumacher's dominance on Bridgestones over the past five years; Ferrari did, in fact, lose out as Michelin found itself better able to cope with the rule changes.

[edit] Changes for 2006

The FIA has decided on the following rule changes, effective at the start of the 2006 season:

  • Engines will be 2.4 litre V8 engines, compared with the current 3.0 litre V10s (smaller teams would be allowed to use V10 engines, but other engine restrictions would be placed upon them).
  • Changing of tyres during the race and in practice and qualifying sessions would be allowed once again after the 2005 Season rules denied any tyre changes for the cars during the race except in some cases like rain and puncture.

[edit] Qualifying

There was always talk about changing the format of Qualifying. The 'one lap' format (whereby each driver has one lap on an empty track to set his qualifying time) was criticized by both teams and broadcasters. However, the bosses of smaller teams wanted to be guaranteed television exposure for their sponsors.

For 2005, a revised version of the one lap format was used for the first six races. The first session took place on Saturday afternoon as it has done previously. A second session then took place on Sunday morning with cars carrying race fuel-loads, as they had done previously. The aggregate times of the two sessions were used to determine grid positions. However, this turned out to be unpopular with teams, fans and broadcasters who refused to give away so much of their Sunday schedules to Formula 1. Since the 2005 European Grand Prix, qualifying has been a single lap on Saturday carrying race fuel-loads.

Various formats were proposed. Short 'sprint' races to be held on Saturday were suggested, as was reverting to a system similar to the traditional format of twelve laps per car. However the former was rejected on the grounds of cost and safety, while the second was problematic because often there would be no on-track action for almost half of the session.

In October 2005, the FIA secured teams' agreement to switch the competition to the "KO" system from the start of the 2006 season. Cars will no longer go out for individual laps, but will all enter the track at the same time, trying to record the fastest timed lap. Two 15 minute sessions will each see the five slowest cars eliminated, leaving 10 cars to fight for pole in a final 15-minute open session.[2]

[edit] Politics

Often, politics takes precedent ahead of sport in Formula One. For many years teams have threatened to set up a breakaway series, known as Grand Prix World Championship (GPWC). In the immediate aftermath of the 2005 United States Grand Prix there appeared to be an almost irreconcilable split between teams and the FIA. Ferrari in particular appeared to be politically isolated, partly due to perceived close links with the FIA. There were many calls, particularly from Minardi boss Paul Stoddart, for FIA President Max Mosley to resign.

Ferrari became the first team to sign an extension of the Concorde Agreement to race in Formula One after 2007. Ferrari and the FIA had come up with proposed regulations for 2008 onwards. Meanwhile the other teams were threatening to set up GPWC in 2008. However, fledgling teams Red Bull Racing and Midland F1 (who were still known as Jordan Grand Prix at the time) joined with Ferrari by signing the Concorde Agreement soon afterwards.

Drivers, in the form of the Grand Prix Drivers' Association also had a run-in with the FIA. There was said to have been a split between Michael Schumacher and the rest of the GPDA. A meeting about safety between drivers and Max Mosley was called off after comments that David Coulthard allegedly made.

More recently the 2005 United States Grand Prix has been seen as a wake-up call for all sides, and there has apparently been increasing consensus between teams. There has been little mention of GPWC, with the manufacturers beginning to use more moderate language and referring to themselves as the Grand Prix Manufacturers' Association (GPMA). There is said to be a lot of common ground between the FIA's proposed regulations and the teams' proposals [3]. The meeting between the drivers and Max Mosley also went ahead and was said to be useful.

[edit] Future proposals

[edit] FIA proposals

Max Mosley, the head of the FIA has come up with ideas for reducing the cost, danger and technicality of the sport. New regulations and rules proposed for the future include:

  • Reductions in testing time
  • The introduction of standard electronic units (facilitating the scrapping of driver aids such as Traction Control)
  • The return to a single tyre manufacturer
  • Standard parts such as brake discs
  • The return of 'slicks' (tyres without any grooves)

Team bosses and FIA President Max Mosley met in Monaco on May 4, 2004 to discuss the proposed changes; the bosses unanimously approved the plan, effective in 2008.

[edit] Teams' proposals

On the weekend of the 2004 Brazilian Grand Prix, team bosses met to discuss the future of Formula One. Nine out of the ten team bosses (that is all of them, except that of Scuderia Ferrari) agreed to take part in an eighteenth and nineteenth race (ie. the French Grand Prix and the British Grand Prix) if cost-cutting measures were introduced. Normally, the teams would need to be compensated in order to compete in more than seventeen races per season. The teams called for:

  • A reduction in testing to just ten days per season
  • The elimination of tyre testing
  • The use of a control tyre

The teams' plea for a reduction in testing to just ten days per season is significant as Ferrari, who have an advantage over other teams due to their owning their own private test circuits, are very much opposed to reductions in testing.

[edit] Fans' proposals

During the 2005 Formula One season the FIA, in partnership with AMD and F1 Racing, launched a survey on the internet in a bid to find out what the fans wanted from Formula One. The response was so huge that many fans had trouble submitting their views because the website had "collapsed under the sheer weight of users" [4].

The results of the survey showed that a massive 94% of fans would like to see more overtaking in Formula One, and only 15% thought that the sport "incorporate[d] the right balance of technology and driver skill."

To address the fans' concerns, the FIA adopted AMD as its "official technology partner" [5]. AMD will supply the FIA with a powerful computer that "could run a number of programs which would be equivalent to crews testing with two F1 cars" [6]. This will help the FIA to draw up new aerodynamic regulations for 2008, in the hope of producing closer racing.

[edit] Circuit design

It has been suggested that more Grands Prix could be run on street circuits. In the week of the 2004 British Grand Prix, a Formula One demonstration was held on a short street circuit in central London. A proposed circuit for a London Grand Prix was published, with the starting grid on The Mall facing Buckingham Palace and a complex corner at Hyde Park Corner. Such a move would have two major effects. Firstly, by including numerous famous landmarks it makes the courses more visually stimulating. Secondly, it would broaden the range of skills demanded of Formula One drivers, shaking the domination of drivers who have perfected the art of track driving.

Safety, of drivers and of historic landmarks on the circuits, remains a tricky issue. Therefore, circuits like those designed by Hermann Tilke, such as Shanghai International Circuit, remain in favour. Tilke's designs are said to encourage overtaking, due to their characteristic long straights followed by tight corners. The brand new Istanbul Racing Circuit, designed by Tilke, proved popular amongst drivers and spectators alike, and has already been compared to the great circuits. The circuit's Turn 8 (an incredible long, fast corner which has four apexes) in particular has been compared to other great corners such as Eau Rouge.

[edit] Grands Prix

Bernie Ecclestone is keen to move Formula One into new markets to improve the sport's worldwide appeal. This means getting rid of races from Europe. The European Union's ratification of laws prohibiting tobacco advertising went into effect on July 31, 2005, providing another incentive for the heavily tobacco-sponsored sport to find venues outside of Europe[7]. Possible venues for future grands prix include:

The future for many traditional grands prix is on the line. The first victim of this expansion of the calendar was the Austrian Grand Prix, last held in 2003. From 2007, the European and San Marino races will be lost. The threat remains with, several teams having expressed their preference for a shorter calendar[16]. In the recent past, the British, San Marino, French, Canadian and Belgian Grands Prix have been placed under threat as attractive circuits in lucrative markets vie for a place in the Formula One calendar. This problem is accentuated by the fact that constructors need to be compensated to race in more than seventeen grands prix in one season.

[edit] Constructors

Hyundai has indicated that it is interested in entering Formula One. [17].

Current agreements limit the number of teams to 12 so prospective new teams are largely limited to buying an existing team. The FIA allowed teams to apply for entry to the 2008 season in the final week of March 2006. There were 22 entries including all the current 11 (2006) teams. All the existing teams retained their places and Prodrive was announced as the 12th and final team for 2008 on 28 April 2006.[18][19] Uncertainty remains over the form the Prodrive team will take. They were hoping to buy a chassis from an existing team but that depends on changes to regulations. So the Prodrive entry may yet be sold on. [20][21]

Following are some of the other (rumoured) entries:

[edit] BCN Competicion

Backed by Enrique Scalabroni

[edit] Carlin Motorsport

Backed by Trevor Carlin

[edit] Team Dubai

Team Dubai were originally rumoured to be interested in buying Jordan Grand Prix, but have now decided to work towards setting up their own team. Their hopes are to gain technical assistance from McLaren and engines from Mercedes. Little has been heard from Team Dubai for a long time though. [22]

[edit] Direxiv

Direxiv is a Japanese investment company which is in "advanced negotiations" to set up a McLaren 'B' team for the 2007 Formula One season. Direxiv would use year-old McLaren chassis and customer Mercedes engines. Direxiv is already involved in the GP2 Series. [23] [24]

According to former Mclaren test-driver Alexander Wurz, he doesn't see the potential team competing for at least 2 years, which would be the 2008 season. [25]

[edit] Team Eddie Irvine

Having spent a considerable amount of time around grands prix this season, former F1 driver Eddie Irvine is said to be considering a return to the sport. Initially, Irvine and his Russian financial backer Rustam Tariko placed interest in the purchase of either the Jordan or Minardi teams. However, with the Midland Group and Red Bull Racing having completed their respective purchases of these teams, Irvine is said to be exploring the possibility of creating a brand new team. [26]

[edit] Prodrive

Backed by David Richards

[edit] Racing Engineering

Backed by Alfonso Orlean-Borbon

[edit] Team Schumacher Audi/Volkswagen F1

Strong rumors have appeared that Michael Schumacher may be working with Ross Brawn to either develop his own F1 team or possible take over another F1 team, which is believed to be Renault if that company decides to leave with the engines badged either as Volkswagen or Audi. [27]

[edit] European Minardi F1 Team Limited

Paul Stoddart who formerly owned Minardi and sold the team to Red Bull in 2005, has lodged an entry application for the 2008 FIA Formula One World Championship.[28]

[edit] See also