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Max and the Future of F1

There is only one item of news of any importance today but it’s a doozey: Mighty Max Mosley’s proposals for rule changes in 2011. I won’t detail them here as there are plenty of sites that give the whole press release (Pitpass dot com has the best article so far, I think) but essentially, you can look foward to an F1 world of 2.2 liter turbo-diesels with traction control and standardized bodies.

Max

Max Mosley

Before I begin, let me say that I resent being forced into the position of appearing to be an extreme anti-environmentalist. When the lunacies of the greenies begin to affect the sport I love, however, I have no option but to emerge from my preferred stance of keeping my own counsel to call for a brake on this drive back to the caves. Regular readers will have read me on the subject before and I have already had a good rant on the forum I use, but it is not enough; I apologize, but I have to raise my voice once again in the cause of balance and common sense.

Surely every F1 fan must be horrified by Max’s proposals. Already the calls for his resignation are rising from the ranks of those who truly care about the sport. This is not sufficient, however, as there is no guarantee of who would succeed him in that unlikely event; we need to attack this disease at its root, not its effect.

For F1, that root is the surrender of the FIA to the car manufacturers. That results in the two motivating factors behind Max’s brave new world: that F1 must become relevant to the advance of road car technology and that the sport must be seen as being eco-friendly. Both motivations are diametrically opposed to the prime reason for the existence of F1 – fun, entertainment, a sport indeed.

Those involved in F1 do so because we are a competitive species and love to pit our wits and skills against each other – there is no great benefit to humanity in ascertaining who is the fastest, the cleverest or the best; it’s fun and interesting, that’s all. The fans watch because they too are competitive and want to see humanity’s finest competing against each other and to root for their heroes; it is entertainment, no more and no less.

This is what we call sport and, naturally, F1 fans feel that it is the best sport there is. Take away that reason for doing it and suddenly F1 becomes meaningless beyond an extension of the motor industry’s R&D departments. Watching it would be like taking a tour of a car factory – interesting for the technically-minded but deathly boring for anyone who wants to become involved in a competition to see who is the best. It is the human factor that is being excised from F1 and with it will go all reason for watching it.

I have pointed out before that the manufacturers do not need F1 as a test bed – they have plenty of such facilities already. They should recognize that, if they insist on being involved, they are there only to provide the machinery that enables drivers to compete. Somehow F1 must be wrested from the grasp of the manufacturers and placed back in the hands of those who understand that it is a sport and therefore has nothing to do with practical, everyday things – it is about competition between flesh and blood above anything else.

What really galls me about all this is that Max is doing it in lip service to a theory that is fundamentally flawed and exposed several times over as just plain wrong: the idea that mankind is causing the warming of the atmosphere and that this will soon make the planet uninhabitable. This is not the place to enter the debate that rages over the theory; if you are interested, my website, Global Warming Latest is a quick and easy introduction to the arguments against the theory. But anyone as old as I am must surely remember that, before the global warming hysteria, we were subjected to assurances that we were causing the onset of another Ice Age and, before that, we were confidently advised that overpopulation would bring on worldwide famine before the year 2000.

These are fads picked up by politicians and exaggerated for their own nefarious purposes. Even those scientists who think that global warming is taking place admit that it will have no discernible effect on climate for another hundred years at least. There is no mad hurry to reduce society to some sort of hunter/gatherer paradise just yet, even in the worst scenarios imaginable. The haste is caused because the politicians who encourage the hysteria cannot afford to wait a hundred years – they want power now.

And for this mess of potage, Max wants to destroy F1 as a sport. How dare he propose such ridiculous changes to something that belongs to us, the fans who ensure that F1 continues? It is no longer sufficient for us to bow to the diktats of the greenies by some humble admission that we should be more eco-friendly, as is done by those who want to avoid a fight. The fight is upon us and it is time for us to stand up and demand that our sport remain as such.

I know that attempting to get some sense into the minds of the money men who run the FIA has as much hope of success as starting a search for the fountain of youth. But I have to try. If F1 fans do not raise a shout of protest that is heard even in the hallowed corridors of the FIA, we will see our sport reduced to ruins. We stop the rot now or never.

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Does the FIA Need Stability Control?

There is some talk of stability control being introduced into F1 in the future. This, of course, is a direct result of the manufacturers being involved in the sport – already they have used such systems on production cars and it makes sense for them to get their own private testing ground, F1, to help them develop the idea further.

FIAworld

This should be anathema to anyone interested in seeing F1 continue as a sport; the fans look forward with hope to the standardized ECU as a means of getting rid of traction control and now it emerges that the FIA is talking to the car industry about allowing stability control in F1. Nothing could more clearly illustrate the way in which the FIA has sold its soul to big money in the form of the manufacturers. Stability control will do much more than traction control in reducing the influence of driving skill as a factor in races – it will make the driver a mere passenger without opportunity to demonstrate his skill. Where is the sport in that?

It is quite apparent that the aims of motor sport and car manufacture are mutually incompatible. The primary intent of F1 must always be competition between drivers and nothing the FIA can do or say will alter that fact in the minds of those who care about the sport. The manufacturers, however, are in F1 only to demonstrate to potential customers that their designs are the best – a marketing exercise, in other words. They do not care about the sporting aspects and would be betraying their company’s interests if they did.

The irony lies in the fact that, as the cars become laden with driver aids in the cause of “relevance to the production of road vehicles”, the fans will drift away because the human element, the drivers, are no longer competing in any meaningful way. Once the viewing public has dwindled to the point of insignificance, the manufacturers will leave and put their money elsewhere.

At which point we might, just might, get our sport back, if there is anything left to salvage. My fear is that a governing body as blind to the obvious as the FIA is showing itself to be will find a way to make things even worse.

In a way, it is good that these matters are becoming apparent now, rather than later. As sanity at last begins to make an appearance in the global warming debate, the FIA’s commitment to “green-ness” will be shown up for the subservience to the manufacturers that it is. Once their credibility as a governing body is destroyed (and it is fairly rocky already), it might become apparent that the only change that is needed is in the way F1 is governed and by whom.

Hopefully, that will happen before all the idiotic rule changes they have lined up can come into effect.

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Car Manufacturers and F1

Pitpass dot com has a good article on the problems besetting Daimler Chrysler, particularly in America, and the possibility of a sale of Chrysler. The chances of this having a knock-on effect in F1 are quite high in view of the parent company’s involvement through McLaren. If a manufacturer gets into difficulties in the real world, it will not be long before any investment in F1 is regarded as unnecessarily expensive and short on returns.

MP4-22

McLaren MP4-22

To shareholders and bean counters it means diddly squat that the team won two rounds of the World Championship. They want to see the success of title victories pay off on the showroom floors and forecourts.

It is an excellent example of how the dominance of the manufacturers in F1 has changed the sport completely. Note that I said “the real world” up there – which is the place that car manufacturers live. Formula One has never lived in the real world before – in contrast, it has always been the realm of fantasy and dreams, a glorious world where the trials and troubles of reality can be forgotten for a while and legendary feats performed by gladiators in fireproof suits and sexy helmets.

The entry of advertising into this fantasy realm was the first chink in F1′s armor. With costs rising, the teams needed a source of money and the advertisers were happy to provide it. Fortunately (and probably because this coincided fairly closely with the restriction of tobacco advertising – F1 was a convenient loophole through the new regulations), no-one looked too closely at the figures to see if they were getting a decent return on their investment – the names were on the cars and the theory was that this was enough to sell the product.

But the manufacturers are a very different kettle of fish. Forget all the nonsense about F1 providing useful developments relevant to road cars – manufacturers have their research departments and do not need F1 to test their theories. They are there purely to prove that their products are better than anyone else’s – a marketing exercise that must show results or be excised from the balance sheet.

And, if the company experiences financial difficulties in the real world, the first thing it will do is try to cut costs. The millions spent on F1 with very little tangible return will stand out like a sore thumb just begging to be cut off. At which point, the company will leave F1.

In throwing in its lot with the manufacturers, F1 has tied itself to the ebb and flow of the real world. When car markets are buoyant, F1 will prosper with entrants and money; but, let the bottom fall out of the market and F1 will find itself in deep trouble, lacking participants and saddled with a formula designed for a more affluent era. The real world can be a cold and pitiless place at times.

The powers that be seek to offset this danger by presenting F1 as the leader in achieving low emissions – the sport that cares about the environment, indeed. If they can achieve this shift in public perception, the manufacturers will stay in for the benefits of being seen to care about green issues. Mighty Max has decreed that the majority of the public now see global warming as the major issue confronting mankind and that F1 must take note and follow the trend.

The problem is that it is a trend. In previous decades it was overpopulation that was going to end the world; then it was nuclear holocaust, then another ice age. When the present hullabaloo over global warming peters out through lack of solid scientific evidence, another threat will be invented by the alarmists and F1 will be left looking rather foolish.

The point missed by everyone is that F1 is a part of the entertainment industry. Oh, lip service is given in that the FIA are always looking for ways to improve the show and increase the audience; but the implications are not understood at all. Entertainment is essentially escapist – a fantasy world through which we can escape the real world for a while and indulge ourselves in pure, irresponsible bliss. By tying the sport ever closer to the harsh realities of the real world, Max forces us to remain in that uncomfortable environment and the possibilities for escape disappear.

Formula One is set to become a responsible, serious and relevant exercise in public relations. Which might help to improve its image in the eyes of the general public, although far more likely is that nobody will notice. And the lifeblood of the sport, the fans, will drain away as the races become just a huge advert for the car manufacturers.

Entertainment has become one of the most important industries in the world because we need it. Escape for a while is a necessary part of modern life because, for the vast majority, the daily round is meaningless and boring. And what better entertainment can there be than immensely powerful engines ripping through the fossil fuels, daring young drivers competing at the limits of human endurance and skill, and finely tuned projectiles in bright colors hurtling around a difficult track?

It’s a great show as long as you let them get on with it.

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