Loopholes harder to find – Smedley
Williams’s performance chief Rob Smedley says that loop holes in regulations are becoming harder to find, particularly with the 2017 rule change. This season the regulations have been revamped which could create different interpretations in the past.
Brawn, Williams and Toyota famously exploited the ‘double diffuser’ loophole when the rules were changed for the 2009 season, for example. When asked by Autosport if there could be similar opportunities this season, Smedley said: “Every time there has been a new set of regulations, at least through my time in F1, those openings have become smaller and smaller.”
“The reason for that is that the technical regulations are pretty much written by senior technical people within the teams. The senior technical people in the teams are of the mind that we’re all looking for a loophole, we are all trying to get the start on our competitors.” He added.
Smedley says the way these rules were written in collaboration with others, means the loopholes have been closed off. “This set of regulations has been very much at the forefront of that. We’ve tried to close down the loopholes as and when.” He said
Williams has had a major shake-up in personnel over the winter, with Pat Symonds leaving the chief technical officer role late last year and Mercedes’ Paddy Lowe set to be announced as a new recruit soon.
Smedley is hopeful Williams can limit the impact of the shake-up. “The car that we’re going to go racing with, in Australia for the first half of the season, let’s say, is very much designed.” He added.
Liberty’s master stroke – Steiner
Haas Team Principal Gunther Steiner says Liberty Media pulled off a masterstroke in signing up Ross Brawn. The former team boss was announced as the sports new managing director, following a coup which removed Bernie Ecclestone from his post last week.
Brawn’s new roles are improving the on-track show and make the sport more of a spectacle. The American believes Brawn’s experience and the fact he has not been recently part of a team makes him the perfect candidate for the role.
Speaking about the move, Steiner told Motorsport.com “In taking Ross on they made a very good decision in my opinion. He is the ideal candidate. He knows F1, he has nothing to prove, and he doesn’t need to do it, which is always a good point to do a good job.”
“Because if you don’t need to do it, you can make decisions or decide not to do it. So I think F1 has got a good future, but everyone who has ever worked in F1 is grateful for Bernie to have taken us to where we are now.” He added
Steiner paid tribute to Ecclestone’s work and what he did to make the sport a success, and says the sport will have a good future even if Liberty don’t make radical changes.
He said “F1 would not exist like it is now without Bernie. We have to give the guy a lot of respect for it because he is now quite old.” Steiner says F1 will miss his character but hopes the new owners do as good as job as Bernie.
Share talks on going, but need to work together – Brown
McLaren executive director Zak Brown says that teams have not rejected the idea of buying shares in the F1 Group and discussions are ongoing. When Liberty’s plan to buy the sport was first announced they said they would give teams the chance to take a stake in the new company.
Currently around nineteen million shares have been held by Liberty to sell to the teams, after extending the deadline for a deal to be done. The teams asked for more time following the initial offer from Liberty, and that was granted. Speaking about these shares, he told Motorsport.com “We were given a short period of time to review a large investment. So they have now extended that window, which is a great thing.”
“It’s great to see early on they put something out, the teams had comments, and they responded favourably, saying, ‘We hear you, we’ll give you some more time, so we can have some further conversations.’ That will be something that everyone can more thoroughly review and discuss.” He adds
Brown says it’s not a case of it being a good or bad deal, it was just they wanted more time to talk about the ‘potentially huge’ investment. He added, “Certainly they followed through with their promise, and it was great when the feedback they got was we want more time, and they reciprocated by saying they’ll give us that time.”
Brown called on teams to work together to ensure the best possible deal for themselves saying “I think there are times for the teams to collaborate and communicate, because we are all in the same boat, we all want to go in the same direction.”
Todt warns against radical changes
FIA President Jean Todt has warned Formula One’s new owners against making radical changes to the sport. Liberty has already removed Bernie Ecclestone in a coup, with a new management structure at the top of the sport.
New sporting director and Todt’s former colleague Ross Brawn, has already outlined his vision for the future. But Todt says that no major changes are needed, saying the new regulations for 2017 should be given a chance and that the recent domination by Mercedes is nothing unusual.
He told the Sports Business Summit in Dusseldorf, “I think, for me, Formula One is great. The championship we enjoyed last year was a fight until the last corner. I think it would be the wrong message [to suggest F1 needs to be made much better].”
“We need to have a sport which is unpredictable. Maybe sometimes people complain that the domination of Mercedes over the last years maybe creates some disinterest, but it is part of the history of Formula One.” He said the sport being dominated by one team is part of the history of the sport.
Adding “If you want to stop the domination you need to be better. We need to congratulate Mercedes and hope that the others will be able to do something even better.”
Asked about Liberty, he said he thinks they will allow different access via different means of communication, which may encourage new fans. Todt adds the FIA “will sit as a regulator and legislator of Formula One, with the new people and with the teams to see what should be the vision for the future to make the sport better.”
Lowe to start role at Williams
Former Mercedes technical boss Paddy Lowe will start his new job as a director and a shareholder at Williams, according to BBC News and Autosport. The move has been on the table for weeks and at times the deal was at risk of collapse.
Sources have told BBC News that they were “in the final stages”. Another added Lowe’s joining was “a formality” and another said Lowe, 54, will have a seat on the board as part of his new position, a third source said.
A Williams spokesperson declined to comment on the report; Lowe was unavailable. The Englishman is one of the sports leading designers in Formula One and is expected to have responsibility for all technical aspects of the Williams group. This includes the F1 team but also the Williams Advanced Engineering business.
Lowe still needs to formally leave Mercedes as he has been placed on ‘gardening leave.’ Mercedes will decide if he can start immediately as normal practice is for gardening leave for a number of months before they can start their new jobs.
It is not clear at this stage where Lowe’s shares will come from. Equity in the team is split between founder and team principal Sir Frank Williams (51%), US businessman Brad Hollinger (15%), co-founder Sir Patrick Head (9%) and an employee fund (4%), with 21% listed on the Frankfurt stock exchange.
Sir Patrick told the BBC “Discussions are still ongoing and until a signature is on a bit of paper nothing’s a formality, but it would be good for Williams if they can get him.”
Ford turned off by costs
American car manufacturer Ford says that the huge turnoff about not showing interest in returning to Formula One is the huge cost involved. The takeover of the sport by Liberty Media has prompted hopes that sport could attract more manufacturers.
The FIA are hoping that over the coming months that a number of manufacturers which are not currently in the sport can have a part to play in discussions being planned over the next few months to frame engine rules for post-2020.
Under the Concorde Agreement which runs until 2020, the V6 turbo hybrid formula will remain in place until 2020 at the earliest, but things are totally open beyond that. Meaning a decision needs to be taken about whether to extend the use of the current engines or switch to a totally different concept.
This could open up interest to other manufacturers, But Ford says that it sees little benefit from getting involved when the costs of involvement are so high.
Dave Pericak, director of Ford Performance, told Motorsport.com: “We’re not really looking at F1. I don’t see us getting into that anytime soon. Formula 1 is so expensive.”
“If you look at every series we are in right now there is a relevance to all the goals and objectives we have, in developing our tools, technology and people and translating that into road cars. Every series that we’re in has an element of that.” Pericak appears to say Ford has no interest in racing which isn’t ‘road relevant.’
He says “We use the track to test and improve our technologies and bring it back into the road cars. That’s working well, not just on the GT but other products as well.”