F1 should get rid of two tiers
The vision that Liberty Media has outlined for the future of the sport has been tipped to end the gap between the sport’s biggest teams and those teams which are currently in the midfield.
In Bahrain Liberty along with the FIA presented their proposals for redistribution of revenues and a cap on costs. Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull have won every race since 2013, while last season fourth-placed Force India failed to gain a podium.
Speaking to Motorsport.com, Force India’s chief operating officer Otmar Szafnauer say that the new regulations “should get rid of the two tiers”, which broadly split the three top teams, plus McLaren and Renault, from Williams, Toro Rosso, Sauber, Haas and Force India.
He believes F1 can transform from a series in which “the person who can spend the most wins to, in the future, the person who spends the smartest wins.”
“The two tiers are defined by your budget. What restricts us is the budget that we have to enable us to do many experiments to produce what’s optimal.”
“If you don’t have the budget to produce it instantly it lags coming to the track from the time you found the improvement. If you’ve got the money, you’ll have the parts tomorrow. You’ll either get a bigger supplier base or buy the machinery yourself to make it.”
Szafnauer says that a cost cap and teams spending the same should eliminate performance gaps.
Mercedes motorsport boss Toto Wolff said the proposed $150m budget cap is not achievable for F1’s biggest teams, with his team, Ferrari and Red Bull spending more than double that in 2017.
Szafnauer disagreed, citing Force India’s ability to finish fourth two years in a row with a budget beneath the suggested cost cap and the lowest spend of the 10 teams.
McLaren carrying out a review of car
McLaren is conducting a review of all aspects of the MCL33 pace after a stronger than expected start to the season. The team currently is fourth in the constructors after they scored points in every race this season.
However, the team continues to struggle on single lap pace which has caught the eye of racing director Eric Boullier, who believes that the team set the targets too low at the beginning of the year.
He told ESPN “The car has matched all the targets so maybe that means maybe the targets were not the right ones. We need to revise, in terms of ambitions, what we need to achieve.” After three years with Honda, McLaren switched to Renault for 2018.
But despite the change of engine supplier McLaren remain a second off Red Bull, who also run the Renault power unit. The Frenchman admitted the deficit in the chassis was not acceptable.
Adding “We need to understand why we are slow in qualifying, why we are better in the race and why we are behind the other Renault teams, full stop.”
“There was obviously some questions asked in Bahrain, there is still an ongoing process because we have to address it and we will address it and we are about to address it.” Boullier says the car is well balanced and the drivers are happy.
Asked if it simply equated to a lack of aero efficiency, Boullier said the problems were more complex than that. He says that the team knew it had underdeveloped the car and there was a big upgrade coming for Barcelona.
Williams Profits increase despite uncertainty
Williams’s results for 2017 show the group increased revenue last season, however group CEO Mike O’Driscoll has warned that the long-term plans to level the playing field are key to the squad’s future prospects.
The team saw a rise in profits of £8.9 million from £116.7M in 2016 to £125.6m last year, the rise in profits is likely to be because of sponsorship associated with Lance Stroll made a significant contribution.
Earnings (EBITDA) for the F1 team increased from £12.4m to £16.0m.
Despite an improved performance from the F1 team’s sister company Williams Advanced Engineering, the group saw a drop in profits of £1.2m down from 167.4m in 2017 and earnings down from £15.5m to £10.8m. The team said this was due to “a reduction in non-recurring project revenue”.
O’Driscoll says that the group’s results show that the company is in good shape, and is still able to invest. Saying “The team at Williams delivered solid results last year and our 2017 financial performance reflects that continued progress,” he said.
“Revenue was up at both the F1 operation and Williams Advanced Engineering in 2017, following on from a strong performance in 2016. Our results gave us confidence to continue investing in our facility and technical capabilities.”
Pointing out that Williams was the only team outside the big three to score a podium finish in 2017 O’Driscoll added: “This illustrates the large gap in competitive expenditure between the leading teams and the rest of the grid.”
He added that the group will see profits rise as Liberty Media delivers a more even playing field. However, there are many challenges ahead which are likely to be regulation changes, Brexit and the teams’ tough start to the season.
Williams paying price for pay drivers – Massa
Felipe Massa believes that his former team Williams is putting money ahead of other decision this season, however, he hopes that the team are able to bounce back soon.
Williams has had a difficult start to the season, and the team has yet to score a point in the first three races. Massa believes that the difficulties that Williams is facing can be traced back to it not having the kind of money that is enjoyed by the big manufacturer teams.
He told Motorsport.com “It’s true that the team was suffering from the financial situation and I think they made decisions for 2018 putting money first. But this is not enough to make a competitive championship.”
“All I can say is that I came out with my head held high. I have a good relationship with everyone at Grove and I hope that the best for the team comes out as soon as possible.”
Why didn’t Mercedes pit Hamilton?
Mercedes have explained their decision not to bring Lewis Hamilton in for a pit stop behind the safety car in last weekend’s Chinese Grand Prix.
The four times champions are yet to win a race this season, and in Shanghai appeared to be beaten by Red Bull on strategy after not bringing in Hamilton at the same time as Red Bull pitted both Max Verstappen and eventual race winner Daniel Ricciardo.
Although the Safety Car had emerged too late for Valtteri Bottas, leading the race or Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel to pit for fresh tyres. The Englishman should have been brought in after the safety car came out and switched him from medium to new soft tyres. CEO Toto Wolff has admitted that was a mistake.
Wolff admitted that the mistake was not switching Hamilton from old mediums to new soft tyres. He told Sky Sports “Looking back, we should have pitted Lewis. We thought holding track position would be beneficial. We got it wrong, they got it right and probably deserved to win.”
The reason why Mercedes did not pit Hamilton was they did not expect as much improvement in race pace. James Vowles explained on YouTube, “The situation across the race at that point was that cars weren’t really overtaking, even when there was a difference in compounds between them.”
“For us, we had Kimi in front on softs, so no difference between the two cars and we couldn’t even get close. The same with Valtteri at the front relative to Sebastian – but those were the same tyres.
“With Lewis, under that Safety Car condition, we always review how many positions we could potentially gain or may lose. What would we have gained? With Verstappen ahead, we knew there was a chance that he would come in if there was a Safety Car and, if that happened, it would put Lewis up into a podium position if we could take the medium to the end of the race and defend from the cars behind us.”
“The reality of the situation, everyone saw what happened. Both Red Bulls were extraordinarily quick on that soft tyre and were able to scythe through the field.”
Simply, Vowles believes that the problem is getting the tyres into the correct operation windows and that Red Bull was faster on the soft tyres.
However, Vowles also acknowledged the excellent work Ferrari and Red Bull have done on their 2018 cars to carry the fight to Mercedes this year.
“Ferrari and Red Bull are fierce opponents, world champions developing the car and working day and night tirelessly to beat us.
Sainz shows Hulkenberg’s strengths
Renault says the results and performances of Nico Hulkenberg have been illustrated by the performance of his teammate Carlos Sainz against his former teammate Max Verstappen.
The Spaniard has been loaned from Red Bull to the French manufacturer for this season, he was teammate with Verstappen for twenty-three races. Though Verstappen outscored Sainz considerably in that spell, Sainz’s qualifying form was excellent and he was often let down by poor reliability.
Renault’s motorsport boss Cyril Abiteboul says that it is a good picture of how good Hulkenberg is as he has beaten Sainz in the first three races and has scored eighteen more points. Speaking to Motorsport.com, the Frenchman said, “t’s fair to say he [Sainz] has a bit of a margin compared to Nico, but that does give an indication of how strong Nico is.
“It’s always interesting to follow the change of team for drivers, because by comparing one to the next you can establish an overall comparison between the grid.”
“If you remember what Carlos was doing against Verstappen, that does give an indication of how strong Nico is actually.” Sainz was out qualified and raced in the final three Grand Prix’s of 2017, after his Renault debut in the United States coincided with Hulkenberg suffering a grid penalty and then race retirement.
However, he was faster than Hulkenberg in qualifying in Melbourne, Abiteboul admitted there was a bit of a margin.
He hopes that over time that Sainz will be able to equal the German, who has been the most consistent performer from the group of drivers battling behind Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull, and has qualified seventh for the past six races.
The Week Ahead
Next week, we will continue to look ahead towards Baku which is going to be the final race without the teams having there first big upgrades which will be for Barcelona. I think Mercedes will face a lot of questions over there form as they haven’t been performing at where they have been expected too.
Today, we have reported on Williams’s financial results for 2017 something we should continue to hear next week. I think on the teams’ mind looking towards next year and after is Brexit, we don’t know what impact this will have on F1 and the teams.
Max Verstappen will be in the spotlight after his recent actions, how does he respond and what will others say. Verstappen needs a good clean weekend as does Lewis Hamilton. We may also hear from Liberty more about OTT service (streaming service) due to be launched in Barcelona.
Also, I think drivers will be talking about regulation changes, but how much we hear is not the spin from team bosses that could be hard to work out. What role will the GPDA have in pressuring changes should be limited.