Bob McMurray: Movers, shakers are rule makers
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Just when you thought the principal movers and shakers of Formula 1 had finally agreed on something, comes the news that manufacturers and teams are no longer happy with what they agreed to weeks ago and now want that agreement “discussed further”.
To recap, series owner Liberty Media and the sport’s governing body the FIA came up with a set of new engine regulations to come in force for the 2021 season and into the future.
These proposed regulations were grudgingly and reluctantly accepted by the major engine manufacturers as being in the sport’s best interests.
The intention of these new engine protocols was to simplify the units, making them cheaper to build and in turn encouraging new manufacturers into the sport.
Incidentally, the changes included making the engines sound better, in part due to the abandonment of the incredibly complicated MGU-H, which in simple terms is the energy recovery system that magically converts heat from the exhausts into electrical energy.
Of course Formula 1 being what it is, this MGU-H, like much of the power unit, is also fantastically expensive, occasionally problematical and massively complex.
So all sorted?
Since these regulations were agreed, the manufacturers note that there has been no great rush of potential new engine builders wanting to get into the sport.
In fact none at all.
So they now query the point of changing the rules, in fact in Mercedes boss Toto Wolff’s words “… just for the benefit of redesigning an engine without anybody else entering doesn’t make a lot of sense” and that statement could be true.
However, a few things stand out. Once any new engines have been produced and raced under these already agreed new regulations, it could easily be the case that new manufacturers would see that they work — and then join the grid.
What’s also good is that the new engines are expected to be cheaper for the smaller teams, even though there aren’t that many teams running without manufacturer support.
The main point is that the tail now seems to be wagging the dog.
Many things the FIA has done or has introduced have seemed ridiculous — and I have my views about the current power units — but the overriding fact is that the FIA is the sport’s governing body.
It, in conjunction with Liberty Media, should be the arbiter of the rules and regulations governing the sport. If any of the players do not like the rules, they should be reminded that it is not compulsory to come out and play.
The competitors ought not to be dictating to the sports owners and rule makers about what they will and will not accept.
This also applies to any rules being initiated to encourage overtaking by standardising the front wings and other aerodynamic parts, or in fact any other regulations that the FIA and Liberty decide to bring in to improve the show.
This is because, despite an exciting season and some well-above-average races lately, that show does need improvement, and bowing to the self interest of the manufacturers and teams is not the way that is going to happen.
Harking back to the days of Bernie Ecclestone, he managed to lift the sport from the severe doldrums to the richest sport in the world and he did that by manipulation, shrewd business acumen, and a negotiating brilliance with one goal in mind: To make the sport the greatest it could be and along the way it may earn him the odd billion or two.
He did not necessarily bother with engine rules, aero bits etc — what he did do was rule.
He ruled in the manner of a beneficent dictator but he understood what entertainment was.
I think Liberty is trying to do the best it can, but now it must be time to let the teams and manufacturers know just who is the top dog in this playground and impose the rules as it sees fit.
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