While the debate rages on surrounding the outcome of the 2021 Formula One world championship, won by Max Verstappen over Lewis Hamilton amid a controversial conclusion to the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, it is easy to forget the rest of drivers and teams.
The inevitable discord concerning Formula One’s future has surfaced no sooner than the proposed regulations from 2021 were revealed to manufacturers, highlighting that self-preservation remains at the forefront of consideration.
Despite the significant influence F1 has on the automotive industry, it has struggled to justify its public relevance since the hybrid era commenced in 2014, amid outcries to restore the inherent appeal of the sport with an emphasis on noise.
Thus Mercedes and Renault contend that addressing this fundamental yet vain aspect of racing should be prioritised over more financially efficient specifications set to take effect in 2021 for fear of an escalating “arms race.”
A high degree of investment is part and parcel of the sport’s DNA, not least at the genesis of a new development cycle, yet it shouldn’t be championed as an excuse to shun what represents a wiser formula in the long term.
Renault managing director, Cyril Abiteboul, remarked to motorsport.com that “each time we come up with a new regulation that will come up with a new product… we all know what is the impact.”
The Frenchman concludes that the overhaul threatens to “open an arms race again, and it will open up the field once again.”
An instant counter measure to this notion is that the finalisation of the regulations won’t be known for a further twelve months, which reduces the lead time on research and development and allows resources to continue on the current era a while longer.
Mercedes motorsport executive director, Toto Wolff, believes this will only lead to “parallel development costs over the next three years” as competitors hypothesise over its composition to be in the best possible shape once the regulations are rubber stamped.
That’s a risk outfits must contemplate, while acting as a logical deterrent towards an uncompetitive interim. The German outfit notoriously dedicated its efforts towards 2014 and beyond at the expense of immediate results upon returning to the sport in 2010.
McLaren conversely embraced a fresh philosophy in 2013 from which it hasn’t recovered into the soon to be concluded Honda era, though it is encouraging to note that entrants are willing to be ambitious even if the move backfires.
A patchwork solution by the two manufacturers is to retain the fundamental framework of the present engines, while increasing the rev limit by 3000, with relaxations to measures such as fuel flow rates and limit. This would suit Mercedes’ quest to continue its domination very nicely.
Wolff utilises the convergence of the power units over the past twelve months to support his stance, reasoning that “it should be about optimising the deficits we have with the current engines.” It’s easy to hide behind this moniker, yet in tandem with budget reform – with plans to be revealed in coming weeks, there’s no reason why the gap between manufacturers should be as sizeable as it was in 2014.
Supporters seeking instant gratification are certain to be in lockstep with calls for a quick fix tending purely to the aesthetic, yet this would be a sure way to ward off prospective entrants, which the sport sorely requires.
It’s a given that each voice has its own interests in mind, though giving a little, investing towards the future and potentially succeeding in a field with greater depth could prove even more enriching.