Formula One Crisis Could Be Contained: New 2017 Regs

Nicolas Todt (FRA) Driver Manager, Jean Todt (FRA) and Bernie Ecclestone (GBR) F1 Supremo. Formula One World Championship, Rd 3, Chinese Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Shanghai, China, Saturday 18 April 2009.
 Jean Todt (FIA) and Bernie Ecclestone, F1 Supremo.

Formula One has always been about high RPM cars, exotic track destinations, glamorous people, beautiful grid girls and wealthy dashing racing drivers. Those drivers race cars that push their limits, the machines limits and the limits of what the human ear can stand without ear protection.

The Formula One racing world took another took a startling turn in 2014 towards being representative of reducing greenhouse gases with hybrid power units that would have Al Gore claiming credit. Still, the most hardcore environmentalist wouldn’t approve of where F1 is heading.

It’s to the point where fans would rather take an afternoon nap than to be bothered with the politics and hypocrisy of a Grand Prix weekend. However, in recent days maybe the answer to our seemingly empty cries have been answered or at the least suggested.

The F1 Strategy group is one of three branches that make up the FIA legislation. Their main focus is to discuss the future of Formula 1, plan new regulations and implement safety concerns. The group consists of FIA president Jean Todt, Bernie Ecclestone, representatives of Scuderia Ferrari, Mercedes, McLaren, Red Bull, Williams, Force India and the engine manufacturers.

Last week the group examined advances, and potential changes, in their blueprint. What came out of those meetings were three major ideas. The biggest rule change is the reintroduction of in-race refueling and a choice of tires from each team to every circuit on the calendar. The last change is to add higher revving engines. This will in turn force teams to make drastic changes to aerodynamic packages and could require wider tires. The FIA has stated that it was a “comprehensive proposal to ensure the sustainability of the sport.”

Paul Hembery, head of motorsports for Pirelli.
Paul Hembery, head of motorsports for Pirelli.

Refueling isn’t new, it had been used in F1 before it was banned after the 2010 season due to safety, cost of equipment and fuel. Now refueling is scheduled to return for the 2017 season. The reason behind that decision is no surprise. Refueling is a way to lighten the car.

Making pit stops in Formula One terms seem a century longer. The reasoning is some level of competition would be restored. A team’s plan could be to take on less fuel, equating to improved performance. But here’s the kicker, the maximum race fuel allowance of 100 kilograms will still be enforced.

Pit stop strategy is a huge part of Formula One these days. The prospect of refueling could change how this whole game is played. Mercedes boss Toto Wolff says otherwise, he believes refueling will only happen if it is affordable. Touché Toto, especially since the meeting never discussed any way of reducing budgets. Mercedes sees itself in the catbird seat. It is.

According to Fernando Alonso’s statement today:

Alonso speaks.
Alonso speaks.

“Probably it will open some kind of a strategy imagination that could help you in some of the races,” he said. “If you can choose whatever fuel you will start or do the first stint, things like that have helped in the past. I remember to get some pole positions in 2003, with half of the fuel of the others, and in the race you see what happens. But the first 10 laps of the race, you are leading the group and it may rain, it may have a safety car, many things can happen that could change the weekend.”

Tires again? The proposed tire selection regulation would go into effect next year as well. Teams will have the option of two tire compounds to use at each circuit in the season. While Pirelli currently choose compounds based on grip levels, surface durability and speed, teams will be able to decide for themselves which rubber to race.

The tires will also be wider giving the cars more grip and a more ominous look.

Pirelli motorsport boss Paul Hembery has said, “if you start opening up choices this is what will happen: firstly, the top teams will centralize around the same choices because they use the same ideas and data we would be using. Then there would be some people who would want to risk a little more, and then there would be some people who would want to be a little reckless.” True. But what about the teams in general? Private teams aren’t nearly as fast as the top tier teams when they are not given a tire choice.

Lastly, a change that has been in dire need for the last two seasons, louder engines. The F1 strategy group has specifically noted that their compromise of higher revving engines would need to drop lap times by five to six seconds. The big question: What does Bernie want? Ecclestone has mentioned he wants 1,000 horsepower engines to return, which leads one to believe it will happen in 2017. Along with a higher tone of engine comes aggressive aerodynamics with odd flying saucer shaped wings that once occupied Formula 1. The only downside, for the majority of fans, is the turbocharged hybrid units are here to stay.

With all of that said, will it happen? If so, these plans will have to endure two more approvals through FIA legislation, the F1 commission and the World Motorsport Council. These regulations will be edited. They will leave out small details that will have us cringing and grinding our teeth.

It all seems too good to be true. Until the ink is dry, I can, with some degree of comfort, say we will see a formula we have been waiting for.

With all appendages crossed, welcome back F1.




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