The World Motor Sport Council of the International Automobile Federation (FIA) on Friday acted to drive down Formula One's 2009 racing costs. Rules adopted by the sport-governing body affect engines, testing, aerodynamic research, factory activity, even staffing. The council acted on proposals unanimously agreed by teams. Proposals for 2010 and beyond could end pit-stop refueling and shorten race distances.
"I think this is probably the first step to Formula One saving itself," FIA president Max Mosley said. He told reporters the changes will not be seen by race-goers or television viewers. "It will be Formula One as we all know it but clearly much less expensive."
Mosley had pushed teams to act by declaring the FIA would impose a single-engine supplier. They avoided that by agreeing to massive cost-cutting, especially engine spending.
"The teams have now really got behind the idea, and instead of being reluctant, they are being positive," Mosley said.
Cost estimates for carmaker-backed teams BMW Sauber, Ferrari, McLaren Mercedes, Renault and Toyota reduce by a third their 2008 expenditures. Independent teams should expect to save even more. The measures also give specific permission for Renault to make changes to its engine for 2009.
The action comes in the wake of a global economic crisis whose trickle-down effect stands to smack the sport in its funding sources. Record-low sales and dropping share prices have adversely affected the sport's carmaker-backed teams. Honda abandoned its F1 team in the past week. Bad investments and job cuts in the financial sector also affect sponsorship; just Friday race title sponsor the Spanish bank Santander announced it will cut 1,900 jobs in the United Kingdom.
The approved measures were agreed upon by the newly formed Formula One Teams' Association (FOTA) and the FIA. Mosley conceded in a keynote speech to an annual Motor Sport Business Forum this week that FIA rules have contributed to much of the sport's bloated costs. He appealed to teams to return to the great innovative thinking of the sport's past.
Changes for 2009 include effective doubling of engine life: The three-race rule approved Nov. 5 remains in force, and each driver will be allowed a maximum of eight engines for 17 races and four engines for testing, that is, 20 engines per team. Engines will be limited to 18,000 revs, down from 19,000, and no internal re-tuning will be allowed. Engines to independent teams are to cost roughly half the 2008 prices.
In-season testing outside race weekends is eliminated. Wind tunnel use will be cut, and a formula to balance wind tunnel research with CFD (computational fluid dynamics) research will be presented to the FIA. All factories are to close six weeks a year. Race-weekend personnel are to be cut through measures including information sharing on tires and fuel that will reduce the need for "spotters."
The council did not rule on an idea put forth by commercial rights holder Bernie Ecclestone to scrap drivers' championship points in favor of an Olympics-style medals program. Instead, the council decided to research public reaction to that and other ideas including the current qualifying format. No deadline on research was announced.
Rules set for 2010 include pricing engines to independents at less than $6.65 million per team per season. Independent or manufacturer teams will supply them. Independent suppliers need to be signed to contracts by Dec. 30, 2008.
Engine continuity will be assured through 2012, thus no new engines for 2011. Once determined practical, a standard transmission will be used by all teams.
Chassis will be evaluated and competitive elements determined. Some of those elements will be homologated for the season, some will remain as "performance differentiators" but they will use inexpensive materials. Elements determined to not affect competitive elements will be made prescriptive and will be provided by the most economical means possible.
On race weekends, teams will use standardized radio and telemetry systems. Bans will be in place on tire warmers, mechanical tire purging, and refueling.
The market research covering the medals scheme will include gauging public reaction to shortening races.
At factories, further aero research restrictions will go into effect, and tire force rigs (other than vertical force rigs), will be banned. Further restrictions could be afoot after analyses of factory facilities.
Even further on, the FIA and FOTA will consider a new powertrain for 2013 to promote energy efficiency. The aim is to make a solid contribution to energy-efficient road vehicles. This could involve the kinetic energy recovery system (KERS) in optional use for 2009. FOTA is studying a standard KERS system for 2010 and will offer proposals to the FIA when appropriate.