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Analysis: Jean Todt and Bernie Ecclestone granted radical new powers to shake up F1

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Analysis: Jean Todt and Bernie Ecclestone granted radical new powers to shake up F1
Dec 3, 2015, 2:58 PM

The FIA has given its president Jean Todt and Formula 1 boss Bernie Ecclestone new power to make changes to the management of the sport.

The FIA has given its president Jean Todt and Formula 1 boss Bernie Ecclestone new power to make changes to the management of the sport.

Following a meeting of the World Motor Sport Council, the FIA announced that Todt and Ecclestone would be granted abilities to let them take the lead on changes to the structure of the sport and tackle issues such as the costs of power units.

Previously, Todt and Ecclestone had been frustrated that F1 teams could block changes to the regulations, such as Ferrari’s veto on potential alterations, and these new powers are a way to combat those problems.

Bernie Ecclestone Jean Todt

The FIA statement explained that despite only one vote against the measure, Todt and Ecclestone now have the power to make “recommendations and decisions” on changes in F1.

The statement said: "The World Motor Sport Council approved, by a near unanimous number (just one vote against), a mandate for the FIA president, Jean Todt and the representative of the commercial rights holder, Bernie Ecclestone to make recommendations and decisions regarding a number of pressing issues in Formula 1 such as governance, power units and cost reduction.

"Mr Todt and Mr Ecclestone expressed their intention to establish conclusions on these matters by end of January next year.”

The FIA also announced that engine manufacturers will be able to spend 32 tokens on power unit development in 2016, the same amount they were allowed to change this year, and 25 in 2017.

Pirelli has been asked to bring three different compounds of dry tyres to each race and the teams will be able to freely select which type they want for 10 of the 13 sets they will have available each weekend. It is understood that drivers may choose different compounds to their teammates.

Austin

The only change to 2016 F1 calendar is that the Mexican Grand Prix is now a back-to-back race with the US GP, although that race is now listed as provisional until an agreement is made with the promoter. The Circuit of the America’s place on the calendar is under threat due to recent local funding cuts.

Ferrari has also been given approval to supply Toro Rosso with a 2015 engine and the Virtual Safety Car may now be used in practice sessions, which should avoid red flag stoppages for minor incidents.

What do the changes mean for the governance of F1?

Todt and Ecclestone have been arguing for a reduction in the cost of F1 power units throughout 2015. Ferrari vetoed a proposal to lower the cost of the engines and the F1 Commission rejected the FIA’s plan for an independent power unit.

At last weekend’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Red Bull boss Christian Horner expressed his view that the FIA and F1’s promoter needed to step in and make rule changes as the teams had proved incapable of making decisions.

Bernie Ecclestone Christian Horner

He said: “I suppose when you look at it, the teams have collectively been spectacularly incapable of coming up with solutions and sensible remedies to the problems - and I think the problem we face in Formula 1 is you've got vested interests. Within your own team you try to protect the elements that are your strengths, that offer you that competitiveness over your opponents.”

“I think there's a fundamental question that needs to be answered and that is: what should Formula 1 be? I certainly believe that Formula 1 should be entertainment.

“It should have a technological interest to it, but that needs the promoters and the owners of the sport, together with the regulators, to decide what that product is, come up with a set of rules, not let engineers write those rules. They come up with those rules and put them in front of the teams and say ‘that's what Formula 1 is going to be and that's what it should be for the future.’

“I think that of course there has to be consultation with the teams but at the end of the day, somebody has to run the business, and somebody has to say this is the route that we're going and a democratic approach to that will not work in our opinion.”

Claire Williams

Other team principals, including Claire Williams and Toto Wolff, countered Horner’s view. Williams said that although she appreciated the problems with the democratic process, giving more power to a regulatory body would be “very difficult”.

She said: “I like being able to be involved but I do think that at the moment, as Christian said, we have a number of agendas on the table and it's very difficult to get everybody to agree around that table when we're having discussions and we all run our businesses in very different ways and we all have very different capability within our teams.

“But I'm not sure if I would subscribe to our sport having a single regulatory body. I think it would be very difficult for everybody around the table.”

The WMSC’s announcement of new powers for Todt and Ecclestone is highly unusual but reflects the governing body’s frustration at seeing its plans blocked by teams looking to protect their own interests.

Valtteri Bottas

The 31 January date announced in the FIA’s statement means we won’t have long to wait to see what recommendations Todt and Ecclestone come up with to change the future of F1.

What do the changes mean for the technical side of F1?

Dominic Harlow

The changes to the technical regulations for next year throw up some interesting questions about how they will effect racing next season, so we asked JA on F1 technical advisor, and former chief operations engineer with Williams and Force India, Dominic Harlow, about what we can expect in 2016.

“[Todt and Ecclestone] are trying to lower the cost of engines in the future,” he said. “For me that has always been on the cards and has always been the only sensible solution to the problem of the price.

“All the manufacturers need to do is recover their R&D costs over a longer period of time. The end result is some sort of stability in terms of the technical rules with respect to the engine but a slightly longer time for them to recover their investment, which is normal.

Red Bull Renault

“The teams pay for them longer and in total they may end up giving slightly more as the loan has a longer term but a similar interest rate.”

The adjustment to the token system for engine development is likely to favour manufacturers that need to make larger changes to their power units, such as Renault and Honda, but it also gives Mercedes the same opportunity to extend its advantage.

Harlow said: “The tokens give a bit more flexibility for the others to make slightly larger conceptual changes and hopefully catch up to Mercedes, but at the same time it gives Mercedes more freedom too.

“The net effect may be small unless you’re locked into some conceptual mistakes or difficulties, which you can imagine new manufacturers, like Honda, might be or those who’ve had a struggle to develop, like Renault.”

Pirelli

The rule that will see Pirelli bring three different dry tyre compounds to each race is intended to introduce more variation in strategy among the teams and drivers. But Harlow explained that the teams would quickly work out which choice is the optimum strategy and it will then be used throughout the field.

He said: “The teams have been working pretty hard to look at the different options and try to optimise how they’ll do it. What we’ll probably find is that they all quite quickly iterate to similar solutions, as there will be an optimum.

“I don’t think that we’ll see massive variability in the strategies, probably a little bit of a difference to begin with and then things will settle down to a similar pattern. Places like Monaco will probably not be affected at all.”

Start Mexico GP 2015

What do you make of the WMSC’s announcement? Will it spice up the F1 action in 2016? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below.

JA on F1 Season Review 2015

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The Review is a collectible and an ideal Christmas stocking filler for F1 fans looking to fill the gap during the off-season.

The JA on F1 2015 Season Review costs £5-99 and is available to post anywhere in the world.

To make sure you don’t miss out click on this link below to order your copy now!

JA on F1 2015 Season Review
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