British GP sees capping breakdown

The British GP at Silverstone is seeing not only the competition between the teams on the track this week, but also between the teams and the F1 organisers.

I had my own reservations about the plan to cap spending by the teams (to around £40 million), and introduce a bonus/handicap system as a carrot and stick to coerce them into adopting it. However, although there was a little quiet mumbling about the idea in the pits, only a couple of teams to be outwardly hostile to the idea, and made noises about leaving, and the idea seemed to bumbling along.

Not so at Silverstone, and while I thought my first impression was wrong, and that the low figure and rule fiddling for those that didn’t adhere to the cap was going to be accepted, rather than news of Friday’s practice at Silverstone, I woke to news that eight teams had announced not only their withdrawal in response to the arrival of the proposed capping system, but that they would go it alone in a separate competition, noting that they had the cars, drivers, and tracks.

I’m not surprised, given the current proposal. The figure has been set too low. You don’t even have to know how much it costs to run an F1 team, just think back to the fine McLaren received a couple of years ago after the spying nonsense that the trustworthy Alonso kicked off – $100 million or about £50 million at the time. So little compared to all their spend that it made little difference to their efforts, and some commentators referred to as little more than petty cash.

It’s too soon to judge whether or not this is a real threat, or bluff on either side, but it doesn’t help, and is again, as in recent years, making F1 newsworthy for anything but its racing. It will kill itself if it carries on like this. Fans of racing will desert it for competitions where the news is generated by the racing rather then the politics.

I’ve already aired my own views as a humble watcher regarding the current useless rule changes that were supposed to slow the cars down and increase overtaking opportunities. Daft grooved tyres have gone, and the current changes to the aerodynamics were simply too little, and all but compensated for in tweaks elsewhere. The cars remains heavily biased towards aerodynamic aids, and remain undrivable as they reach the dirty air immediately behind the car in front, and lose stability – and overtaking opportunities fade.

Is it really so difficult to make a substantial cut in the size of the wings and aerodynamic aids, and so force teams to increase their efforts in the suspension and tyre department? I’m quite sure this would lead to their developing innovations in that would restore much of the losses in lap time from the lost downforce, and the new performance envelope would doubtless see further new ideas appear. We’ve already seen how the current changes to the aerodynamics have already been countered by redesigns. Take out much of the aerodynamce option, and the neglected mechanical side becomes the natural source for advantages to be found.

Consider most of the commentary and reports regarding performance – the race commentators spend much time discussing the merits of widn tunnels and aerodynamic details, but when did you last hear them discuss the suspension or mechanical handlng? The biggest comment usually comes when they mention the hydrauic pump – generally only bacause it has failed – or when some system dependent on being charged with pressurised gas fails, because it can only be charged at the start of the race, and not topped up during the action if it leaks.

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