F1 Winter Break
Patrick Head on why two tier F1 won't work
Patrick Head on why two tier F1 won't work
Posted By:   |  08 May 2009   |  5:07 pm GMT  |  22 comments

Veteran Williams technical boss Patrick Head is here this weekend, and was typically good value in the FIA press conference this afternoon. He got stuck into several meaty topics, but the most interesting point was about the proposed two tier formula for next year where teams running under the £40 million budget cap will have technical freedoms such as more KERS boost, unlimited engine revs and an adjustable rear wing.

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“If you are able to move your rear wing and lower your drag level going down the straights it has a number of interesting effects on your lap time but also on your fuel consumption, ” he said.

“I don’t think anyone thinks that a two tier championship is a good idea. Even on the basis of being able to adjust the rear wing alone..you are going to be talking about a second and a half to two seconds per lap..No amount of expenditure anywhere else will make up for that difference. It’s a difficult environment at the moment.”

The general feeling seems to be that if any of the current teams ran under cost capped conditions against the rest of the current field uncapped, the cost capped car would have a massive advantage, probably two to three seconds per lap, so it is unworkable for the current field to be divided and everyone recognises that.

There is one school of thought going around this weekend  that if all the current teams, collectively as FOTA, were to choose  to run uncapped, accepting that the three new teams would run capped, it might work out that the balance would not be destroyed because the three new teams would not be able to build a state of the art car in their first year, which was within three seconds a lap of a current top team anyway. This would buy some time to get the budget cap negotiated better and eliminate the two tier system for 2011, while not preventing the new teams from coming in next year.

This is all theoretical, because no-one knows yet what is going to happen before the window for entry to the 2010 world championship opens later this month. 

Despite the death of his son, FIA president Max Mosley has today written to the teams saying that if they want to talk, he will meet them all in London next week. But as he said last weekend, he hasn’t got much room to negotiate because raising the budget cap could prevent the three new teams from entering.

I understand that two teams, Lola and USGPE have paid deposits on a supply of Cosworth engines, so they appear to be serious about coming in. 

As for talk of the teams all refusing to put an entry in later this month, can you imagine McLaren, post the Melbourne lie-gate judgement risking that? Or Williams or Brawn, whose sole reason for existence is to go F1 racing?

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Haven't Williams already received some of the money they are entitled to under a new Concorde Agreement, to help them out in their current financial difficulties (and, of course, committing them to a new agreement once it's drawn up)? For that reason alone, Williams will not be able to refuse to enter F1 in 2010, nor will they be able to join any prospective breakaway series.

My take on this "two-tier" proposal is that it's a political tool. The FIA don't expect anybody to expect to run uncapped, for the reasons you highlight. But they are offering the option for teams to decline the budget cap, so that if they turn round and complain about it at a later date, the FIA can remind them that they were not forced into accepting the cap.

Ron Colverson

I don't understand why we've not heard more from the manufacturers themselves. I would have thought that pressure on the teams from the respective boards to cut costs would be overwhelming.


A trivial point I know, but will USGPE be changing their name before next season? It doesn't exactly roll off the tongue...


But if everyone of them stands united (ok, very unlikely) & doesn't submit their entry, no amount of posturing by Max is going to be followed by him starting the season with 13 new F1 teams. Bernie won't allow that, for one.


FOTA have the ability and resource's to run a series by themselves. They have to stay together on this surely majority rule should apply. BMW have stated that they wouldn't be interested in a two-tier series, FERRARI is dead against the concept and now WILLIAMS has turned.

The time is coming when the decision has to be made whether they stick with the FIA or go it alone. Based on the current financial information they could run a series by themselves and all be financially better off. The tracks and the tv companies would all come on board FOTA could back bernie & max into a corner.

They must stick together the only teams that might stay would be BRAWN & FORCE INDIA, but even they would realise that bernie doesn't have a marketable series with them and a group of nobody's.


I think budget caps are a great idea. I have no idea of what the best amount should be though.

More teams and closer racing has to be a good thing right?

Northern Munkee

If an adjustable rear wing, and unlimited revs is worth 2 to 3secs a lap, I don't think plan B of all the existing teams running uncapped will prevent someone like Lola and USF1 (which isn't that beingbuilt by Dallara) from building a car that would be quicker than the uncapped, hamstrung cars, quicker than I think Head is suggesting, pace of change these days, engineering talent to build a competent of not ground breaking tech, it would be enough, with those tech breaks shirly?

Cleary the best idea is for them all to go one way, capped. But this is all negotiation in public, with some middle ground, horse trading on the cap amount to be briked in the brinkmanship, even if phased in from a slightly higher amount. This looks like how this will be resolved, if it is to be resolved. Don't you think?


Here's quid! They're all gonna cave in, except Ferrari who will leave in disgust then come back at the request of the tiffosi.


It's rough enough watching Brawn (albeit Honda) and Button dominating a stellar field of Ferrari, Mclaren, Alonso, Kubica...
The day Scott Speed does the same in the us racing thing will be too much.
Pinnacle of motor sport???


I've just seen the email about Brawn cheating! Already using super advanced technology.

It seems that they have had help literally from the future, John Connor has been bringing in technology from beyond skynet. (Not to mention Sarah his harassed mum and that rather cute female teminator)

Beware if you go to their garage James, it is protected by,,, well what you would expect !

Seems Sony Corp have an interest in Brawn. Could they oust Branson, of whose offer we still have no detail nor seen any money?

Now that, is a two tier system!


From the statements issued by the teams so far, it appears they are against a two tier championship, but I haven't heard any of them say they are against the budget cap per se and I think they would want the technical freedoms that go along with it.


If the 'technical freedoms' are functioning as too great a performance divider (and as a cattle prod!), could they not become the focus of negotiation to close the gap between the 2 sides?
Drop the movable rear wing for example, give the uncapped guys a realistic chance to makeup the time. You'd still get the new teams and you could still get a technical contest.

Or is it too difficult to find that 2 tier balance?


The prospect of budget caps is an interesting one, if only because of the timing, let me elaborate.

If we all went back to this time last year and proposed a budget cap then, would Ferrari be more inclined to take it up? Possibly they would - Williams would and perhaps the then Honda would too. Could the reasoning be that to maintain a competitive car into a new season wouldn't cost them the sums they're spending now playing catch up.

I think Ferrari and Mclaren see the budget caps for next season as a real hinderance in their ability to catch up Red Bull and Brawn. If they don't get on terms before the end of this season, they'll not be able to spend their way to the top of the pile. Which has significant implications for sponsorship in the future. However, in the mean time, if they've got a budget of £150m in place for next year and they can only spend £100m of that the board are going to be more than a little happy 🙂


First, thankyou James for an exellent F1 page. I have been following F1 since 1962 and your page is the first one I turn to
for F1 news. My guess is that we are still only seing the battle lines being formed. With the propsed technical rules as they stand now being clearly in favour of the caped teams it seems like Max Moselys tactic to get everybody to the negotiating table. What the current teams are so against is a two tier championship not so much the cap itself. In the end we will probably see i higher cap and not quite so favourable
technical fredoms for the caped teams to still make it possible to be competetive if running uncaped.
To another matter. With the current tyre rules now resulting in cars with to much front grip Bridgestone will make narrower front tyres for the next year. Would it not be better to make the rear tyres wider instead? This would increase the mechanical grip compared to the aerodynamical instead of decreasing it. After all making the cars less dependant on aerodynamical grip was the whole point if the 2009 rules which would be negated again with narrower front tyres.


Just thinking out loud here, but it seems to me that the two tier thing is more about satisfying contractual requirements.

My guess is that teams (well, *cough* one red one in particular) _must_ be given the _option_ of continuing under the same agreement that they originally signed up for (for however many years), or someone gets slapped with breach of contract.

By maintaining the current level of performance as an available _option_ for uncapped teams, but providing performance-driven incentives for _spending less money_, the FIA/FOM (not really clear on who's driving what here) can honour the letter of their existing agreement, and any team that doesn't cap costs is very likely to lose grid slots because of it.



James, with the changes to refuelling in 2010 do you think that qualifying now needs to be tweaked? The ideal would be to have those cars who are good at running with a low fuel load starting in front of those who are better who run better with heavier loads. Then we would have a real race on our hands. As things stand with fuel-in qualifying we are surely more likely to have a procession?


Without wishing to add credibility to a stupid idea that has only seen the light of a day in order to try to split up the newly unified teams so B&M can continue to take a whopping 50% of the takings.....but there is at least one precedent for this system that I know of that works fairly well. In British Superbikes there is a distinction between 'factory' teams and privateer, so you can finish 7th, yet win the Privateer Cup, if F1 fans, teams and sponsors could accept this, there may be a way forward. When 'Factory' teams come to lap 'Privateer/Capped' teams fighting their rivals, there could be some real problems that do not happen with Bikes.



One thing that is very interesting with regards the sound bites from Patrick Head is the fact he seems to think the "technical freedom" cars will be up to 2 - 3 seconds a lap quicker than the current cars. Now for the last few years we have had regulation changes to "slow" the cars down in the name of safety. Now how can the FIA allow greater technical freedom when it will make the cars corner faster and faster with each season that passes. It seems to me that the bait of technical freedom flies in the recent face of greater safety


I think Spong is right, the uncapped option is there to legally satisfy current contracts. However, with such a big difference in performance, surely it would be regarded as a de-facto penalty to run under the current rules, and therefore a kind of 'constructive dismissal' type of thing.

Does anyone understand that? I'm not sure I do...


Thanks so much for your interesting analysis of the car weights last time, I'm really looking forward to reading it for the Spanish Grand Prix.
Max Mosley has castigated McLaren for lying and they have been given a suspended ban. So Mosley is obviously really keen on telling the truth in F1. It's good to see that he has real integrity. I agree, I think integrity and honesty are good for F1.
Now I understand that Mosley declared he would not be standing again for re-election for F1 some months ago when he was in the middle of legal proceedings against a newspaper for printing apparently true details of some of his extra-curricular activities.
So I was pleased to read that he's leaving the FIA. Of course, if it turns out he does not leave after all, this will demonstrate that he also is a liar - which implies he also has acted dishonestly. Then equality demands that his position to need to be examined and voted on by the FOTA committee. Or do I mean McLaren? And if they say leave, then Mosley also must leave. Does lying also qualify for a fifty million dollar fine, or was it fifty million sterling?
I look forward to your comments...
warm regards


Does any other formula allow moveable wings? Can the technology be lifted? If not the I would guess it will take a long while to develop reliable rear wings that do not fail and indeed the control mechanisms for them.


I hope so, but the two sides - with Ferrari and the FIA at the opposite extremes - are a long way apart

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