The meeting of the group of senior F1 figures which was due to take place this week has been deferred to a later data amid doubts over the appropriateness of former team boss Flavio Briatore being part of the group.
The “popularity working group” as it was dubbed, was due to comprise Briatore, Bernie Ecclestone, team bosses Marco Mattiacci (Ferrari), Christian Horner (Red Bull) and Toto Wolff (Mercedes). Ecclestone postponed it and Briatore’s presence has been reviewed. The Italian was heavily sanctioned for his part in the Singapore crash scandal of 2008.
It was ironic that the group should be meeting this week, following another exciting Grand Prix in Budapest at the weekend which featured five different leaders and plenty of overtaking. But it is long term thinking that is needed at the moment, with the empty grandstands at Hockenheim a stark reminder of a less bright future for the sport if car is not taken to understand the needs of F1 fans of the future.
Ferrari president Luca Montezemolo has been pushing for change all season and was an outspoken critic of the current F1 when he visited in Bahrain, calling it a “formula for boredom.”
Ironically the race that followed there was a modern classic and between then and Sunday’s thrilling Hungarian Grand Prix there have been many other exciting races. Many F1 engineers were of the view on Sunday night that the race had been a perfect illustration of why the senior figures should focus on promotion, social media and other key areas and leave the racing well alone; no need to add any more artificial tricks like double points for the last race or titanium skid blocks on the floor, as the show on track is good enough.
As the power units get closer together on performance next year and the year after, which is inevitable, then things will get even tighter.
The Pirelli tyres, having been something of a problem in the early years, have settled down now to being a good basis for interesting races, where there are plenty of strategic possibilities and lots of good overtakes. Battles between Alonso and Vettel in Silverstone and Germany and other memorable overtakes have taken place this season.
Montezemolo’s key policy initiatives are:
* The return of some ability to develop engines during the season, to counteract what has happened this year with a dominant Mercedes unit.
* Emphasis on R&D, without the restrictions in the rules that there are today
* More testing on tracks; more in season testing, as “events”, used as occasions to engage with the public and fans
Mercedes team chairman Niki Lauda, not surprisingly, does not back these ideas and has pointed out that the cost in engines alone would be a restriction. Lauda pointed out that with engines costing between €18 million and €21 Milllion per year, the deregulation of development would sent the costs out of control.
Lauda feels that the sport should address areas like the penalties on drivers from stewards, to give them more freedom.
Lauda and Montezemolo were due to meet in Capri for their own discussions in the coming weeks, but this has also been shelved. Meanwhile Montezemolo has called for a wider meeting involving experts from new media and other fields to discuss the sport in the week leading up to the Italian GP in September.
Ecclestone meanwhile has proposed a settlement deal to the court in Munich that is hearing a bribery charge against him at the moment, relating to the sale of F1 in 2005/6. According to Munich based Suddeutscher Zeitung, he has suggested a €100 million settlement. The court announced that it was discussing the matter with Ecclestone’s lawyers.
The 83 year old has been in Munich on Tuesdays and Wednesdays for hearings every week for the last few months.