FIA president Jean Todt has said that a return to F1 of high revving V8, V10 or V12 engines would not be accepted by society, setting out the FIA’s stall when it comes to negotiations with Liberty Media over future power units beyond 2020.
At the same time he acknowledged that “motor sport.. did not adapt enough” to the revolution that has happened in social media and entertainment, but which he now expects to be rectified by Liberty.
Asked whether he would accept to go back to V8 or V12 engines for entertainment purposes, as has been suggested in some quarters and by many fans, Todt said,
“It will not be accepted by society. Again we have a responsibility to run an organisation monitored by global society. And global society will not accept that. I’m sure if you said, ‘let’s go back to engines from ten years back’, a lot of manufacturers would not support [that] any more. I’m sure you would have a minimum of three out of four who would leave.”
That said, he does accept that F1 needs to be more entertaining and to create more fascination. The new chassis regulations this year are one step on that road, but Todt’s former employee Ross Brawn is now in charge of the racing side of things at F1 and discussions have already begun on long term planning for what the F1 product should be.
“I think entertainment has always been a priority,” he said. “What has changed is the way to entertain. But not only in sport, our lives are more or less [the same] – for people like you it has been a revolution.
“All communication – clearly and I think probably [that] will be one of the values of the new Formula One commercial rights owner. He has the expertise, he has those things. I am not an expert but I am surrounded by people who know much more than me. But, take my wife, she is in movies and now movies go to Netflix. A new movie doesn’t go to a theatre any more, it goes to Netflix [and] 180 countries immediately have access to the thing.
“So it is a revolution, and probably in motor sport we did not adapt enough the evolution to this revolution.”
When it comes to the current engine formula of hybrid turbo engines, these have been confirmed until 2020. But Todt says that when plotting the course beyond,the stakeholders need to address costs as one of the key elements, something that was overlooked last time, to the detriment of smaller teams like Marussia, Manor and Caterham. Ross Brawn has also made a lot of this point.
Even Sauber came close to folding as it wrestled with engine bills of $20 million a year. Todt admits that the governing body has to accept some responsibility for not controlling costs.
“I don’t think you can say we are locked (in to 2020) but we know that stability is essential, firstly, to have as much competition as possible, and then to protect the investment,” said Todt. “You cannot invest in new technology every year, it will not be affordable and we already complain about the cost of motor racing, the cost of Formula One, which is for me absurd.
“It’s really something we need to fight and so far we did not manage to bring a solution and I’m happy to take part of the responsibility of the governing body. But saying that, it is not easy because you need to share. For me I’ve always liked to get a certain solidarity when you take decisions.”
As F1’s new owners, the FIA and the teams consider what the F1 of the future should be, there is a school of thought that it should now diverge from the automotive industry that has pulled it into hybrid turbo engines and instead follow its own path as a global sporting entertainment. As the automotive products become increasingly electrified, Formula E looks the more likely laboratory for the automotive technology in motorsport. Todt is not so sure.
“At the moment Formula One has nothing to be compared to Formula E,” he says. “One costs an average of €350m a year, the other one costs €10m or so. [That’s] the first big difference. Then the location is different.
“Formula E is probably the championship that has been the most advanced in communicating and in attracting new fans. But clearly I think, which is a good thing, we have quite a nice range of categories of motor sports.”
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