Why bosses of a divided F1 face their biggest test in Brazil

Formula 1 owner Liberty Media faces perhaps its biggest test yet at the Brazilian Grand Prix

Why bosses of a divided F1 face their biggest test in Brazil

Liberty has had control of F1 for over a year but the honeymoon period in which it drew universal support and enthusiasm from stakeholders, teams and fans ended last week.

When Liberty and world motorsport's governing body the FIA outlined the new engine rule proposal for 2021 onwards, there was significant criticism despite a consultation process with current manufacturers and potential new entrants alike.

Mercedes and Renault voiced fears of a new spending war because the changes would force them to design new engines from scratch, while Ferrari was especially upset that a move to more standard parts risked taking away its identity as an engine manufacturer.

Ferrari president Sergio Marchionne went as far, in a call to investors, to issue a threat he would withdraw the team from F1.

"If we change the sandbox to the point it becomes unrecognisable, I don't want to play any more," he said.

Against the backdrop of the engine spat, and Ferrari's threats, F1 teams will arrive in Interlagos on Thursday fresh from the second phase of their discussions with Liberty at this week's Strategy Group - focused on future budget caps.

Even big teams like Mercedes and Ferrari accept that there is a need to reduce costs in F1, but they are equally mindful that any dramatic cut back in budget could serve to hurt their own competitive ambitions.

There are serious questions to answer. Will there be universal support for the ideas that Liberty put forward? Will there be criticism? Or will F1 be in a holding pattern until the nitty gritty discussions about future prize money begin in earnest?

Mercedes and Ferrari must be braced for a reduction as the commercial payments are set to be shared out more evenly, but until teams know the exact breakdown it is hard to work out exactly where their expenditure needs to be.

It will also be interesting to see how Liberty reacts to the first criticisms of its vision: F1 chairman Chase Carey and allies Ross Brawn and Sean Bratches have been totally silent.

Will they be able to maintain that stance in the packed confines of an F1 paddock,or will they respond to explain why they believe their plans for the future are better?

Liberty has a choice to make. Does it want to embrace and push for an F1 vision of a more equitable playing field, where there are many race winners each year and teams like Force India can have a good chance of success? Or does it want to keep the current status quo of appeasing Ferrari because the brand is so strong? It cannot deliver both.

There will be a further spanner in the works for Liberty this weekend too, for just as F1's politics heat up again, Bernie Ecclestone is making his return to the paddock.

Ecclestone has returned to the spotlight recently, throwing a few curveballs like suggestions Mercedes helped Ferrari because it needed a respected rival. As Mercedes boss Toto Wolff said: "He is the only one who is able to sit on the other side of the world and throw a hand grenade and it actually lands in the paddock.

Now, we appear back in that very scenario. Paddock opinion is divided, talk about future rules are gathering pace, the news agenda is hungry for intrigue now that the title battle is over - and some Ecclestone mischief is set to be thrown into the mix too.

shares
comments
Red Bull 2017 turnaround prompted Max Verstappen to sign new F1 deal

Previous article

Red Bull 2017 turnaround prompted Max Verstappen to sign new F1 deal

Next article

Red Bull wins boost McLaren's confidence for 2018 Formula 1 season

Red Bull wins boost McLaren's confidence for 2018 Formula 1 season
Load comments
The final throes of Brazil's fleetingly successful F1 team Plus

The final throes of Brazil's fleetingly successful F1 team

Emerson Fittipaldi is better remembered for his Formula 1 world championships and Indianapolis 500 successes than for the spell running his eponymous F1 team. Despite a hugely talented roll call of staff, it was a period of internal strife, limited funding and few results - as remembered by Autosport's technical consultant

Why McLaren's expanding agenda will benefit its F1 resurgence Plus

Why McLaren's expanding agenda will benefit its F1 resurgence

In the 1960s and 1970s, McLaren juggled works entries in F1, sportscars and the Indy 500 while building cars for F3 and F2. Now it’s returning to its roots, expanding 
into IndyCars and Extreme E while continuing its F1 renaissance. There’s talk of Formula E and WEC entries too. But is this all too much, too soon? STUART CODLING talks to the man in charge

Formula 1
Oct 17, 2021
How Tsunoda plans to achieve his F1 potential Plus

How Tsunoda plans to achieve his F1 potential

Yuki Tsunoda arrived in grand prix racing amid a whirlwind of hype, which only increased after his first race impressed the biggest wigs in Formula 1. His road since has been rocky and crash-filled, and OLEG KARPOV asks why Red Bull maintains faith in a driver who admits he isn’t really that big a fan of F1?

Formula 1
Oct 15, 2021
The danger of reading too much into F1's clickbait radio messages Plus

The danger of reading too much into F1's clickbait radio messages

OPINION: After Lewis Hamilton responded to reports labelling him 'furious' with Mercedes following his heated exchanges over team radio during the Russian Grand Prix, it provided a snapshot on how Formula 1 broadcasting radio snippets can both illuminate and misrepresent the true situation

Formula 1
Oct 14, 2021
Why F1’s approach to pole winners with grid penalties undermines drivers Plus

Why F1’s approach to pole winners with grid penalties undermines drivers

OPINION: Valtteri Bottas is credited with pole position for the 2021 Turkish Grand Prix, despite being beaten in qualifying. This is another example of Formula 1 and the FIA scoring an own goal by forgetting what makes motorsport magic, with the Istanbul race winner also a victim of this in the championship’s recent history

Formula 1
Oct 13, 2021
Turkish Grand Prix Driver Ratings Plus

Turkish Grand Prix Driver Ratings

On a day that the number two Mercedes enjoyed a rare day in the sun, the Turkish Grand Prix produced several standout drives - not least from a driver who has hit a purple patch of late

Formula 1
Oct 11, 2021
The hidden factors that thwarted Hamilton's bid for shock Turkish GP glory Plus

The hidden factors that thwarted Hamilton's bid for shock Turkish GP glory

Starting 11th after his engine change grid penalty, Lewis Hamilton faced a tough task to repeat his Turkish Grand Prix heroics of 2020 - despite making strong early progress in the wet. Instead, his Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas broke through for a first win of the year to mitigate Max Verstappen re-taking the points lead

Formula 1
Oct 11, 2021
How pitstops evolved into an F1 art form Plus

How pitstops evolved into an F1 art form

A Formula 1 pitstop is a rapid-fire blend of high technology and human performance. PAT SYMONDS describes how the science of margin gains makes stops so quick

Formula 1
Oct 10, 2021