F1 tries "The Simple Life"?

Anne Proffit
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INDIANAPOLIS—

In a nod to the current vogue of reality entertainment, the FIA has decreed that Formula One will soon produce its own version of "The Simple Life," with a look more to Paris Hilton than FIA headquarters in Paris, France.

On May 4th the FIA, which governs all motorsport met in Monte Carlo, Monaco with team owners to discuss the future of F1. The problem with Formula One, even FIA president Max Mosley agrees, is that the show has become too predictable.

Most fans by now know the melody to both the German and Italian national anthems by heart, having heard them on 56 occasions since 1996, when Michael Schumacher first joined Ferrari and 75 times overall in the last 200 races.

It's taken a while, but suddenly the folks who run F1 have figured out that we are bored. We are really and truly bored!

With the current Concorde Agreement that governs F1 set to conclude on the final day of 2007, something needs to be done, and faster than the Concorde Agreement suggests.

Having [likely] rid themselves of the GPWC breakaway group by [possibly] having all engine makers in agreement for once, the FIA has a few ideas up its sleeve to halt the rampant misuse of funding that permeates this dollar- and Euro-eating group.

The Monaco meeting resulted in a sudden agreement between egos larger than real life. Amazing, isn't it? Most everyone agrees that even moderate F1 budgets have gotten beyond those of small countries. The real question is: where does the money go?

Speed has always cost money, but in Formula One today, marketing appears to gobble up nearly as much money as does engineering. Perhaps more. When the hospitality motor coaches in the paddocks, flex-jets adjoining the circuits and endless bottles of Cristal become more prevalent and larger than vehicle design and engineering offices, one has to wonder.

Even tire supplier Bridgestone was unable to find paddock space for its newest addition to the gathering of chateaux in the Barcelona F1 paddock. Yes, indeed, folks it is time for F1 to go on a marketing and entertaining diet.

Max Mosley would like to see engine budgets cut by 50 percent noting "We are spending one thousand million Euros a year to provide engines to 14 of the 20 cars and, therefore should not be too difficult to reduce that by 50 percent."

Yes, it would be nice if engines that wail to a reported 19,000rpm would last two, three or even six races. That technology filters down to make road-going power mills need tune-ups even less frequently than the current 100,000-mile mark.

The spec tire suggestion is one that's been used to curtail costs in the past, but competition is good for the sport, forcing new ideas on the automotive industry that furthers the "win on Sunday, sell on Monday" theory. Better rubber on the track from Bridgestone and Michelin breeds better rubber for all of us.

Sequential gearboxes are showing up on road cars and these conveyances rarely have breakdowns in competition. Traction control? Well, does your car have it? Thought so. Traction is so difficult to police that F1 had to allow it several years ago; nixing that option might require added qualified scrutineers, thereby knocking FIA costs up a notch once again.

In fact, the FIA's ideas of spec electronic differentials "under the control of the FIA so that there were no traction control or anything of that kind" as proposed by Mosley seems to be pie in the sky. Formula One hasn't been able to properly police TC in the past; why would it now unless the sanction hired some world-class engineering staff?

The business of F1 needs to be at the top of the technology pyramid, otherwise why bother?

Mosley stated the team owners attending that Monte Carlo meeting "had agreement on standard brake discs, pads and calipers and agreement on reducing the weight limit," which could get ever lower after the electronics are eliminated from race cars. Mosley also wants to ban spare cars, allowing constructors to bring only a spare monocoque, as FIA rules currently stand for its F3000 series. "There would be no third car in the pits."

Okay, we can live with some of that stuff, but it is still imperative that Mosley and Bernie Ecclestone keep the Formula one scene beyond the reach of the common chassis builder. Max and Bernie may want more cars on the grid, but exclusivity must be retained.

That thought brings us back to the real problem at hand in Formula One. The budgets for fielding cars themselves may be lowered once the teams, engine makers and ancillary suppliers approve the rules package that, no doubt, will get bounced around for a couple of races before becoming reality. And the new rules package must appear before the end of the current Concorde Agreement. 2006 sounds just about right.

Formula One must also work to rein in the outrageous role of marketing in the F1 paddock that in itself increases budgets tenfold per year. Teams must place emphasis on beating the other guy on the racetrack, for crying out loud.

It's time for the mega-million-dollar transporters to give way to "The Simple Life". It might be tough—just ask Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie—but the time has come for F1 to place its emphasis on sport more than entertainment.

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