Blueprint for Formula One includes cost cap on engine
Plan gets general approval when presented to teams before Bahrain Grand Prix
Max Verstappen of Red Bull Racing during practice for the Bahrain Grand Prix. Photograph: Clive Mason/Getty Images
Proposals for the future of Formula One including a cost cap and louder engines were received with general approval when presented to the teams on Friday before the Bahrain Grand Prix.
The sport’s owner, Liberty Media, unveiled its five-point plan outlining its vision of F1 for 2021. However, its objectives remain broad, and a considerable and potentially difficult period of negotiation remains.
For Lewis Hamilton, who has said Liberty’s proposals would help inform his decision on a new contract with Mercedes, the main focus is on closing the seven-point gap to Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel. A software error cost Hamilton a probable win in the first round in Australia, but while he looks to a more successful outcome in the second race of the season, attention in the paddock was on the sport’s long-term future.
Liberty’s blueprint was a distillation of concepts that have previously been aired by Ross Brawn, F1’s sporting director. The key points include cheaper, louder and simpler engines that will be more attractive to new manufacturers, and a cost cap, understood to have been set at $150 million. The big teams currently spend an estimated $300 million.
It also contains a proposal for revenue distribution to be more balanced, based on performance, and including a recognition of historical franchises and value – a reference to additional payments to teams such as Ferrari, Mercedes and Red Bull above their share of performance revenue.
There is also an intention to have cars better suited to race one another, making the driver the predominant factor and maintaining the unique design while standardising parts that are not relevant to fans.
The proposals given to the teams are understood to have included more detail than was publicly released, and are crucial to the future of the sport.
Christian Horner, who has long been critical of the rules as they stand, was broadly optimistic.
“The positive thing is they are focused on the fans. On creating a better show, a more affordable F1. The big question is the devil in the detail. They have put big issues up but how is it going to be delivered?”
Ferrari and Mercedes have previously expressed disquiet about the proposed changes ,with the former threatening to leave, and the task now facing Liberty is reaching agreement with them.
Toto Wolff, the Mercedes team principal, believed it was a constructive starting point. “The positive of today is we know what their vision is.”
However, he was cautious about the proposed cost cap.
“We need to work with Liberty and find a compromise, that number will not be achievable but we are all in the same financial reality. My priority is protecting our structure and our people. We have been here a long time, and the same with Ferrari and Red Bull, so you need to ask how you can achieve a sustainable business model without having any hardship on anybody.”
The teams below them on the grid, for whom this represents a chance to close what has become a vast gap to the top three, were unsurprisingly positive. Claire Williams, the Williams deputy team principal, was enthusiastic. “Everything they presented from revenue redistribution to cost cap is absolutely everything we want to see from 2021 and beyond. I’m personally delighted at the proposals.”
McLaren’s executive director, Zak Brown, concurred. “I think the direction they’re taking is the right direction. The sport starts with the fan, and that’s what Liberty are focused on. We all recognise the sport is not where it needs to be today, so it’s in our collective interest to improve the show.”
Brawn has described the current regulations as a deterrent to new teams and his plans met with approval from Andy Palmer, the head of Aston Martin.
“These prospective changes support many of the requirements needed for Aston Martin to enter the sport as an engine supplier. This is a very positive step in the right direction,” he tweeted.
Kimi Raikkonen topped the time sheets in second practice at Bahrain, the only session that takes place in the evening and thus most representative of race conditions, ahead of his team-mate Vettel, with Valtteri Bottas in third and Hamilton in fourth. Daniel Ricciardo in the Red Bull was quickest in the afternoon during FP1. – Guardian