Max and the Manufacturers
Mighty Max Mosley has been talking about the reasons for his proposed changes to F1. His thoughts are very revealing of the driving force behind his thinking: he wants the car manufacturers to remain involved and fears that F1 cannot exist without them."If formula one does not act, car manufacturers could quit and the very existence of motor sport could be under threat."Jack Brabham in the Brabham Repco of 1966In the F1 world of today, that may seem a reasonable viewpoint, but the fact is that the sport existed before manufacturers became involved and would continue without them too. Yes, the teams would suddenly find that they had a whole lot less money to spend but Max is trying to achieve that anyway. Without the manufacturers, technical development would focus more in areas that do not require such massive expenditure but, as shown by the genius of Colin Chapman and other talented designers, progress would still be made.The problem for Max is that he has led F1 into a situation from which it can devise no means of escape. Having eliminated the small teams, Max sees no option but to work with those that remain - the manufacturers. The sport has become used to the huge influx of cash that the manufacturers brought and cannot imagine life without it. Yet life goes on and history shows that F1 is a robust beast that does not easily succumb to the pressures imposed upon it.The past has examples of manufacturers entering the sport, dominating for a while and then getting out, most notably the tour de force of Mercedes and Auto Union in the thirties and then Mercedes' repeat demonstration in the fifties. The interesting thing is that both periods reflect a similar situation to the one we see today: domination by one or two teams with limitless funds and a boring predictability to the races that threatened to destroy the fanbase, after the initial wonder at the technical advances had dissipated.In 1955, we have an instance of the situation that Max fears so much: the withdrawal of manufacturers from the sport. After Pierre Levegh's terrible accident at the 24-hour Le Mans race that year, Mercedes withdrew from all forms of circuit motor sport. And the result? The Italian teams rejoined their battle, later to be challenged by a multitude of tiny British teams, and the racing actually improved.What makes motor sport worth watching is competition, between drivers, chassis designers and engine manufacturers. In his determination to keep the car manufacturers, Max has designed rules that give even less room for competition than we have at the moment - but the manufacturers will depart eventually regardless of the rules, since they cannot all win at the same time. Sooner or later F1 will find itself in the same position as those historical instances I have mentioned, with one or two giant teams utterly dominant and the competition scattered.The way forward is not more and more regulation. If anything, the rules should be freed up, the manufacturers allowed to expend as much money as they like until they price themselves out of the business, and the sport gradually returned to those who really care about it - the small teams that compete on a shoestring budget. All the FIA should be doing is setting the formula: how big an engine you can have, whether or not you can attach wings, minimum weight, maximum external dimensions, etc.Look at 1966 as an example of what happens when the rules are suddenly changed to get away from artificial restrictions. That was when the allowed engine size was altered from 1.5 liters to 3 liters and there was a mad scramble to find existing engines that could do the job. All sorts of weird and wonderful things were tried, Brabham's rather primitive but reliable Repco engine triumphing in the first couple of years.Did the racing suffer from such a de-restriction? On the contrary, it gave rise to a golden age of close and unpredictable seasons and enabled the most successful racing engine of all time, the Cosworth DFV, to be born. A customer engine, one that anyone could buy, stick in a chassis and go racing with.History shows that manufacturers do nothing but warp F1 into a creature that has little to do with motor sport and everything to do with marketing. If anything, the FIA should be thinking about banning them from F1, rather than handing it over to their tender care.
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