Formula 1 Insight

Turning the Past into the Future - Part 1

It is easy to criticize the efforts of the Max & Bernie show to secure the future of F1 through their changes to the regulations and financial deals - I ought to know, since I have sniped at them continually over the last few years. Suggesting alternatives is much more difficult, however, and there is a case for demanding that the critics put forward their ideas for the way forward since they are so dissatisfied with present directions. If we are so sure that there are better ways to prepare for the future, we ought to submit them for criticism too, thus demonstrating that there are more ways than one to skin a cat.

Engineering drawing of F1 car

I am neither an engineer nor a financial wizard so any suggestions I make must be tentative and open to discussion. They are based upon common sense and an experience of the history of F1, however, and so might have some value. What drives me to put some ideas forward is Mark Gallagher's recent article on Pitpass - a vision of the future so bleak that I have to suggest a better way to preserve the essence of F1.

What sets F1 apart from all other forms of open wheel racing is that it is a competition between designers as well as between drivers. An important facet of our enjoyment of the sport is in studying the latest innovations of the engineers to gain an advantage within the rules and so boost the team's chances of winning. We pore endlessly over the new cars for each season, looking for the latest tweaks and bright ideas from the designers.

Standardize everything and you get a driver's competition only. Do we inspect GP2 cars expecting to find genius and innovation? No, we know that all the cars are the same and any difference between teams must come from better organization and preparation only. To remain F1, the sport must allow the designers to compete.

We are now faced with the necessity for F1 to cut back on its costs drastically before it prices itself out of existence. Mosley's answer is to standardize everything in sight but, as we have seen, this leads to something that is no longer F1. Surely we can find a way to retain engineering competition and yet reduce costs to manageable proportions - to believe otherwise is to despair of any future for the sport.

Stock Blocks

The first thing I would suggest is that the regulations restrict engines to stock blocks only. That would immediately cut the cost of creating new engines and yet preserve the diversity that F1 requires. Let the teams find existing engines that can then be developed to give as much power as possible - and may the best engineer win.

Although this has never been tried in F1, there was a time when it became the existing fact in the sport through sheer chance. In 1966, the FIA caught out many of the teams by doubling the permissible engine size to 3 liters. Ferrari had a readily-available V12 but the rest had to go looking for something to power their cars; the result was a raft of solutions ranging from engines designed in-house to old lumps discovered in unexpected places and developed hastily to give decent performance.

Cooper went to the "other" great Italian racing marque, Maserati, and tried one of their V12s, BRM designed a horrendously complex H-16 that sounded great until it went bang, Lotus stuck with Coventry-Climax and a 2 liter version of the previous 1.5 V8, Dan Gurney's Eagle team commissioned a new V12 from the Weslake company. And Jack Brabham found an old Repco V8 engine in his backyard that, with tweaking, proved sufficient to win his team two championships on the trot.

It was a time of innovation and experiment. Many of the engines proved unsuitable for one reason or another, either too heavy or too unreliable. the Repco-Brabham, far from the most powerful, succeeded because it survived through more races. That was brought to a close by Cosworth's introduction of their new V8 in 1967. Designed specifically for F1, it was more powerful, lighter and more reliable than the rest - it would dominate the next decade.

The point is that during that brief period when F1 teams had to look at existing engines for a power plant, the diversity of solutions attempted produced an explosion of innovation. There is no reason why that should not happen again, if the rules were designed to encourage it.

There are arguments against the idea, of course, the most powerful from my point of view being that we would lose that ear-splitting scream of the high-revving modern 2.4 V8. Yet think of the variety of sound possible when there are V8s, V12s and flat engines and it might just be worth the sacrifice. Power outputs would be down, although this could be offset by a return to the 3.5 liter limit, and the muscle would return as engineers found new ways to squeeze out a bit more power each year.

This would not be a manufacturer-friendly formula, I admit. Those that run their own teams might not have a suitable engine lurking in the cupboard and they would certainly object to running another company's product. My answer is that we should let them go. As we have seen, their presence is never guaranteed anyway and they could be replaced by a horde of small teams induced to enter the sport through this and other cost-cutting measures.

Mosley's standardization of F1 is bound to drive out the manufacturers as well - my proposal does the same but preserves the diversity and engineering competition so essential to the sport. It is drastic but that is clearly what is needed if we are to see F1 survive much longer. Consider how it has been warped already by the direction taken by the FIA over the last few years. We are told that F1 must be relevant to road cars - but why? It has never been so before and yet has supplied a steady stream of new ideas and technology useful in the real world. Designing it as a test bed for the manufacturers is to set the cart before the horse.

The participation of so many manufacturers has also given them far too much influence over the direction of the sport. Not only has their wealth driven up the costs and so caused the present crisis, they are the ones most interested in using the sport as a test bed for technologies to bolt on to their production cars. They may be squealing now, but they were the ones who were so enamored of Mosley's introduction of KERS in the first place. F1 engineering should be aimed at creating cars that go ever faster around a circuit and any benefit applicable to road cars should be entirely incidental, not the aim of the show.

It might be thought that the idea of stock blocks runs counter to my previously-expressed calls for a formula based on alternative fuels, and so it does. I make the suggestion as an interim measure for the immediate future only. It will be a while before the governing body dares such a radical change as new fuels and we have to think about ways to make the gasoline engine more affordable therefore. The stock block is one suggestion that could work.

The cost of engine development is an area that the FIA is looking at already and my proposal is made as an alternative to the standard engine that Mosley wants to introduce. There is much more that can be done in other areas, however, some of which have not even been considered by the FIA. In the next part of this article I will look at the cost of chassis design and development and suggest a way to bring it within the financial range of the small independent team.


There are so many possible variations in specification that could offer some sort of improvement in cost or any other aspect deemed important. Maybe there is a better way to find the solution. The only certainty is that current FIA solutions are making it worse. Boring as it is, analysis is needed. The research group to improve overtaking is a good example of what is possible with thoughtful rule modification.

Some of you will cry that all indicators point to research for improved overtaking as a bust. But I think a careful look at the results will show the analysis to be sound. The research indicated a 50% reduction in downforce would improve overtaking along with other aero measures to mitigate turbulent air. The engineers (clever as they are) have found ways to keep downforce very high thus negating the benefit the research indicated. My point is that the research group was a step in the right direction and it ensured that the teams would not resist the change in the rules. The problem was not the research but the way it has been implemented.

So the solution I offer is one of process rather than specification. More research groups comprised of past and present F1 competitors will yield better ideas for cost reduction or any troubled aspect of F1 and they come from those who must implement them. The rules must then be carefully crafted to ensure those results can be achieved in the competitive arena. Who knows what ideas would come if current F1 team leaders got together with GP2 team leaders with the intention of breaking down the current barriers to GP2 teams entering their own F1 teams....

Date Added: 05/02/2009

Steven Roy
I would be against stock blocks because it could end up with manufacturers producing homologation specials which would give them an advantage.

I was thinking about Max's rule changes last night and it is quite incredible how many U turns he has done. I think he should put them all together and make a donut. The donut would provide more entertainment than anything else he has done.

He has gone from slicks to grooves and back again. He has gone to a design that put the emphasis on aero grip to one that put the emphasis on mechanical grip. You know all the rest but when one thing fails he does exactly the opposite but always with the same outcome in mind. To give better racing and more overtaking.

Eisntein defined insanity as repeating the same action and expecting a different reaction. I wonder how he would interpret someone doing one action then the polar opposite of that action and expecting both to give the same reaction.

I have always followed the Nigel Roebuck line on any changes to F1. What would Gilles have thought?

So the first thing I am going to do is let the driver drive the car. Gilles would have approved and that is good enough for me. So mechanical gearboxes and clutch pedals are coming back. I have neever watched a race and thought it would be worse if I wasn't sure that a bunch of elctronically triggered hydraulics was changing gear seamlessly. So now the driver has to change gears for himself and a lot of cost has gone.

Next I intend to hardwire the driver's right foot to the rear wheels. No engine maps or throttle kickers or anti-stall. I am going to attach a cable from the right pedal to the throttle slides. Lets see who can drive now and who has built a reputation on their software engineers backs.

Of course with the driver controlling the throttle and the gear change engines and drive trains have to be beefed up a little for the odd little error. This will also cut cost because things won't be done to such fine limits.

I also think if we must retain wings then lets have those little Indy 500 single simple elemet wings.

Oh and big fat rear slicks that the driver can lean on and slide a little.

Gilles would approve and that is good enough for me.
Date Added: 05/02/2009

Nick Goodspeed
I don't know why the FIA needs research groups. The problem is obvious. The cars disturb the air flow far too much as they fight for aerodynamic down force. Measure the turbulence caused and set a limit that will not interfere so much with the trailing car. Limit the fuel available and fine cars for running out of fuel while giving them free reign to recoup energy or use electric, wind or solar power as a supplement. But.....first and foremost, get rid of Mosley and Ecclestone. Until they are gone, no one will be able to see through their smoke and spin, to access what the true problems are.
Date Added: 05/02/2009

You are right about the news, there is none. Thank you and F1 Fanatic for thinking up things, intelligent things that is, to interest us.

The one place where there is a deadly silence is at Honda. Odd that, given that Nick Fry[does ANYONE like him?] has spent the last few years being qouteable, obviously his core competence.

So what is going on? does anyone know? This must be the most tight embargo in the history the universe.

Anyone out there got any clues?
Date Added: 05/02/2009

Marc: You have more confidence in the FIA's research groups than do I. The changes made to the 2009 rules, originally suggested by the overtaking working group, have yet to prove how effective they are in practice. If they lead to easier overtaking this year, they will have proved the value of research groups at least.

We can say a little about side effects, however. Already there has been much criticism of the ugliness of the new wings and many have warned of an increase in front end accidents as the huge wings get wiped off in first lap scrambles.

Historically, the best place to go for a list of what is wrong with F1 is the fanbase. Many of the changes we are seeing now have been requested by the fans for years - the return of slicks, for instance. Very often the experts cannot see the obvious, so concentrated on detail and self interest are they. group them together into committees and you just get more of the same.

Two things make the biggest changes in the sport: the genius who sees another way and the fans who can see what is wrong. Neither make good committee members. ;)
Date Added: 06/02/2009

Steven: The answer to the homologation problem is easy set the production number required high enough to make the production of homologation specials too expensive to be viable.

I think Gilles would be quite happy with my stock block idea. He was always keen to race anything that moves.
Date Added: 06/02/2009

Nick: You're running on ahead of me a bit there - I will be talking about bodywork and aerodynamic aids in the next post or two. But certainly you're right that a major problem is getting rid of Max & Bernie. They are too old and entrenched in their ways to be able to come up with solutions that are forward-looking enough to cope with the problems ahead.
Date Added: 06/02/2009

Leslie: Thank you for your kind comments. As regards Honda, I think we can take it that there will be no external buyer now that the deadline has passed. The options remaining are either a management buyout or complete closure. It is anyone's guess which will happen until the team makes an announcement but I would bet on the buyout card. The delay is probably caused by Fry and Brawn trying to put the necessary financial deals in place. I have seen it said that the Honda company will take up any shortfall in sponsorship to begin with, if only to save face. That remains to be seen, of course.

I suppose that Nick Fry must have some fans somewhere but they're a quiet bunch. Have you ever seen any good words written of him?
Date Added: 06/02/2009

Actually, I don't think this is counterintuitive to the introduction of alternative fuels, I think it encourages it.

If all you say to the engineers is "you must use this block," the only limitation you've granted is the size and weight of a specific block of steel or aluminum. It is up to the engineers to decide how many cylinder holes to drill in it, how large the holes should be, how they should be configured, what to make the pan out of, how to cool it, how to fuel it, what to make the ports out of, the headers, it's all wide open.

The only thing you've backhandedly required in this specification is internal combustion, and even that needn't be required either, it's just implied. If you ban petrol, your alternative fuel race is on.

I really and truly like this idea.

Steven Roy: Indy use three-element wings on road races, so I think the F1 body spec is already headed in that direction. But then again, Indy allows ballast movable by the driver, ground effect, and coming soon, turbochargers...
Date Added: 06/02/2009

During the Turbo era didn't BMW use the old 4 pot block as a basis for their F1 engine? As far as I remember they found that the older the block the longer it lasted too!
Having just trawled through the FIA Statutes I think I have found a way to unseat Mosely. Article 9(4) states that "a candidate from 1 list may not appear on another list. If such were the case the candidate would be ipso facto ineligible."
If we can only get one of his many fans in FIA to propose him for a job on the other list?? Job done!

Date Added: 06/02/2009

Alianora La Canta
Eisntein defined insanity as repeating the same action and expecting a different reaction. I wonder how he would interpret someone doing one action then the polar opposite of that action and expecting both to give the same reaction. {Steven Roy - 9 comments ago}

If it worked, then Max would probably be considered a monopole and have received a Nobel Prize by now for discovering a scientifically implausible concept.

Otherwise, he'd probably be called a politician.
Date Added: 06/02/2009

Alianora La Canta
Article 9(4) states that "a candidate from 1 list may not appear on another list. If such were the case the candidate would be ipso facto ineligible."

Great find, Chrisess! And given how keen Max Mosley is on making stuff road-relevant, maybe someone should put him on the list to run the touring section of the FIA...
Date Added: 06/02/2009

Clive, It is true that committees tend to get bogged down by their own process, but the thought that only the visionary can see the way clearly has lead Max Mosely down the path of implementing rules that he thinks will make the difference. In short, Max thinks he is the chosen one and the results have been catastrophic.

My faith is not in the committee. My faith is in the scientific process employed by the engineers. I believe that the results they find are accurate; the problem lies in the effectiveness of the rules to create the situation that mimics those results. It is the difference between saying a 50% reduction increases the possibility of overtaking and writing a rule that imposes that 50% reduction.

In lieu of analysis it seems the Gilles rule of thumb would yield a really effective set of F1 specifications.
Date Added: 06/02/2009

Steven Roy

BMW did indeed use stock blocks for the their turbo engines. There was a story that they used to leave the blocks lying outside and encourage their workforce to urinate on them as this helped with the hardening. I have no idea if there is any truth in this but it was a wide spread rumour at the time.


Creating more overtaking is the simplest thing in the world. Without wishing to sound like Baldrick asking how we got from a situation where there wasn't a war to one where there was a war....

Once upon a time there was lots of overtaking. Jackie Stewart recently spoke about a British GP at Silverstone where they swapped the lead about 30 times. As we come forward in time overtaking becomes progressively more difficult as aerodynamics become more advanced and speeds rise.

So if you want more overtaking you only have to look back at when we had lots of overtaking and write a set of rules that give your cars aerodynamics and overall performance like those cars and of course use circuits with the same characteristics as then.

So now we have a war but there was a time when there wasn't a war so something must have happened that caused us to go from there not being a war to there being a war. That is the FIA version

Do you mean how did the war start? That is what we need.
Date Added: 06/02/2009


Here is my idea on how Formula 1 rules can be framed to bring back innovation instead of standardization. I will also respond to some your ideas as i go along. Let me know what you think.

Engine: I agree with you that stock blocks will right away bring down the intial costs. But, you have let open in your ideas so far (unless i misinterpret) the possibility of a development war and we will end up in square 1 with insane amounts oif money getting spent. Also the suggestion on high number of stock block production units to avoid homologation, i think will receive violent opposition from specialty low volume premium car manufacturers like Ferrari. My suggestion would be specify a volume displacement and may be engine weight and material at the maximum and then give the teams/manufacturers a fixed period of time (may be 6 months to year) to develop whatever architecture of engine they want; test it and perfect it to their hearts content (under a overall budget cap which i will come to later) and then freeze it for 5 years. Done! No more unfreezing to equalize engine power. You screw up, you run with it for 5 years!

Straight away you will end up with different interpretations of best engine solution and that variety lives for five years for fans to see.

Chassis: Now, teams who despite their best efforts end up with an underpowered engines might cry foul about the engine rules, which is where you should free up chassis for development. But how do you do that without compromising driver safety? Have a standard survival cell which should have crash test figures and G-force withstanding levels doubled from what it is today. I don't know what todays crash tests specs are. (may be alianora can help? :) )But whatever it is double them for driver safety. If necessary keep revisiting those numbers alternate years and keep moving the goal posts farther and farther. Beyond the survival cell, specify a maximum and minimum wheel base, maximum and minimum width and length of the car and minimum dry weight of the car with/without tyres.

Tyres: Single tyre supplier works just fine for me. you don't want tyre war to bring in more madness again. Keep one tyre supplier and standardize tyre sizes with wider tyres at the rear to aid mechanical grip. Also bring in a crazy new stipulation that 50% of the cars grip should come from mechanical grip (assuming 50-50 split between mechanical and aero grip is the right proportion). This should make aero development beyond a point useless unless mechanical components are also developed (like suspensions, axles etc) parallel to move the goal posts farther.

Fuel: BAN REFUELING! Its the fundamental problem for all the lack of on track racing. Use onyl road relevant fuels and not some exotic fuel as it will again trigger a development war. May be specify the maximum quantity of fuel allowed too. I am not sure about that one as i have not given much thought on that TBH.

Budget cap: with all this, you may think, this is the perfect recipe for F1 extinction. It is in this modern day with all the engineers and toys at disposal, unless you specify a budget cap. Specify a budget cap for all teams and keep them as low as possible, so that new teams are always knocking on the doors of F1 to get an entry. Have FIA appointed auditors who will be randomly called on duty to audit any teams accounts to avoid favoritism. Let the teams foot the bill for these auditors. that will be the icing on the cake! Any concealing of expenditure if detected shall result in a straight 5 year ban from entry into F1 with a hefty fine. Does $100 million sound right? :)) :P and also no access to the prize money for that year. With the budget cap and such harsh penalties for rogue behavior, the teams would think twice before doing anything silly, plus the manufacturers as corporates have a reputation to save from moral policing. So they will police themselves well enough...i hope! In spite of this, if some team behaves silly and gets thrown out, there will always be a new team waiting to replace this one due to the budget cap.

Oh well....we can all dream...cant we?
Date Added: 06/02/2009


Your point is well taken. I would love to see implementation that brought back cigar shaped cars or the modern equivalent.... I am only discussing overtaking because it is the only example I know of where the FIA utilized analysis to develop specifications rather than allowing Max to shoot from the hip.

Regarding the urination on the block. I've never heard of the rumor but I have heard about utilizing urine to harden metal. Blacksmiths used several different process of cooling metal to achieve different hardened characteristics. I pulled this description of quenching liquids off of one of the blacksmithing sites...

...some of the stuff they used in past...old wine, vinegar, beer, urine, sheep was the best and especially when mixed with honey...each gave a unique hardening to the steel...

There are specific correlations to modern techniques but I don't know what they are. It seems odd that working as a traditional wooden ship builder allowed me to explain the use of urine to quench steel on an F1 site.

Date Added: 06/02/2009

Steven Roy

If I built an engine that was underpowered by your rules and I was stuck with it for five years I would quit F1 until I could be competitive. I would not pour money into it for five years. I have no doubt Carlos Ghosn would have pulled Renault out this season had they not been allowed to modify their engine.

Ban refueling. Absolutely. This has to happen.

I don't believe a budget cap can be enforced. There are too many roots open to manufacturers to hide costs. Besides I don't trust Max to 'interpret' the results of any audit correctly and even handedly.


I think the problem with the people who tried to write the new tech regs is that they have an agenda. They are doing their best within the pressures applied on them. They could not go back to their team principals for example and say we have agreed to cut the wings off the car because wings are valuable real estate to sponsors.

Rules need to be written by people who are independent of the teams and of Max's personal agenda.
Date Added: 07/02/2009

This may sound odd, but why does no one ever think to reduce the grip of the tires? One of the reasons drivers always give for not being able to pass is all the "marbles" of rubber that collect at the edge of the track. Have Bridgestone develop a tire hard enough to drastically reduce the marbles. It will have to be a harder tire almost surely. Let the teams produce all the power they want, if all you get is wheelspin, the power is useless. The drivers will have to drive the cars, which will be more unstable, rather like cold tires all the time. Clark ran with Dunlops so hard he did 4 races in 1963 on the same set of 4 tires. No 70 mile specials. The Grand-Am series has also had good luck improving competition and limiting cost by issuing a spec rear wing. Truly flat bottoms (no diffusers) and limited rear downforce make for cars that pass often. If you have to run a spec something, why not a wing? And I totally agree with Steven Roy, lets have manual trannies and throttle cables all round.
Date Added: 07/02/2009

Very interesting discussion and at last a sensible explanation for BMW using "seasoned" blocks for their straight 4 turbo of the early eighties - there is no end to the genius of engineers!

If I may answer some of Uppili's points, variation in engine output is exactly what we should be trying to achieve. If all we want is equality, Max is right to go for standardization. In the past, the engines were never equal and it was up to the designers with less powerful engines to make up the difference through other means. The Maserati V12, for instance, proved too heavy in comparison to its power output and Cooper suffered accordingly as long as they used it.

I imagine that a similar process to the sixties would happen if stock blocks were enforced now; some teams would get lucky with the engine chosen, others would find themselves at a disadvantage. Over the course of a few years, just a few, perhaps two or three, engines would emerge as the ones to have and all the teams would end up with one of them. This happened with the emergence of the Cosworth DFV in the sixties, all the small teams taking that option in the end and just a few richer teams able to design and build their own engines. The interest was in watching the small teams devise ways of making the best of the less powerful Cosworth through superior chassis design.

To be effective, a stock block formula would have to be accompanied by a freeing of the design possibilities in other areas. Although I agree with Mosley's attempts to limit the influence of aerodynamics, there are better ways of doing it than writing ever more complex rules about what can be done and what cannot. The FIA is very close to designing the whole car with their complex system of measurements and that we certainly don't want. I can suggest a more radical way of putting the lid on unnecessary aerodynamic development that needs no fine measurements and complicated descriptions that are open to interpretation. See the next article.

As for banning refuelling and one tyre supplier, I am all for those changes. The budget cap, however, will not work purely because teams will cheat - no matter how clever modern accounting systems are, there are always ways to assign cash to apparently unrelated projects that assist the F1 team.
Date Added: 07/02/2009

Lonny: I agree - the idea of reducing the grip of the tires is excellent. Probably the best way to do it would be to insist on tires being able to last a whole race or even several.
Date Added: 07/02/2009

Steven and Alianora: Thank you for answering so many of the excellent comments, suggestions and queries to this post. For various reasons, I was unable to get to the blog yesterday and so it was a relief to find that you two stalwarts had so kindly taken up the slack!
Date Added: 07/02/2009

Steven Roy

The reason Clark did 4 races on a set of tyres was not because the tyres were hard but because they were not having to deal with 4G of downforce.

The reason for grooved tyres was to reduce tyre grip and as predicted by every commentator at the time it failed. You need to have more mechanical grip than aero grip to get overtaking and close racing.

Date Added: 07/02/2009

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