Last week I wrote about the things I was looking forward to in 2018. The coming year isn’t going to be all beer and skittles though. Here are the things that are going to suck about 2018.
Toyota is the Only Manufacturer in LMP1 at LeMans
The FIA literally wound up the proverbial creek without a paddle on this one. Two of the three manufacturer competitors in LMP1 were actually from only one manufacturer and when they got fined a literal buttload of money for being a bit funny about their gases, they had to cut out luxury and non-critical marketing. Like their very expensive LMP1 program.
The hybrid LMP1 car has effectively priced itself out of existence. The hybrid systems, especially the one on the Porsche were so complex and expensive, like Formula 1, no new manufacturer would enter in their right mind. Nissan tried and had the Honda experience, they were just smart enough to walk away when they knew they were barking up the wrong tree.
The privateer non-hybrid LMP1 teams like Manor and Rebellion are being allowed to increase the performance of their engines to match the Toyota and at least create a race of it. They’ll still be at an overall disadvantage though, because the hybrids will have the fuel economy to do an extra lap per stint a LeMans. So there’s going to be the illusion of competition that never really materialises. Because they don’t have Toyota’s budget either.
At least LeMans will be interesting – I mean based on form the Toyotas will gradually hand grenade themselves one by one, meaning we might see a LeMans privateer race for the win. Hell, we very nearly got an LMP2 outright winner last year, so anything could happen.
It must be said, massive respect to Toyota for sticking the course in LMP1 even though they’ve got no real competitor to race against. Here’s hoping someone else joins in soon.
Manufacturers Flocking to Formula E
I don’t know whether I like or dislike Formula E. I wanted to like it. I watched the first season. I’ve been back to watch a couple of races since. One or two of the races were even a little bit interesting. But I’ve lost interest. The exclusive use of street circuits which make overtaking tricky and the need to swap cars mid race like some uncoordinated version of a relay race just seems stupid to me.
That hasn’t deterred any car manufacturers who are flocking to the sport in droves. I should be celebrating manufacturer involvement in motorsport but here I’m not so sure. Renault has been heavily involved right from the start, being the sole supplier of the powertrains for the first season. Citroën has been involved with the Virgin team for a while and BMW have always been around the fringes supplying the safety and course cars and with influence on the Andretti team in later seasons.
Jaguar jumped in boots and all last season as the first full manufacturer entry since the inception with Renault. Except for Mahindra. Does Mahindra really count? I’m going with no.
To start us off, Audi cancelled their LMP1 program to focus on Formula E with their full factory backed effort in this current season. But it’s the end of this year that things really ramp up.
The next 2018-2019 season of Formula E signifies the first major change in the car and rules. Finally, they’re going to be able to do a full race with one car. The chassis is a spec chassis. So no costly development needs to take place. I hate to say it but it looks very cool – sort of half way between a Formula 1 and LMP1 car.
Nissan are jumping in to replace sister company Renault, Porsche are in, and BMW steps up to a full manufacturer. Mercedes cancelled their DTM program to have a go next year.
While the manufacturers are free to develop their own powertrain – fantastic I say because racing will improve the electric breed – the battery is conspicuously a spec part. I fail to understand this. Surely it is battery technology that would benefit most from a development arms race. You’ve also probably heard of the company that’s supplying them too. A little crowd from Surrey called McLaren.
The sad question to consider, is regular motorsport missing out on manufacturer involvement because they’re distracted by this electric spec-racing series barely anyone watches?
Formula 1 Politicking
The politics in the Formula 1 paddock are going to ratchet up a gear or several this year. Late in 2017 Ross Brawn announced his new consulted and thought-out engine road map for 2021 which all the engine manufacturers promptly decided to complain about.
Ferrari have threatened to leave, their default position at the start of all new rules negotiations. It’s a bluff. As Martin Brundle quite rightly pointed out in the Sky F1 Christmas Special – they don’t spend a dollar on marketing, Formula 1 does it all for them. There’s nowhere else to go for their platform. Nowhere else that provides the exposure and the fans. They just won a GT Endurance world title and who’s aware of that? Are they really going to pack up and go and race Toyota in LMP1? Or take on Honda and Chevrolet in Indy? No.
Here’s a cliché – Too many cooks spoil the broth. Formula 1 has always been governed by people who kowtow to the noisy paddock influence. The paddock power brokers are already posturing like they always have in the Bernie era like there’s a negotiation to be had. Liberty are going to have to be stone cold to get to where they want to go and it certainly looks like the teams aren’t going to come there willingly. Here’s hoping they have the resolve to stay the course.
More Formula 1 Grid Penalties
What does the FIA expect? They want to force the manufacturers down to 3 engines for an entire season – to cut costs – yet the complex engine formula is so crazy, unreliability is a given.
3 engines, sorry, power units for an entire season is just impossible to fathom. Teams used to use more than that for the just one weekend. The championship is going to be won by the team who can incur the fewest grid penalties. It makes no sense and it makes a great sport look like a farce. As Christian Horner rightly puts it – the fourth and fifth engines get made anyway. They’re still coming on the world tour. There’s no cost benefit at all. And just look at the 2017 Brazilian Grand Prix, where Lewis Hamilton had a fresh engine. It looked like he had 100 horsepower more than everybody else with their shagged out power units. After all, you can run an engine that only has to do two races a hell of a lot harder!
Formula 1 is has become the engineers championship and it is good management of parts lifing that wins the day. How exciting.
Has all of that got you riled up? Angry? Then lets not talk about the ludicrous amounts of money the manufacturers have had to spend just to make a racing engine that will do at least 7, yes 7 race weekends. But hey, at least they won’t have to pay for that fourth engine.
Of course this was going to get a mention on this list. Divisive. Ugly. Heavy. All things a Formula 1 car should not be.
By Jen_ross83 [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Sure, sure. There’s a slim chance it might save a life. But since the death of Ayrton Senna – in a present day context it’d have made no difference thanks to wheel tethers – there is one situation where the thing might have helped – the Felipe Massa spring incident at the Hungaroring.
I’d love to see some data that says otherwise but from watching the harrowing footage of Jules Bianchi’s incident there is no way a small piece of carbon and titanium would have made a scrap of difference. That was a procedural problem, there’s no way that machinery should have been in the firing line under a local yellow in those conditions. The FIA acknowleged that and now we have the Virtual Safety Car.
So the Halo isn’t really a safety device. At least not in the literal sense. The protection it offers is not for the driver, it’s for the FIA. As in, the issue of head trauma was raised so now we’ve done something about it. So now we stand a chance if we ever get sued.
Welcome to 2018.