While the sport’s powers-that-be have had no problems solving the sport’s easy issues – a new logo, theme tune and a major expansion in social media, marketing and streaming – it is the more complex issues that are clearly causing problems.
Issues like a budget cap, fairer distribution of the prize pot and rules acceptable to all but which also level the playing field, are proving a little harder.
Despite the rhetoric, in many ways little or no progress has been made, and in terms of a new rule package for 2021 time would appear to be running out.
The engine rules post-2020, for example, are looking to be little different to how they are today, despite the promise of rules that would encourage new manufacturers to enter the sport.
Already unhappy with fears that such rules would dilute the sport’s DNA, the manufacturers claim that developing power units to the proposed new rules alongside the development of current engines would significantly increase spending. As a result, it is looking highly likely that in 2021 the engine regulations will be little different than they are today.
Nonetheless, speaking in an investors conference call, the sport’s supremo, Chase Carey, insists that there is still interest from new manufacturers.
“I think we have actually pretty well got a path forward for the engines that sort of evolved in many ways through good constructive conversations with the teams,” he said.
“A year ago we were probably headed towards a more significantly rebuilt engine,” he continued. “But, I think, as we got into discussions I think with the teams I think we all came to an agreement that the right path was more stabilizing the existing engine and marrying it to a series of sporting and technical regulations that improve competition and helps address the economic issues around that.
“Some of those sporting and technical regulations are still evolving and they will and again they won’t be part of the Concorde Agreement,” he said. “The Concorde Agreement will lay out the governance process by which you put in place those sort of regulations but it won’t lay those out. So actually I think right now we are on a pretty good path.
“We agreed from the early days, our goals on the engine were simpler, cheaper, louder, more power. Let the drivers drive. I think as we went through that we felt the best to do is to stabilize the existing engine and then through sporting and technical regulations try to achieve our objectives and I think we are pretty well aligned on that…
“So we wanted to make sure that we continue to have the hybrid engine that was road relevant today but at the top of the pyramid in terms of technology that in many ways is at the forefront of what is going on in the world.
“So I think it is achieving all those things and I think part of that is that it attracts the right new engine manufacturers into it as well…
“We have had some discussion with potential new entrants,” he insisted. “There is broad agreement that the path we have sort of landed on for going forward is the right path for everybody, existing and new.”
One change the American did hint at, is a move that would see the engine manufacturers limited in their use of the dyno for development, much like the limiting of time in the windtunnel.
“A factor, for example, which came out of this is that dyno time, which is testing time, is one of the more expensive consequences because it lets you test open-ended, to throw stuff against the wall and test it,” he said. “So the degree you want to address how much time and money can be spent addressing an endless list of theoretical enhancements is probably as important as any tool to make the engines both from a competition and a business perspective viable and attractive for existing and new players.”
However, while Carey claims that there is interest from new manufacturers – Porsche having made quite clear that it is not currently one of them – Renault recently admitted fears that a spending war fuelled by Honda could actually drive a manufacturer out.