In the news this week

In a new column, Hugh Podmore reflects on the major news stories of the week.

A quiet off-season week for the F1 circus, before the car launches start thick and fast next week. Nevertheless a few interesting bits of news came up, as well as some things to think about for those involved in the sport.

The end of the week saw the meeting between FOTA, the teams association, and Max Mosley in a hotel at Heathrow. I can imagine the warm afterglow of the agreements made in December probably provided a conducive atmosphere, in which the new aspects of the cost-cutting measures were more readily agreed on. F1 fans should be massively happy that this has happened.

Before Thursday s agreements, there was the distinct impression that the race teams (by which I mean those under a manufacturer banner actually involved in F1 racing, as opposed to the manufacturers themselves) were a bit deluded. They didn t quite seem to understand the scale of the predicament they found themselves in. We all knew F1 to be a bit of an isolated bubble, where normal rules about what constituted financial waste didn t apply. But the sudden departure of Honda from the sport ought to have sent shockwaves down the spines of the race teams. All it could still take is one board meeting in Stuttgart or Munich or Viry-Chatillon or wherever, and the whole plug could be pulled. New cars aren t selling anywhere at the moment, and as soon as any head honcho decides F1 is just a sport, it could still be game over for that team.

Meanwhile, I am loath to agree with Max Mosley. But here he has something of a point. The sport will have less and less credibility until it reforms itself and the obscene amounts of money flying about are reduced. Moreover, if reforms failed, the future would look very bleak indeed for fans of the traditional F1 format.

So the teams face all that. In their defence, they have the laudable principle that F1 has always been about innovation, cutting edge design and technology, and the resources are needed for that. The manufacturers need to build their own engine, because the sport has always been about teams, not just about drivers. If you only want competition between drivers, go watch GP2. Furthermore, on the technical side of Formula One there are hundreds of people who are literally at the top of their fields in terms of engineering, both in design and development. Make F1 cars standard and you alienate all those people, plus probably a fifth of your viewers around the world.

But there is a middle way to be had, and Mosley, for once, seems to have got the right end of the stick, and moreover appears to have been successful. He wants some parts to be standardised, and others to be built by the teams. He s mostly right there, but fans should sincerely hope there s someone who knows a lot about research and development of F1 car parts who can help the working group make those decisions.

The bottom line is, F1 needs to reform, and we can tentatively now hope this is happening. It might be a little too much to hope that the sport will become more of a spectacle because of the changes, but that isn t really the point. The days of the sport being disconnected from the real world by virtue of its wealth are over, and it desperately needed to wake up and smell the coffee.

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