Don’t Let the Door Hit You on Your Way Out, Toto

Bernie’s right. Horner too. Not about everything – God knows the only idea worse than Christian’s “equalization” proposal was Bernie’s double-points farce.  But bringing V8s back is the best idea for F1 since…well, since the V8s left.

Everyone seems to agree that Formula One is in crisis.  While crisis means different things to different people, most of the sports’ so-called leaders are referring to unsustainable finances.  Personally, I’m more worried about the steady erosion of the sport, but let’s hold my concerns in abeyance for now and examine what’s behind this profit crisis.

I’ll sum it up in a Twitter-friendly two characters: V6.

Yes, yes, I know.  Such an over-simplification is naïve.  Formula One doesn’t have one challenge, it has many.  Inequitable revenue sharing is a big one.  So too is the advent of “new” media, which simultaneously competes for the attention of viewers, and provides at least some would-be sponsors a more efficient marketing platform.

But while the V6s may not be the problem, they are the biggest problem.  By a long shot.  The only other topic that comes even close is the inequitable revenue sharing, and sadly, it’s highly unlikely that anything can be done to change that until the current Concorde Agreement expires.

Seriously, think about it.  Profits are getting squeezed from both directions – rising costs and falling revenues – and the common thread?  These dreary engines.

  • Costs?  There’s no mystery here.  Costs are always going to be a problem in Formula 1.  But it should come as no surprise that saddling the midfield with enormous engine bills was never going to be sustainable.
  • Revenues?  Stop kidding yourselves.  It is no coincidence that declines in attendance and television viewership accelerated with the retirement of those wailing V8s.  Yes, I know – not everyone hates these V6s.  Some people (to my bewilderment) actually seem to like them.  But I doubt that anyone is more inclined to watch or attend a race because of the new engine format.  And I know a lot of people are being driven away.  My Dad won’t attend a race this year for the first time in more than three decades because “it’s lost its magic”.  Another close friend has stopped watching because he’s so offended by the notion of lift-and-coast.  And if you want to know how the uninitiated would-be-fan responds, read my piece “Making F1 Cars Inspiring Again” (spoiler alert: they weren’t impressed).

The (lousy) counter-argument goes that we need fuel-efficient hybrid technology in order to maintain manufacturer involvement.  Can anyone explain to me why manufacturer involvement is so important? Why it’s worth rules changes that drive away fans, push midfield teams to the brink of bankruptcy (and beyond) and change the sport to its core?

And has no one noticed that Renault already has one foot out the door despite (because of?) these new engine rules?  Which, incidentally, would be an ironic and infuriating twist (don’t forget that Renault shoulders a significant share of the blame for ushering in this dismal engine regime.)

Sure, 1000bhp V8s won’t be as easy as Bernie’s making it sound.  But at least he has the balls to call a spade a spade.

Don’t let the door hit you on your way out, Toto.

Follow me on Twitter: @SaveFormulaOne

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