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The Editor: F1's existential crisis from Motorsport Mag

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Offline rooshooter

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The Editor: F1's existential crisis from Motorsport Mag
« on: November 04, 2020, 06:12:50 PM »
By the time you read this it is likely that Lewis Hamilton will have recorded 92 or more grand prix victories, thus overtaking a record that many people thought might last forever. Or at least last a little longer than the 14 years it has stood.

That record was set by our cover star this month, Michael Schumacher, in 2006 with victory at the Chinese Grand Prix. It was and remains an incredible achievement partly because it was simply so far ahead of all rivals: Schumacher didn’t just break the previous record for most Formula 1 wins, he smashed it. He reached Alain Prost’s benchmark of 51 wins, which had stood since 1993, in 2001  a little over halfway though his career.
Who knows how much further Hamilton will be able to push the tally – another 10, or even more wins? On current form it is perfectly possible so long as he decides to stay in the sport.

Whatever the final number, it is also possible that Hamilton’s record will be the one that stands the test of time and lasts not just for a generation, but forever. That’s not because I am predicting that there will never be a better driver, but rather that given the sport’s trajectory it is arguable that we are seeing an end of the sport in its current guise.

“As Honda’s departure indicates, F1 is facing an existential crisis”

As the departure of Honda indicates, Formula 1 is facing an existential crisis as it struggles to maintain road car relevance in a world focusing on green tech. As Mark Hughes explains this month: “Honda believes its long- term survivability depends upon its meeting the environmental challenge and that it needs the brains and resource from its F1 power unit programme to help it do that – but not F1 itself. The inference is that F1 is no longer aligned with future automotive R&D, that further knowledge of hybrid power units is no longer relevant.” Honda will not be the only manufacturer taking this viewpoint.

As manufacturers move away from traditional engine technology and shift their marketing spend and R&D to electric power, F1 will be forced to choose between spectacle, tradition and relevance. What is clear is that the halfway house of hybrid has failed.

If it wants to retain road relevance F1 will be required to adopt electric power units (after doing a deal with Formula E), a move that would alienate vast swathes of its traditional fan base, for whom the idea of F1 is inextricably bound with moving mechanical parts, and the sound and fury of combustion.

No amount of PR magic will convince them that electric-powered cars are anything but ‘white goods’. By adopting electric power F1 might remain at the sharp end of car technology and retain its manufacturer support, but at what price?

The alternative, so the argument goes, is to forget about the manufacturers and so-called road relevance and instead go back to basics. The sport should opt for a high- octane, naturally aspirated formula that promises maximum spectacle and thrills with privateer teams competing in an arena unsullied by big business.

The problem with this view, of course, is that it risks F1 disappearing into pointlessness. And for something that bills itself as being the pinnacle of motor sport it also creates a potentially fatal contradiction.

Either way, the question now is whether F1 can be recognisably the same sport in 15 years as now? And will the next driver challenging for the record of most grand prix wins be competing in a sport that can realistically be argued to be related to the one which Lewis Hamilton is dominating today?

If not, then Hamilton’s new record may well be destined to become the last word in F1 achievement; literally unbreakable because the sands of history have shifted, cutting it off from the mainstream forever.

The way to avoid that fate will be the question occupying the minds of the great and good of the sport we all love. If I were a betting man, I would put my money on them finding a solution. If there is one thing that motor racing, and F1 in particular, excels at, it is problem solving. For people used to finding elegant workarounds to the most complex and seemingly intractable of conundrums, plotting a route out of the cul-de-sac the sport finds itself heading down must be a realistic hope.

So, I would like to predict that Hamilton’s record will be broken and that in the mid- 2030s we will be hailing another driver as the all-time greatest – and celebrating her achievements with as much vim as we celebrate Lewis’s today.
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Offline Bacchulum

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Re: The Editor: F1's existential crisis from Motorsport Mag
« Reply #1 on: November 04, 2020, 07:17:00 PM »
Where did this come from Roo?
I have a couple of points they need to hear:

1.  "Formula 1 is facing an existential crisis as it struggles to maintain road car relevance"
F1 has never cared about road car relevance.
Aluminium monocoques, not road car relevant.
Structural engines, not road car relevant.
Ground effects, not road car relevant.
Carbon fibre chassis, not road car relevant.
Where did these technologies come from?  Aerospace industry (keep this in mind).

2. "F1 will be required to adopt electric power units"
You can't power a jet engine with electricity.
And airlines will never go back to propeller speeds, no-one would ever accept that.

So, to keep true to F1's DNA, what will the aerospace industry use to power planes?
Whatever it is, THAT should be F1's future.
(my money is on Hydrogen)

Offline rooshooter

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Re: The Editor: F1's existential crisis from Motorsport Mag
« Reply #2 on: November 04, 2020, 07:27:30 PM »
My response Bacchulum: Previous article was fro Motorsport Magazine UK (UK publication)



Honda’s announcement that it will quit F1 at the end of next season was obviously a pretty serious blow to the category, leaving just two automotive companies involved (in addition to Ferrari) from 2022 onwards and no prospect of any new ones joining under the current hybrid power unit regulations, set to run to the end of 2025. But of more concern than the fact of Honda’s withdrawal should be the reasons it gave for the decision. “As the automobile industry undergoes a once-in-a- hundred-years period of great transformation,” said the company’s group CEO Takahiro Hachigo, “Honda has decided to strive for the realisation of carbon neutrality by 2050. As a part of this change, we decided to allocate our energy management and fuel technologies, as well as our human resources amassed through F1 activities, to the research and development of advanced power units and energy technologies.”

Honda believes its long-term survivability depends upon meeting the environmental challenge and that it needs the brains and resource from its F1 power unit programme to help it do that – but not F1 itself. The inference is that F1 is no longer aligned with future automotive R&D, that further knowledge of units is no longer relevant.

The automotive mass market future is some form of electric, either battery electric or hydrogen fuel cell electric. Until the energy from which the electricity grid is powered is itself renewable, the environmental advantages of a battery electric car are not there. The battery electric car needs to cover between 80,000-220,000 miles before it covers the environmental cost of the production of its batteries compared to a petrol car. The hydrogen cell is even more environmentally costly to manufacture. That switchover point comes down drastically – to 18,000 miles for battery electric – if the electricity grid is derived from renewables only. Automotive companies are planning on the wider world sorting out renewable-powered grids and when that has happened, they need to have the appropriate cars ready to take advantage. As such, electric racing looks to have a far better chance of being relevant to automotive R&D than hybrids.

“What if the entire sport, not just Formula 1, forgot about downforce?”

Formula E uses battery electric cars. They can race for 45 minutes at lap speeds slower than those of an F3 car. What would be required for F1-appropriate speeds and GP duration? Ostensibly, a battery with around 10 times the density of the best technology available today. F1 is great at accelerating technology, but not to the extent of a tenfold advance.

It would be relatively simple to make the Formula E car much faster than it is, but not to the extent that it could be anywhere near F1 lap times or durability, as current Formula E driver Lucas di Grassi explains. “By doubling the powertrain – putting the rear powertrain we have now in the front as well, it would increase power to 500kW [670bhp]. Because it would then be four- wheel-drive it would accelerate 0-200kmh [124mph] in about the same time as F1 and because you would then have energy recovery from two axles rather than one, you could reduce the size of the battery so the car weighed the same but had twice the power. I have calculated it would cost only seven per cent more than currently. So straight away the car would be much faster but lasts the same amount of time.”

Although its straight-line performance would be comparable to an F1, lap times would be light years away. The Formula E car carries almost no downforce. As soon as you introduce downforce and the squaring resistance of drag, the battery drains like a sieve. Seven hundred horsepower of battery with current levels of F1 downforce would have the battery spent in 15 minutes! Not much of a grand prix.

What if the entire sport, not just Formula 1, forgot about downforce? That way you could still have an electric F1 as the notional pinnacle series. Yes, Formula E has exclusivity rights to electric-powered single-seaters but that can be solved very simply – with cash.

“There is a triangle of demands,” says Di Grassi. “You want entertainment, affordable costs and R&D. But it’s such a delicate balance. Make it too R&D heavy and you end up with domination by whoever does the most of it, like Ferrari in the 2000s or Mercedes now. To get competition between the cars you need to limit the R&D, but not so much that the manufacturers can’t develop their technology. And it needs to be affordable. A Formula E car costs around $1m. An F1 car about $20m.”

It also needs to remain impressive. “It can’t be so slow that it’s perceived to be easy,” agrees Di Grassi. “It needs to be very quick, with very aggressive acceleration and top speed, but not necessarily lap time. I think there could be a much sweeter sweet spot than we have.”

Or F1 might at some point consider not even trying to align with the automotive manufacturers. It was they, after all, who pressed for the hybrid formula yet only three of them joined (if we exclude Ferrari on the assumption it would be there regardless) and soon it will be back to two. It might consider the risky idea of going outlaw and reintroducing petrol engines, much smaller than the hybrids. Like for example a three-cylinder, turbocharged 1-litre screamer in a lightweight car that would use less fuel than the hybrids, even if not so efficiently. There’s a fork in the road and F1 will need to decide soon which one it is taking.

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Offline Seanus

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Re: The Editor: F1's existential crisis from Motorsport Mag
« Reply #3 on: November 04, 2020, 08:02:44 PM »
And that article presumes electric cars will never get any better than Mario Formula-e.
As long as Hydrogen is the densest energy source then it will remain king but for fuck sakes when are they going to get rid of all that reciprocating nonsense and run a bloody turbine.
The answer: -80538738812075974³ + 80435758145817515³ + 12602123297335631³ = 42

Online ab156

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Re: The Editor: F1's existential crisis from Motorsport Mag
« Reply #4 on: November 05, 2020, 10:45:32 AM »
F1 reliance on manufactures has been a relatively recent phenomenon.   F1's roots, and I would argue, it's core is made up of 3 parts:
  • teams (constructors)
  • technology advancement within reasonably limited technical regulations
  • "the show"

The loss of tobacco money triggered a ripple that is still being felt. The teams couldn't sustain the status quo so looked at other ways to monitise the business thinking they could stay on the same path.  Over time the various venture capitalists have come in with promises of $$$ after they "restructure the business".  What they have done is strip the assets (value) of the constructors by limiting design freedoms, prioritise manufactures under the guise of "road relevant", create paywall TV deals and saturate the market with races - all to try and push up the value for a sale of the group. This is what has put F1 as a brand and sport in the precarious position it finds itself - declining fan base, declining sponsorship pool, normalized performance leading to a generally poor show for the casual viewer. By limiting the ability to out innovate a situation has been created whereby one team has become dominant driving other manufactures away, impacting the "show" and creating a product that struggles to retain and attract viewers and therefore sponsors.

The answer(s):
  • Constructors need to do a mgt buyout to get control of the business (or Stroll can just buy) - as crazy as Bernie appeared at time history shows how successful he was
  • max 18 races (perhaps rotate some tracks - 2020 has shown how many great tracks there are that miss out)
  • keep budget cap
  • open up tech regs - have a energy limit but leave otherwise free (aspiration, fuel source, capacity, cylinders etc)
  • simplify / limit composite use - especially in braking to lengthen brake zones to improve overtaking opportunities
  • open up ground effects / limit wing surface area
  • subsidise bluechip sponsors  - need to get them into the sport

Sure, new issues will be created and it is probable there will always be a dominant team however this model gives teams a chance to take a jump up and will create occasional unexpected results.  It would also create pathways for new companies to enter - imagine a Koenigsegg freevalve engine vs. Rimac vs. NA vs. turbo. A default "DFV8" that is within +/-5% of max performance should be made available to all teams. Has to be better than a "spec" series - we have that with Formula E / F2 / Indycar (almost).

ALL F1 / Formula 1 has is a brand, that's it - the question is what do you want people to associate with the brand. For me it has to be technology, variety, excitement, surprise results, drivers. Something that makes you want to sit down for a few hours on the weekend and watch / attend.

Offline Freezer

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Re: The Editor: F1's existential crisis from Motorsport Mag
« Reply #5 on: November 05, 2020, 04:59:02 PM »
F1 needs to focus on the excitement factor. 
The hybrid era has removed a lot of that and going the whole hog to full electric would put me to sleep.
If they had noise and on track excitement then that would bring the crowds and drive attention to their respective brands rather than
trying to be environmentally sensitive whilst racing highly expensive racing cars!
 

Offline Wally

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Re: The Editor: F1's existential crisis from Motorsport Mag
« Reply #6 on: November 05, 2020, 07:15:30 PM »
You guys know far too much about F1.
“You can please some of the people all of the time, you can please all of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time”

 

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