Formula One’s owner Liberty Media has proposed a radical solution to boosting the excitement in races which would involve tracks ripping up their tarmac and laying a new rougher surface to wear down tyres quicker.
Although this year’s season got off to a slow start with several processional races, the action has revved up since then. There have been three different winners, underdogs on the podium and unexpected twists like Red Bull Racing drivers Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen taking each other out just 11 laps before the end of the Azerbaijan Grand Prix.
Nevertheless, reigning champion Lewis Hamilton still has a lead of 17 points on Ferrari rival Sebastian Vettel going into next weekend’s Monaco Grand Prix which usually sees little overtaking. It has driven F1’s head of motorsport Ross Brawn to consider radical solutions.>
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Liberty’s boss Greg Maffei says that one of Brawn’s tasks is to “work on things like making it more exciting on track. And there are a host of really simple things there from when tracks get resurfaced, or tracks are rebuilt or renewed, that you have the right kind of surface so there is tyre degradation so that there are enough tyre changes to make it an interesting story. That you have the right changes, turns and chicanes where there is likely to be overtaking. So there are things around that.”
It comes just days after the teams agreed to make aerodynamic changes in 2019 in a bid to increase overtaking. Changing the tracks as well is likely to fuel ire from F1 purists and echoes a plan once proposed by F1’s former boss Bernie Ecclestone to artificially sprinkler the tracks during races to spice up the action.
If the tracks are forced to do it sooner than scheduled it won’t go down well with the concerned owners, as the cost of resurfacing comes to around £2.6m. Barcelona’s Circuit de Catalunya, which hosted last weekend’s Spanish Grand Prix, was resurfaced for the first time in 14 years at the start of this year. The driving force behind it was that the tarmac was too rough for the MotoGP motorcycle world championship bikes even though it suits F1 cars.
If the tarmac was even rougher the worst case scenario is that the tracks might have to give the red light to other race series which would dent their revenue. The tracks are already under financial pressure due to the F1 hosting fee which comes to an average of £22.5m annually and rises by 5 per cent every year.
Earlier this year a source close to the association which represents the tracks said “no contract will be renewed under the existing financial conditions. We are talking about a reduction in fee for sure.”Circuit de Catalunya was resurfaced for the first time in 14 years at the start of the season (Getty)
Revamping the tracks would be the latest in a line of changes that Liberty has made since it got the keys to F1 at the start of last year in a £6bn takeover. Its first step was to replace F1’s boss Bernie Ecclestone after 40 years in the driving seat. His successor, Chase Carey, moved F1 into a plush new headquarters in London, re-branded the sport, commissioned a theme tune for it and banned grid girls.
The biggest changes are on track for 2021 when the teams’ contracts expire. That is when Liberty plans to even out the prize money which would boost the minnows’ spoils. However, the top teams’ takings would reverse and a budget cap would also stop them from spending more to gain an edge on track.
It has driven Ferrari and Mercedes to threaten to quit if the changes are introduced. Maffei is standing firm and says that Liberty is “trying to do things where you are limiting the cost so there’s not an enormous advantage.
“If you think about sports leagues, in some ways, the best one, the most socialistic one, is the NFL. Hard salary cap, strength of schedule, drafts that are low to high in terms of what order you draft. That is all very positive to have those kind of factors.
“At the other end, something like La Liga in Spain where 90 per cent of the TV money is going to the top two teams is unlikely to create diversity, so we are trying to tilt the playing field a little bit more like football where there is a cost cap on what can be spent on the car, there are rules around simplifying the engine and being able to create neutral suppliers.
“There is work to be done on some historical bonuses and artefacts where certain teams got extra money. That needs to be tilted so that the winners get more money but not so much more than the losers that the losers are never able to catch up and be competitive. So you are trying to build a bunch of those factors in.” Time will tell how many of them get the green light.
Source : https://www.independent.co.uk/sport/motor-racing/formula1/formula-one-1-f1-radical-renovation-race-tracks-boost-excitement-a8357536.html