An open letter to Bernie Ecclestone


Not my cup of cake
Valued Member
Dear Mr Ecclestone

This morning I got up at 6:30 to watch the Chinese Grand Prix and now regret this decision. You have commented recently that F1 is dying, I can't help but agree with your comments but the only people who can resolve the current nadir F1 finds itself in are the FIA and FOM.

One important point I should start with, the volume coming out of the exhaust pipe of an F1 car has no effect, either way, on my enjoyment of motor racing. The main problem, as I see it, is the prescriptive nature of the F1 engine requirements. Why do they have to have 6 cylinders and certain energy recovery systems? If an engine manufacturer believes they can compete with a 4 cylinder engine, a V3, an all electric system driven by a generator or a diesel engine why aren't these allowed?

DRS is a complete nonsense. Today a Honda powered car, reputedly with 150 less horse power than most other cars in the race, overtook a Force India using the engine widely acknowledge to be the most powerful in F1. DRS was introduced as a result, as far as I can work out, because of the F duct McLaren designed and the fact that Fernando Alonso got stuck behind Vitaly Petrov at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in 2010. One car breezing past another on the straight is not overtaking. An overtaking manoeuver should be something a driver has to work for not something which is just a gimme. The F duct was a clever engineering development which many teams copied but implemented in a dangerous and haphazard way. This was not a reason to ban it, what should have been banned was a system which required a driver to remove their hand from the steering wheel whilst going through a corner (for instance).

F1 is supposed to be the pinnacle of motor sport but it now falls far short. The design regulations stifle engineering to such an extent that we now have cars which can only be differentiated by the colour scheme. Paint them all the same colour and I suspect most people wouldn't be able to tell one car from another. Previously one team would develop a competitive advantage which the other teams would then copy and test and catch them up. With only limited in season this isn't possible. If the testing restrictions are designed to help the lower order teams by reducing costs it isn't working. The rich teams simply throw more money at CFD and wind tunnel testing which is even more expensive than putting a car on to a track for a few days. Most teams now use these test sessions as money generators by putting pay drivers in to the cars so get no benefit anyway.

Just on testing, if the problem is the cost of the circuit I believe you own a couple of F1 grade race tracks in Europe, why can't these be made available to the bottom half of the grid at a nominal cost or paid for by FOM. The top teams can afford to hire a track, some even have test tracks of their own.

Tyres! Why can't more than one supplier be allowed to provide tyres on the grid? If this is simply to increase the advertising revenue on track side bill boards then you are missing a great opportunity. Imagine the revenue you could generate if you auctioned the advertising hoardings to Michelin, Yokohama, Dunlop, Hankook or Goodyear. Insisting on cars having to use various compounds or varying durability is a nonsense. If a team could run a whole race on a single set of tyres then let them. If another team thinks that two or three pit stops for new rubber makes them faster then let them try that strategy.

Some of my concerns may seem a bit contradictory. Allowing more open designs or different tyre suppliers might end up with one team dominating but it might also lead to closing racing. More open testing would at least allow teams to catch up with the leaders which simply doesn't happen at the moment.

If F1 is making older fans such as me consider whether I want to watch the races what effect is this going to have on the next generation of fans? Hiding the races behind a pay wall is going to kill the sport outright. Satellite and cable companies may well be able to pay much higher amounts than terrestrial TV stations but I believe you should consider very carefully how this will affect F1 even in the short term. Seeing the cars on TV made me want to go and see the races live, if youngsters don't have this experience they won't go to the races.

I also believe you should think even more carefully about where the races are run. The Arab states may well be able to pay huge amounts of money to hold a Grand Prix but if the circuits aren't accessible to the core fans they will turn off. Yes its a World Championship but the core of your viewers and sponsors are in Europe and you alienate these at your peril.

I'm now going to watch the 6 hour WEC race from Silverstone which is available, free to air, on terrestrial TV . This form of motor sport, I'm afraid to tell you you, is now the pinnacle of motor sport. Watch and learn - Audi, Porsche, Toyota, Nissan. Front wheel drive, rear wheel drive, four wheel drive. Diesel hybrid, petrol hybrid, turbo charged petrol engines, electric hybrids. The most technologically advanced form of motor sport with close, dynamic racing.

What hope do you have of attracting these companies to F1 if a company like Honda can't create a competitive engine, with all the money and resources they have, and then you tie their hands behind their back by only allowing them four engines for a 18/19 race season?

Yours sincerely

Well said FB. Forget the stifling rules, and let designers and engineers do what they do best, more diversity is what we need.
It would really spice up the sport.
p.s. As an addendum to my above post, F1 cars are now so complex they require a huge bank of engineers both at the circuit and back at the team base simply to get the engine started and allow them to accelerate away from the starting grid. A man such as myself shouldn't be able to drive and F1 car at racing speed but I should be able to make one start and stop. It appears to me that the drivers in F1 couldn't do this without the support of their engineering team, which hardly makes them the best drivers in the World.
Was going to write a similar post, but this was far more eloquent to my ideas and gripes. FB

I've just got back from the States and my body clock is screwed, so when the alarm went off at 6:55 I thought better of it and went back to sleep, you knew what the race was going to be like, which is very sad.

I started to watch at 11am, and watched everything by 11:45, with Sky+ and fast forward x6 or x12!

Watching the end, the farce of watching Chinese marshals not realising the turning circle of a F1 car, summed up F1 in a nutshell.

That farce would never happen at Spa, Silverstone, Monza or god forbid Monaco.

F1 has sold its soul to move into emerging markets and pandered to their needs, at the expense of what makes F1, which is its fans, pinnacle quality, development and history.

Sadly none of that was on show in China this morning.

Already concerned about F1, and the fact if you'll have noticed how many sponsors previous logos were blacked out around the track, shows how they are seeing F1.
If no-one errs, these races will start and finish: Mercedes, Ferrari, Williams, Lotus, Red Bull (4), Sauber, Force India, McLaren, Manor.

And it is as FB says: the cars are staggeringly complex with zero innovation coming from the designers. The last innovations - EBD, F-Duct, KERS - all either banned or neutered. Totally pointless.

Let's look at KERS' introduction in 2009. It was an option, one which not every team decided to take. It required a compromise; although it gave a massive advantage on the straights (all of them) it required a positioning in the car that made packaging more difficult and allowed for overheating.

So, for the first half of the season, KERS seemed like a bad idea - Eddie Jordan famously and moronically claimed no KERS car would ever win a race. Renault and BMW dumped it by mid-season. McLaren (Mercedes) and Ferrari got on top of it though, with McLaren eventually showing an unexpected benefit; it overhauled the lack of speed in a high-drag set-up, thus providing Hamilton with victories in Budapest and Singapore. Raikkonen also won at Spa, broadly because he was always going to 'get' Fisichella after the Safety Car because of his KERS.

At the end of the season, of course, all agreed not to use it. But what would we have had in 2010 otherwise? McLaren and Ferrari with experience of KERS taking on Red Bull. It has one of two outcomes - (1) that McLaren and Ferrari would show strength at certain circuits, but be unable to compete at others or (2) that McLaren and Ferrari would be so quick as to force the less-experienced RBR to throw in a less brilliant KERS to compete. As it was, 2010 was not bad due to Bull mistakes, but either of these scenarios would have brought a far more even game to avoid the one-horse race of 2011...

In other words, divergence does not necessarily breed domination, but convergence does. With the rules as tight as they are now, one team can do a little better, and suddenly they're half a second clear with no redress. The other teams can't innovate, and they can't build a car with different strengths. They have to have the same gearbox and tyres - still less chance of improving. Meanwhile, Mercedes perfect their systems and extend their lead, almost with no chance of being beaten...

Only 5 cars finished ahead of finishing Mercedes in 2014 - with only 6 DNFs. That is actually worse than the "driver aids" Williams year of 1992 - a year when Mansell occasionally beat the greatest qualifier of an F1 car ever by 2 seconds, in qualifying.

Another issue is this thing about 'dirty air', which apparently meant that Hamilton was able to affect Rosberg's race from 2 seconds up the road. How is anyone supposed to overtake if they can't drive within 2 seconds without lunching their tyres‽ The second placed guy was complaining that the leader was too slow, and not saying "right, I'll pass him". Motor racing? Or motor processing?

There is far more overtaking as the stats will show us, but who honestly cares? With the knowledge that DRS was making passing too easy, the FIA/FOM have tipped the balance to the side of "easier" with the enforced double DRS situation. While there may be merit in the argument that DRS may be needed to spice up the races at some venues, the implementation in some places is utterly wrong. The Kemmel Straight, for example. They've killed the challenge of trying to keep with the car in front at Eau Rouge/Radillion and pass down the straight. The back straight in Canada or China is a similar situation.

And, when it comes to that, how about racing at venues where you don't need DRS to spice up the action? It seems an absurd reaction to the number of crap circuits. There are far too many circuits out there that have no character of their own - I would imagine it possible to disguise Buddh, Yeongam, CotA, Sochi, Valencia etc. with just a paint job, although you would have to hold Yas Marina or Singapore at day in order to do similar.

FB also has a point regarding the "core market". Branching into these new markets has scarcely delivered anything to F1. For all good intentions, the empty stands killed Buddh, Yeongam and Istanbul anyway. A Grand Prix calendar not visiting France is symptomatic of the loss of identity - I suppose the mere 263,300 spectators at Le Mans last year show a Gallic lack of passion for motorsport. You can criticise Magny-Cours but it is better than many of the current circuits. Does Ecclestone not own Paul Ricard? He could make something there.

I suppose that attracting the likes of Peugeot, Citroen, Audi, Porsche, VW, BMW or Renault is made so much easier by not holding Grands Prix in France or Germany.

That's without going into the "any publicity is good publicity" race that will go on next week, the absurd resistance of some dinosaurs to burning less of other dinosaurs, and the pay-per-view scandal that leaves me questioning whether I'll bother with F1 this summer. I've not got all ****ing day.
What hope do you have of attracting these companies to F1 if a company like Honda can't create a competitive engine, with all the money and resources they have, and then you tie their hands behind their back by only allowing them four engines for a 18/19 race season?

Mercedes (as a whole) is just reveling in this worldwide. Especially in the States where F1/Mercedes adverts are increasingly common.

That is why Billion dollar companies are interested in this endeavor. The opportunity to shout from the hilltops that you are the best in one of the disciplines that has monumental resonance on every continent.

Mercedes has made some of the smartest people in the world in the most well funded organizations literally throw up their arms and say OK, you've kicked our ass again, can you take it easy on us now please? Few teams/companies ever achieve such a position in a cutthroat environment like this.

Honda was in the same (or better) situation as Mercedes and the others were in before debuting their engine, and the Merc was a world beater out of the box. They have no excuse. Their decision making and the timing of those decisions in their last F1 go around was an abject disaster and they seem to have picked up right where they left off.

Eventually someone will come along and knock Merc of their perch. The reward for being that someone is what people involved in Formula One thrive on. The people that actually drive the sport certainly aren't dwelling on its supposed demise.

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My main problem KekeTheKing not specifically Mercedes, or should I say Hamilton, dominance as he is only doing what Mansell, Senna, Schumacher, Vettel etc. have done in the past - thrashing the opposition in the best car. And he's doing it brilliantly, he won today at an absolute canter. He di what every driver hopes to do, have a totally dominant car which he can control the race with and both physical and psychological dominance over his team mate.

The problem is that this is an on-going trend but the trend is getting worse. I can't remember the last time a team went from total dominance one season to total dominance the next without blinking. Yes, someone will knock Mercedes off their perch but the teams (especially those with the cash to do so) can't do anything in season to try and close the gap and I don't think Merc will have a serious challenger until 2017, maybe even 2018.

McLaren should be pounding round Silverstone putting mile after mile on to the Honda engine but they can't. They have the money, they have the team why can't they do it? Ferrari should be lapping Fiorano like there is no tomorrow to build on the gains they have made over the winter but they can't. We now have total stalemate in F1 and all have to sit there and take it or switch off. I'm going for switch if, in fact I'm tempted to cancel my Sky subscription and save £10 a month. I can watch the live races on the BBC (if I can be bothered) and the extended highlights on when they have them.

The WEC 6 hour race at Silverstone has just finished. The three lead LMP1 cars were closer at the end of 6 hours of racing than F1 was today in 1 hour 45 minutes.

You've also twisted this by picking a single comment and tried to make this all about Mercedes, it's not. There is a much deeper problem in F1 and Mercedes dominance is just one aspect which is making me, a long term F1 fan, look elsewhere for my motor racing fix.

I find the technology as exciting, perhaps even more exciting, than the actual racing but when you watch the technical round up and the best the presenters can find is that Red Bull have extended the bulge on the nose by 10mm or Force India have added a third turning vane behind the 5mm flick on the outward side of the front wing I'm losing the will to live. Felipe Massa had a new nose for FP2 on Friday, I was damned if I could see any difference between that and the one Bottas was using.

F1 has lost it's way, the powers that be need to reinvigorate it and stop driving it towards a spec series where gains are measured in hundredths of a second based on the millions spent.
One of the problems is that if you specify what is allowed tightly then use computers then the cars will tend to look pretty much the same. If you allow it for long enough then the performance will tend to converge, hence the frequency of changes of specification; this then gives the advantage to the big spenders.

Unfortunately we cannot "uninvent" computers.
You could ban the usage of computers for any kind of virtual testing, and reinstate on-track real testing. It's about the only way to take computer design out of the sport.
Why are they here?

Ferrari - to sell high end sports cars and be Italian.

Force India - I'm not sure, maybe to show that bankruptcy doesn't stop you spending shed loads of money.

Lotus - you tell me, please. Maybe to try to bankrupt Venezuela.

McLaren - to sell high end sports cars and have a Technology Centre to show off. They also seem to rather like racing as well.

Manor - because they love racing , however slowly.

Mercedes - to sell cars, most of which have nothing to do with F1.

Red Bull - to sell a soft drink which is close to being banned in several countries.

Sauber - because Peter Sauber likes F1.

Toro Rosso - to aid Red Bull.

Williams - to race cars.

The FIA - ermmm.....

CVC - to make money so that they can sell at an enormous profit just before it all goes tits up.
I just don't understand. Formula One has always lent itself to domination. That's because it's anything but a Spec Series. Teams would often carry their advantage over in the past.

During Seb's run, when 2 of 4 seasons were walkovers, I don't remember calls from any quarter that the sport was on the verge of death due to dominance.

This was the 3rd race of 2015. We've a long way to go yet. And Bernie has very little (no?) control over what the teams do. He finds other incredibly petty ways to peddle his influence.
This will NOT turn in to another Lewis Hamilton tit for tat thread. I have attempted to put forward objective reasons why I think there are problems in F1 and certain parts have been quoted out of context. The problems in F1 run far deeper than just the Mercedes dominance.

I watched F1 all the way through the Schumacher Ferrari era and it was as boring as hell but there was the opportunity for the other teams to catch up. There isn't now.
Ferrari jumped Williams this winter. I'm sure they all think Mercedes is next on the list.

Sauber have made a massive leap.

Movement is certainly possible.
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