Last Sunday, we welcomed Ross Brawn, Formula 1’s® Managing Director of Motorsports, to our Champions Club at Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps for a Q&A with our guests ahead of the Belgian Grand Prix. Here’s what he had to say about his latest role and how Formula 1 plans to improve the racing in the coming years.
Shaping the future of Formula 1®
What attracted me back to Formula 1® was the fact that planning had not really been done properly before. For such an important and technical sport, it had always been done ad hoc. It was always a reaction to a problem rather than looking at where we should be going in 2, 4 or 5 years’ time. The opportunity to create a team with Liberty Media to look at what sort of Formula 1 car we should have in the future was very appealing. We’ve created a group of engineers, all ex-Formula 1 and very experienced. For once, their task is not to make the cars as fast as possible, but to make the cars as race-able as possible.
What that means is the ability for the cars to compete with each other, without spoiling the performance of the car behind. These cars create tremendous downforce, but they do it in the way that it’s on a knife edge. As soon as a car approaches the one in front, it’s lost a big part of its performance within two car lengths. That means you can’t get close. When you do, you immediately lose performance, you damage the tyres and you have to drop back. We want cars that are much more race-able. At the moment, we have a car that only loses 20% of the performance, which is a big step over where we were. But we hope to do even better. Next year, you are going to see the first step, and in 2021, you will see the big step.
I think the cars will also be much more exciting to look at. I think the aesthetics of the cars are crucial. We don’t want a Formula 1 car in a video game to look more exciting than what we are racing on the track.
For me it was this opportunity to say how should Formula 1 look in the next five years and to create a team – to really put some resources and effort into where Formula 1 should be, rather than just react all the time to crises or problems. Let’s have some forward thinking.
Creating a sustainable environment for the teams
There’s a limit on the number of cars that can compete at some of the tracks, which provides a natural limit to how many teams you can have. Ten is good. We’ve got ten strong teams and that’s still a good number, but I think there is some room for an eleventh or twelfth.
Before we do that, we’ve got to get Formula 1® into better shape commercially; in terms of the money the teams receive and the money they have to spend to be competitive. We have to create a more sustainable environment for new teams to survive. There’s no point teams coming in, as they have done in the past and two or three years later they disappear because they can’t sustain themselves. Before we look at expanding the number of teams, we have to ensure that the environment they enter is much more sustainable. So that means a fairer spread of income to the teams, control over the costs, those sorts of factors to make Formula 1 more sustainable. Then, I think we can stand one or two more teams in Formula 1.
Retaining automotive brands in Formula 1®, and attracting new ones
We have some great brands now. The balance between the private teams like McLaren and Williams, and the manufacturers, is very important. We always welcome manufacturers in Formula 1® and with the changes that we are planning to make, we hope to make Formula 1 more appealing to manufacturers in the future.
If you are a manufacturer going into Formula 1 and you say to your board, “we want to do this”, they ask how much it will cost to win. The current answer is that we don’t know, it’s an open-ended cheque. Boards won’t do that. If we can put a cost cap on how much you can spend in Formula 1, you can go to the board and say we need $150m or $200m USD. It’s a lot of money, but at least they know much they are going to be spending. That’s an important factor for the manufacturers.
Keeping hybrid engines, for now
From a personal perspective, the current engines are miracles of modern engineering, but they are not a great racing engine. They are very expensive and don’t make a great noise. We are trying to find the right balance to appeal to the manufacturers we have currently. They have made a huge commitment, I must say. We’ve got four engine suppliers at the moment and they have spent hundreds of millions of dollars. We can’t ignore that, but can we steer it in a better direction?
We have a raft of changes coming up, but not fundamental ones. We want to wait for a while for the fundamental change in engines. In the future, you will see things like the hybrid system being driver operated, so it can be used as a strategic tool. At the moment, the engines are highly automated so they can operate at maximum efficiency. We want the drivers to be able to use the hybrid system to overtake. There will be some indications on the car when the driver is using the hybrid system, so the fans can see what they are doing. I think there are enhancements we can make to the existing engines without starting again, but at some point, in the next few years, we have to rebase the engines and start again.
An appearance by a Formula 1® Executive, as well as a current or legendary driver, is one of many benefits for guests in the Champions Club by F1® Experiences. Join us in the Champions Club at an upcoming race to experience our signature hospitality and unique inclusions!