Jean Todt: FIA president says F1 is too expensive and complicated

Jean Todt
Jean Todt was talking at a media briefing at the season-opening Australian Grand Prix

Formula 1 is too expensive, too complicated and the cars are too reliable, according to Jean Todt, president of governing body the FIA.

He added that it was the responsibility of the FIA to make the rules, in the context of a desire by new commercial rights holders to make changes.

He said F1 would "never go back" to the inefficient but loud, naturally aspirated engines of 10 years ago.

He added it was "essential" there was less disparity in pace between teams.

Frenchman Todt, 71, was talking at a media briefing at the season-opening Australian Grand Prix, three days after the new commercial and sporting bosses of the F1 Group, Sean Bratches and Ross Brawn, had set out their own vision for the sport.

He discussed:

  • The future of engines in F1
  • The problems of making overtaking easier
  • A lack of competition and too big a spread between teams
  • The future of television and concerns over pay TV

'Honeymoon period'

Brawn set out a vision similar to Todt's, of a desire to "be proactive to work with the teams and the FIA to make F1 as great as it can be - with close racing, healthy teams and a true meritocracy of drivers".

And he talked about his desire to be involved in resolving both short-term and long-term issues, while observing the correct governance procedures.

Todt emphasised that the FIA had "legislative and regulative" authority in F1.

He said he was "happy" the F1 Group had employed people as experienced as Brawn and Bratches, and that the FIA and the new owners - a US corporation formerly known as Liberty Media - were in a "honeymoon period".

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But he said: "They will never be in a position to write the rules. They will always be written by the FIA.

"We are ready to make a collective effort to make F1 as good as possible".

'F1 needs action and emotion'

F1 has introduced new rules this year to make the cars faster and more demanding, and Todt said he felt the early indications were they had been a success, adding the cars looked "great".

But he said that as the sport looked towards signing new contracts with the teams beyond 2020, he wanted to make changes.

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He said he felt the cars were "too sophisticated, too expensive, too complicated and in a way too reliable".

He said the technical sophistication of the teams meant they were prepared for all eventualities far better than in the past, referring to the data transfer between teams at race track and factory over a grand prix weekend.

"F1 doesn't need that," Todt said. "It needs action and emotion. We lose a lot of emotion on the track and we need to address that, even if all the teams are reluctant when talking about it."

Overtaking and aerodynamics

Todt recognised that the new rules might make overtaking more difficult but said: "Overtaking has always been a problem in motor racing. But maybe this was the price to pay to get more aerodynamic downforce."

However, he said that there was room for it to be addressed by "a compromise" in the next set of regulations.

This echoes remarks made by Brawn. He said: "We should work out how we can make the aerodynamics as benign as possible so cars can actually race each other. That's never truly been done.

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"Can we come up with a set of regulations where we can still use the power of aerodynamics to give us the speed and spectacle of the cars, but in a more benign way so they can at least race each other more closely without it having an impact? That is my ambition, that is my objective.

"We want to work with the FIA and the teams to achieve that."

Engine noise - a 'social responsibility'

Todt was involved in the introduction of the complicated and expensive turbo-hybrid engines into F1 in 2014.

These have had a revolutionary effect on efficiency but have been criticised for having an unevocative noise and many fans would like to see a return to loud engines.

There is an ongoing discussion as to whether the engine formula should be changed after 2020, but Todt said F1 would not turn the clock back.

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He said he saw a future for both electric and fuel-cell engine technology in motorsport but that F1 "would still be with a more conventional engine".

"But does it mean we are intending to go back to what we had 10 years ago? It will never happen," added Todt.

"Motorsport has a social responsibility and F1, as the pinnacle of motorsport, has even more social responsibility."

He added that the engines were still too expensive for customer teams and wanted to reduce the current bills of just under $20m (£16m) a year to $12-15m (£9.6m-£12m).

Television and the media

Todt said he was concerned about the potential effect on audiences of the switch to pay television.

But he said he had been "impressed" by Bratches and his record at ESPN in the US.

Bratches said on Thursday that he would try to offset the effect of the switch to Sky's exclusive deal in the UK in 2019 by exploiting various methods of digital media.

A number of teams are known to be pushing back against this philosophy, believing a major presence on free-to-air television to be essential.

Todt said: "If you have to pay, it is obvious you will have less audience. It is something that needs to be addressed.

"I know they are really considering that. There are a lot of other ways of communicating."

He added that access for the written media was "more than important - it's essential".

Competition and narrowing the gap

Todt said he was concerned by the fact that there was more than two seconds between the top 10 cars on the grid in Australia and he wanted to gap to be more like 0.7-0.8secs.

"There is too big a discrepancy between the smallest and the biggest budget."

Brawn said: "We have to flatten off the field and that means finding ways of limiting the potential of the regulations or limiting the resources that teams have available."

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