F1 concorde agreement is key, and Lotus’ development hopes

Red Bull team principal Christian Horner is playing a delicate game between his team's fortunes and the rest of the F1 grid. Photo: Mark Thompson/Getty Images Red Bull team principal Christian Horner is playing a delicate game between his team's fortunes and the rest of the F1 grid. Photo: Mark Thompson/Getty Images

Friday, October 26, 2012
4:05 PM

There is so much still to be fought for, thrashed out and decided in Formula One – and that is off the track, never mind the four races still to run in 2012. With the season a matter of weeks away from its conclusion, Formula One is still to agree how the sport will be run after this year.

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Good week, bad week

GW – Giedo van der Garde: Will get a free practice run for Caterham in India and if he impresses, maybe more; Luiz Razia: Giedo’s predecessor and 2012 GP2 runner-up says he is close to joining F1’s 2013 ranks.

BW – Ferrari: Felipe Massa admits Maranello is struggling to develop the F2012 as this year’s chase for silverware enters the final straight.

And for a sport with such political previous, that doesn’t sound like a very good idea.

A new concorde agreement is the key – the piece of paper that ties together the teams and governing bodies. The rules, revenues and restrictions are all built around it.

A flawed agreement means unhappy teams, talk of breakaway championships and a road to ruin.

So as you can imagine, the stakes are pretty high this time – hence the delay in getting it sorted.

"I hope I won’t miss anything – for sure there are nice perspectives to come "

Quote of the week: Team principal Peter Sauber, who retired from F1 after the weekend in Korea

Indeed, it seems the biggest question is dealing with the realities of the situation and current economic environment the sport is trying to operate in.

And the fact that environment is different for some teams to others probably doesn’t help. Be it drivers or teams, the ‘greater good’ rarely carries much weight in the cold and calculating world of F1.

If it seems unusual for Bernie Ecclestone to have left such matters unresolved for so long, then proposed increased entry fees charged to teams may have played a part in that.

As has the FIA’s need to up their own revenue streams. Never ideal.

Limiting the team budgets has also been a key issue – something the smaller teams want, and even the might of Ferrari feel is a necessity.

In fact, Red Bull agree too – but while some of their arguments have noticeably isolated them from the rest of the paddock, team principal Christian Horner believes it is a stance they have to make.

“Our existence is to do the very best we can to try to win grands prix and challenge for championships,” Horner told Autosport. “Of course we are cost conscious. We don’t have the biggest budget in F1, and you only have to look at the driver retainers being bandied about to see that.

“So I am entirely comfortable with our position.”

Horner is not convinced about where the lines are being drawn – and it’s no secret that has brought conflict with Ferrari. And that may well be the key argument to settle before peace and harmony can break out across Formula One once again.

Whether you find yourself arguing it as Renault, Lotus or simply Enstone, there’s no denying Eric Boullier’s outfit have had a terrific 2012 campaign so far.

The improvement on last season alone has been superb.

Heading into this weekend’s Indian Grand Prix, the Hethel-backed constructor has 255 points and just about remains within touching distance of McLaren and Ferrari up ahead.

What’s more, Romain Grosjean sits eighth in the drivers’ championship and will hope for a solid finish to the year – away from those first lap spills and with more of those scintillating drives that have also punctuated his first full season in the sport.

And of course, there is Kimi. The Finn is third in the drivers’ standings – despite not winning a race on his F1 comeback – and has far from given up on his hopes of overtaking Sebastian Vettel or the man just in front, Fernando Alonso.

Scan back through the journey to round 17 of last year’s championship and Lotus Renault had 72 points and Vitaly Petrov clinging on to a top 10 finish.

In fact, Lotus scored just one more point over the final three races – and that perhaps provides the greatest improvement of all.

No doubt about it, the designers at Enstone were brave with the car they took to the grid last year – but that design was ultimately and fundamentally flawed in terms of allowing development throughout the season.

It left the team starting from scratch this season – an issue Enstone won’t have this winter.

Indeed, the developments have continued and are continuing – in terms of coanda-inspired exhausts and improved wings; surely with an eye on their 2013 F1 charger.

So Lotus continue to chase those ahead this season, and that provides plenty to look forward to before the calendar wraps up in Brazil on November 25.

But it may well be the real benefits from their 2012 efforts come with a renewed and improved title tilt 12 months later.