- The Inside Line
Sour grapes make for bitter whineKate Walker March 16, 2015
Single team dominance is boring for fans and terrible for Formula One, unless you're the team doing the dominating.
But what goes up must eventually come down, and the cyclical nature of sport means that today's winners will eventually become tomorrow's losers. It's happened to Ferrari, to McLaren, to Williams, and it will one day happen to Mercedes, if the German manufacturer elects to stay in the sport after maxing out the PR gains to be had from the current engine formula.
Based on comments made by the Red Bull higher-ups in 2014 and over the course of the Australian Grand Prix weekend, however, the Milton Keynes racers didn't expect the basic principle of gravity to apply to their era of success.
Speaking to members of the Austrian media in Melbourne after Sunday's race, Helmut Marko issued a thinly-veiled quit threat based on Red Bull's dissatisfaction with the engine regulations introduced in 2014, the first year since 2010 that his team ended the season without two championship trophies in their excess baggage allowance.
"We will evaluate the situation again, as [we do] every year and look into costs and revenues," Marko said. "If we are totally dissatisfied we could contemplate an F1 exit. Yes, the danger is there that Mr Mateschitz loses his passion for F1.
"These power units are the wrong solution for F1, and we would say this even if Renault were in the lead. The technical rules are not understandable, much too complicated, and too expensive. We are governed by an engineers' formula. We wanted cost reduction too, but it is not happening like this. A designer like Adrian Newey is castrated by this engine formula. These rules will kill the sport."
Team principal Christian Horner called on the FIA to enforce some form of equalisation on Mercedes.
"When we were winning - and we were never winning with an advantage that Mercedes has - double-diffusers were banned, exhausts were moved, flexible bodywork was banned, engine-mapping was changed mid-season - anything was done to pull us back," he said. "That was not just us, it was done to McLaren and Williams in other years. I think is it healthy to have a situation where the FIA, within the rules, have an equalisation mechanisation. I think perhaps they need to look at it."
But a key difference between Mercedes' run of success and that enjoyed by Red Bull is that the Milton Keynes racers were constantly pushing the envelope, using solutions on their car that had never even been considered by the FIA's technical enforcers until they were confronted by them in scrutineering. Red Bull were adept at operating in the grey area between the letter of the law and its intention, which is exactly what an all-conquering team is supposed to be doing.
Adrian Newey and co. interpreted the regulations in ways that were legal - or impossible to prove as being illegal - and because the FIA were unable to prevent the team from running components that were too clever for their own good, the Federation was forced to close up loopholes retrospectively, strengthening each rule so that wording and spirit were better aligned.
Mercedes, on the other hand, have followed the 2014 power unit regulations to the letter, and simply came up with a solution that far outstrips any of those developed by rival manufacturers Renault and Ferrari. Should scrutineering of the power unit discover any innovations considered to be within the letter but outside the spirit of the law, the FIA will act and tweak the regulations to ensure that all manufacturers comply with the rules as they were intended to be read.
It is how the FIA have long since operated, and there is no reason to suspect the Federation of giving Mercedes unfair preferential treatment.