WEC now the championship of choice for manufacturers, not F1

Today, Formula One is no longer the place to be in the eyes of most manufacturers.

WEC now the championship of choice for manufacturers, not F1
Start: #20 Porsche Team Porsche 919 Hybrid: Mark Webber, Brendon Hartley, Timo Bernhard and #14 Porsche Team Porsche 919 Hybrid: Romain Dumas, Neel Jani, Marc Lieb lead
Nico Rosberg, Mercedes AMG F1 W05 at the start of the race
Start: #8 Toyota Racing Toyota TS040-Hybrid: Anthony Davidson, Sebastien Buemi and #20 Porsche Team Porsche 919 Hybrid: Mark Webber, Brendon Hartley, Timo Bernhard lead
Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes AMG F1 W05 at the start of the race
Race start
Nico Rosberg, Mercedes AMG F1 W05 leads at the start of the race
Start: #7 Toyota Racing Toyota TS030 - hybrid: Alexander Wurz, Nicolas Lapierre, Kazuki Nakajima leads
Nico Rosberg, Mercedes AMG F1 locks up under braking beside team mate Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes AMG F1 W05 at the start of the race
Fernando Alonso gives the start: #73 Corvette Racing Chevrolet Corvette C7: Jan Magnussen, Antonio Garcia, Jordan Taylor
Nico Rosberg, Mercedes AMG F1 W05 leads the start of the race behind the FIA Safety Car
Fernando Alonso gives the start: #46 Thiriet By TDS Racing Ligier JS P2 - Nissan: Pierre Thiriet, Ludovic Badey, Tristan Gommendy and #38 Jota Sport Zytek Z11SN - Nissan: Simon Dolan, Harry Tincknell, Oliver Turvey
Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull Racing RB10 at the start of the race
Formation lap start

The 2014 season was a year of great racing overshadowed by doom and gloom headlines relating to everything from the financial health of the sport to the sound of the engines. While there is no reason to expect 2015 will be all sunshine and roses, Formula One has yet to wake up to what is its biggest long-term problem.

Formula One likes to sell itself as the high-speed live action laboratory for automotive technology, the innovative sport whose research efforts touch our lives as road car users. It’s why the sport courts manufacturer entries, it was the entire justification for the 2014 power unit paradigm shift, and it’s in the IPO spiel that did the rounds in 2012.

The problem is, it’s not simply true these days.

WEC surpassing F1 as the place to be for manufacturers

For those in search of a paddock filled with manufacturers competing at the highest level, it is no longer Formula One but the World Endurance Championship which is the place to be. With the futures of both Caterham and Lotus questionable (and links to the related road car firms severed), and Ferrari a desirable marque out of reach for most of humanity, it is only Mercedes who is both mass manufacturer and racing team. Renault’s involvement remains restricted to engine supply, while Infiniti is seemingly present in logo alone.

The WEC paddock, in contrast, boasts an embarrassment of manufacturer riches. In the LMP1 category alone can be found Audi, Nissan, Porsche, and Toyota, while other categories boast representation from the likes of Aston Martin, Ferrari, and Porsche as manufacturer or factory-backed entries.

More publicity

It’s not simply down to manufacturer involvement, however. When Audi became the first manufacturer to secure victory at the iconic 24 Heures du Mans endurance race, the whole world knew about it, thanks to a concerted media push that saw the achievement publicised in newspapers and on billboards in addition to the press coverage garnered. In contrast, all that the wider world knew about F1’s 2014 power units - if they knew anything at all - was that they weren’t loud enough and Bernie Ecclestone wasn’t a fan.

As organisers of the 24 Heures du Mans, the Automobile Club de l’Ouest (ACO) have also been drivers of innovation. Since 2012, Garage 56 has been reserved for an entrant who aims to use the 24-hour race to test out new technology of some form. Previous occupants of Garage 56 have included the DeltaWing project (2012); the withdrawn GreenGT project aimed at running electric motors with a hydrogen fuel cell (2013); and Nissan’s ZEOD RC (2014). The ACO’s only action may have been to make the Garage 56 concept possible, but it earned them the public perception of a body keen to support green technology.

Ability to innovate severely limited 

In contrast, Formula One’s technical regulations - laudably aimed at improving safety standards while maintaining good racing - become narrower and narrower each year. Opportunities for innovation still exist, but are more likely to be found in air flow and wing details than in concepts that are identifiable to the naked eye of the average observer as being something new, revolutionary, and different.

Whatever gains the sport makes in its attempts to rein in costs, the simple fact remains that - thus far, at least - the only manufacturer lured to F1 by the 2014 power unit change was Honda. The off-season started with quickly denied rumours that VW was on its way back in via an Audi entry, and there have been no serious mutterings regarding the involvement of any other manufacturers.

With the WEC having positioned itself as the championship of choice for manufacturers, with reasonable global media exposure thanks to the Le Mans event and decent return on investment in terms of road car R&D, Formula One risks becoming the second-tier global tech championship lest it gets its house in order, and fast.

shares
comments
Project Brabham will debut 'Official T-shirt' at trade show
Previous article

Project Brabham will debut 'Official T-shirt' at trade show

Next article

WEC press conference at Detroit show previewed Le Mans, COTA

WEC press conference at Detroit show previewed Le Mans, COTA
Load comments
The unanswered questions that define WEC 2021's controversial ending Prime

The unanswered questions that define WEC 2021's controversial ending

OPINION: The deeply unsatisfying ending to a brilliant World Endurance Championship GTE Pro battle in Bahrain had Ferrari provisionally heading back from the desert as the victor. But Porsche plans to appeal the outcome, which rests on a number of confusing elements that have yet to be satisfactorily explained.

WEC
Nov 9, 2021
How the WEC's heavyweight duel reached its controversial flashpoint Prime

How the WEC's heavyweight duel reached its controversial flashpoint

The Ferrari versus Porsche fight for the FIA World Endurance Championship's GTE Pro title had been a finely-poised affair, right up until Alessandro Pier Guidi's punt on Michael Christensen in the closing stages of the Bahrain 8 Hours handed Ferrari a provisional title, pending Porsche's appeal. Here's how the controversy played out.

WEC
Nov 8, 2021
The remarkable fixes Toyota used to avert another Le Mans disaster Prime

The remarkable fixes Toyota used to avert another Le Mans disaster

The 1-2 finish achieved by Toyota at this year's Le Mans 24 Hours was a result that will have surprised few, given its status as pre-event favourite. But the result was anything but straightforward, as worsening fuel pressure concerns required the team's drivers and engineers to pursue "creative fixes" on the fly. Here is the full story of how it reached the end without a lengthy pit visit

Le Mans
Nov 3, 2021
The 10 greatest drives of lost legend Jo Siffert Prime

The 10 greatest drives of lost legend Jo Siffert

It's 50 years since Jo Siffert was killed in his prime at Brands Hatch. The Swiss scored just two world championship wins in a Formula 1 career spent largely with privateer teams, but showed on numerous occasions in single-seaters and in sportscars with Porsche that he could beat any of the best drivers of his era given the right equipment.

Formula 1
Oct 24, 2021
Inside the Le Mans finish too barmy for Hollywood Prime

Inside the Le Mans finish too barmy for Hollywood

Team WRT has been at the forefront of GT racing for years and made a successful move to prototypes for 2021, capped by an LMP2 win on its Le Mans debut. It could've been even better had the race been one lap shorter, when its cars ran 1-2, but the stranger-than-fiction reality has spurred the team to reach greater heights.

Le Mans
Oct 16, 2021
Why Toyota's Le Mans victory was not as simple as it looked Prime

Why Toyota's Le Mans victory was not as simple as it looked

Toyota scored its fourth Le Mans 24 Hours victory and a 1-2, with the #7 car of Kamui Kobayashi, Mike Conway and Jose Maria Lopez beating the #8. But although it looked straightforward from the outside, Toyota faced serious problem that had to be solved with some quick-thinking and ingenuity.

Le Mans
Aug 24, 2021
What we've learned from the Le Mans 24 Hours so far Prime

What we've learned from the Le Mans 24 Hours so far

The new dawn for the FIA World Endurance Championship has arrived at Le Mans, as Hypercars prepare to duel for victory in the world's oldest endurance race. Motorsport.com picks out the 10 things we have learned in the build up to the race.

Le Mans
Aug 21, 2021
Le Mans 2021: The team-by-team guide Prime

Le Mans 2021: The team-by-team guide

After a two-month delay due to the ongoing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2021 Le Mans 24 Hours is set to get underway with the start of the Hypercar era at the Circuit de la Sarthe.

Le Mans
Aug 21, 2021