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How Ford helped to finish off F1 as a technical competition


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#1 angst

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Posted 18 May 2006 - 18:44

I've thought about this for some time, and I believe Ford made a number of critical errors in their strategy in F1 which led to, not only their own withdrawal - but also helped to speed up the process of technical suffocation that F1 has undergone. I know that this is quite recent, but it has a semi-historical context so I thought it would be better discussed here.

In 1994 they won the World Championships (Drivers and Constructors) with Michael Schumacher and Benetton. They then lost the Benetton team to Renault. But that isn't necessarily where I think they got it wrong. They won the World Championships using a V8 engine, a very good V8 engine with package advantages over the more prevelant V10s. IMO,though, they were already on the wrong track by the time they won those Championships.

Here's how my theory goes. Ford had gleaned a great deal of success from Cosworth's DFV, a situation that was unlikely to ever be repeated. But their insistence on running a 'works' team, whereby the team involved got their engines for free, was the first error. By doing that they instantly made their customer engines more expensive, and less accessible. What they ought to have done is charge all their users for their engines, and given the best units to those teams that performed best. Benetton would probably have been the beneficiary of those engines - although in 1991 the Jordan team showed a good turn of speed which no doubt spurred the Benetton team on to greater heights.

The reason I suggest that they ought not have a 'works' team is because their best bet was always goign to be as the 'people's champion', supplying the smaller teams with competitive engines at a competitive price as well as supplying (a) more competitive team(s).

But, their second mistake was in fully owning Cosworth, or at least in having a too hands on approach to it's running. The company became a little...... beauracratic, hindering the fast paced technical aspects of the company that had served it so well. It became subsumed into the corporate culture of Ford, rather than retaining it's race engineering facets.

Their third mistake was to move away from the V8. As I said, they had a very good V8, but produced a very average V10 - without any of the packaging advantages. They seemed to do that purely on the basis that everyone else was using a V10, so they must.

The worst aspect of their switch to V10s was that it led directly to the notion in F1 of a limited number of cylinders. When Toyota originally set about designing their F1 car it was to be a V12 - the other teams essentially had the rules changed to avoid that, and from there we have reached the stage of not only limiting the number of cylinders, but also the angle between the cylinder banks, the CoG, cylinder spacing and any number of other parameters.

Their attempt to use the Jaguar name as their prescence in F1 and it's ultimate withdrawal was just the final chapter in sorry tale of mismanagement - imo, of course.

Am I talking a load of drivel, or do I have a point?

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#2 petefenelon

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Posted 18 May 2006 - 19:43

Originally posted by angst

In 1994 they won the World Championships (Drivers and Constructors) with Michael Schumacher and Benetton. They then lost the Benetton team to Renault. But that isn't necessarily where I think they got it wrong. They won the World Championships using a V8 engine, a very good V8 engine with package advantages over the more prevelant V10s. IMO,though, they were already on the wrong track by the time they won those Championships.


In 1994 they won because of a supreme driver and tactician, the death of the principal title contender, bent software and probably a bent fuelling rig for the first part of the season. Very little to do with Ford, although the Zetec-R was a nice piece of packaging. Nothing Ford has done in F1 since the demise of the DFV has ever looked convincing -- the GBA/TEC was never developed properly, the DFR might have been competitive in '88 had Honda not bothered to build a new engine (i.e. Ford weren't prepared to do what was necessary), the HB and Zetec weren't Great Engines in the Duckworth mould. The Sauber years showed that Cosworth had "lost it"; nothing convinced me that Ford's takeover of Cosworth improved matters. When a small, dynamic company is bought by a big, stodgy one, some kind of law of conservation of momentum governs what happens - the big company might speed up very slightly but the small one becomes totally bogged-down in systems, procedures and bureaucracy.


Here's how my theory goes. Ford had gleaned a great deal of success from Cosworth's DFV, a situation that was unlikely to ever be repeated. But their insistence on running a 'works' team, whereby the team involved got their engines for free, was the first error.


But the engine the 'works' team got was rubbish in '95-6. I doubt anyone else would've wanted the early Cosworth V10s -- the old V8s meant that teams towards the back of the grid didn't need to design radically new systems for their cars, and they weren't diabolically worse than the early V10s.



By doing that they instantly made their customer engines more expensive, and less accessible.


Hmmm - if anything, there were more Ford engined cars on the grid post-95 than pre, weren't there, especially when the V10s started trickling down?



What they ought to have done is charge all their users for their engines, and given the best units to those teams that performed best. Benetton would probably have been the beneficiary of those engines - although in 1991 the Jordan team showed a good turn of speed which no doubt spurred the Benetton team on to greater heights.




The reason I suggest that they ought not have a 'works' team is because their best bet was always goign to be as the 'people's champion', supplying the smaller teams with competitive engines at a competitive price as well as supplying (a) more competitive team(s).



"People's Champion"? Up there with "moral victory" as terms that have no meaning in sport. Arguably, Jordan fulfilled that role in '91.



But, their second mistake was in fully owning Cosworth, or at least in having a too hands on approach to it's running. The company became a little...... beauracratic, hindering the fast paced technical aspects of the company that had served it so well. It became subsumed into the corporate culture of Ford, rather than retaining it's race engineering facets.


Ford wanted Cosworth for more than F1... agreed about the death of Cosworth though, it's significant that it's bounced back now it's in the hands of racers again.

Their third mistake was to move away from the V8. As I said, they had a very good V8, but produced a very average V10 - without any of the packaging advantages. They seemed to do that purely on the basis that everyone else was using a V10, so they must.



When the rules say you have to have a V10....;)


Their attempt to use the Jaguar name as their prescence in F1 and it's ultimate withdrawal was just the final chapter in sorry tale of mismanagement - imo, of course.


Stewart had built up a lot of goodwill, I think Ford were very shortsighted in ditching that name after such a short run, then overhyping Jaguar and being surprised when the public and paddock turned against them. The Jag programme was seen as overblown, cynical, and mismanaged right from the start. Nearly as bad as BAR or Toyota in fact...;)

Am I talking a load of drivel, or do I have a point?


A mixture ;P

#3 angst

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Posted 19 May 2006 - 20:45

Originally posted by petefenelon


In 1994 they won because of a supreme driver and tactician, the death of the principal title contender, bent software and probably a bent fuelling rig for the first part of the season. Very little to do with Ford, although the Zetec-R was a nice piece of packaging. Nothing Ford has done in F1 since the demise of the DFV has ever looked convincing -- the GBA/TEC was never developed properly, the DFR might have been competitive in '88 had Honda not bothered to build a new engine (i.e. Ford weren't prepared to do what was necessary), the HB and Zetec weren't Great Engines in the Duckworth mould. The Sauber years showed that Cosworth had "lost it"; nothing convinced me that Ford's takeover of Cosworth improved matters. When a small, dynamic company is bought by a big, stodgy one, some kind of law of conservation of momentum governs what happens - the big company might speed up very slightly but the small one becomes totally bogged-down in systems, procedures and bureaucracy.


I was trying to avoid the less...... acceptable aspects of that season, the cheating that went on. The fact remains that the V8 Cosworth was a very competitive engine, and the V8 had certain package advantages over a V10.




But the engine the 'works' team got was rubbish in '95-6. I doubt anyone else would've wanted the early Cosworth V10s -- the old V8s meant that teams towards the back of the grid didn't need to design radically new systems for their cars, and they weren't diabolically worse than the early V10s.


Which sort of follows on from my point that they made a very good V8, and a very average(at best) V10




Hmmm - if anything, there were more Ford engined cars on the grid post-95 than pre, weren't there, especially when the V10s started trickling down?


And they all had Ford (or Cosworth) engined engines of very varying vintage.




"People's Champion"? Up there with "moral victory" as terms that have no meaning in sport. Arguably, Jordan fulfilled that role in '91.


In terms of where they were trying to place themselves in the wider market place, supporting the 'underdog' had a lot of positives, I think they misjudged where they were in that market place. But in terms of F1 as a sport , I believe they would have been better with a number of teams competing for their best engines.





Ford wanted Cosworth for more than F1... agreed about the death of Cosworth though, it's significant that it's bounced back now it's in the hands of racers again.


:up:




When the rules say you have to have a V10....;)


But that's just it. At the time there was no rule that said they had to have a V10, they just decided to follow what everyone else was doing. To a certain extent, this seems to have been more and more prevelant in F1 than is healthy, to the point that everyone was moving toward a 90 degree V10 by the end of 2004. There was no formal regulation limiting the number of cylinders until Toyota had started developing their V12 - the private members club that is F1 now decided that, they all had V10s, so anybody joining them should bloody well have the same.





Stewart had built up a lot of goodwill, I think Ford were very shortsighted in ditching that name after such a short run, then overhyping Jaguar and being surprised when the public and paddock turned against them. The Jag programme was seen as overblown, cynical, and mismanaged right from the start. Nearly as bad as BAR or Toyota in fact...;)


And, Lordy, was it ever mismanaged?
:rolleyes:



A mixture ;P


Why, thank you. :)

#4 RTH

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Posted 20 May 2006 - 06:05

I tend to agree with Pete. in the last couple of decades Ford/Cosworth have not had their heart in being dominant in F1 in the way Renault have made focused efforts. They contented themselves with selling second string customer engines, other than odd flashes , sadly they have not looked the convincing force they were in the Duckworth era.

#5 angst

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Posted 20 May 2006 - 19:45

Originally posted by RTH
I tend to agree with Pete. in the last couple of decades Ford/Cosworth have not had their heart in being dominant in F1 in the way Renault have made focused efforts. They contented themselves with selling second string customer engines, other than odd flashes , sadly they have not looked the convincing force they were in the Duckworth era.


And nor would a predominantly American based company be expected to - which is precisely why they ough to have pursued a less hands-on approach; kept Cosworth independent, provide as many up to date, competitive engines to as many paying teams (at a much better price without forking money out for a 'works' effort) as possible.

#6 petefenelon

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Posted 20 May 2006 - 20:48

Originally posted by RTH
I tend to agree with Pete. in the last couple of decades Ford/Cosworth have not had their heart in being dominant in F1 in the way Renault have made focused efforts. They contented themselves with selling second string customer engines, other than odd flashes , sadly they have not looked the convincing force they were in the Duckworth era.


It was hard to see why Ford were in F1. If they'd wanted to make Stewart-Ford into a real contender they had the resources to do it; but then making the "Ford" name disappear completely when they became Jaguar-Cosworth implied that they didn't want the Blue Oval to be there.

There isn't enough differentiation between the Ford premier brands - Jag, Volvo, Lincoln - at the bottom end, and anyone with an appreciation of Jaguar's sporting heritage could see that "Jaguar" was a cynical branding exercise in F1. Not sure what they thought they were doing. I'd say Jaguar in F1 probably harmed the brand.

The odd thing is that Ford's road cars (at least in Europe) through the 90s and 00s have been probably the most-improved of any of the major makes.

No, if I was at Ford and was going to go racing in F1 over that period, I would've either done in extremely low-key (branded it Volvo) or kept Stewart-Ford going, and cross-promoted hotter road Fords - the GT, the top-end Mustangs, the nutter Focuses etc.

From a marketing and commercial point of view, the whole thing appears to have been directionless, aimless, formless, and pointless. And I'm an engineer, I'm not meant to notice things like that ;P