The first time a person who had a top job in a racing series other than NASCAR told me it was “amazing how [those] metal boxes go so close to each other at high speeds,” I didn’t think much of his simplification of it. But maybe it’s a pattern, because Formula One’s new CEO seems to be on the same path.
F1 released its goals for the series’ 2021 engine regulations a couple of weeks ago, with two of them being louder engines at lower costs. F1 said it would do this by limiting design freedoms on engines, and thus keeping some teams from spending way more money than others. But Ferrari wants to keep the existing powertrain uniqueness in F1, because Fiat Chrysler Automobiles CEO Sergio Marchionne told Motorsport.com he doesn’t “want to play NASCAR globally.”
Here was what F1 CEO Chase Carey, who took over from Bernie Ecclestone when Liberty Media bought F1, told Motorsport.com in response to Marchionne:
“Actually I don’t think we have a differing view to Ferrari,” Carey said. “I’m not trying to be derogatory to NASCAR, but we don’t plan to be NASCAR either.
“We don’t want to standardise the cars. We don’t want 20 identical cars going round the track, and the only difference is the driver.
“... We want the teams to have the ability to do what they do to create cars that are unique to them - unique engines to them, unique bodies to them.
“But we want to make success dependent on how well you spend your resources within some constraints, versus how much you spend. I think that’s a healthier sport.
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That statement is all kinds of weird and wrong, which you wouldn’t expect from another person in motorsports. But, as always, people forget the golden rule of “don’t talk on the record with microphones around” if you A.) are not clear on the facts, or B.) are saying something even your own family would tell you to shut up about at the dinner table.
Carey’s main point in this is that he’s “not trying to be derogatory to NASCAR,” but that he definitely doesn’t want his racing series to morph into it, where all of the cars are the same and the only difference is the driver. That is not true.
NASCAR isn’t some kind of spec series where teams are handed cars when they get to the race track, with no differences between any of them. The engines are different, the parts are different and the bodies are different, they just have to meet certain templates and requirements to race. But they’re not identical, no matter how much the Car of Tomorrow era would like everyone to think that.
Different NASCAR teams have different dominant times just as they do in F1, despite having stricter limits on aerodynamics and horsepower. The Toyota TRD engines had a period when they blew up nearly every time they touched a track, and now they’re so untouchable that Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver Brad Keselowski’s doesn’t go long without tweeting his Toyota suspicions.
So, really, NASCAR is only full of identical cars that differ in who’s driving them if you don’t pay enough attention to know any better. Plus, it is kind of fun to think that more than four drivers have a solid chance to win each race weekend—even if they are just making circles in those “metal boxes.”