Is innovation to blame for F1’s financial woes?

F1 teams could achieve better results by improving existing technology rather than creating vastly innovative solutions, according to a new report on the sport’s finances.

The Cass Business School has developed a study entitled Driving performance via exploration in changing environments: Evidence from Formula One Racing, which proposes that F1 teams that spend the bulk of their budget experimenting with innovation in order to gain a competitive edge over their rivals may actually be hurting their chances of success.

Their study examined spending by F1 teams between 1981 and 2010, concluding that teams that concentrated on improving existing technology were significantly more successful than rivals who invested heavily in novel solutions following regulation changes implemented by the FIA.

One only need think of the recent seasons when innovations such as blown diffusers and F-ducts were banned after providing significant performance benefits, ultimately negating the vast R&D investment in these solutions.

Dr Paolo Aversa, the lead researcher on the report, commented: “Evidence shows that in the majority of cases radical innovation pays off in year of regulation stability, but it backfires in years of radical regulation change.”

“In 2016 moderate Formula One rule changes mean radical innovation will be critical for winning, but in the following year, if radical rule changes are confirmed, teams with conservative approaches toward innovation will outperform more teams with extreme innovation efforts.”

The FIA has proposed regulations to make the cars five to six second faster in 2017 through weight reduction, aerodynamic changes and wider tyres. Only time will tell whether slow and steady will win the race for teams in 2017 or whether innovation will conquer all.

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