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Calculating the Formula (Think Million$)

“The amount spent on catering in the paddock today is greater than the budget for the entire grid in the 1970s,” quips Max Mosley, when asked about the cost of Formula One racing.

“The amount spent on catering in the paddock today is greater than the budget for the entire grid in the 1970s,” quips Max Mosley, when asked about the cost of Formula One racing. Mosley is head of the Federation Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA), the governing body of racing. While teams are unwilling to divulge how much they spend each season, it’s rumored that Ferrari has a $440 million annual budget for its championship-winning team, and Minardi spends about $60 million per year—just to qualify at the back of the grid.

Because of these astronomical costs (and increasing track speeds) Mosley has pushed through new engine regulations that replace the current 3.0-liter V10s with 2.4-liter V8s. But this was not the only option on the table. “We looked at replacing the current formula with one that replaced gasoline with diesel fuel,” he says, “but dropped the idea when we realized the engines wouldn’t rev very high and would sound ridiculous.” Direct injection was banned by regulating the in-cylinder pressure for the simple reason that “when this technology is developed for race engines that turn 19,000 rpm it is totally different from the technology developed for road cars.” As a result, the FIA has specified the materials, technologies, and lifespan for the 2006 engine, but stopped short of instituting a common engine control unit or mandating alternative fuels and technologies.

The FIA’s investigations into these areas continue, but are far from bearing fruit. “Bio fuels are coming in 2008, but we have dropped our investigation into energy recovery systems for the time being.” Mosley says the technology not only would increase the gulf between the wealthy and poor teams, there is no fail-safe way to contain the stored energy in case of an accident. “It’s a fascinating area of research,” he says, “but it is unworkable at this point.”—CAS