Q: Since the issue of electric wheel guns seems to be an obsession with Mailbag readers, I figured I’d throw in something that we’ve talked a lot about in the comments but which the submissions seem to be overlooking regarding the matter…
People seem to be overlooking the insane amounts of torque the impact wrenches used in motorsports produce. They’re not your average garage mechanics’ tool — these things are powerful enough to break your wrist if you mishandle them. While it’s not impossible to make battery-powered guns of such power, doing it with a portable battery is not going to be a simple task and, more importantly, will likely be more expensive than the standard air guns. Corded versions would be easier, but then you don’t get the major benefit that’s the whole reason for this debate: The removal of hoses/wires to be driven over.
What’s more, as racing continues to push the “green” ideas, battery-powered wheel guns would actually be detrimental to the movement. Batteries are messy to dispose of, after all, while air is just… air. It’s not like they’ve added dangerous chemicals to get the air pressure they need — in fact, I’m pretty sure they use pure nitrogen, which is not a greenhouse gas or pollutant of any sort.
But what’s more, in the case of series like IndyCar, IMSA, or WEC where they use air jacks, they have to bring an air supply to the track anyway. And while it’s been a long time since I’ve been through a pitlane, I do recall most (if not all) the teams used the same air supply for the air jacks and the wheel guns.
Put simply, the benefits of battery-powered wheel guns do not outweigh the cost, and it’s just more stuff to keep track of in your logistics. I wouldn’t complain if anyone made the move, but if I were bankrolling a team I just wouldn’t be able to justify it.
MP: All solid points. I do expect the shift from pneumatic wheel guns to battery wheel guns to happen, but it wouldn’t be before 2024, at the earliest. I’ve seen a prototype, and it was pretty cool.
Q: What happened to the Hulman home that stood outside the stands near Turn 2 at IMS? I never read or heard anything about it being torn down, but a grassy lawn now occupies that historic structure’s former place at the track. I was told by an employee, who would know, that Tony Hulman used the house when he visited the track back in the early days of his years there. I know his daughter used it every year on race weekends for private events involving her charities.
MP: It took a little while to get the answer to your question from August, but thanks to our steadfast friends at IMS, here it is:
“The structure, nicknamed ‘The Mouse House’ internally, was torn down during 2020. After doing an assessment of the property, it was determined it could not be salvaged without significant investment and renovation. Recently, it had only been used a few days a year for Hulman-George family entertainment.”
Q: I was surprised that there were no F1 budget cap questions last week! Anyway, I believe it was Laurent Rossi of Alpine who said that a “minor breach” of $7,000,000 (maximum) translated to 70 engineers. To me, that is anything but “minor.” That could buy a team a significant amount of performance, or at least trim away the less productive design ideas and allow focus on the promising ones.
I largely agree with Zak Brown’s suggestions: the financial penalties should be double the overage, take a hit in both tunnel and CFD time and limit the “minor” category to $2,500,000. The consequences have to be significant enough to put a bit of a dent in the team’s performance for the following year in order to create a disincentive. I don’t think it would make sense to include removing wins and championships because it would probably be difficult to quantify how the advantages played out in terms of results. I also think it is a bit silly to negotiate the penalties. The FIA should never have allowed that.
Regarding the budget cap itself, I don’t think it was done properly. I’m OK with the theory, but with Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull in the $400,000,000 range, it would have made more sense to me to set the target at $200,000,000. That would have significantly trimmed the Big 3, provided some growth opportunities for smaller teams and allowed staff members the possibility of moving to smaller teams rather than exiting the sport. Similarly, sponsors could move to smaller teams and be likely to have more presence for the same money they paid to larger teams.
Don Hopings, Cathedral City, CA
CHRIS MEDLAND: I agree with Zak too — if a team has breached to a level close to the 5% limit — and also that it needs to be a lower limit moving forward. The big question mark is over what Red Bull is disputing, because Christian Horner says it’s in the region of hundreds of thousands of dollars, not millions.
For the cap, the target is more like $200m for those big teams, because of certain costs that are outside the cap like marketing spend, driver salaries and the top three earners in each team. The biggest teams spend the most in these regions. I think the number’s right (it’s down to $140m this year and $135m next) because it’s what makes all of the teams stable and profitable, and really will reward talent but even with such a strict limit it will take time to have an impact on the pecking order.