September has been a busy month in Motorsport, with the majority of series returning after the summer break we also had the launch of Formula E and the end of the Indy Car season.
On four wheels the championship battle has become pretty much all square again with Mercedes reliability catching up with Rosberg and handing Hamilton his 7th win of the season. Whoever tops the standing come Abu Dhabi its almost certain that Hamilton will end the season with more victories than his German team mate. More concerning however has been the fate of a number of teams as the sport again turns to its favorite trick of shooting itself in the foot.
Bernie has been shouting about 3 car teams again this month stating that 3 teams could disappear over the winter break leaving a gird size of 16. This would trigger a clause in the concord agreement that the teams would have to all field a 3rd car to make up the grid. However within the rules these cars could not score points and as highlighted by a number of teams would need significant investment in money and personnel for a season. It almost certainly has an ulterior motive because the arrival of Gene Haas in 2016 would return the grid size to the minimum of 18 cars. Furthermore there are plenty of pay drivers with enough cash to carry the limping teams over the line until then. Caterham, Marussia and Sauber are the likely candidates to disappear into the annuals of history but there are also concerns at Force India and Lotus over their long term financing.
On two wheels however the story has been quite different and the Moto GP grid is set to swell over the coming seasons with the arrival of various manufacturers. The old CRT bikes with modified superbike engines will be a thing of the past and the privateer teams will run the customer Honda bikes, the Forward Yamaha or open Ducati’s. However next season Paul Bird’s team will be taken over by Suzuki and Gresini have given up their Honda satellite bike (Now taken over by Marc VDS to run Scott Redding) to run the factory effort from Aprilla after the manufacturer stepped in to provide funding to the team. Both new factories will compete in the open with concessions class like Ducati before the sport becomes fully unified in 2016 using a spec ECU with the software shared between the teams.
Not one to miss out on the party KTM also announced that they will have a prototype bike for 2017, however most sources indicate they aren’t planning on running a factory team so it will all depend on cost and subsidies as to whether any of the teams take up the offer. But potentially we could see in two years time 6 different manufacturers on the grid properly and its a huge vindication of the cost cutting measures put in place by Dorna over the last few seasons.
The mid field battle next season looks set to be intense with the all new Ducati alongside Suzuki and Aprilla. Also with the disappearance of the old CRT bikes and the customer Honda’s receiving a huge upgrade and the ever fast Forward Yamaha (who took their first trip to the podium with Aleix Espargaro’s 2nd place in Aragon) there will be a huge glut of riders on similar bikes. The Honda’s and Yamaha’s are likely to be up front and it remains to be seen how fast the new Ducati and the Suzuki will be, but they will still be running with Open concessions next year meaning they are unlikely to challenge the top step too often.
The rider market is in full swing with a factory spot at Aprilla and the Suzuki rides still up for grabs, the main man everyone is waiting on is the star of the CRT/Open class Aleix Espargaro and whether he can move up to a factory team or whether he will stay with Forward for another year and asses his options.
Elsewhere Indy Car finished early with Will Power finally claiming a championship crown, the long break allows the teams to work on the cars ahead of the introduction of Aero Kits made by Honda and Chevrolet alongside the original Dallara aerodynamics. There are mixed feelings about both its early end and a long time before seeing the championship again and a possible end to the tight competition caused by the spec cars.
Finally Formula E kicked off in Beijing with a highly successful event although Nico Prost caused a huge last corner accident by driving into Nick Hiedfeld and handing the win to Lucas Di Grassi. The series does have a few kinks to work out but the driver swaps went smoothly and the racing was good despite the awful circuit design. Definitely one to look out for over the coming years.