With a sharp eye on the rear view mirror, the high-powered delegates at the 2017 FIA Sport Conference are looking into the future of motor sport in a bid to make it safer and a more exciting spectacle for fans.
Organised by the Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile, motorsport’s main governing body, the objectives of the event, which has Pirelli as a key global sponsor, are neatly summed up by its headline theme: “Progress and direction, together through a decade of change”.
There’s no doubt that it has been a truly dynamic time for motorsport, from the glitzy high-technology of the Formula One circus to the brilliant and unpredictable World Rally Championships, with new challenges arising all the time.
And at this year’s conference all key issues will be identified and put under the spotlight: greener engines, sustainable events, digital media, connected technology, greater interaction with fans, improved safety and the challenges of running motor sport federations in a modern world.
Analysing the information in forensic detail are many of the brightest and most influential people in motorsport, from Formula One team principals and their star drivers, to specialist suppliers like Pirelli and other sporting organisations such as the International Olympic Committee.
Spreading the word
It is a unique opportunity for those at the pinnacle of their sports to make decisions and, with the FIA acting as a thought leader, disseminate new rules or ways of working to the so-called ASNs and ACNs – the hundreds of clubs, local authorities and governing bodies that help to run the global FIA’s racing events at a national level.
Mario Isola, Pirelli’s Head of Car Racing, who has attended the last two annual FIA Sport Conferences in Mexico City and Turin, says Pirelli has a pivotal role to play in the event as the company is so closely linked to motorsports both as a sponsor and supplier of tyres.
“It is a very important meeting for Pirelli as we can communicate our message on issues ranging from the changing role of technology to new ways to improve safety standards to so many key stakeholders in the industry,” he says.
Technology and the future
The four-day event involves a series of plenary, interactive and round table sessions as well as cocktail parties and a gala dinner at Geneva’s historic hydro power plant turned cultural centre, the Bâtiment des Forces Motrices.
One of the key themes of the conference will be the role of technology. A session entitled Motor sport's future and technology will explore the concept of “From Track to Road” and the role motor sport can play in developing technology that eventually finds its way into the road car.
Isola says Pirelli’s commitment to motor sports is partly based on this relationship. “The huge amount of information Pirelli gathers from its involvement in motor sport – from a car’s in-depth telemetry to data about rubber wear – is used to assess the life and drivability of tyres,” he says. “This information can then be applied in the search for increased safety of road cars.”
The latest technology will also be on display at the FIA Sport MotorEx, an exhibition held at the FIA’s new Technical and Logistics Centre in Valleiry, France. The FIA promises the event, which has more than 30 exhibitors – ranging from track designers to insurance experts – will reveal the motor sport “world in action”.
One piece of Pirelli technology that is already making an impact on motor sport is the use of radio-frequency identification (RFID) on racing car tyres, which means the life-cycle of a tyre can be tracked more efficiently from factory to the garage and then its use on the rim of a car – a brilliant logistics tool that can also prevent any illegal use of a tyre.
Formula One – the show must go on
Ultimately, motorsport is a show and has to attract the interest of its fans around the world. One vital question is to be tackled at a Wednesday afternoon session entitled: Sport versus Entertainment - Where do we draw the line?
Paul Hembery, Pirelli’s motor sport director, will be there to help answer a variety of questions, including: what is the perfect balance between safety and fairness while maximising ''the show'' for fans? And is there a danger that the FIA can over regulate?
No doubt the impact of the new Formula One regulations, including the introduction of wider Pirelli tyres, will be assessed in light of a season that is developing nicely into a duel between two teams – Mercedes and Ferrari – for the top spot on the podium.
“I’m enjoying the championship this year,” says Isola. “It’s already competitive and hopefully a third team – Red Bull – will also start fighting for consistent podium finishes and even the championship. The car and the technology are always very important, but you must remember the driver is always the hero.”