The tide is turning towards new tech in F1 - and Formula E is showing Bernie that major cities DO want motorsport if the technology is right.
One week to go until the start of the 2013 F1 season. This is the season we should have had the new V6 turbo engine units. Bernie Ecclestone managed to get them delayed by a year and despite the huge capital investment from Renault, Mercedes and Ferrari, he was still trying to delay the engine formula further, telling the press that the sound of them was unimpressive. As if that really mattered to the millions and millions of TV viewers who will never stand near an F1 V8 (with headphones on, mind, you can't have too much of a good thing).
This week saw two potentially important moves for the world of motorsport and they are both connected with engine technology and embracing the future. A news story emerged that Honda have been attracted back into the sport as an engine maker by the adoption of the new turbo units. It was predicted that McLaren would be renewing their highly successful partnership with the Japanese firm in 2015.
McLaren boss Martin Whitmarsh was quick to point out that the team still had three years of a contract with Mercedes to run, until 2015, and they weren't in the habit of ducking out of contracts.
Honda's potential reappearance is what you might call 'the first sign of spring' - that motor manufacturers are beginning to take an interest in the sport again. Bernie Ecclestone and to a certain extent Ferrari's Luca Montezemolo, have poured scorn on the smaller engines, belittling their role in the great enterprise that is F1, but it looks like they might be the saviour.
The demise of the HRT team, the failure of the Resource Restriction Agreement and the financial strictures of Caterham and Marussia have meant that no news teams are going to be arriving on the grid any time soon. We should have 26 cars out there not 22. The big hope is that with fuel economy and energy recovery playing a bigger part in the F1 of the future, more manufacturers will be brought back as they see the chances of using F1 innovation on their road cars.
Certainly that aspect of the new engine rules will please Montezemolo who has long bemoaned the disproportionate influence of aero tweaks on the speed of the car.
The second announcement , that Bernie should really take note of, was regarding Formula E, the new FIA series for electric cars. Organisers of the series for single-seaters presented a preliminary 2014 calendar to the sport's governing body on Friday. Just as the FIA were finally confirming the 2013 Formula 1 series at 19 events, their more eco-friendly rivals were a year ahead.
The intention of the series is to run the series in city centres - places where Bernie would like to take F1, but cannot succeed because of noise and the political handicap of burning fossil fuel in capital cities.
Organiser of the series Alejandro Agag was upbeat about the series' prospects: "At the moment we are working with eight selected cities on the feasibility and design of the street circuits," he said.
"They will all be in city centres, easily accessible by public transport, and will feature some of the most beautiful and well-known landmarks as a spectacular backdrop for the races. The fact that we will only race in city centres highlights the main message of our championship: the electric car as a solution for mobility in cities of the future."
So far they have lined up London, Rome, Los Angeles, Miami, Beijing, Buenos Aires and Rio de Janeiro - but the ambition is to have 20+ races in a season. London Mayor Boris Johnson is very keen on the idea, especially as the race might make use of the Olympic Park site: "Zero emission world class motor racing is a scintillating concept and I am hugely keen that London be involved in the birth of Formula E. It has the potential to highlight the impressive strides being made in the manufacture of electric vehicles and hosting a street race could also be of considerable benefit to our city."
The series has an F1 spin-off because McLaren Electronic Systems will be providing the 250bhp power trains (for chassis likely to be supplied by Dallara). Competitors will need two cars per driver for 45-minute races, and instead of changing tyres they'll be changing cars midway through as part of two compulsory pit-stops. Practice, qualifying and races are expected to be run on Saturdays only thus minimising disruption to the city and not clashing with F1 races.
To start off with there will be a standard car supplied, but Agag hopes that in the future manufacturers might get involved. And that's when the competition will really start. With electric touring cars running as support races, and some iconic city backdrops to race against, Formula E could be a very attractive showroom window for manufacturers to promote their brand. So just as F1 might be luring back the likes of Honda, Toyota, BMW and flirting with Hyundai and Audi, Formula E will be setting up shop.
Manchester United boss Alex Ferguson describes his great local rivals, Manchester City as "the noisy neighbours". These new neighbours will be rivals, but they won't be noisy.