World motorsport's new president has vowed to make Formula One both more environmentally-friendly and cheaper in the early years of his tenure, although the two ideas have often proven incompatible in the past.
Speaking in an interview with French newspaper Le Figaro
over Christmas, Jean Todt revealed that he was pushing forward with the creation of a new department that would focus on the environment and the possible use of 'new energies' in the top flight. Former Ferrari colleague Gilles Simon, the Scuderia's erstwhile engine guru, has been recruited to head up the project.
"I am convinced that we absolutely have to reflect the environment and new technologies as we review motorsport, even creating new disciplines," the Frenchman insisted, "After giving up on KERS, we will accomplish nothing innovative next year - and I'm sorry about that. I have therefore decided to create a working group, which will involve our committees on environment and new energies, and launched sub-committees for oil and tire companies attached to the committee manufacturers. Gilles Simon, former boss at Ferrari engines, will join the FIA in this context."
KERS, which was seen as major environmental initiative under the rule of Todt's predecessor, Max Mosley, was only ever used in competition by McLaren, Ferrari, Renault and BMW Sauber and, after being dropped by three of those during its first season, was later voluntarily abandoned by all on cost-cutting grounds ahead of the 2010 campaign. The technology had also been seen as a valuable link between F1 and the mass market but, with the manufacturers deserting the top flight in their droves, is no longer seen as quite the pioneer that it might once have been.
Among KERS biggest problems was the free rein given to teams in terms spending to develop and perfect their systems - something the flew in the face of the cost cutting drive also being pursued by Mosley - and Todt admitted that he would also like to oversee further spending restrictions in a bid to make F1 more accessible and more applicable to a wider world in the grip of a financial downturn.
"The teams are sometimes blind and do not realise what was happening in the world - but racing has been struck as ever by the crisis," Todt observed, "F1 is too expensive. My predecessor has made great efforts to reduce costs, but it was not enough, especially as some teams have resisted. I am sad that Honda, BMW and Toyota are gone but, when we spend a lot and that the results are not there, it's inevitable."
While welcoming the four newcomers due to appear on the grid next season - Lotus, USF1, Virgin and Campos Meta - Todt admitted that more needed to be done, even if he was against the use of budget caps. Mosley had proposed a cap of £40m, but the teams rejected that idea by citing that it would force massive cuts in workforce, and sought to make their own cuts by limiting research and development.
"It's great that new teams will be registered, but the cost-saving measures already taken are not sufficient," Todt countered, "I am against limiting regulatory budgets but, if we want to perpetuate the F1, it takes a real awareness and fundamental decisions.
"This is important, but not simple. Electronic aids can, for example, offer drivers safer cars but, in sport, they have not found their right place. This is one of the exciting aspects of my mission. The car is a hundred years old, but progress has been staggering. Motorsport has to adapt to the times and, from there, symbolise progress."