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Featured F1’s startling indifference as smaller teams struggle to survive

Discussion in 'Formula 1' started by Jordan Adcock, Nov 8, 2014.

  1. Max Chilton.jpg
    So it was announced on Friday that administrators FRP Advisory LLP have decided to close Marussia’s doors despite all that the team had going for it, including a potential $30 million windfall from FOM for finishing ninth in the Constructors’ Championship this year (word is that prize money will now be forfeited to Sauber). And with Caterham now seeking millions of crowdfunding dollars just to get to Abu Dhabi (#RefuelCaterhamF1), plus Force India, Lotus and Sauber with reported financial troubles, it’s safe to say that Formula One is going through one of its most uncertain periods. But from the tone of several of the sport’s key figures, you’d be hard pressed to think there was a crisis at all.

    Most vocal on this front has been Red Bull team principal Christian Horner, who has already said at Sao Paulo on Thursday that even mentioning the boycotts that were rumoured between Force India, Lotus and Sauber last weekend in Austin is wrong:

    "What F1 has done during the last couple of weeks with the public slanging matches that have gone on is not good for the sport, because the sport should be focusing on what we have seen in America -- good racing, wheel to wheel racing. The politics and the fiscal issues should be dealt with behind closed doors, with the commercial rights holder, and get sorted."

    I might feel more inclined towards Horner’s position if it wasn’t for his similar words in the team principals’ press conference in Hungary earlier this year, lambasting the press for focusing on the questionable human rights record of future F1 hosts Azerbaijan:

    “It is wrong to make Formula One a political subject. We are a sport, we should be talking about the drivers in these conferences, about the spectacular racing... Yet all we do is focus on the negatives, and it has to be said, it gets pretty boring for us to sit up here and fend off these questions. How about asking some questions about what's going to happen in the race on Sunday, about what's going to happen in qualifying tomorrow. If you've got these questions then please point them at Mr. Todt or Mr. Ecclestone rather than the teams.”

    Leaving aside the very specific issue of Azerbaijan’s race, along with discussions on sport and politics, the attitude that emerges here is one of refusing to discuss awkward questions, of just passing these issues along until they become too big to ignore, and too late to solve. It’s the kind of attitude that got F1 into the trouble it’s in now, and Horner’s words demonstrate how small the teams’ wills are for working together and ensuring the grid’s survival. In this case, and with the defunct Teams’ Association (FOTA), individual interests means nothing gets done. And I don’t mean to pick on Horner or Red Bull specifically, but again he’s been the most vocal amongst the big team bosses, including Mercedes’ Toto Wolff and McLaren’s Eric Boullier, who have all urged fans and press to just focus on “the show”. But the biggest teams are on guaranteed financial ground year after year, and can afford to do nothing; what about the teams who suggested a boycott, and indeed those who have already disappeared? It’s actually kind of ironic, considering Red Bull, Mercedes (as Brawn GP) and McLaren were among the eight teams who threatened to break away from F1 completely after the FIA tried introducing a budget cap for 2010 to ease cost pressures.

    Racing legend Mario Andretti unhelpfully joined this debate with his comments to The Guardian last weekend about banning anyone who tried to boycott races in the future:

    “These people don’t realise that in the end they’re hurting themselves. Who are you punishing? You’re punishing the fans, who pay to come and see you, you’re punishing the sponsors, who support the sport and keep it alive. You are punishing the core of what makes a sport exist… Teams or people who do this should be banned from the sport forever. There is no place for it. It’s so destructive… There will always be lower teams. I remember in 1976, my first full-time season as a Formula One driver, and a young Frank Williams said to me: ‘Mario, some day I’m going to be like Colin Chapman. I’ve never forgotten that. I would like these small teams, instead of crying, say they would like to be like McLaren or Ferrari.”

    Andretti’s logic is hilarious (we’ll stop those teams boycotting by banning them forever! That’ll keep grid numbers steady!), but what’s actually grating is how patronizing this all is. I’m sure all the smaller teams ever want to be is on the level of McLaren or Ferrari, but the odds are so stacked against those not already at the top that it’s virtually impossible to make big steps up the grid, bar capitalizing on major rule changes like Brawn GP and Red Bull did in 2009, or Brawn’s newest incarnation Mercedes has done this year. The top teams get the bulk of the prize money, itself a portion of F1's total generated revenue, and Ferrari gets its own annual bonus for being a historical team; how can the others compete in such a self-sustaining hierarchy? And as for punishing the sport in public? Well, honestly that’s perhaps what’s needed, as we’ve seen in years past that behind-closed-doors politics has done nothing to solve F1’s problems. Why do I get the feeling that if people like Bob Fernley (Force India team director) and Monisha Kalternborn (Sauber team principal) keep their objections quiet, they won’t be listened to? As for Bernie, his words appear to sum up the debacle:

    “There is too much money being distributed badly - probably my fault… Like lots of agreements people make, they seemed a good idea at the time. I know what's wrong, but don't know how to fix it."

    Thanks to this, F1 is currently sleepwalking towards having three-car teams and looks like it’ll be a case of the sport introducing another “good idea”, then asking questions about it later (double points, anyone?). Is it unreasonable to expect the top teams to sacrifice their spending advantages to help out their competitors? Maybe, but if more isn’t done by all parties, more teams and livelihoods could be lost and the show we’re told to concentrate on will suffer as a result.

    But enough from me, what do you make of F1’s current problems? Do you think three-car teams are workable, and if so how? Will you be pledging money to Caterham’s fundraiser? Comment below!
    • Like Like x 2
  2. F1, please go back to origins.
    • Agree Agree x 1
  3. A truly horrible, horrible idea.
  4. As opposed to having a 10-car, 5-team grid?
  5. Robert vd Heide

    Robert vd Heide
    Piloting RC Helicopters and sim Racecars

    maybe if it gets to that
    the little elite within F1 feels the need to change themselves

    for now i read Bernie switched and is against 3 cars a team
    but the 3 biggest teams have set their mind on 3 cars ,at the cost of smaller teams

    so its not only FIA responsable ,but also ,Ferrari,Mercedes and i dont know if the 3rd is Redbull or Mclaren

    maybe the whole F1 should go down ,,so there is a NEW Racingclass possible ,that is more like the Original F1
    racing first,development first ,and the money just as byproduct
  6. David O'Reilly

    David O'Reilly
    A bad quali means I can go forwards in the race.

    Easy for Mr Horner to say when his budget is prob circa 400m and with Matesich spare change runs Toro Rossa.

    My view: Tech regs largely drive costs. Current (wonderful) engine tech is 20m p.a.
    So its 100m to run a team.
    IMO "customer teams" supplied chassis AND engine by top teams should be more sustaniable and more interesting. We know the "C Teams" wont get top 10 so do we care if its a re liveried B Spec Ferrari/Benz/McLaren/Williams/Red Bull.
    This way the economies of scale kick in. We don't need 12 design teams, wind tunnels, 12 Chassis Factories but retain Team Staff who are independent and a driver route to F1 that isnt totally controlled by 3 teams.
    • Agree Agree x 2
  7. Problem is, for smaller teams to survive, F1 needs to become a whole lot cheaper. They need to have a miniscule budget and still be able to survive 107% cutoffs, so they need to be competitive.

    Currently, if you just have the standard things you need, with no development, Brundle said it costs about 40 million dollars a year just for that. That's not exactly pocket money.

    The main issue comes in with technology - it's expensive. You cannot have the current carbon fiber structures, unbreakable monocoques, etc. without spending a small fortune - and that's only for materials. This can cost you a big fortune if Maldonado drives for you, of course.

    That's only the beginning. If you want staff that are fully qualified in their respective fields - which, let's face it, you need to just get the car around the lap safely - you will need to pay much higher than average salaries.

    Then you get entrance fees, travel costs and driver salaries. There must also be a crapload of stuff I'm not even mentioning now. So with the above minimum requirements, where do you really cut costs? Up to the early 90's, these costs weren't nearly as exorbitant as they are nowadays, or weren't even required/existing. Carbon fiber only really took over after that.

    So, while I think Bernie's senile most of the time, I understand him when he says he has no idea how to fix it. How do you achieve the above-mentioned, thus safety and performance parts, without it costing an arm and a leg?

    According to my limited knowledge, there is no simple answer.
    • Agree Agree x 1
  8. Chris

    Ted Kravitz Appreciation Society Staff Premium

    A quick (but not necessarily easy) way to solve all of this is to have:
    1. A more equal distribution of funds from the combined total from the FOM and the teams (at the moment, the FOM pockets a much larger percentage than the teams).
    2. More equal distribution of prize money, starting by getting rid of the ridiculous sum of money awarded to Ferrari for simply existing.
    • Agree Agree x 7
  9. "including a potential $30 million windfall from FOM for finishing ninth in the Constructors’ Championship this year (word is that prize money will now be forfeited to Sauber)."

    That statement must be really hard for The Bianchi Family to read.
    I hate the fact that greed at the top has put small F1 teams at risk.
    Bernie and his gang have 'milked' this sport to dry udders.
    F1 fans do not only show up to see Mercedes, Ferrari and McLaren.
    Many come to see the fight between smaller teams.
    The funds distribution should have reflected that years ago.
    Agreeing to cut cost and then basically 'dooming' them to failure by constantly changing the requirements and regulations, doesn't help.
    Introducing the most expensive, complicated powerplant in the history of F1, at a time when teams were already struggling was not the way to go.
    Last edited: Nov 10, 2014
    • Agree Agree x 4
  10. Omer Said

    Omer Said
    Weresloth Staff

    It is not just about the teams actually. F1 management consume new and old tracks like toilet papers too. Korea, India and Turkey are just some examples.
  11. chianamik


    i like Osella....Copersucar.....AGS....Arrows....Shadow.....and other little Team!!!!!!.....long life at the little team
  12. David O'Reilly

    David O'Reilly
    A bad quali means I can go forwards in the race.

    Well they just follow the money.
    The iconic tracks of the past (even Monza) is under threat as they want them to pay more money.
    Turkey for example had enough and walked away, Korea too.
    The track pays circa 25m for the pleasure and only gets the gate revenue, not another penny.
    It now tends to be oil rich states and corrupt dictators that want a Jewel in the crown event.

    The sport needs to drastically lower costs and be fairer with distribution of revenue to teams. Then smaller teams can survive.
    1) Lower tech slightly
    2) Cost cap OR every dollar over 100million spent has to be matched dolllar for dollar with donation in cash or product to smaller teams.
    This way the biggest teams with all the money do their bit to support the sport.
    Each Goliath team could be required to furnish (not run) 2 extra cars for a small team.
    3) Equal distribution of revenues
    4) Customer teams. ( see point 2 above) The fist car costs you 100 million to design and make, the second one 20million, the third one 10 million.
    Sell cars 3,4,5,6 in B spec trim to customer teams for eg 20 million a pair. But whatever it is it will be 50% or less of the cost of designing and building one from scratch. It would also be faster.
    If you were Gene Haas and faced 100m to create your own slow car or 50m to buy a mid grid one from Mercedes what would you do?
    He turns up and for half the spend has say a Toro Rosso level car that wont embarass him or potential sponsors.
    The "team is still totally different, livery, staff, race engineeering approach, Image, philosophy.

    Look at Indycar. They are identical. Is it so bad?
    Still what I propose is only 20% in that direction.
    With M/Benz, Red Bull, Ferrari, Mclaren and even Williams doing this there are still minimum 4 manufacturers and probably 6 as a couple of mid pack teams would go it alone.
    The majority of fans follow people not brands.
    I have favourite drivers not teams.
    • Agree Agree x 1
  13. I don't think we should focus on track inclusions or exclusions too much. There is an increasing number of countries that build F1 tracks. F1 should race at those that have the highest number of attendance and are more fun to watch. I admit that sometimes not the best decisions are made on this matter(2009 no Canadian GP) but F1 is a global brand and it would be shelfish if it wouldn't travel to new pastures. I'm not saying that the legendary circuits should be removed, absolutely not. But as for the rest, this isn't a monopoly, the highest and most attractive bidder should host a race.
  14. Kenny Paton

    Kenny Paton
    Staff Premium

    The spectre of corporate greed stalks across most things nowadays, so why should we be surprised when F1 or the Premier League etc. falls victim to its rapacious grasp. "Devil take the hindmost" is its warcry.
  15. The funny thing is that the Premier League has one of the best (if not the best) money distribution systems (unlike F1). That's why you don't even know who's gonna be the champion at the start of the year, the competitiveness within the league is amazing.
  16. David O'Reilly

    David O'Reilly
    A bad quali means I can go forwards in the race.

    Sorry to be critical but you seem to have voted for both ends there. Which is it to be;)
    Monza 200,000 fans and threatened with no contract
    Turkey 25million fee and race in front of the Marshalls
    Russia selecta crowd and 50 million so long as you all stand for my anthem and my prime minister can start the race and I get to hang in the drivers recovery room so I look omnipotent to my people.
  17. Kenny Paton

    Kenny Paton
    Staff Premium

    Yes, upon reflection that was not the best example to use. However I would suggest that it's the spending money that dictates (I use that word deliberately) who will be the top teams. Although maybe this year I'm going to be proved wrong.:rolleyes:
  18. I think we are all thinking of F1 as a sport.

    F1 is a private business, the toy of a dumb old man called Bernie. I would say that he would do whatever squeezes more money out of it, but he is so inept that not even that is sure.
    • Haha Haha x 1