Saturday, 25 October 2014

Feature 18 cars on the grid for the next two Grand Prix - Is F1 facing a crisis?

(Eric Vargiolu DPPI for Renault Sport F1)

It was revealed yesterday that the Caterham F1 Team who were into administration had been given special dispensation to miss the next two Grand Prix in the USA and Brazil and on Saturday it emerged that the Marussia F1 Team will also miss both Grand Prix which means that just 18 cars will line up on the grid next weekend in at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin Texas for the United States Grand Prix.

Formula One is the pinnacle of motorsport and has for years been at the forefront of technical innovation but while millions has been spent on developing new technologies that will some day make their way into road car production one major facSahara Force Indiator has been overlooked at that is the survival of businesses.

Formula One is not just a sport but it is a multi-billion pound business with teams relying on sponsorship and TV revenue money to survive. In the current economic climate teams just thousands of other businesses have had to make cut backs with staff redundancies. 

While the larger team's like Infiniti Red Bull Racing, Mercedes, Ferrari and McLaren have managed to compete successfully during the financial crisis smaller teams such as Sahara Force India, Lotus, Sauber, Caterham and Marussia have struggled. 

Formula One was seen for many years as a manufacturers sport with Honda, BMW, Toyota, Renault, Ferrari and Mercedes all involved in the sport during the early to mid 00's however as the economy suffered so did Formula One. The Honda motor company pulled of the sport at the end of the 2008 season with both Toyota and BMW pulling out at the end of 2009 season.

When these manufacturers came into the sport there was major fan-fair surrounding their entries. Manufacturers are returning to the sport this is FANTASTIC but in reality pressure from board level within these company's became too great. While Toyota saw some successful it was nowhere what had been expected with the money being pilled into the project so that is why they pulled out and it was the same story with both Honda and BMW although Honda funded Brawn GP's F1 entry in 2009.

Renault pulled out as a full works team following the 'Crashgate' scandal having won the championship as a 'works' team in 2005 and 2006.

Honda will return to Formula One next season as a power unit supplier when they enter the 2015 championship as a 'works' partner to McLaren but have not ruled out supplying more then one team in the future.

Following the news over the last two day's regarding both Caterham and Marussia, the sport needs to sit down straight away and discuss:

  1. Why did this happen?
  2. How can a situation like this be avoided?
  3. What is a realistic budget cap to put in place?
One way of ensuring the survival of the smaller teams would be to find a way of distributing the TV rights money more evenly among the teams and stopping the practice of new entrants having to wait a year to receive their first payment.

As it stands when Gene Haas enters Formula One in 2016 with the Haas F1 Team he will not receive a share of the Formula One prize money until the end of the 2017 season.

Mr Haas stated earlier this week that he will not be throwing money at his F1 project and that he would like to fund the team half way between what the likes of Red Bull spend and what the Caterham, Marussia and Sauber F1 Team's spend.

Caterham going into administration is extremely unfortunate and it would be absolutely terrible to see both the Leafield based outfit and the Marussia F1 Team forced out of Formula One. 

It is not just the drivers that have to be thought about in this situation but the hundreds of people who work extremely hard directly for each of the teams but also the employment that has been created as a direct result of the Formula One operations in Banbury and Leafield and the knock on affect that team closures would have on the wider communities.

Lets hope that a solution can be found that will enable both the Caterham and Marussia F1 Team's to continue racing in Formula One next season and beyond as we should not be seeing just 18 cars making up a Formula One grid!

© Ben Johnston 2014

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