Monday, 27 October 2014

Formula One needs small teams

(Frederic Le Floc'h DPPI for Renault Sport F1)

Formula One finds itself in a crisis. The sport should be focusing on what is set to be an extremely exciting United States Grand Prix in Austin Texas but instead we find ourselves in the midst of turmoil in F1 with the news today that a second team in less than a week has gone into administration.

Following Friday's announcement that the Caterham F1 Team had entered administration it was confirmed on Monday morning that the Marussia F1 Team have also entered administration. This situation is completely unprecedented that we have two teams in Formula One placed in administration within a number of days of each other.

Caterham, Marussia and the Hispania Racing Team all entered Formula One in 2010 with HRT forced out of the sport at the end of the 2012 season.

When we look back at the history of the sport, 2014 world champions Mercedes AMG PETRONAS F1 Team and reigning world champions Infiniti Red Bull Racing can trace their roots back to privateer ownership.

Infiniti Red Bull Racing can be traced back to the Stewart Grand Prix team who made their Formula One debut in 1997 while Mercedes can be traced back to the Tyrell Formula One team who were sold to British American Tobacco with the team being run by Craig Pollock and Jacques Villeneuve. The team known as British American Racing made their Formula One debut in 1999.

In the year 2000, BAR negotiated a engine supply deal with the Honda Motor Company with team being renamed BAR-Honda. The team finished their first season with Honda power in fifth place just ahead of Jordan Mugen Honda team who had been vying for a supply of 'works' Honda engines for the year 2000.

In 2006 Honda decided to enter Formula One as a full Constructor and bought the Brackley based team from BAT and ran the team until the end of the 2008 Formula One season. The team is now the 2014 Constructors champions Mercedes AMG PETRONAS F1 Team who bought the Brawn GP team at the end of the 2009 season after Ross Brawn lead the team to both the 2009 Drivers and Constructors championship.

What is now the Sahara Force India Formula One Team can trace their roots back to Eddie Jordan's Jordan Grand Prix team who made their Formula One debut at the Detroit Grand Prix in 1991. Jordan sold his team at the end of the 2005 Formula One season to the Russian Midland group who ran the team for just one season before selling the team to the Spyker car company who in turn sold the team at the end of the 2007 season.

Dr Vijay Mallya took over the team and renamed the Force India who remain in the sport today and are known as Sahara Force India Formula One Team. 

In 1981 what is now the Lotus F1 Team made their Formula One debut as the Toleman Hart who gave Brazilian Ayrton Senna his Formula One debut at the 1984 Brazilian Grand Prix. Toleman was taken over by the United Colours of Benetton in 1986.

Benetton were involved in Formula One up until the end of 2001 when the team was sold to Renault who returned to the sport as works team for the start of the 2002 season the same year that the Toyota Motor Company entered the sport as a works team.

Privateer Formula One team's are part of the DNA of the sport and have helped it to become one of the biggest sports in the world and it is a real shame to see both the Caterham and Marussia F1 Teams who between them employee 390 people in Leafield and Banbury respectively go into administration. 

It is not the responsibility of the larger Formula One team's to ensure the survival of their smaller rivals but it is up to the sport’s governing body and the commercial rights holder to ensure that all the teams on the grid are financially healthy and sustainable and the only way of ensuring that this happens is to make changes to the way in which prize money is distributed among the teams so that it is move evenly spread up and down the pit-lane.

© Ben Johnston 2014

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