Formula One has always been glamorous. Since the day of its inauguration in 1950, the competition
has taken cars and drivers across the world, from Monaco to Singapore, from South Africa to Northamp- tonshire. The sport has defined the meaning of glitz and glamour and has always been proud of it.
In the last two decades or so, however, F1 has come under more and more pressure to reduce costs and environmental impact, and the recent administrations of two teams – firstly Caterham, swiftly followed by Marussia – have proved that something has to change.
What is brutally clear is the complete and utter failure by the FIA to impose any sort of cost-cutting measure on to the teams of F1.
Since 2009 when the first murmurs of discontent arose in the FIA, the attempts in the Concorde Agreements in 2009 and 2013 to impose a cap on costs failed miserably. Max Mosley, then the president on the FIA, proposed a raft of cost-cutting plans including an optional budget cap. The teams that took up the optional cap would be given more technical freedom, leading to the opposition from all teams of the F1 teams association FOTA apart from Force India and Williams that the policy would lead to what they called a ‘two-tier’ competition.
In reality however, the majority of the opposition was from the top down. Ferrari, McLaren and Red Bull’s strong position at the top of the sport allowed them to exert pressure on the smaller teams, essentially forcing Renault and BMW Sauber into agreeing to a breakaway competition with them. Perhaps the most notable thing was that despite the obvious benefits to a budget cap, the reluctance of the top teams showed the complete disregard for the competition’s health and future. The price of losing dominance in a sport dictated by success and money would have been fatal.
Max Mosley, for once in his F1 bureaucratic career, showed remarkable foresight. With the addition of three new teams in 2010 and an enlarged grid, the (immensely huge) pot of money became even less evenly distributed, and the wholesale change in regulations to hybrid engines for the 2014 season meant that budgets, instead of declining as was hoped, went up. An already stretched financial situation became completely unsustainable.
It’s not just Marussia and Caterham that are in trouble – Force India, led by Vijay Mallya have made no secret of their financial problems, and neither have Sauber. The fight for sponsorship money has led to the promotion of drivers who, frankly based on skill, have no place in F1. Pastor Maldonado and Esteban Gutiérrez got their drives at Lotus and Sauber solely through state sponsorship from Venezuela and Mexico respectively. The budgets of the smaller teams pale into insignificance compared to the gargantuan budgets of Ferrari, Red Bull and Mercedes, and that difference is evident in the drivers and the pace of the cars.
The administrations of Marussia and Caterham prove to the doubters that there is a money problem in F1. While small and especially newer teams have always historically struggled, their recent demise has shown the depth of the problem. There is a real possibility in the next five years of F1 losing not only its glamour, but its sustainability.
In the past week following the ad- ministrations, Jean Todt, the current head of the FIA, has put forward new cost cutting measures that he hopes will solve the sport’s long standing problem. A reduction of testing in general and a cut back of wind-tunnel testing has been ratified by the teams, but it seems too little too late.
It seems evident that there is no real attack on spiralling costs, for years it’s been accepted as a part of the sport and the continued dominance of Ferrari in F1 politics leads to the inevitable situation the sport currently finds itself in.
There is an entitlement in F1 that the larger, more established teams hold; one of continual success and continual monetary compensation, and it is in the process of killing the sport. These new cost-cutting measures are not enough, and should have come into place about 15 years ago, and they make a mockery of the sport they are supposedly meant to protect.