The modern Formula One that Bernie Ecclestone built, and made him filthy rich, is slowly dying — coronavirus only made it evident, it didn’t cause it to happen — and some believe, the time for change has come.
Red Bull Racing boss Christian Horner has called on F1 to allow teams to buy cars from their rivals as it would slash their costs to just £63 million (US$80 million) and help to keep their wheels turning during the coronavirus shutdown, The Independent reported.
F1’s regulations state that every squad “must design and manufacture certain key parts of its cars itself, including the chassis, which means that each team’s cars are unique.”
It has driven up their costs to an average of £190 million annually as the teams try to outspend each other in a bid for victory, the report said.
Their biggest cost is R&D with Red Bull Racing’s parent company spending £118.1 million on it in 2018 alone according to its latest accounts.
This is nearly six times the amount spent by the backmarkers so they stand little chance of success.
It has fuelled concerns that their owners could put the brakes on their F1 outfits in order to cut costs during the coronavirus crisis with McLaren boss Zak Brown recently telling the BBC that he “could see four teams disappearing.”
F1 is due to limit team budgets to £138 million (US$175 million) next year but Horner fears that this won’t do the trick, the report said.
Driver salaries as well as the design, development and manufacture of the engines are excluded from the cap so there is no guarantee that it would make the minnows more competitive.
Nine Grand Prix meetings have been called off this season and with race fees a key source of income, there is genuine concern that smaller teams may not have the resources to survive, The Guardian reported.
F1 fields 10 teams and has no plans for any new entries. Losing even one or two would be a major blow to the world championship.
As it is, many F1 fans are tired of seeing the same two teams (Mercedes and Ferrari) dominate the series, and passing is rare — unlike the NASCAR series, which shuffles the deck in every restart and sees plenty of passing and team strategy.
Allowing backmarkers to buy their cars “would be the cheapest way to address their issue, their plight, and the quickest way to be competitive as well,” says Horner.
“You would save because you would just operate as a race team. You would have a limited development budget so you could quite easily operate, I would have thought very comfortably, at $80 million.”
It would cut their costs by around 67% and give them a more competitive car whilst the bigger teams would get revenue from selling it to them, The independent reported.
“If we were really serious about reducing the cost, particularly for the small teams, I would be in full favour of supplying for the next two years a full customer car,” he told the Guardian.
“The smaller teams wouldn’t need any R&D. They would run just as race teams and they would reduce their costs enormously.”
“We need to think out of the box rather than just going round and round, beating ourselves up about numbers. If this is all about saving the little teams and improving their competitiveness, it would be a very difficult to argue against the logic of a small team being able to take a customer car.”