This week McLaren boss Martin Whitmarsh accused Red Bull of distorting Formula 1 with the massive budget they have at their disposal.
The claim came at an interesting time as Autosport reported Ferrari had a pot of €250m available for its F1 team, a number said to be €15m more than the four-time champions, though Whitmarsh believed that story was false.
So, does he have a point – are Red Bull and other big budget teams distorting F1?
Certainly the issue of team finances is one of the hottest topics in 2013, with Sauber struggling to survive and Lotus having to take on a so-called ‘pay driver’ in Pastor Maldonado most teams are having to check their balance sheets before making their next move.
Even the battle at the very front is being affected, Mercedes admitted that if they wanted to get to the top they had to do what the top teams were doing and ignore any agreements put in place – namely the RRA (Resource Restriction Agreement) – and spend big.
What is absolutely clear is many of the 11 teams in F1 are unable to even contemplate fighting at the front because they are not in the position financially to keep developing their car as Red Bull and others can.
Indeed of the three teams that arrived in F1 in 2010, one no longer exists while the other two are in the same position they were nearly four years ago, nowhere near making the midfield.
One major reason for Sebastian Vettel’s dominance in the final half of the year was the fact Red Bull spent money and resources altering the RB9 to the new Pirelli tyres, while most had already turned their attention to 2014.
The imbalance between the teams also highlights a fundamental issue with F1 – the unfair distribution of funds.
Is it coincidence that the two biggest brands in F1 have the two biggest budgets? Certainly not.
The power that Red Bull and Ferrari hold in F1 is such that Bernie Ecclestone is forced to pay a large percentage of income to these brands to ensure they remain in the sport.
While it’s not ideal from a small team point of view it is understandable as without Ferrari and Red Bull, Formula 1 would be very much weakened.
It is also why putting restrictions on spending are pointless, if you limited every team to a certain budget these top teams would not agree and likely leave though it would help the midfield.
Because the top teams are spending more it is forcing the smaller teams to push their accounts to the limits and that is why you end up with the problem Lotus are in.
They are a competitive team that can run at the front, however because they are so massively outspent by the other top teams it makes any chance of a full tilt at the championship nearly impossible. McLaren too are also joining Lotus in this respect as the big three spend their way to success.
This need for money then leads to another problem. Fans don’t like the so-called pay driver culture, while the concept of a driver getting a seat over someone else because of his level of sponsorship is not new, it has been thrust further into the spotlight as talented drivers find themselves locked out of the sport because of a lack of backing.
It has become one of the best sources of income for teams in these difficult economic times. Companies are less likely to pay high prices just to have their logos on a car so if a team can find someone who is willing to pay to drive for them it takes away one bill and adds funds.
There is no doubt then the ludicrous spending of F1′s richest teams is distorting the sport, small teams are being forced out while high quality drivers are stuck in the lower formulas.
Something certainly needs to be done to curb the spending of the top teams but finding a way that is beneficial for all is likely near impossible to do.
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