It is not a good time to be a small team in Formula 1.
With all the power fighting and instability at the top, the issues facing those teams battling in the midfield and at the back of the grid are simply getting bigger.
Earlier hopes of action towards lowering costs in the sport have merely become another way of showing how the big teams can dictate and how the FIA are out of touch with the sport’s fans.
Then this week came perhaps the most incredible statement from any sport’s promoter in history as Bernie Ecclestone, who himself has been embroiled in scandal away from F1 for much of the year, claimed he would be “happy” to see small teams fail.
This would be like the boss of the Premier League saying he would be happy to see teams who fight more to avoid relegation rather than win the title simply leave.
Now every one has their own vision when it comes to how a product looks and is run, normally in sport it is the case that there will be teams who have more money, more resources and usually get the better results but it is the power those bigger teams have in F1 that makes it different.
Fair playing field?
Sure the likes of Manchester United and Liverpool can attract bigger sponsors, bigger players and generate bigger incomes as a result, but the way most of the funds handed out by the Premier League is equal.
In Formula 1, however, the lion's share of TV money and other revenues handed out by Ecclestone’s FOM is given to Ferrari, Mercedes and Red Bull, the teams who also then receive large payouts for finishing at the top of the Constructors’ championship.
The same applies to the group in charge of coming up with new rules for the sport. The Strategy Group is made up of delegates from the FIA, FOM and six F1 teams. Those left out are historically those with the four smallest budgets on the grid.
The past year has been full of stories about predominantly two teams enduring major financial troubles. Lotus, who become a victim of trying to compete alongside the spending power of Red Bull and Ferrari, had to resort to the backing of Venezuelan Pastor Maldonado to fill some of the huge gap in the team’s balance sheet.
Also Sauber, who have always been known for producing good racing cars on a shoestring budget.
For a while it seemed Russian investors would put the Swiss team back on its feet, however, now the team who had four podiums two years ago, finds itself behind Marussia in the Constructors’ standings having failed to score a point all season.
Add to that the fact Marussia is now very close to developing its way ahead of the team on the track and the future for this team is getting bleaker by the week.
I have argued that Peter Sauber should have sold the team when he had the chance because back when the team was scoring good results, outside investors were interested, now the team finds itself stuck in a deepening hole with little way of escape.
Bernie’s comments earlier in the week stem from a vision he and the big teams have of introducing customer cars to F1. The idea being if a team can’t afford to produce its own it can then buy a B-spec version of a Red Bull or Ferrari or Mercedes etc.
Three car teams
There is also the idea of three car teams, which it has been said could only be introduced if less than 10 teams were on the grid.
Now you may be wondering why I have pinpointed Sauber and Lotus rather a team like Caterham, who are also struggling merely to survive.
The fact is when HRT came and went in three years it meant very little as the team had achieved very little and in many ways didn’t deserve its place to begin with.
With Caterham they joined at the same time, back in 2010, and despite giving a greater impression of succeeding in the sport, the impact of them failing would likely be just as small as their former Spanish rivals.
But for a team like Sauber to bite the dust, a team who have been part of F1 for around two decades and enjoyed some success, for an established team to be simply allowed to fail would be sacrilege.
Sure a potentially bigger, better team could replace them but the whole morality of it would have to be seriously questioned.
If Lotus, who seem more sure-footed in recent times than they were late last year, were also to be allowed to fail, here is a team that is steeped in history, a team that Michael Schumacher won his first titles at when it was Benetton, the team who Fernando Alonso won his titles at when it was Renault.
Perhaps they would be the better team to use to hammer my point home, here is a team who have helped two of the best drivers in the past 25 years achieve the success they were capable of and Bernie Ecclestone would be “happy” to see them go.
It’s a horrific thought and so while Sauber and now to an extent Lotus simply make up the numbers we are left to hope their futures can last beyond that of the little man who refuses to adapt to the 21st century and also long enough for the big teams to realise it’s not all about them.
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