How can we make F1 small-team friendly?
to a sensible level and create an environment where more teams can be competitive.
That will be hard to achieve, because F1 needs to stay at the pinnacle of technology – which means it’s hungry for investment. Any team boss will tell you that unless you’re pushing forwards with car development, your competitiveness goes backwards. To be what it is, to command the audience that it does, F1 needs what economists call ‘barriers to entry’ – but in my opinion these barriers shouldn’t be as high as they are at the moment. What should we do, then? There’s been talk of boosting grid numbers by having some teams run three cars. This is unpopular, and not only with the smaller teams who feel they’re being edged out of the sport. Some of those who’d be called upon to eld a third car don’t like the idea either, because at the moment that’s a recipe for an all-Mercedes podium.
I hear Bernie Ecclestone has suggested a two-tier system, with ve or so manufacturer teams running current cars and another ve or more customers with ‘Super GP2’ cars from a single manufacturer. It’s not very F1, and in any case GP2 is already very expensive – just look at Felix Rosenqvist, the guy who’s just won the Macau GP. He’s talking about racing in Japan, in Super Formula, because he can’t put a budget together to race in GP2 or F1.
Red Bull’s Christian Horner has suggested that F1 should go back to running the old V8 engines because they’re less expensive. I don’t agree with that entirely, but what if we combined it with the two-tier idea?
My ideal would be six constructors and six private teams running same-year cars, one per constructor. Points for every car in the constructors’ championship and no testing, to incentivise the constructor to give the teams the real thing and even test the new parts in their cars from time to time. Cost would be between the $4-5m that GP2 costs and the $100m+ for the current back markers. And good racing through the eld. You could have manufacturer teams running hybrid powertrains, while privateers run V8 engines. The trick would be to balance the performance, but in the modern age we have a rich resource of data that can help us arrive at that balance. You could have restrictor plates, like the Toro Rosso that ran with the threelitre engine in 2006. Or, more imaginatively you could balance the performance by giving privateer cars a lower minimum weight. This would make up for the fact that they’ll have to carry more fuel at the start because they’re less efcient. Finding the right balance would be hard, and we might not get it right rst time, but it would be worth it to preserve F1’s future.
On the commercial side, it was interesting to see Caterham launch a crowdfunding model to get to Abu Dhabi. I hope this model works and generates some benet for those who invest. Similarly, it was fantastic to see that Project Brabham have exceeded their target by offering a range of incentives to investors: £1 gets you the satisfaction of having contributed, £5,500 gets you a pitpass at Le Mans as part of the team with special engineering tasks. That’s the kind of thing that really gets fans involved.
Besides my pleasure at seeing a great name return to motorsport, it’s good to see a new enterprise succeed by thinking differently.
Crowdfunding helped get a struggling Caterham onto the grid in Abu Dhabi, but can this work as a long-term solution?