Voice Of #F1 Fans: The End Is Nigh – Why #F1 could collapse already this year

Disclaimer: TheJudge13 provides a platform for Formula 1 fans to publish their voice on matters relating to Formula 1. The views expressed in Voice of #F1 Fans are those of the contributor and not those held by TJ13.


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O RLY? – would be the instinctive reaction of the younger generation to what most will probably chalk up as scare-mongering. But a look into history and applying the experiences of recent years, this doom and gloom scenario is not as far-fetched as we might at first think.

While many, including TJ13, were writing messages of hope about the possibility of a Manor/Marussia return, it went almost un-noted that three other teams were closer to falling apart than Manor was to survival.

It was not quite so inconspicuous in the case of Force India and their attempted heist job on Manor, for which they have been universally lambasted. But in the end it is just a sign of how desperate teams have become to just survive. It’s like carting a single pizza into a weight-watchers convention and then sitting back and watching the fireworks.

Let me make it absolutely clear though – what Force India have done is hardly forgivable. Instead of looking for a solution that befits all of them, they tried to soldier on, by stabbing a fellow struggler in the back for some cheap meat. How it should be done has been proven when the little teams put the proverbial gun to Ecclestone’s head by telling him ‘cash, or else…’.

All of the small teams had to take leave of their dignity at some point or another just to struggle on for yet another month. Lotus have wrecked their credibility with a development driver, who’s only qualification appears to be that she is female and have some cash (and rather pleasing on the eye too). I decline to comment on what ‘hard work and determination‘ she was referring to that allegedly brought her to F1.

Sauber boss Monisha Kaltenborn turned into a ruthless business woman, breaking the contracts of all three Sauber drivers and informed them about the fact by SMS. All this just so she could go for yet another bunch of pay drivers with even bigger coffers than the ones she had just deleted off her speed-dial list.

Caterham went begging on the interwebs and the exploits of Force India are well documented by now. So while the teams might have struggled on so far they all have taken massive hits to their reputation in the process. It is therefore no surprise that they are confident enough and appear not to care about their street-cred to dare go ask Bernie for a loan with an AK-47 as their best argument.

The problem is quite simple. While during the season cash comes in from Bernie money, sponsors and other sources, the teams are bleeding money from November till February. But at the same time they have to spend big on building the new car. We’ve come to the point that the smaller teams no longer have the reserves to get through that time.

The fact that suppliers now demand immediate payment doesn’t help the least bit.

And lo and behold, we’ve reached the point where Force India and Sauber do not yet know if they can even pay to travel to Melbourne. The scenario that F1 could end up with only 12 cars on the grid, is highlighted by the fact that Ecclestone’s plans B and C have already been developed in detail.

Option one is building a fleet of second-league cars, more precisely 2013 RB9’s with Mecachrome V8 engines. Option two is to have the big teams build third cars. But the big fish demand 60 days of advance notice. The smaller teams cleverly waited until Bernard doesn’t have that time anymore. As a result it comes as no surprise that Ecclestone caved in and agreed to pay the last tranche of 2013 Bernie money in February instead of March and the first instalment of 2014 payments will come in March instead of April.

The problem is, it is still like trying to put a forest fire out with a bucket of water. It doesn’t solve the problems, it merely delays the collapse of the smaller teams by six or ten races. The McKinsey cost saving reports was chucked in the bin immediately by the big teams, as were any suggestions for better and more equitable distribution of F1’s ginormous income.

And that’s where we come to the point at which F1 will implode. Currently the big fish are presenting a united front as that’s the best way to keep the plebs away from the best spots on the food table, but when the plebs has kicked the bucket, they will turn on each other.

Mercedes is so far ahead they don’t even need to try and therefore one could argue want to retain status quo. But the day isn’t far when even they will learn that too much winning causes negative backlash.

Mercedes could be seen as the bully who steals candy from babies, just ask Red Bull. The third car idea would mean Ferrari, Red Bull and McLaren wouldn’t even be fighting for podiums anymore. That’s too little for organizations that spent millions over millions on their cars.

The Austrian team (Red Bull) meanwhile have their own crisis at hand. Their relationship with Renault has deteriorated so badly that the French are looking to get rid of them and go it alone. And yet, despite building what many regard as the most sophisticated chassis, RB have no chance to compete with Mercedes.

There is only so much time that can pass before RB will put up a much fiercer fight.

Ferrari is no better off. The big gains over last year and the arrival of Vettel, who is the polar opposite of the unloved departed Fernando Alonso, will only temporarily gloss over the fact that they are still way too far behind and only compete for crumbs once again. The tifosi are not exactly known for their patience.

The less said about McHonda, the better at this time. They can only use the infancy of their project as an excuse for a limited time. Red Bull had sorted Renault’s engine out by Melbourne last year, at least to the point that at least one car could finish the race occasionally. A man like Ron Dennis will not suffer lack of success for long – the fireworks are in the making.

The result will be calls for new rules and new cars. And in the long term Mercedes won’t be able to deflect those calls.

And so, TV figures continue to plummet and seats at the tracks remain empty. Is it that change will only come when Bernard’s beancounters tell him they have earned less than last month for the first time?

I believe it is at this point that new rules will come. Some fans will be unhappy and some teams will threaten to withdraw; some will probably even do so.

And that will be the moment when the whole house of cards collapses. Especially as people will have noticed by then that the product presented by WEC and Indycar is superior and features just as many cheerable drivers.

Bernard will have to do much better than just throwing a bone once in a while. And more importantly, the Wolffs, Laudas, Horners, Arrivabenes and Denises of the paddock need to pull their thumbs out and think about the whole product instead of only their own interest.

If not I fear they will be forced to consider WEC as a marketing platform and that’s where Audi, Porsche, Nissan and Toyota are already waiting to whip their behinds. They won’t be able to stomp them into oblivion as easily as they did with Sauber, Lotus, Force India and Manor now would they?

The ball gentlemen is in your court…

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33 responses to “Voice Of #F1 Fans: The End Is Nigh – Why #F1 could collapse already this year

  1. Interesting article! Thank you!

    Looking forward to new rules but fingers crossed that Marlboro Man’s horrible red bat-mobile fantasy has nothing to do with them.

    Reducing aero costs and downforce will 1) save money and 2) help place more emphasis on driving talent.

  2. Well hippo, the problem with WEC is (and don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge fan) other than le mans most don’t care about the whole championship. Not the spectators nor the tv companies. So why go to a sport with even smaller audiences? And the calendar is so much smaller. So they would have to make that more interesting for us. the 16 to 20 races that f1 gives us has been my Sunday for decades now, and I would like it to stay that way. WEC only has eight. Although I have to admit they last a bit longer. So the Sundays they do take up are filled completely 😉 but I wouldn’t mind if f1 takes a look at the WEC to upgrade their own rules. Give the manufacturers more room to work.(different engine formulas, same outcome. ..) Make it easier for teams ( customers) because eventhough they’d probably only compete in the midfield, for the spectators it’s more fun. And let 30 to 35 f1 cars on the grid. So that if you go to the trackside, you’d always have something to see. If you pay such an amount of money you’d like to see more than you get nowadays. (Or make it cheaper for us) but the men who rule our sport don’t like to think in benefit of spectators, now do they?

    • As far as letting 30 to 35 cars on the track, there are rules about the number of cars from a safety standpoint. If you remember (I do, hate to admit the age) there used to be pre-qualifying on Friday! This ‘sport’ is so expensive I seriously doubt it is possible to get that many entrants, especially with the way sponsors are blacklisting F1. Who is going to spend $50 million or more a year to not even make qualifying?

      No, there needs to be a major shakeup in this ‘sport’ and it will happen sooner than later. As the Large Beast opines, crunch time is coming for more than one team. Bernard doesn’t give a sh*t about the teams; all he wants is his money and he gets that from the track fees, track advertising (he gets all of that) and TV. The tracks can take a bath as far as he is concerned – the plan is to always have some government ready to take the next available race to ‘promote’ the country. How long will China keep paying? How long will the Korean race last (sorry, we know the answer to that). Turkish GP, German GP, US GP, Indian GP, etc. etc. The model is not sustainable but Bernie will die before it fails and so, I guess, he wins.

      And we lose.

    • I partially agree with you Bruznic and with Mr. Hippo. There are some things that WEC are doing correctly, and F1 could learn something.

      Given the problem, overall lack of money, and the format, open wheel extended sprint (305km or 2 hours), perhaps the solutions will be inspired from junior open wheel series. While one used to be able to argue that IndyCar is a good junior open wheel series, that is sadly no longer the case.

      Instead, I’d suggest that F1 will look to Euro F3 (or whatever that series calls itself now), GP3, & GP2 for inspiration and lessons.

      I’ve been following Euro F3 a bit for a few seasons. They run three races each weekend, and publish them all on YouTube. Three races per weekend with a full schedule of weekends each season enables racers and teams to take chances, enables them to take more chances during a race for example. If they get it wrong, there are two more races that same weekend.

      Anyway, all three series are less expensive, and have their own strengths. All three series emphasize and reward driver talent (to various degrees) more than F1 does now.

    • I can’t help but think that a tin-top challenger to F1 needs to look more like the Can-Am series of 1966-74. In many ways it was ahead of F1, with a similar format.

      LMP cars are now getting there, but WEC is flummoxed by the races being 4 F1 races back to back, or for Le Mans half a season (but that’s a special case).

      It’s like the old Nurburgring – 4 tracks in one. Good for a one-off (Le Mans), but not the whole season calendar. Cars are also combined into team cars to drive the multiple races back-to-back.

      You could instead have an F1 calendar, everyone in a separate car, 4 or 5 full grids etc. of each category; a whole closed-wheel ladder to take on F1/GP2/GP3 – LMP, LMP2, GT1, GT2, GT3..

      • E.g. Wings (and moveable), Fan car, Turbos, Ground Effects, titanium construction were all in Can-Am before F1; Group 7, pretty much anything goes.

        The 1973 Porsche 917/30 had insane amounts of power, 1,580hp in qual trim, and set the world record closed course speed at Talladega reaching up to 250mph (221mph avg. speed)!

  3. I think it’s highly likely that you are right on all this.

    I also think that Bernie is happy to see the whole thing collapse as soon as he goes – and he is FAR too smart an operator not to leave at just the right moment; when he hands a fatally damaged sinking ship to whatever poor sap will be his successor and wait for the inevitable “if only Bernie was still here…”

  4. I´m starting to have a little problem with the judge13 being incredibly negative site… Authors overconfidence with knowledge and understanding doesn´t help.

    • There is a difference between being negative and realistic, and between reality and what you want to hear. People who “wants” to hear good things about situations that aren’t good are usually the main supporters of those factors that make situations bad. Just look at the state of current society. Because nobody wants to feel uncomfortable with the true it is the crap it is.
      Said that, I don’t think F1 will collapse -I just hope it does-, idiots outnumber greatly the number of current fans.

  5. I’d be fairly surprised if there aren’t already some private meetings behind some of the big players (not including Bernie) behind the scenes for how to deal with things once Bernie leaves. It’s pretty easy to spot all the flaws in the current system from the disproportionate payment to teams to the total lack of integration with social media, so if the fundamental problem behind those flaws – Bernie – jumps ship for whatever reason then it seems like there would be a fairly clear roadmap for any successor/successors to try and salvage things. There’s definitely appetite for change, it’s just Bernie that is resisting it.

    Regarding the “decline in TV numbers” – I don’t really think that’s particularly relevant especially if they start to push the online side of things more. I watched plenty of races last season by using various streaming sites because I didn’t have access to a TV with the relevant subscription, so despite me not watching it on the BBC (as I would have done before they split the race coverage), I was still watching it. I found the link to that particular streaming site on an F1 forum where plenty of other users were using it too so I just don’t really think that TV viewing figures are a relevant measure of popularity. I understand that the viewing figures are useful for selling ad space, but if you’ve got a good website/system for people watching online then you can transfer the sales to there where you’re arguable offering advertisers much broader reach. Viewing figures are dropping across the board as people start to use on demand services so it’s not like it’s a particularly unique feature to F1. That said, the switch to PPV definitely harmed the official viewing figures, but I don’t necessarily believe that there will have been such a clear cut drop in the actual number of people watching races by whatever means they have. Some may have chosen to stop watching but my point is that I don’t think that every person who dropped off the ‘official’ list of viewers will have stopped watching altogether.

    • I watched every race last year, on Carlos Slim´s crappy internet connection. With much better connections elsewhere, I´m sure there is a huge following that don´t show up in official numbers.

    • UD – For this problem, we shouldn’t focus too much on the person of Bernie Ecclestone. To Mr. Hippo’s credit he hasn’t, and the article is the better for it.

      The bigger picture is 1) declining TV viewers, 2) less money from sponsors, and 3) individual sweet heart deals with the three big British teams, (Red Bull, McLaren, and Mercedes), and Ferrari for over-size proportions of F1 monies.

      The keys to a good outcome include 1) stabilizing TV (or internet) ratings, 2) which stabilize sponsorship values, and 3) breaking the unhealthy FOM contracts with the big 4 teams.

      It’s possible that TV ratings may be stabilized, but don’t hold your breath. Historically, go back 100 years and look to the popularity of horse racing then versus now. The inherent attractiveness of F1 is most all of us have cars, and we can imagine racing a car. But with ever improving car stability systems, such as ABS, traction control, etc, it removes some of the driver skills needed to move about town and country in a car. So the skills that F1 drivers cultivate and perfect are becoming a bit alien to the common driver. So the common man and woman will have less in common the sport, reducing its common appeal.

      But another problem for TV ratings is that the general trend is for populations to watch less TV.

      Sponsorship is difficult due to the changing economy, and narrowing profit margins.

      Finally, the big contracts between FOM and the big teams will be very difficult to break. It will take a catastrophic event. But as Mr. Hippo suggests, it’s more likely the change will not be driven by a major catastrophe that would enable all these contract to be thrown away.

      We can expect that none of these 4 large teams receiving a greater proportion of these FOM monies will altruistically give up their large proportions.

      So there is the good news! 🙂

  6. a brilliant, well-conceived, and well-written article. kudos.

    I have been hooked on F1 since 1962 when I picked up my first (and long gone) Sports Car Graphic magazine. I loved the Indy 500 in ’64 and ’65, but saw my first of many Canadian and US Grand Prix at Mosport in ’67.

    it inspired me to drive a heavily re-engineered by me ’69 Titan Mk V in every Solo ll, hillclimb, track day, and race I could find for a decade.

    but I am getting tired…

    if it were not for great SKY streaming (for free but willing to pay) and TJ13, I would be totally done with F1.

    a VERY large part of me hopes and prays that come Australia, Lotus, Sauber, Manor, and Force India refuse to fire a motor until sanity is immediately restored…

    I can so easily live with the immediate demise and eventual re-birth of relevant and quality International Open Wheel Racing…

  7. The decline in TV numbers is probably from four years of Red Bull domination, and specially from the 2013 season which will go into the books of history as the most boring and least competitive in the previous 10 years. You’d have to go all the way back to Schumacher’s era to find a comparable season. Of course, there is also the problem of F1 often moving away into the more expensive and less accessible cable networks or channels.

    F1 may well start imploding in the mid-season, but I’d be surprised if E doesn’t have some kind of backup plan, probably involving black bags full of cash, to rescue teams like Sauber or Force India if they start struggling.

    • I alluded to it in my post before, but here’s some more info about the overall decline in broadcast/’live’ TV viewing: http://www.businessinsider.com.au/brutal-50-decline-in-tv-viewership-shows-why-your-cable-bill-is-so-high-2013-1

      A 50% decline in audience ratings since 2002 across the board – it’s not too surprising that F1 viewing figures might also drop in that time, although the management of F1 definitely won’t have helped that decline…

    • >The decline in TV numbers is probably from four years of Red Bull domination, and specially from the 2013 season which will go into the books of history as the most boring and least competitive in the previous 10 years.

      You haven’t seen last season then by the look of it… And funny how Red Bull did not dominate in 2010 and 2012. Don’t you think after they’ve been put in their place last year it would be time to let go of the bitterness?

      • I think by his throwaway line on Schu that he’s not been a long term fan.

      • Redbull did kinda dominate, it was more Alonso’s brilliance that gave us a title fight, but i agree with you completely that is not the reason for the decline in viewing figures. Sticking F1 behind a paywall and no promotion probably has lot more to do with it. Have you ever watched a drivers press conference, its like a cure for insominia, and that is supposed to be promoting the race.

    • F1 has had domination before, it’s not a new thing at all. The likely culprit is F1 moving onto Pay TV and away from free to air channels. Combine that with more Tilkedromes and less exciting cars, and it’s not surprising the numbers are down.

  8. Hippo, you have been on fire lately, very entertaining, thank you.

    Guess it says something about me but I did not react at all on that bukkake thing, and I do know what it means…

      • and I extend the complment, Danilo
        you’ve been great, lately
        you know I always supported most of your opinions, but lately you’ve been hitting the right spots

        thank you

    • I love the articles by Danilo as well, I enjoy them, even more after hearing of how and why he missed out on college. I come away after evey article as a better fan.

      I would just like to say that I didn’t like the way he came at the man who complained about “bukkake”. His manhood and abilities as a parent were ridiculed for asking for a little refrain. Clearly his children were unfamiliar with the term so maybe we should consider the possibility that he IS monitoring his children’s online activity. He also allows them to regularly read the site so he has no problem with the use of expletives. Perhaps a little reflection instead of a blitz? After all it has now become apparent that we’re not all adults here.

    • A well-written article on the sad but ultimately true state of the mess that F1 currently is.

      The worse part is that the guy who caused it all knows exactly how and why it is happening but won’t even move his pinky finger to do anything about it. I doubt someone will step in and put the interest of the sport ahead of his own, but I can live in hope…

  9. A long, long way to go before I’d consider Indycar superior Hippo.

  10. New rules and new cars. If Mercedes can’t deflect, what’re their choices?
    Maybe that’s why THAT contract is taking a while…….

  11. excellent piece after causing minor uproar last week with bukkakegate lol

  12. Ok could you all stop paying the hippo such nice and pleasant comments? I fear if you continue to do so, he may become soft and will eventually change his name to Koala Bear.

    The hippo should not be domesticated, we need to keep him thinking he’s still roaming the open plains of the Serengeti, so that he continues to produce his excellent brand of thought provoking and sometimes bias rants like this and his letter yesterday to Ron…..

    Thank you…. 🙂 🙂

    Sh!t! I just paid him a compliment

  13. I don’t know if it’s just me or if everybody else experiencing issues with your blog.
    It seems like some of the written text in your posts are running off the screen. Can somebody else please comment
    and let me know if this is happening to them as well?
    This may be a problem with my web browser because I’ve had this happen previously.
    Thank you

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