Brought to you by TJ13 Editor in Chief Andrew Huntley-Jacobs.
Genii should reconsider its decision regarding the sale of their F1 team – and quickly. The latest move by the F1 strategy group to pursue the customer car route in Formula One is a disaster for everyone other than the big teams.
The large F1 teams, Ferrari, Mercedes, Red Bull and McLaren have carved up the lion’s share of the sport’s revenues via backroom deals they did with Ecclestone. And the customer car proposal will consolidate their power even further, as incremental finance will ultimately flow through the doors of Maranello, Woking, Brackley and Milton Keynes.
The process to ‘assess costs and feasibility’ of a customer car programme will be evaluated by what is called the ‘Constructor Championship Bonus Teams’, Mercedes, Ferrari, Red Bull and McLaren.
Williams, long time opponents of this idea, are out in the cold.
Adam Cooper reports that, “Lotus, Sauber, Force India and Manor will be given ‘first refusal’ on whether or not they want to switch to using customer cars~, which is misleading. It is not a veto of the concept, these teams will be offered – but ‘first refusal’ on customer car allocations the big teams will be offering. Adam makes no mention either of Williams.
The big teams will end up with even more of the share of the sport’s revenues, because they will be charging their ‘customer car teams’ for at least the chassis in this plan. It is not yet clear whether suspension gear box and aero parts will be on offer too, if this is the case – the proposed idea becomes even more of a poisoned chalice.
What value for example will Enstone have as a business anymore? They apparently currently believe this to be North of $300m.
However, if a fully good to go pair of F1 cars can be bought for around $50-60m, why buy an existing F1 team?
A start-up outfit could survive by merely having a minor fabrications operation, data analysis unit, PR staff, race weekend equipment and race personnel. Genii could be set to lose a fortune on their perceived capital value and their car design and manufacturing skills.
Further, the big teams will not be selling their customer cars – whatever the package finally includes – at a loss or merely break even.
What will all this mean for the fans?
Cherish those memories of Kimi’s wins in a Lotus, of a Force India on pole position, of Pastor Maldonado holding off Fernando Alonso for what seemed like an age before winning the Spanish GP – because the likelihood of such upsets will be eliminated forever.
One other aspect of customer cars is that they will almost certainly be sold with an associated engine deal. Buy a McLaren customer car – you get a Honda engine; buy Mercedes or Ferrari and you get their power trains too.
Buy a Red Bull customer car……. Oh wait a minute….. how does that work?
There are a number of scenarios Red Bull may choose to follow in the immediate future, though we can’t know for certain how this will pan out until either they or Renault make a move to cement their fractured relationship long term – of get on with their divorce.
Will customer cars improve F1 racing?
Probably not. At each stage of F1’s five year development cycle – one of the big four teams will be ahead of the rest, whilst the others shuffle and order their deckchairs.
What is certain, is two tier racing will emerge – whether visible of not in the sporting regulations. A Formula One race will consist of two different battles; first is the proper prototype racing machines and then comes the competition for cars bought from off the shelf.
Customer cars must surely then reduce costs?
Monisha Kaltenborn whose Sauber team are Ferrari engine customers was perplexed the last time this subject arose. “It’s not at all a good idea. I cannot even follow the argument that it’s going to reduce costs.
“Formula One is about constructors. F1 needs in its DNA this challenge. It’s never been any different. People like to see a Williams and Force India come really close to beating a really big team.”
Yet customer cars looks set to be the path the powers that be in F1 eventually pursue. Ecclestone has always been in favour of the idea and 4 of the 6 team’s on the strategy group stand to benefit significantly from this proposal.
Whether the FIA support this idea or not – is irrelevant.
And given the Ecclestone propaganda war in the days prior to the strategy group convening, the impression is now that a smoke screen was skilfully thrown up. There was no mention of reviving the topic of ‘customer cars’ – not even when the senior team members discussed the future of Formula One at the Spanish GP Friday Press Conference.
However this turns out, the corrupt nature of the current form of F1 governance and the process by which this proposal will be shaped – is a disgrace.
It’s time to hear the response of the fans – who after pay for the F1 circus – one way or another.