Voice of #F1 Fans: A crazy idea for a crazy F1 world.

Brought to you by TheJudge13 contributor Marek

There’s been a whole lot of bother lately over the future of F1. Lotus, Force India, Sauber, Manor seem to exist perpetually on the brink of financial collapse. Red Bull and Torro Rosso may decide that the other kids aren’t playing nice and go home. How many cars will line up on the grid next year?

Clearly the distribution of revenue between the teams is an issue that needs to be addressed urgently. F1 without Ferrari would not be F1 – but in no sane world should Ferrari receive more money just for turning up than any other team would receive for winning the championship.

I look back fondly on the 26 car grids of not to distant times. Sure, some may not like having back markers to navigate through, but this has been part of Formula One since it began. Ayrton Senna was considered a master at passing the lapped cars and gained time on his competitors. Yet even Senna had the odd off day, like in Monza 1988 where the Brazilian in his McLaren famously tripped over the Williams of Jean Louis Schlesser. This DNF meant McLaren failed to take a clean sweep of wins for that F1 season.

However a number of the current crop of divers are regularly unimpressed when impeded by back markers. Sebastian Vettel derisively described them as ‘cucumbers’, although we’re informed that doesn’t translate well from German to English. Yet passing slower/lapped cars has always been part of racing, though this may be less of a problem in 2016 they way Red Bull have been talking.

The prospect of 3 car teams or customer cars has been raised time and again as one way to combat falling numbers on the grid. But the appeal for many F1 fans is seeing the teams build their own creations, trying new and different ideas. So is F1 just about the racing on track?

A true customer car solution would invariably be the setting up of a two class Formula.

Meanwhile, there is another age old problem for F1, exacerbated by the threat of reduced grid numbers and financially starved minnows: Namely pay drivers; and the quality of driver being promoted to the worlds premier open wheel series. Currently, it seems the qualification required to graduate to F1 requires some billionaire, corporation of state sponsored entity backing which may or not create a sense of  national pride for the locals and distract us from reality.

When GP2 began, it served the purpose of preparing drivers for Formula One. The costs were relatively low so a good driver could succeed without major financial backing. The by demonstrating a talent above the rest of the field, a driver would receive the support and opportunity to race in Formula One. The first GP2 champion was Nico Rosberg, who featured in F1 the following year, as did the series second winner. Lewis Hamilton began his life at Mclaren in 2007. However, in recent none of the GP2 champion drivers are getting more than a ‘reserve/test’ driver opportunity in the pinnacle of motorsport. Romain Grosjean was the last GP2 winner to make the step into graduate to F1 after winning the series in 2011.

In the intervening years since Grosjean’s title, the GP2 season’s winning driver has been left out in the cold, whilst Esteban Gutierrez (3rd in 2012), Max Chilton (4th in 2012), Marcus Ericsson (6th in 2013), Giedo van der Garde (5th in 2011) have all made the grade.

Clearly the best talent is not coming into Formula One and this is a problem. Were F1 to go down the full customer car route, this would still not solve the problem. Privateer customer cars entries would still recruit drivers who bring budget.

The other grid growth solution is three car teams. When the matter was discussed at the F1 strategy group the idea was floated that the third car driver should be a young driver – then again, its not like McLaren haven’t taken drivers sponsorship money in the past too.

So how can we solve the issue of talented young drivrs failing to get their chance in Formula One?

Instead of resorting to 3 car teams, what if the customer car concept were employed bu not for the struggling Sauber’s of this world – funded by Formula One itself. This would be an academy team. A team that exists in F1 not necessarily to win, and not to market anything, but to promote young talent to the sport.

This team could be financed easily by taking the money paid to Ferrari and Red Bull for just turning up each year. The team objective would simply be give F1 experience to the winner and runner up of the designated FIA feeder series. Thus delivering a clear ladder of progression for emerging talent and rewarding the champions who are in fact the best drivers.

The team could run four cars and provide each driver with a two year opportunity to demonstrate their potential and attract a commercial F1 drive. Thats more opportunities than most get now. A reasonable car to showcase talent without requiring a billionaire benefactor. A car without development cost – F1 could acquire the rights to produce a customer car of its own from the winning constructor car of the previous season. After all a 2014 Mercedes would perform nicely in comparison to a 2015 Manor (or dare I say 2015 McLaren-Honda).

Of course this is just a though and is easily shot down. Yet surely F1 fans want to see the best drivers in the sport they love. Rules may require some change, but where there is a will – there is a way.

The question is whether there is in fact a will out there to breath new life back into Formula One.

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17 responses to “Voice of #F1 Fans: A crazy idea for a crazy F1 world.

  1. Klingon People say : very good idea. But what future with the two muppet in charge of F1 (Todt and Bernie) ?

  2. No! Dont want to see 3 car teams because this would give teams the extra ability to use 1 car in a purely tactical role!!! In other words, a real possibility that teams will CHEAT their way to a title or two by using 1 car as a blocker. Teams bend the rules in every way they can at the moment, so to add another string to their bow would be immensely stupid. The tracks are barely wide enough to overtake safely without DRS, so chucking 3 cars into the mix will stir up a hornets nestimo. #:)

    • “a hornets nest” fabulous, just the sort of shake-up we need in these totally predictable seasons, sounds great to me…
      I think this article is one of the most sensible I have read in a long time.

    • Agreed. This is the argument I have been making against 3 car teams for a while.
      Car 3 will be playing defense, making risky moves to try and block opposing cars and improve the teams chances with their main 2 cars. This would be especially true if the 3rd car is not allowed to score points. Imagine 3 or 4 Maldonado’s roaming the circuit with nothing to lose because thy can’t score.

      • I don’t think this would happen, the young guns would be very keen to show their potential, not act as crash dummies…

        • Then the teams will select someone willing to act as crash dummy instead. Don’t delude yourself.

          • I was not proposing 3 car teams, I’m very much against that. I’m only suggesting 1 controlled team with the champions of the designated feeder series..so no requirement to block. They’d not be selected by the teams, rather on merit of winning the feeder series. Allow them to score points. Give them a chance to show their talent and at the same time extend the grid without having to resort to B or junior teams with the inevitable blocking loyalties (as per Torro Rosso).

  3. The troll does a bit of PR work:

    http://www.bbc.com/sport/0/formula1/34552570

    Bernie Ecclestone: “Fifa boss should remain in post”

    “If people allegedly have been corrupted to make things happen in their country, it’s good.”
    The 85-year-old added: “It’s a tax football had to pay.”

    The rest of the interview consists of him expressing his admiration for dictators and mass murderers, as usual.

  4. Easily done, just get Brernie to give Toro Rosso the money and engines to run 2, 3, or 4 cars, and get few experts (Lauda, Mansell,…) to pick the deserving young drivers…,
    (or get Putin to tell Bernie..?, or get Bernie to run the footie instead…?, now where is my magic wand…. )
    Regards “Martin”

  5. What if they had 3 car teams, but constructors points were awarded by averaging a single points scoring position across the 3 (or 2) drivers? That would negate the incentive to throw the third driver to the wolves for the purpose of boosting the finishing position of the other two.

  6. “Clearly the best talent is not coming into Formula One”
    Just because the GP2 champ does not make it to F1 doesn’t mean the best talent isn’t getting into F1.

    Even Willi Weber bought Schumacher’s first drive in F1.

  7. Three car teams to fill the grids each race is F1’s death knell manifest for all to see (not saying you’re proposing that, Marek).

    Take $$$$ from the upper crust at the Prancing Horse??? If that was to happen Red Bull’s puling would look like well-behaved, reasoned, diplomatic speak in comparison to Ferrari’s objections. Though Marek’s idea is quite obviously sensible (oft-voiced as well), it just wouldn’t pass the muster.

    Run an F1-sponsored team? Let’s see how that looks in the public’s mind’s eye in other a couple other professional sporting leagues, then F1: “And playing Tottenham today are the young guns, the UEFA Pre-Pubbers!” Hmmm, not a good look; since two National Football League games come to London this year, how about, “Playing Tom Brady and the world champion New England Patriots at Wembley today are the generation of pro football pain-killer addicts, the NFL Shields!” An even worse look; finally, “And qualifying 21st and 22nd on the grid at Monaco at just under 107% are the F1-sponsored boys, endearingly called the “Almost Made Its” throughout the paddocks.” Yikes.

    F1 has backed itself into a financial corner with heaps of Euros and dollars coated with oil acting to seal its lungs from another breath. It seems that, short of imploding the present money distribution including the “me love you long time, F1” perks and replacing it with a more equitable divvying up of the money pie (also oft-voiced), present mid-field teams are not for long in F1 and new teams with hundreds of millions of dollars to invest are few and far between due to the daunting prospect of actually being punished financially for failing to make the Constructor’s Top 10. Now, if Bernie and the boys cut the pie evenly throughout the teams while also creating an account solely and within reason, to aid and protect – short-term – newcomers to the field from folding under the investment pressures of the sport while they upped their game to be competitive, that might work to attract other auto makers and corporate-sponsored to forming new teams. However, as it stands, placing two cars on a Formula One grid cannot be perceived as a money sinkhole for potential team owners.

    Questions: I do wonder why the larger IT corporations haven’t tried F1? Where is the Google-sponsored F1 team, a Microsoft team, an Apple team, and particularly lesser-known companies with deep pockets whose products are critical to the tech-age’s infrastructure but are not household names?

    You can bet their upper management, major investors and friends will have a great view of the Austin GP as well as the Mexico GP. And… these are just the players to stare down Bernie and demand real and sound changes to the present profit-sharing system, holding their inclusion in F1 like the Giza pyramid over BE’s head.

    (One more thing: TJ, editors at TJ, etc. I live in Austin! You know by now that I’m a journo. Y’all could’a asked a F1 brother to cover COTA’s weekend events! 😀 )

  8. Hi Dwil,

    The almost made its are currently in F1. That’s the problem – these are the guys the likes of Sauber, Williams, Force India, Lotus (Microsoft sponsored :-)), Manor and even McLaren when pushed are turning to in order to bring in the money they think will make them competitive (so everyone bar the Bulls, Merc and Ferrari).

    to take the nfl analogy, what I’m suggesting would be in effect be a team comprising the best talent from the last 2 years of the draft combined to form a team – so they wouldn’t be almost made its as you mention, they’d be the first picks, the Vandoornes of this world (and with the strategy established it would hopefully draw the top talent to the feeder series – I’m not saying that feeder series is GP2 – its a ladder that needs to be put in place). The aim is to provide the best young drivers a route into F1, not the wealthiest young drivers (as is currently the case). While a draft team is hardly what the NFL would want, it sure would be interesting to see how they compare against the might of Jacksonville…I would say Oakland but they seem to have got their act together somewhat this year – oh wait , they’d loose Cooper, Carr under that scheme, hmm, game on maybe 😉

    The idea is to promote talent – to put it as a simpler proposition – at the moment we know who will come up to F1 before the GP2 season starts – is it not a pity that its the guys who will come 4th/5th and have the backing of some wealthy benefactor, and not the guy who kicks their butt all year long?
    I’m simply arguing a case for the guy who would be 1st pick in the draft to get a shot – not a guy who’s Daddy paid for him to play by financing an extra library for a college!

    btw we have the national U20 team entered as a team in the domestic ice hockey league here to help promote young talent – they are not there to win. people don’t seem to mind – I guess you get used to what’s in effect – some people in F1 even seemed to have accepted DRS at this point – that’s a story for another day I’d say 🙂

    • Marek- I see what you mean. BTW, the NFL used to have a preseason game where top picks comprising an All-Star team played against the NFL Championship team – 1934-1976 – called the Chicago College All-Star Game and then the College All-Star game.

      I totally agree that it’s a shame to see a lower placed than the champion GP2 driver advance to F1 because of corporate dollars. However, the problem with and F1-sponsored, young guns team (I gather backed by major corp. interests to help offset costs) is, what happens at the end of each season to those 1st year drivers? Would established teams be forced to accept the driver with the most points onto one of their teams? It seems it would become a showcase of sorts but in the end a revolving door of young drivers, few of whom actually having the ability to continue in the sport.

      WAIT! I have an idea.

      Perhaps there needs to be a feeder Formula Championship, like the Web.com Tour where players prove themselves and feed into the PGA Tour. This way, the drivers can gain on and off-track experience, seek sponsorship if necessary, and showcase their talents for existing F1 teams while earning enough prize money to exist comfortably.

      What do you, Marek/anyone thing about something like that for F1???

      • Hi Dwil – yes I’d agree that the progression ladder towards F1 needs to be better defined. GP2 has potential – showing the drivers on F1 circuits at F1 weekends, but the progression part has lost its way – its become more of a practice round for guys with cash rather than an opportunity to earn a promotion. The progression thru the formula seems to have received a lot of talking anyway but bridging the final step to F1 has remained untouched (F2 has been included in the superlicence points but seems to be as of yet undefined?)- its still really down to Red Bull or whoever has money to pick who will be the chosen one. As KenC mentioned above, this of course doesn’t completely rule out top talent arriving, but the drivers are at the mercy of Red Bull/Merc or a private paymaster etc if they are going to graduate. While the likes of Merc/Red Bull/McLaren tend to know what they’re doing and back real talent, the private/state backing doesn’t necessarily follow that logic, so we end up with the guys who are capable, can maybe win a race or 2 on the way up, but not the cream of the crop. There’s no denying at the moment that a lot of recent graduates can’t claim to have come up on merit alone. Given the size of the grid I’d rather have the best of the best drivers available out there rather than competent guys with financial backing. As for the drivers in an academy team, I’d give them 2 years to show their talent, then sink or swim, if a ‘real’ team want them then great, if not, they’ve at least had a shot to show their worth, which is more than some can dream of at the moment.

        btw that all star game sounds interesting, pity it was stopped before I knew America existed though 🙂

        • Nice to converse with you on this topic. I hope that some of our exchange, at least, finds its way through the ether and into the minds of people in charge of F1’s future and the future of preparatory race championships… or into the minds of more F1 writers.

          On the All-Star game. Though it ceased when I was one-year old, from what I understand from older sports journos is that the potential for injury to players from both sides became too great a financial risk for the teams and, therefore, the NFL.

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