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.