Part three: Max Verstappen fights back!
That’s where Red Bull comes in.
There is much that can be said about Red Bull and their philosophy towards racing, both positive and negative. But let’s start with the positive, as I am the most positive person you’ll ever meet…
What Red Bull has done is quite simply perfecting what other teams tried to do. The A and B team isn’t something new. For instance, Ferrari used to think of Sauber as their B team, supplying both engines and engineers. And even Massa got a seat at Sauber, for the second time, when Ferrari asked Sauber kindly. And when I say ‘asked kindly’ I mean there was a serious cut in payments Sauber had to give to Ferrari for their engines.
Somehow that seems ages ago, with Massa now retiring, but only temporarily… and Petronas no longer (re)building Ferrari engines for Sauber but instead throwing big bundles of cash towards Mercedes. All this leaves Sauber only a shadow of what the team was. It used to be exciting, a place where young talent got a chance, not this team now, trying to survive.
Remember how Kimi got in the eye of the storm when Peter Sauber announced him as the new driver and he almost had to beg the FIA to give Kimi a super licence. A team boss who was so certain of the abilities of this young kid he found…
Now look at the team: strings of pay drivers, most of them not even belonging in F1 in the first place. Now they have a team boss who states that if they don’t use pay drivers they won’t make it. I believe even Minardi did it better than Sauber is doing at the moment. That says enough, doesn’t it?
Then there is Jules Bianchi who, when he came in was considered a big talent. The first signing ever from the Ferrari Driver Academy, and yet Ferrari had him driving for Marussia rather than Sauber. A clear sign on the wall.
Red Bull, however, built two teams. One they consider the A-team but they’ve also built a proper B-team with Toro Rosso. That STR was built on what was left of Minardi is very helpful to me, as I loved Minardi’s philosophy. And I don’t think I’ve ever encountered someone who didn’t want Minardi to do better than that damn last place. SRT took some of Red Bull’s business model and some of Minardi’s approach. Developed with the sole purpose to give promising youngsters a chance of growing in to Red Bull’s Formula One team it has done that for some, just as it hasn’t done it for others. And that might be the negative for some.
Yes, Red Bull is a very harsh environment, but you have to remember this is the pinacle of motorsport, or at least that’s what they want us to believe. There are no participation trophies! Red Bull invests massive amounts of cold, hard dinero. It’s only natural that they’d love to get results for that. All of us are that way. If you go to the shop and you pay the cashier, you won’t like it if you get home and the fruit you bought has turned bad. A very simplistic way to put it, I know, but business is like that.
Anyway, most drivers who started as Red Bull youth and who got a ‘you’re not good enough for f1’ stamp still get backed by Red Bull in other classes. It’s not that they suddenly drop someone and then kick them when they’re down. So back to the positive,
Toro Rosso made two seats available in F1, something that seems to be the biggest selling point. We all know feeder series results guarantee nothing. There have been good drivers who looked bland once they entered F1 and also the opposite. To create an extra team and give youngsters a chance is something that clearly pays off. Look at the names; Vettel was the first to make the transition from Toro Rosso to Red Bull, but certainly not the last. After him followed Ricciardo, by many considered an excellent driver and future champion. Kvyat, made the A-team and yes, got bumped from the A-team quite soon, and perhaps not in the right manner. But still didn’t got kicked out! No, he was demoted but not killed off.
Back to Toro Rosso where Franz Tost is rebuilding a new Daniil from the ashes of the old one. It is Tost who convinced the heads of Red Bull to give Kvyat an other chance for next year and that only shows that Toro Rosso has people on-board that actually care about the youth they’re trying to get ready for the real racing world. As we all know Kvyat got the axe in favour of Max Verstappen. And hear me now, I’ll make a statement that the Dutch will love to hear: ‘No-one can say Red Bull was wrong with this one. Not even the hamfosi’s. They’re just scared of the young boy because he seems to be better than their hero.’
So what am I on about? Does their approach work? I’d say wholeheartedly yes, yes it does! From the eleven drivers Toro Rosso has had, four advanced to the main team. Three of them are considered the real deal, if you ignore the amount of haters. I personally would add Sainz Jr to that list, as I consider him a great talent and I predict a grand future for that boy. But once again I’m deviating from the original issue.
Does an A-team and B-team work? If you look at Mercedes and their use of the Manor team, I’d say I’m not the only one who feels that way. Both Werhlein and Ocon are Mercedes drivers, neither of them could learn anything more in a lower category. Both of them would have been ready if either Hamilton burned enough bridges at Mercedes or they finally came to their senses and realised Rosberg wouldn’t carry a team once the car went back to ‘not the best car of the field’. Either way they’d have had at least one youngster with decent F1 experience but, despite the shock retirement of Rosberg, Werhlein has a seat at Sauber, because of Mercedes, and Ocon is at Force India, again because of Mercedes.
If I was a major influence at the towers of the FIA I’d try to convince the teams to set up such a structure. I’d give them some benefits of course, otherwise they’d never take the bait, it’s the piranha club after all. Let’s set it up a bit like it already is/was: Red Bull and Toro Rosso, Mercedes and Manor, Ferrari and Sauber. Then say McLaren joins hands with Force India and Renault with a new hypothetical entry as I feel neither Williams nor Haas would want to be sister teams. Haas sort of did it with Ferrari this season, but I feel they only did that to get a good start, which was smart. But they’d never be in this business if they didn’t feel they’d become champion. (All Americans reading are allowed to chant ‘U-S-A’ now. Three times) Some of the other teams know they’ll never be that. This structure might make their lives easier. So we’ve got the main idea, now for the benefits.
A-teams would be able to stall their promising young drivers at the B-teams, and give them experience that a test/reserve driver these days just doesn’t get. And I’m not only talking about the driving part, but the whole circus: press/media, sponsors, benefits, fans… Then allow teams to co-build cars, up to a certain degree, with the engines the same for both teams of course. This would give a great opportunity too for fresh blood in the technical department. Young designers working together with the old ones, sharing their knowledge. This would make a very competitive field as well as giving, let’s say, Honda double the testing and data, which they actually need. If this structure was there when Honda came in, Macca fans wouldn’t be joyously celebrating a car finishing in p7.
Furthermore Vandoorne might have had, at least, a second season in F1 by now. Then there is the fact that sponsors could, if they’d want, be displayed on four cars instead of two. And big teams would effectively make sure small teams had money enough to survive a season without non sportive troubles.
Equally tracks would have higher attendances because there would be more competitive teams. Of course there would still be a clear distinction between the big players and their little sisters but overall it would be closer. Constructors would really feel pressure to stay ahead, be it with their cars or their drivers. We’d not have to watch a kid again who’s got either daddy’s money or a country‘s exchequer behind him, in the overkill way we have now, because I honestly think we will never remove the whole pay driver system fully.
Plus giving kids from 17 to 21 a chance to grow would also attract a younger generation of fans, something F1 really needs. Thus it would build a self nurturing sport… Of course there will forever be too many drivers chasing too few seats but this way could improve things. And I think it’ll be better than the ‘three cars per team’ idea, because of the number of teams that would survive and because of the higher level of competition. Three cars per team would only benefit four teams, five at best. Is that what we want? Essentially, in a couple of years, it would lead us to a field with four or five teams, each with three cars, and that’s it. Small teams would cease to exist, leaving us with 15 cars on the grid. I think most of us want a field of more teams, more cars. Not less!
When I gave this piece to a friend, for proofreading/ editing he pointed me to a rather brilliant idea. With Mr. E gone now, we should eliminate the whole ‘you should be committed for a whole season’ approach, which he introduced. Remember that Rio Haryanto lost his Manor drive because his promised sponsorship money fell through. If it wasn’t for the money problem he would have had a full season. So let drivers and/or teams be allowed to compete in only selected events. It brings in new people, new ideas. And for a cheaper rate too. Give them the Schumacher way. All of their sponsorship money for a full race weekend or two, trying to show the world (and other teams) what they’re capable of. Something that is hardly possible to do if you only have free practices at your disposal.
This would work even more if customer teams would be allowed. If it worked in the ‘before Bernie’ era it can work in the ‘after Bernie’ era. Allow them to compete with either one or two cars. Not only would we, the fans, get more cars on track, but it would also give teams an extra input of cash. Why shouldn’t there be 15 teams instead of 11? And when you say that’s because there would be too much traffic, I’d say that’s BS. I’m an endurance racing fan, all I can say is traffic makes the racing even better!
However all these solutions still contradict with how F1 is ruled today. Manor is just the latest example of how the sport is killing itself. The money distribution is just wrong! Not only is the amount of money teams get because this or that rule ridiculous, but also the way they get it. What’s wrong with giving them the full amount they’ve earned in price money? Giving it in small payments throughout the next season is just ludicrous! A hostage situation. Who is Bernie to decide that the teams would spend it all and go bust before the new season would begin? What’s the difference now then? And if these issues won’t change under the new powers of F1, things will only go down hill.
Thank you for reading and don’t hesitate to comment!