Formula One’s smaller teams have expressed their fears over the motor racing series developing into a constructor and customer championship, with the demise of the Marussia outfit bringing the future of F1 to the fore during the Brazilian Grand Prix weekend.
Marussia were on Friday forced out of business, despite hopes earlier in the week that the team would return to the grid next season. Administrators FRP Advisory LLP confirmed the move after failing to secure a new owner for the team, which entered administration on October 27. Marussia has immediately cease trading leading to the loss of more than 200 jobs at the UK-based team’s Banbury headquarters.
Fellow tail-ender Caterham remains in administration and has launched a crowdfunding project in a bid to raise the funds necessary to return to the grid for the season-ending Abu Dhabi GP on November 23. F1’s future path was high on the agenda over the weekend in Sao Paulo, with claims and counter-claims emerging over the path forward.
The Force India, Lotus and Sauber teams have called for a fairer distribution of revenue in the sport, guaranteeing them a 'base payment' that would help them to continue competing. However, they have expressed reservations over a possible future that would see the grid split between the powerful constructor entries and a ‘customer’ system whereby teams such as themselves would cease their constructor status and act as mere operators of cars provided by their bigger rivals.
“Looking at the proposals which have been made, we have to believe there is some agenda here,” Sauber team principal Monisha Kaltenborn said after Sunday’s race, according to the Reuters news agency. “When ideas are offered to us of a year-old chassis or engines which maybe are a different specification or whatever, a different series, there must be an agenda. Those ideas are ideas. But that tells you where it is going…the more these ideas are coming up, the more we three get the feeling that maybe some people don’t want us to be around and maybe the sport is supposed to be changed in a very different way.”
Force India team principal Vijay Mallya on Saturday said that Formula One chief executive Bernie Ecclestone had agreed to meet with the sport’s controlling shareholder, CVC Capital Partners, to discuss the ongoing situation. “He (Ecclestone) recognises that the three smallest teams need to get more money in one form or another,” Mallya said, according to the Autosport website. “We presented our case, he said he'd talk to Donald (Mackenzie, CVC co-founder) and get back to us. I've heard this before, but the only option is to just wait and watch.”
However, Ecclestone on Sunday denied that he was going to broach the matter of greater compensation for smaller teams, adding that his meeting with CVC co-chairman Mackenzie concerns a different subject.
Ecclestone said: “I tell you the way forward: it is very easy. Don't spend as much. We are giving these teams collectively $900m (€720m) and that's enough. To survive in the way they have been surviving, start running the business like a business rather than a hobby. I am speaking to Donald about something completely different. It is not their (the small teams') position to decide.”
The F1 supremo has denied that the controversial subject of the bigger teams covering any further losses from the grid by entering third cars is currently on the agenda. However, he remains open to the prospect of a constructors’ and customers’ championship.
“There may be an idea we could run a constructors' championship alongside a team championship,” he said. “In the team championship they run the same cars and same engines, which is really going back to the old days when we had a DFV engine and a Hewland gearbox and we just made the chassis.”
Despite the speculation, the smaller teams have signalled their intent to fight to retain their constructor status. Force India deputy principal Bob Fernley added, according to Reuters: “The last few weeks have exposed what the gameplan is. We just want to make sure that we stay a constructor and we will work hard to do that and stay competitive.”