Good, but not good enough: teams ask strategy group for more
Formula One’s smallest teams have reiterated their calls for greater action on cost control despite general acceptance of the F1 strategy group’s latest edict.
The strategy group put out a press statement on Thursday regarding its decisions for the direction of the sport over the next two years, following the results of its widely panned “crunch” meeting earlier in the year.
In contrast, however, the strategy group’s latest efforts have earnt cautious approval, with highlights including a further reduction in driver aids, provisions for a cost cap on engine supply, and an inquest into a potential overhaul of the race weekend format.
Lotus, Sauber, Manor, and Force India — the latter holding a seat on the strategy group — praised the positive steps, but decried the unsurprising lack of action taken to tackle the sport’s spiralling costs.
“If it make the sport more attractive, the racing more competitive, then I’m all for it,” started Vijay Mallya, Force India team principal.
“I’ve always, of course, held the opinion that there are several more fundamental issues that the strategy group should be focusing on.
“The most important thing that we have been focusing on, as Force India, is to ensure the sustainability of all teams in Formula One.
“If that is addressed as it should be addressed, even the small independent teams can be very competitive.”
Cost control has become an increasingly hot topic in light of the collapse of three teams in the last two years, notwithstanding Marussia’s rebirth as Manor this season.
A number of teams currently sit on the financial brink, with at least one team pushed to the wall last week before its latest instalment of commercial rights revenue eased its financial situation.
At the root of the problem is that the bigger teams are able to spend their way to success, while the small teams have significantly narrower scope to build and develop better cars with less cash.
“If Williams beat Ferrari, I think racing will be very exciting. If Sauber can beat a Williams, it will be even more exciting, and if Force India can beat a Mercedes, that will be the cherry on the cake!” continued Mallya
“What I’m trying to say is that if all teams are strong enough to be sustainable, they can focus on producing a competitive car rather than worrying about how to survive that will be the best thing going forward.”
Lotus CEO Matthew Carter agreed, having seen his team slide from race-winning contention in 2013 into the depths of the back of the midfield last year.
“One of things that frustrates certainly us at Lotus is that it would appear that in order to win or even get near the podium in a Formula One race, it’s pretty much related to how much money you spend,” he said.
“If that can be addressed in one way, shape or form and if the technical rules and regulations can be loosened to allow for some smaller teams to come up with some innovative ideas, I think that goes back to the ethos of what Formula One is all about.
“If a small team can come up with something that isn’t immediately overruled or isn’t immediately copied by the bigger teams, hopefully it will open up and it will mean that you don’t just have to spend the most money to get the top of the grid.”
Sauber team principal Monisha Kaltenborn, who presided over the team during its financially precarious state when faced with legal action moved by Giedo van der Garde at the start of the season, though along similar lines.
“I absolutely agree with that,” she said, concurring with Mallya.
“I don’t think we can really put one measure out there and say this is the one because that would be a miracle — and in Formula One miracles don’t happen.
“I think what we have to target is what we want to achieve at the end of the day, and that is to have an exciting, thrilling competition, and so many topics are linked to that.”
“It is making teams sustainable, having independent teams, making the competition, from a technical perspective, exciting but not over-complicated, and we have to reach out to the people again and have that connectivity that we don’t have.
“It’s just a very big picture and we have to see what measures really make us get there.”
John Booth, Manor team principal, pointed towards the inequitable distribution of prize money as the primary problem facing Formula One.
“I totally agree with Vijay’s view,” he said. “A fairer distribution of the income would help close up the grid and make the racing a little more exciting.”
“The model’s out there in other sports throughout the world and it would be very easy to adopt for our sport.”
Many of the strategy group’s latest decisions are undoubtedly steps in the right direction in the sport’s search reinvigoration — but as Formula One’s struggling teams, which comprise almost half the grid, are continually forced to point out, the big decisions to make meaningful change remain in the too hard basket for F1’s strategic body.