It appears that F1 is heading to a crossroads, one which threatens the stability of the sport. F1 is not immune to the trends of the modern world, appearing to begin acutely suffering the effects of a financial system in tatters.
Recently Martin Whitmarsh has expressed concern that teams are in “survival mode” whilst Cyril Abiteboul, Team Principal at Caterham, told how the teams are all “suffering”. With untold numbers of job losses announced in another wave of administration for UK companies, only a fool would think the F1 teams are immune to such economic hardships.
However F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone has denied any and every notion that the teams are in trouble. Whilst a quick glance at the new Concorde Agreement, giving the teams 63% of F1’s profits, may appear to show the teams are bound to profit we know this is not the case.
There are a number of factors in the increasing financial strains placed upon the teams, but none so dangerous as egotism. Mr Ecclestone’s failure to find a 20th Grand Prix shows how he will only play ball when it suits him. Whilst Turkey were publicly open to a return of the race, a failure to find common ground on the issue of race fee sunk any notion of deal without a trace. It is in the teams’ interests to have a 20th race as they get a cut of the race fee and added visibility time for their sponsors, yet they are now stuck with 19 as a result of Ecclestone’s agenda.
F1 is precariously placed; with falling global tv audiences (reported to be down 15m to 500m in 2012), lack of sponsors, the cost of the new engines for 2014 and their own failure to reach an agreement for cost-cutting measures, the teams need all the income they can get. However it is wholly unsustainable situation if they are subject to the rule of Bernie, who will act in the interests of CVC, F1’s owners.
Of course the teams themselves are partly to blame. If they managed to find consensus for cost-cutting measures they would save themselves a small fortune. However trust is an uncommon concept in the cut-throat world of F1 which Ecclestone should recognise. Rather that just furthering the interests and profits of a venture capital firm with no real love of motor racing, action must be taken for the good of the sport before it is too late.