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The Young Ones

FEATURE BY MIKE LAWRENCE
03/12/2013

There is a new term in Formula One: The Young Teams, What a picture that conjures of feisty kids out to show the world: 'We're gonna put on a show right here!'

'Young teams' means poor teams, though poverty is relative, It costs more than a million pounds to prepare one Marussia or a Caterham for a single race in the certain knowledge that it will be on one of the back two rows of the grid and not only is it not going to win a point, but it is not going to receive any TV coverage either.

When football is screened, both sides receive equal coverage, it cannot be any other way. The names on their shirts have equal air time. Furthermore, the average wage in the top clubs in several countries is likely to be higher than the average in Formula One, and club owners mostly make a profit.

We know that a few star drivers earn big money, but some on the grid have to bring sponsorship to a team and are paid from the money they bring. In other words, they pay themselves.

Recently, it was announced that Sauber had settled its electricity bill, a fairly fundamental thing for a factory to do. That should have sounded alarm bells, but it did not because we have become used to such crises.

If a friend of yours could not pay their energy bill, or their mortgage, you would feel concern, maybe try to help out. Formula One has made us hard and cynical. CVC Capital Partnership makes squillions from a sport into which they have not invested a penny.

The simple, if unpalatable, fact is that Formula One employs too many people and pays them too much. A team is a business and every business needs to make a profit. Pastor Maldonado has just been signed by Lotus and it is no secret that Lotus wanted Nico Hulkenberg. Maldonado is no chump, he has won a Grand Prix, but all other things being equal, would you select Maldonado over Hulkenberg?

All other things are not equal, Maldonado had a reputed forty million dollars in Venezuelan oil money to bring to the table.

It is hard to blame Lotus, they are caught in a trap. When Bernie owned Brabham, he frequently paid a star driver, and accepted a pay driver. He made no secret of his reasoning which was that the money the pay driver brought was of more value to the team than the driver's ability as a Number Two.

I bet that you cannot quote the achievements of Richard Robarts, but he was once a Brabham works driver (in 1973) who drove in the same races as Jackie Stewart and Niki Lauda.

Bernie has transformed the sport and made multi-millionaires along the way. I know a guy who was a designer for Frank Williams in the early 1970s and he arrived at work one day to discover that his drawing board had been repossessed by bailiffs.

Bernie's instance that everything has to be bigger and brighter means that when a team races, it has to lay on the corporate hospitality glitz. Circuits can recoup money by hiring out their suites, which are now mandatory. Look at the redevelopment of Silverstone, millions were spent on new hospitality suites most of which are used just three days a year.

On average, hiring suites costs 187,000 pounds per team per race. The Young Teams cannot be seen to be lagging in this department, they have to put on a confident air. It is no longer a case of the sandwiches arriving. I have been with a Formula One team at a Grand Prix (in 1982) when this happened, and the sandwiches were for the sponsors as well as the mechanics.

We have mandatory pitstops, to make the action more appealing to the viewer. This not only involves every team in flying otherwise superfluous mechanics to every race, but training them, back at base. Ever seen a Marussia pitstop on TV? I bet they are as good as anyone, but we are unlikely to know.

The FIA constantly ignores a rule of motor racing: expenditure shall rise to meet the available money, When restrictions were placed on track and wind tunnel testing, BMW installed Albert 2 which, at the time, was the most powerful (and expensive) supercomputer in industrial use in Europe.

McLaren's simulator is so sophisticated (and expensive) that the team has decided to replace Sergio Perez with Kevin Magnusson on the strength of their relative performances in the simulator.

I know from my mail box that I am not the only long-time enthusiast who has been losing interest. It has nothing to do with Vettel's superiority, it has everything to do with the FIA's meddling. Take tyres, the difference in compounds and strategies might interest me, were I a teenager or a geek.

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READERS COMMENTS

 

1. Posted by inoffapost, 07/12/2013 19:36

"Agreed Mike. I cancelled my subscriptions on F1 this year. It is just awful. Vettels dominance just highlighted the rot in the sport. That the others must spend even more now to offer any competition to Red Bull is evidence (if any was needed) that the sport has disappeared up its own exhaust pipe.
Qualifying is a waste of time utterly. This season I actually did something else with the race in the background. Even when Vettel wasn't winning early on I just couldn't follow it any more. Drivers parading at 7/10,s of the cars ability is a friggin' insult.
Bernie has killed F1. He is the Robert Mugabe of sport. Todt was always gong to be an awful president. A dead hand on the tiller. Let's not forget this is a man who believes in manipulating the sport for his own ends. The FIA is morally corrupt and Ecclestone is corrupt full stop.
The new engine formula is a waste of money. Only Renault wanted it and somehow they got their way. The cars are a joke now and the tyre manipulation this year which reduced half the field to also-rans in the second half of the year was the biggest joke of all.
I never thought I would say it, let alone write it, but I think I am done with it. I can't understand why Marussia, Caterham even bother. They try to play the game but the deck is forever stacked against them. Invited in by the FIA under other rules and then betrayed.
The racing could still be great. The quality in the driver ranks is higher than ever, but the over-reliance on aerodynamics and their relation to tyre performance kills the sport. I can't see things changing in the short term. Even Bernie going won't change the self interest and arrogance the sport displays. Shame.
"

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2. Posted by Marchan, 06/12/2013 2:49

"Obviously, from the comments already posted, there are many F1 followers, (I am not sure whether they are fans anymore), that have similar sentiments to myself. F1 has become a self serving corporate conglomerate designed to favour the few. Or maybe the ONE. How right is GoodPublicity, these are no longer racing cars driven, by people who new how to drive a car and make their own decisions on the track. Unlike todays pilots driving radio controlled aircraft with wheels. Please, get back to basics, proper engines, proper gearboxes, no computerised engine mapping/fuel analysis et al, no funny wings, no funny electronic boosters. I would not be surprised that many of the drivers know how to handle a real clutch and gearbox. ban the monster computers controlling the race from the other side of the world, ban the wind tunnels and get back to good old fashioned on track testing and give drivers to hone there skills before they race."

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3. Posted by GoodPublicity, 05/12/2013 6:32

"For the past 35 years, the British Caligula and a succession of his French-stabled stallions have steadily reduced motorsport's once-glorious showpiece to a bizarre circus.

F1's only remaining claim to sporting credibility is that it attracts the world's best - and richest - drivers.

The sad part is that only a significant loss of public interest, reflected in TV viewers or political influence, will change the situation.

Then the clock could be turned back to 1967, the last season when wingless Formula 1 cars with a variety of engine configurations were driven - not piloted - by master wheelmen throughout entire grands prix on a single set of treaded tyres, with no more assistance from their teams than a blackboard!"

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4. Posted by Paul C, 04/12/2013 5:05

"I agree a bit with Mike, too. I rarely watch the 2nd Friday practice and only watch the qually follies when insomnia strikes. Actually except for the Marussia and HRT cars which lack KERS, the F1 2012 PS3 game is sometimes better entertainment than the actual races. I understand the race strategy better now that I understand the conditions the teams work with. But I'm bored with the actual race because I've probably driven the courses more in Time Trial mode.
Hey Bernie, I do not care about Planet Paddock and the pretty people you bring in amble aimlessly on the grid. Just make the racing better not the bling. I'm also not excited with built to fail Pirellis and Formula Scaletrix. The only good aspect of Formula E I see is that whiny cities that would not even allow a vintage car race would welcome a Formula E race. I'll suffer with Monaco, but run F3 cars there to make it a better race. If Monaco is packaged with Spa, Monza and Silverstone I'll suffer with a race that most resembles a vintage GP race. F1 needs less hospitality and more testing. Pirelli needs two CURRENT cars to test tires with, not two year old beaters waiting to become HGP eligible. "

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5. Posted by Burton, 03/12/2013 19:40

"Good to know I'm not the only one who doesn't bother with quali anymore. Hell, I don't even bother watching the races live. Just use the dvr and most of the times find myself fast forwarding large spells of the race."

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6. Posted by Socabill, 03/12/2013 16:06

"Mike, 95% agreement! It is time to take a trip back to the time when teams sink or swim within a set of rules that not only encouraged high-performance cars, competition between tire manufacturers, budding teams (remember Ford-Cosworth engines?), paid no attention to silly "green" movement rules and allowed for Mark Webber sized athletes not to be liabilities.

I live in California, have been a fan for about 23 years, and am sick of the delcline of this wonderful sport. Bernie is driving it into the ground and has done so progressively since I've been watching. Retire or retire!"

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