Tag Archives: Charles Leclerc

Formula One: Three Car Teams and Budget Caps

Screen Shot 2018-09-07 at 15.15.14.png

Formula One 2018 is delivering everything and anything a fan of the sport could imagine. From the #FightForFive, to a Hollywood worthy #SillySeason, to midseason team takeovers, new logos, fonts, and of course the epic theme music from Brian Tyler. Yet bubbling just below the surface political games, regulation frustration, and the adage of money talks, continue to put into question how the sport will evolve in the near future.

Two such pressing topics to explore are the number of seats on the grid heading into 2019, and the evaluation of budget caps with the objective of equalising performance. On the face of it there is no simple solution to either issue. On the topic of budget caps, figures in the region of €200-€250M per season with a soft launch in 2019 followed by a regulated implementation from 2020 onwards have been touted by Ross Brawn and fellow F1 management.  Top flight teams have baulked at the prospect of cutting annual expenditure in half and categorically stated that without significant job cuts the target is not achievable. More efficient teams see the cut as insufficient as the spending to the budget cap would still represent more than double their existing spending capability.

That being said, there is a general acceptance Budget Caps are coming and that they will be good for motorsport in general. Top teams are taking steps to prepare for this more regulated future, as referenced on this site a number of months ago. Taking this preparation one step further, could a budget cap combined with a third car allowance be a solution?

Major costs associated with operating a manufacturer supported Formula One team take the form of fixed costs, these include factors such as facilities & employees. The manufacturing of additional race cars would not have a significant impact on the team’s operating budget. In fact, in many cases, top teams will have 3-4 fully operational race prepared cars before the start of a new F1 season. If top teams committed to operating a third car with no increase in the overall operating budget of the team in essence redirecting development budget to operating a third car, therefore reducing the performance gap to the midfield, F1 could solve the pressing issue of a too many high quality drivers and not enough seats and address the B Class championship regularly referenced when drivers in midfield teams discuss the sport.

In order to reduce the prospect of a single team dominating podium proceedings, restrictions, such as the number of races completed, or championship points scored, could be put in place regarding the experience of a team’s third driver. In addition, a team’s third car could be operated from a separate garage space with an alternative livery to ensure a vibrant look to the grid.

Formula One could mandate the that the top 4 teams in the WCC could be eligible to run a third car with the option to sell this provision should they deem the opportunity not relevant to their operating model. i.e. Should Haas or Racing Point finish 4th in the WCC they could sell their 3rd car allocation to McLaren. Or should Red Bull Racing see their existing model with Toro Rosso to better suit the way in which they go racing they could sell the space to another team.

If Formula One were to explore this route, Ferrari could continue to maintain it’s line up of Kimi Räikkonen & Sebastian Vettel, with Charles Leclerc taking the third car. Mercedes could bring George Russell into the team, Red Bull Racing could not offer Fernando Alonso a seat again, and Renault could bring Esteban Ocon on board alongside Ricciardo and Hulkenberg.

Timed with a budget cap which should limit in-season development for teams running third drivers, the performance gap to the two car teams could be minimised bringing the entire field closer together and sustaining the credibility of young driver development programmes.

Toto Wolff has intimidated Formula One should seriously explore regulations around three car teams, with Liberty becoming the promoter of Formula 2 and the soon to be reborn Formula 3, three car teams may be required to ensure participation remains relevant to the next generation of drivers.

Advertisements

Formula One: Underestimate me at your peril – Marchionne to F1

Screen Shot 2017-12-03 at 14.00.30.png

Underestimate me at your peril. The resounding subtext pointed in no uncertain terms towards Chase Carey and Formula One from Sergio Marchionne at the launch of Alfa Romeo’s title partnership relationship with the Sauber F1 Team this weekend. 

The long rumoured return of Alfa Romeo to Formula One with the Sauber F1 Team was finally confirmed earlier this week. The announcement of the return was closely followed by an invitation to the worlds motoring media to attend a press conference in Milan. On the face of it, the objective of this event was to confirm 2018 Sauber F1 Team drivers Charles Leclerc and Marcus Ericsson with Antonio Giovinazzi taking on a 3rd driver role and to unveil the 2018 livery theme. What transpired was a master class in negotiation from Chief Executive Officer of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) Sergio Marchionne.

After a period of observing, tinkering, and to some extent grandstanding, the final races of the 2017 Formula One season have seen Liberty Media begin to share their vision for the future of Formula One. Until now, key protagonists set to be impacted by this vision have largely kept their views to themselves or at least limited opinions to isolated sound bites. Sergio Marchionne and FCA, have now firmly stuck their head above the parapet to makes themselves and their views clear for all.

Elaborate team and sponsor launches are something which for many had been consigned to the history books with the vast majority of team unveiling now taking place minutes before pre-season testing on a chilly pitlane in Barcelona. Yet this weekend saw the team finishing plum last in the championship host over 400 media representatives from all over the world at the Alfa Romeo Museum situated just outside of Milano launch a sponsorship less than one week after the end of the season. With media from the US being flown in First Class with 48 hours notice, it would be conceivable to say that the budget of this single event exceeded the marketing and activation budget of the team for the entire season. Sergio Marchionne wanted an audience for his message, and he wanted his audience to leave the event singing his tune.

In addition to the media contingent, Sergio Marchionne and FCA invited newly reappointed FIA president and former Scuderia Ferrari Team Principe Jean Todt to attend and speak at the event, alongside Formula One CEO Chase Carey, with Sauber F1 Team owner Pascal Picci. So with the stage set, Sergio Marchionne opened the event, in Italian, focusing on the great news of Alfa Romeo returning to Formula One. This was followed by Mr Todt waxing lyrical about the passion of the brand and its significance with motorsport. Chase Carey then took to the stage to applaud FCA for bringing Alfa Romeo back to Formula One, he acknowledged their history in the sport and spoke of his enthusiasm for their return. Then the big reveal, driver line up confirmation and an indicative view of the team livery.

What followed was pure mastery. Sergio Marchionne returned to the podium for a few more words. In the space of 10 minutes, he politely panned the Michael Buffer COTA show, make clear FCA & Ferrari did not want to be part of a ‘dumbing down’ of Formula One, asserted the sport should be focused on technology over entertainment, and what could be the knock out blow, “our partnership with Sauber is until 2021, if we don’t like the direction the sport is taking at that point, we will leave and we’ll take them with us”

This rhetoric was delivered not only to a room full of media, but squarely at Chase Carey seated directly below the rostrum at which Sergio Marchionne made his speech.

Following this, team owner Pascal Picci and team principle Frédéric Vasseur returned to the stage for an open Q&A session. I would not like to suggest any questions were ‘planted’ but the position of FCA strength ahead of any negotiations with Formula One over the future of the sport was highlighted at every available opportunity.

Of course, Chase Carey and Liberty Media did not get to where they are today by chance, I have no doubt they have more than a few tricks up their sleeve as they head into negotiations with Formula One teams over the future of the sport. Sergio Marchionne has simply set the tone of future discussions and made it very clear he is more than happy for any discussion to be made in full view of the media and the Formula One fan.