Formula 1 is ill. For years. However, the condition was stable for years – only since the coronavirus got over it has it become seemingly critical. Only major surgery can make the patient healthy again, that much is clear.
I admit it without any problems: I am not a doctor, virologist or other type of medical expert. But when it comes to Formula 1, I dare to look at the diagnosis purely on the basis of years of Scrubs and House: the patient is ill. Spontaneous recovery seems to be out of the question. Of course you can hope for it, but drastic intervention seems the only remedy.
The clinical picture is diverse. Ranging from symptoms of affluent diseases (budgets and staff numbers rose rampant again after the last economic crisis to historical heights, without contributing to the sporting tension) to psychological problems (the eternal identity crisis: is Formula 1 sport or entertainment?) And all kinds of aches.
Sticking some patches and putting on emergency bandages has helped prevent hairline cracks from breaking in recent years, but the coronavirus has once again exposed the subcutaneous issues. The same discussions that were held before the crisis are now emphatically: how high will the budget cap, we stopped technical development, how many races is enough?
I will not go into this last point and other calendar issues – that is a discussion in itself. But as far as the health of Formula 1 is concerned, it says it all that there were doubts at Renault even before the crisis, persistent rumors about an exit from Mercedes, and gave Honda a far-from-full commitment by only contracting for one year. renew?
Also read: Weblog: Formula 1 must remain in (virtual) corona waiting room for a while
Crisis as an excuse
The corona crisis and the hard blows to the car market do not make that situation any better. Factories are shut down, cars remain in showrooms. And the last quarters have not been a fat spot for the automakers involved in Formula 1, who nevertheless put millions to billions in electrification, and have to tighten the belt even more now and later.
(text continues under the photo)
The fact that the engine manufacturers have reportedly agreed to freeze engine development behind the scenes says enough about how the automakers are doing. And rightly so, because for drivers who were already looking for a reason to pull the plug from the expensive Formula 1 program, the corona crisis is almost called. That is not to say that a good crisis is not wasted.
Team by team
Shift your gaze from the engine manufacturers to the teams, and it doesn’t get much better. For Mercedes, see above. Renault: ditto. And if Honda stops, Red Bull is in trouble. Not only will the energy drink manufacturer’s teams miss out on millions, but how should it go? Helmut Marko, leader in 2018, already warned that Red Bull can stop better if Honda does not succeed.
The existence of Haas has been questioned for some time by owner Gene Haas, Williams did not call the necessity of “racing this year” “crucial” for her future for nothing. Racing Point exists by the grace of Lawrence Stroll and co., The new relationship (with the otherwise ailing) Aston Martin cannot change that.
Alpha Tauri’s future is tied to Red Bull, Alfa Romeo to Swedish investors and Polish sponsors. This leaves McLaren and Ferrari, two tradition teams in very different positions. The big Ferrari reluctantly and only “in the public interest” with a lower one budget cap agreed, the scrambling McLaren is one of the great champions.
Budget cap as a pain point
Nevertheless, it promises to further reduce the budget cap remain the biggest pain point in the coming weeks or even months. Like so much in life, health is inextricably linked to money, even in a billion dollar sport like Formula 1. The teams are the lifeblood. If too many disappear, the sport falls over. So that danger existed before the crisis and has only increased.
McLarens Zak Brown did not give a warning to the BBC: “If we don’t intervene radically, I see two and maybe even four teams fall over.” To be there Sky Sports to add: “Without ten or at least nine teams, you don’t have Formula 1. After all, you need a full grid to have a sport.” Not to mention a healthy sport.
Also read: Brown: “I see two or even four teams disappear if we don’t intervene radically”
That is why this is the time to intervene drastically. After all, gentle surgeons make stinky wounds. The little ones scream – in some cases with their last breath – for a lower one budget cap; it is up to Formula 1 owner Liberty Media, the FIA and large teams to respond. To save their weaker brothers, but also because it is their turn afterwards.
Corona as a “vaccine”?
In the end, it is just like with the coronavirus itself: the weak are the first victims, but the virus and its consequences simply spread further afterwards. If it is not by who still considers himself strong and untouchable to infect (with all the unexpected consequences), it is by imposing the burden of reconstruction on them.
In that sense, the coronavirus can – and must – ironically act as a long-awaited vaccine for the sick Formula 1. The theory is well known: administer a bit of a virus, and the body makes the antibodies. In crisis times, Formula 1 finally learns to think seriously and loudly about how to do less. Therefore, don’t let it just be thinking and talking.
Also read: Andreas Seidl: “Corona crisis is the last wake-up call for unhealthy sports”