Ok, so former Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone and I have a very similar idea. It is a shame that he was able to get it out before I did but none the less, I want to elaborate and expand upon this idea that I have.
I’ve thought about what would happen if Formula One created two separate championships for their teams to compete in. One for manufactures, like Ferrari and Mercedes, and one for privateer teams like HAAS and Williams.
Manufactures would be defined as teams that create and build their engines, chassis, and collection of assorted parts. This classification wouldn’t be limited. It could range anywhere from brakes to front and back wings. These teams would have an incredibly large budget cap to create the best cars that not only they can own, but their customers could own as well.
I mirror this to the GT system we see in place today for endurance racing. For instance, if I wanted to race a Porsche, I can buy the car and necessary parts from the manufacturer and be ready to go racing the very next weekend. In return, the manufacture gets another car on the race track to continue the rigorous Research and Development program that car manufacturers go through to find success on and off the track. Not to mention, the money manufacturers would receive from their customers would help go toward upgrades or build more chassis.
To compete in the privateer championship, these teams would have a low capped budget. (HAAS is documented to have a $120 million budget currently) With this budget, these teams would buy engines, chassis, and parts from a single manufacturer of their choice. This restriction would mean that there would be no need to develop, build, and produce a car from scratch.
I ask, how many new privateer teams have we seen continuously fail in Formula One in recent memory? Teams such as Virgin, Marussia, Manor, HRT, Caterham, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see the newly minted Racing Point be added to this list at some point.
Why do we see these teams continue to fail?
The cost of developing a race team and the cars from scratch to become the backmarker of a Formula One field is absurdly expensive. Couple that with not earning any constructors money within your first year(s) of Formula One and you are looking at a steep mountain to climb when searching for any compensation.
That doesn’t sound very appealing if you are a potential owner.
HASS has proven that a privateer system like this could work, albeit, it wasn’t without controversy. By having a strong technical alliance with Ferrari, HAAS bought and competed with numerous Ferrari built parts. With these parts, they were able to score points in their team debut. HAAS became the first team to secure points in their debut since Panasonic Toyota Racing did it back in 2002. Their 6th place finish awarded HAAS eight points. That is more points in one race than Virgin, Marussia, Manor, HRT, and even Caterham scored in their entire stints combined in Formula One.
See why it was controversial to other teams that HAAS bought their parts instead of following the traditional route of developing, building, and producing their own? I thought it was a fantastic idea.
I do believe that this path is the one that Liberty Media, the FIA, and Formula One as a governing body need to pursue to build and sustain healthy growth. These organizations continually express their desire to expand the field of cars on the F1 grid. They also continually sabotage themselves by not giving these privateer teams a chance to thrive so they can survive.
How would Formula One look like if we converted to this system?
Honestly, it would appear unaltered. The points system would stay the same. The drivers’ championship would still be a collection of points gained throughout the season, and there would still be an overall driver champion. The only difference would be an extra constructors championship designed to spread the wealth of constructor money and create something that drivers of these teams can compete for during the season.
The top teams like Ferrari and Mercedes would still be at the front of the field. What would change is the fight for the best of the rest (7th place) might be more of a battle for the podium and more importantly, a possible championship for themselves. Privateer teams would still need to maximize their performances to beat any of the top teams. But if one of those top teams should have a terrible day, who’s to say that a privateer team shouldn’t be in the contention for a win. Possibly collect 25 points toward their championship?
The midfield battle has been the best part of the Grand Prix weekends so far in 2019. I wish that those exciting battles would go towards something more significant than a “feel good” 7th place finish.
photo credit: Getty Images