McLaren’s CEO says F1 ‘is in a very fragile state’

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In a very candid interview at the BBC, McLaren boss Zak Brown says that F1 “is in a very fragile state” due to the COVID-19 crisis. With the first eight of the races of the 2020 season canceled or postponed and the loss of revenue this presents, as well as the possibility of more cancellations, F1 is working feverishly on plans B, C and D as they try to determine if a season can be salvaged in 2020.

“This is potentially devastating to teams, and if [it is devastating] to enough teams – which doesn’t have to mean more than two – then very threatening to F1 as a whole,” he said.

“Could I see – through what is going on right now in the world if we don’t tackle this situation head on very aggressively – two teams disappearing? Yeah,” said Brown, the chief executive officer of McLaren Racing.

“In fact, I could see four teams disappearing if this isn’t handled the right way.

“And then, given how long it takes to ramp up an F1 team, and given the economic and health crisis we are in right now, to think there would be people lined up to take over those teams like there has historically been… I don’t think the timing could be worse from that standpoint.

“So I think F1 is in a very fragile state at the moment.”

Brown suggests that a further reduction of the budget cap that is slated to enter the sport in 2021 is a realistic way to try and safeguard the teams. The 2021 team budget is to be capped at $150m (£122m) but Brown says he’d like to see a lower figure.

“You have everyone at $150m, and the strong majority – including one of the big teams – willing to come substantially under $150m,” he said.

Brown would like to see this budget reduced to $100m and believes this will assist teams in their efforts to remain solvent and also make the racing more competitive. According to Brown, there is one of the big three teams willing to meet this challenge and BBC says the opposing teams are Ferrari and Red Bull with Mercedes being amenable to reducing their budget.

“If we don’t make an aggressive enough budget cap and some people feel they have to top up this year and have no chance of getting it back,” he said, “then they ask themselves: Why are they in it?

“I don’t think anyone competes in F1 just to make up the numbers.”

As Andrew Benson points out tin the article, there are argument in opposition and I’ll let you go over to BBC to check that out. It’s a good read and there are some interesting comments from Red Bull’s Christian Horner that we mentioned last week.

There is no doubt that all the teams are in a very difficult position and not just Williams. Mercedes were looking for ways to reduce their investment even before this virus pandemic and 2008 showed us that three manufacturers could leave the sport very easily if their board members feel their involvement during a crisis makes little sense fiscally or from a brand positioning standpoint.

As the cancellations drag on, the future of the sport is in serious trouble. In my humble opinion, the sport could look at capping the next two seasons at $100m and changing the technical regulations for immediate effect in 2021 to use listed parts as well as ditching the fiscally bloated hybrid engine in favor of a very inexpensive V8 the teams already have on their shelves from 2013.

The balance of the 2020 season and the 2021 season isn’t going to be about road relevancy and innovation, it will be about survival (recall the article from Christian that we cited last week about F1’s massive loans it is trying to service) and in order to do that, the sport could take a step back to a more affordable technical regulation to assist in meeting that $100m budget cap. I suspect the racing would be better too.

Hat Tip: BBC

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