F1 House Of Cards Starts to Collapse, Caterham and Marussia Out For Now
Marussia and Caterham are two Formula 1 teams who have spent the last few years circling around at the back of the grid. Like fellow back markers HRT (who died a painful death last season), these two teams have been always a couple of seconds off the pace and more than a few dollars behind. The Russian owner of the Marussia team has made it pretty clear that the team was for sale, and was apparently only getting support until the first ever Russian F1 race. That has come and gone, and was pretty much a sad event with the tragic accident the week before that has left Marussia driver Jules Bianchi fighting for his life in hospital.
Caterham had it even worse. Team owner Tony Fernandes, owner of Air Asia among other things, seemed to lose interest in F1 after a couple of seasons of paying heavily to run two green moving chicanes at events all over the world. With a lack of solid outside sponsorships to pay the bills, he spent much of the start of the 2014 season actively looking for buyers for the team. It apparently happened in June, and new management came in. Now we find out that the deal never was properly consummated, the buyer doesn’t have control of the team, and neither does Fernandes – instead, it’s been taken over by creditors after the team was forced into administration.
The result of these two situations has been made very clear in the last few days when it was announced that neither of these teams would be making it to the US Grand Prix this week, nor the Brazilian round to follow. The chances seem quite dim that they will make it to the season ending event in Abu Dhabi. So the grid for the moment is reduced to 18 cars.
Now, it’s quite likely that someone will show up and purchase one team or the other. Marussia on paper looks like the better buy at this point, in part because the team does have a couple of championship points and potentially will be on the F1 gravy train next season, at least a bit. That fact reveals the other big problem of F1, which is the distribution of monies from F1 to the teams. Seems that F1 gives the vast majority of the money to the top few teams, and only back to the 10th team… everyone else gets “thanks for showing up, have a nice day” and nothing else. It’s a formula that appears to assure that the back marker teams will fail over time and go away.
It may seem odd to do this, but F1 honcho Bernie Ecclestone has made it clear repeatedly that he would rather have 8 stronger teams running 3 cars each instead of 12 teams of 2. In a pure business sense, it might work, but from a fan’s perspective, it’s all a bit silly. The financing of the teams (and the sheer amount of cash taken in by F1 itself each year) make having teams all the more unreasonable. It’s like a situation that is doomed to fail.
I have asked before, can F1 be saved from Bernie Ecclestone? It appears that any saving may come way too late for Marussia and Caterham teams.