Answer me this: Which manufacturers will quit?

Williams Cosworth, Interlagos, 2006The disappearance of Cosworth from the 2007 entry list points to a very big change that has taken place in Formula One: all the teams are now run by a major car manufacturer, or dependant upon them for an engine supply.

In some respects this is great: it proves that Formula One is the pinnacle of motor racing and is the best showcase for modern car technology.

But it also makes the sport very vulnerable.

Only last week we saw a major dip in the shares market – a similar drop over a prolonged period could force some of the teams out.

Toyota could soon become the world’s biggest car maker – but how long can they justify spending over USD $400m per year on F1 for little return?

Fernando Alonso, Ralf Schumacher, Suzuka, 2006At the other end of the success vs. outlay scale is Renault – with the sixth-largest budget of the 11-team grid they have nonetheless won back-to-back double championships.

But will there come a point when the management decides it has conquered F1 and it’s time to move on?

Every other manufacturer team is beholden to the same commercial responsibilities. Only one of them can be champion. So how long can the rest keep making excuses to their board of directors about why the trophy case is bare?

Which manufacturer will go first? Or will they remain indefinitely? Have your say in the comments below.

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3 comments on Answer me this: Which manufacturers will quit?

  1. Number 38 (@) said on 5th March 2007, 23:00

    Hi Keith,
    I’m new to your site and find it refreshing that most commenters are reasonably civil. Concerning this query about “Which manufacturers will be next to quit F1? I have to take issue with this line from the first paragraph:
    “all the teams are now run by a major car manufacturer, or dependant upon them for an engine supply.
    In some respects this is great: it proves that Formula One is the pinnacle of motor racing and is the best showcase for modern car technology.”
    Pinnacle of Motorsport? Madman Mosley has made a schambles of F1, Bernie is blackmailing the older F1 circuits and the word SPORT just doesn’t exist any longer. The ‘sport’ is now big business and drivers are reduced to mere employees. The fact that major manufacturers are introducing ‘showcase technology’ ….. maybe you’re not old enough to remember how many privateers introduced real technology, the monocoque body, the six wheeler, ground effects, and even the WING all came from private teams, not from major manufacturers.
    What we really need is MORE privateers and less manufacturers, a pipe dream I admit, there’s no turning back now just too much money involved! But Pinnacle of Motorsport……you’d better re-consider the definition.
    In the news this week South Africa wants to build a 75,000 seat $140 million circuit; on the other side of the earth NASCAR (ouch, that hurts my fingers to type) NASCAR wants to build a 200,000 seat $368 million complex in Washington state. I know, I know, the stinking money got involved but NASCAR is SPORT they’ve had driver/crew radios for the fans for years and years and Bernie is just now catching up. NASCAR drivers have autograph sessions before each race, our F1 boys are shielded from the public and wisked away in helicopters as soon as possible. Really “Pinnacle” is a motto
    not supported by fact. Well there’s a little something to arouse some chat! Number 38 Halifax, VA

  2. Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 6th March 2007, 8:50

    I definitely like the idea of whether F1 is the pinnacle of motor sport being a talking point!

    But whether you agree it’s the pinnacle or not, F1 today is vulnerable to the whims of major car manufacturers in a way it never has been before – and that’s very worrying.

    As an aside, I’m not old enough to remember six-wheelers and the like – but I do know a little of the history of exotic innovation in F1, and it’s fascinating…

    http://www.f1fanatic.co.uk/2007/03/01/banned-six-wheelers/

    http://www.f1fanatic.co.uk/2007/02/22/banned-brabham-alfa-romeo-bt46b-fan-car/

    http://www.f1fanatic.co.uk/2007/02/01/banned-lotus-cosworth-88-88b/

  3. I started writing this response to a comment and almost forgot to answer the question.

    “Pet” teams like Toro Rosso and Super Aguri are most likely to drop out, for the obvious reason. I would like to hope other manufacturers that have stayed out of F1 would enter in so we can see how their motors would measure up in such an environment (Hyundai, Subaru or Suzuki, Nissan, some General Motors branding… I’m sure you can think of some exotic others…) I doubt the companies I named would want the expense right now, or they’d already be in, however.

    I think I agree about the danger of having major auto companies be the sole controllers of major motorsport, and while I think F1 is still above NASCAR (do not think for an instant that any series that spends more time in the USA than elsewhere is a world championship) I wonder if it is merely ‘a’ pinnacle and not ‘the’ pinnacle; take FIA Rally, or Le Mans branded endurance racing, for starters.

    The real question is, what is this a championship -of-? What I like about F1, and what offends me in IRL and ChampCar, is that in Formula 1 there are motors made by more than one source. IRL and ChampCar clearly don’t test which is the best engine or the best chassis, because they’re all identical. Formula 1 is not simply a driver’s championship, however.

    Motorsport used to be about innovation, and even in innovation’s absence we can still use it to prove one manufacturer’s car’s mettle above another, so the real question here is, what do we want our racing series to test? How well a driver can drive? How long a motor will last? How long a suspension will hold up? How fast a team can change a tyre?

    The “questions answered” by an F1 season are what make it worth watching, so we’ll have to see how those questions change over the coming years.

    Best wishes

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