Why F1 needs a feeder series for teams

Posted on | Author Duncan Stephen

Lucas di Grassi, Virgin, Hungaroring, 2010

New drivers can demonstrate their potential in GP2, but Duncan Stephen wants to know where the next generation of F1 teams is going to come from.

In the coming weeks the FIA is expected to announce the identity of Formula 1’s 13th team for 2011 – if indeed there is going to be one.

This outfit should join the three new teams that joined the grid this year. But the drive to bring new teams into Formula 1 for the first time since Toyota’s entry in 2002 has revealed a problem with the motor sport hierarchy – there is no way for potential constructors to prove that they belong in F1.

There is a well-established ladder that allows drivers to showcase their talents before reaching F1. You might even say the ladder is too congested, with series such as GP2, GP3, Formula Two, World Series by Renault and multiple Formula 3 series among others. They provide a proving ground for those looking to step up to F1.

The major problem is that almost all of these are single-spec series (the exception being Formula 3, which is dominated by Dallara and a handful of other suppliers). This is a relatively cost-effective way of going racing.

It works well for drivers as reduced costs means that these series are not just open to the cash-heavy but talent-light Sakon Yamamotos of tomorrow.

But there is no real way for potential F1 constructors to demonstrate that they have what it takes to step up to F1. While the the likes of Nico Rosberg, Lewis Hamilton and Nico H???lkenberg wowed the crowds and the F1 bosses when they raced in GP2, the evidence backing potential new constructors is a great deal more opaque.

Many were left scratching their heads last year when established operations like Lola and Prodrive were rebuffed by the FIA during the selection process for this season’s new teams. Meanwhile, USF1 were granted an entry – apparently on the basis of an impressive presentation but not a lot else.

The trouble with the new teams

It’s been painful watching the new teams make their faltering first steps into F1. No new team has tried to enter F1 since Toyota eight years ago. Lotus (in their new incarnation), Virgin and Hispania have all taken on a challenge that few have even attempted.

In this context, the new teams have done a fairly impressive job. While we have become accustomed to watching increasingly professional teams and tighter grids, in the context of the bigger pictures the new teams are actually doing well.

This has not stopped the jibes from some who suggest that they do not belong in F1. We have heard David Coulthard talking about “A class” and “B class” teams. Bernie Ecclestone recently said, “there are a couple of teams who really shouldn’t be there. They are a bit out of their depth at the moment.”

The problem is not a lack of ability on the part of the new teams. It is a lack of credentials. Yet on paper, all have the hallmarks of an experienced motor racing team.

Lotus is headed up by experienced technical director Mike Gascoyne, and emerged from the (admittedly embryonic) Litespeed F3 team. Virgin is run by Manor Motorsport, a well-established team that has achieved great success in lower formulae.

HRT was originally run by Adri??n Campos, who had been successful as a team owner in GP2, and is now headed up by ex-Jordan/Midland/Spyker/Force India man Colin Kolles.

But none of these teams had demonstrated their ability as a potential top-level constructor. As motor racing teams, they looked great on paper. As constructors, they lacked the hard evidence.

In the end, we must assume that the FIA had to look at what the potential teams had to say for themselves in their presentations and were left to guess which of the entries would be suitable for F1. Perhaps that is why USF1 fell by the wayside, and Campos had to be rescued at the last minute.

New teams driven by business, not sport

It would be useful if there could be some kind of feeder series for constructors, just as there are for drivers. Gone are the days when new teams could enter F1 relatively easily. F1 had effectively become a franchise system, with ten franchises. New teams did not emerge. Instead, existing teams changed hands from one rich businessman to another.

Red Bull may have first entered F1 in 2005, but its roots can be traced back to Stewart Grand Prix in 1997, via Jaguar. A team may only have been called Force India since 2008, but it has run as Jordan, Midland and Spyker since 1991.

Mercedes may have officially entered their first Formula 1 season since 1955 this year, but the team it bought can in fact be traced back to the 1960s via Brawn, Honda, BAR and Tyrrell.

So it goes for every “new” team that has entered F1 this past decade, with the exception of Toyota. The chief reason for this is cost. For anyone looking to enter F1, it is simply easier to buy an existing team than go through the pain of building one from scratch.

As such, F1 was running the risk of becoming stale. The decision for a new team to enter motorsport’s top level was always about cold business, not sporting success. While the FIA’s attempts to bring fresh blood into the sport should be applauded, the way they have gone about it has done little to improve the situation.

No matter how well this year’s new teams have done, there will always be scepticism. The question can always be asked: why USF1, but not Lola? Why HRT, but not Prodrive? Why Virgin, but not Epsilon Euskadi?

The problem: costs of course

Some kind of system where potential constructors can flex their muscles in a lower formula would help sort out the wheat from the chaff, just as GP2 does for drivers. Of course, the costs of such a series would be astronomical. In the past, Formula 2 and F3000 provided great scope for competition between chassis manufacturers. But in these cost-conscious times, GP2 is viewed as being more viable.

Moreover, this structure could be harming upcoming drivers as much it harms potential constructors. Lucas Di Grassi has complained that GP2 provided little scope for him to develop the skills needed for him to carry out development work.

Nonetheless, the current system of feeder series is rightly regarded as doing an excellent job of developing the F1 drivers of tomorrow. Unfortunately for wannabe constructors, the motorsport hierarchy has probably never been less effective at helping new teams make the step up to F1.

F1’s new teams

Image (C) Virgin Racing

72 comments on “Why F1 needs a feeder series for teams”

  1. Maybe a feeder serie with the likes of the new indycar rules. A base wich teams can build their aero kit around?
    Could be very interessting I think!

    1. It can be an interesting route to take for wannabe constructors and it will make Dallara improve on their cars as well (having competition).
      It might help teams to get some experience of developing a car before using this experience in F1 (as new teams or partnering with GP2 teams or other racing operations).
      And companies the like of Reynard, Lola and Swift as well as a lot of sportscar builders could have a try at building up their renome in (sub)top level open wheels competition

    2. The new Indycar rules was exactly what came to my mind. Something like the new GP2 car, but with certain parts open to development. I think a budget cap would also make sense there, even if it doesn’t in F1.

  2. Has anyone seen the new Inday car format to take shape in 2012, where the teams are given a spec-chassis(from Dallara) but then are given reasonable room for a reasonable cost to develop their own aerodynamic bodywork to improve the cars performance?

    I think this would be a brilliant way for other feeder series to develop their own racing teams, with a potential to step up for F1. This way, not only are costs kept low and drivers given relatvely competitive cars to keep the racing intense, but it also allows for teams to increase their experience of actually developing their own cars like they would have to do in F1 (although on a far grander scale.) It also allows for the drivers to hone thier development skills as their teams bring new body parts to the car.

    I really feel that the Indycar format of 2012 is a great template for a feeder series for teams.

    1. But then everyone would be starting up Formula 1 teams. Still, the idea doesn’t sound too bad although the “stock” chassis would have to be updated every year to keep up with developments, and who is there to do that?

    2. UneedAFinn2Win
      12th August 2010, 12:24

      Essentially the 2012 Indycar chassis idea IS largely in practice (outside the costcap that is) in Formula 1 today because the engine is a V8, so the length of the back of the car is determined and the monocoque (or safety cell) must be built to FIA standards, so the middle of the car is unchangeable. The manufacture of these items is up to the individual teams, but you really don’t have room to change these bits.
      Other aspects of the car are also highly regulated by the rules (and the competitors), hence the current palaver on the RB6

    3. This is what effectively what currently happens in Formula 3 – most teams buy a chassis from Dallara and then develop it. The top teams like Carlin and ART (and Manor, at one point) undertake windtunnel work and make their own parts. This benefits both driver and team, who have to learn how to work together to realise the benefits of any changes. The same sort of thing happened in Formula 3000 before it became a single chassis series.

      The problem is that, by its very nature, this sort of series is much more expensive than a single chassis series where the spec of the cars is tightly controlled. GP3 and Forumla 2 are both cheaper than F3, making them more attractive to drivers without huge budgets.

      Another problem is that virtually all drivers in the lower formulas pay for their drives through sponsorship of some kind. If Manor doesn’t deliver the goods then they’ll go to Carlin, who might.

      And it isn’t unknown for teams themselves to switch chassis manufacturer mid-season if their drivers will it. Even a healthy, multi-chassis formula can collapse very quickly if one chassis manufacturer proves dominant. Dallara’s F3 near-monopoly would vanish very quickly if Lola or Mygale produced a car that was a second a lap faster.

      British F3 became Formula Dallara in the space of a few months after the Dallara F393 was launched and destroyed the opposition, despite a previously strong contest between Ralt and Reynard. A similar thing happened in Formula Renault 2.0 not long before it became a spec series.

      Experience limited to spec series is clearly a problem for aspirant F1 teams, but it’s not the only issue. Any sort of feeder series that puts an emphasis on team-led technical innovation and chassis development also has to deliver value for money for the driver and his sponsors, and also provide close racing for the public. It’s a tough balancing act.

      1. Some great points here.

        Developing a car is an expensive undertaking; the challenge of a constructor’s development series would be for teams to find the necessary funds to design and produce their own cars. If this series doesn’t receive significant enough exposure for sponsors/pay drivers to justify participating, then they will not sign up and the series fails.

    4. i think the new indycar rules are a big mistake. a few teams will invest in developing their own aero, just to find someone else’s package is superior and available at a fraction of the cost. everyone will end up with the one best oval package and the one best road course package, especially since the price is fixed. what a huge waste of time.

      1. The idea of a stock chassis that they can develop makes sense to me. The part that doesn’t is that they have to then sell their aero kit to any other team that wants it. That kind of defeats the purpose of developing in the first place.

  3. The problem is always money. Sponsors count for the vast majority of a team’s budget, but no sponsor is going to want to be associated with a team when there is a chance they won’t make it into Formula 1. And when the grid is 100% full, what happens to the feeder series? The obvious intention behind the expansion of the grid is to get to the point where there can be thirteen full-time teams. The only way a feeder series would work is if they were constantly coming and going. Sure, you could swap the bottom two Formula 1 teams with the top two feeder teams at the end of the year, but how would those new teams get experience in Formula 1 when, at best, they can hope to be racing every other year? And it’s not like you could revive pre-qualifying, because again, no sponsor would want to be involve with a team if there was a chance they would not appear in the race.

    1. “And when the grid is 100% full, what happens to the feeder series?”

      The same applies to drivers. Look at Romain Grosjean.

      1. So all the other teams just die out and go somewhere else? That sounds just wasteful. They invest all that money in a feeder team, then one of them gets promoted and everyone else just closes shop? In order to make a feeder series work, you’d need a decent-sized grid. It wouldn’t work with jsut two or three teams. But when one or two are promoted, the rest have nowhere else to go, making the entire exercise pointless.

        1. You could have teams/constructors in both F1 and one or more feeder series at a time, like Virgin/Manor are doing right now, and I believe Tyrrell, Lotus etc. used to in the past.

    2. ‘And it’s not like you could revive pre-qualifying…’ – Well, there will be, sort of, once we have the 107% rule again.
      I don’t necessarily think its a lack of suitable feeder series for the teams themselves, but the lack of a structure to the whole motorsport business, as each racing series is set up independently, and although the FIA is supposed to be in overall control, they haven’t seen it their business to help teams cross between the series, even though it does happen from time to time (and some teams compete in more than one series).
      I think it ought to be possible to organise a kind of ‘league table’ of racing series and allow the teams that can to jump between them if they are able to (depending on sponsorship etc).
      As others have said, the trouble with F1 is the lead-in time required to develop a car and become a serious contender. In a way this could be put forward as an arguement for ‘customer cars’, so that in the first year they use a predeveloped chassis (maybe from the previous F1 season?) or a ‘spec’ chassis, but after that they have to develop their own.
      That way, an existing team can move into F1, bringing its fan base, sponsors and maybe drivers too, but once it has got established, and not dropped out under the 107% rule, it will be seen as just another team.
      I do agree with Bernie etc that there are some teams that shouldn’t survive until next year, but unless he or someone else comes up with a definite system to draw a line and say ‘if you are below it you aren’t coming back’, there will be no way to replace them without a lot of bickering.
      Also, if the FIA really got tough and suspended a team for half a season or more, it would be a great way to invite new team to replace them and see how they fare (and maybe not invite the other one back?).
      On the other hand, the top 3 or 4 teams in GP2 should automatically be invited to join F1 at the end of every season, replacing the teams which have dropped out of F1, and then the top teams from GP3 can move to GP2.
      If something like this is used in every feeder series, all the way down to Formula BMW, Formula Ford and Formula V, it might encourage teams to move up.
      We need to find out how the likes of Eddie Jordan and Frank Williams were able to move from the lower series, and make it easier…

  4. Really enjoyed reading that. Awesome stuff. Thanks Duncan.

    I’m really pleased to see new teams entering the sport. There’s no doubt the 13th team next season will need more support and a better helping hand from F1 than the new teams received this season.

  5. F1 = money. And all honesty I feel it should.

    The problem exists in that as the three new teams have showcased, getting up to speed to being somewhat competitive. Sure, no one expects a team to be winning straight out of the blocks but its a detriment to potential entrants knowing they are going to be lagging by 4-7 seconds – good luck finding sponsorship.

    Lets be honest, for a team to be able to compete in F1 they will need a sizeable budget. Given most teams have already started in next years editions the new team is already going to be behind the eight ball. Yes, they can start building like everyone else but no team is going to commit the amount of cash, time and manpower required for F1 unless its an absolute certainty they will be on the grid in that big sandpit come March 2011.

    I think rules and privileges should be available for those entering the sport – 1) to encourage those new teams that it is worth entering and they stand the chance of being a going concern past 2 years, and 2) to get them up to speed. By this is mean the selection process should be dealt with much earlier and those new teams should be able to test as much as they want to up until when the new teams start 2011 testing, then they fall in line with the rules that everyone else adheres to.

    A feeder series, I’m not a fan of. I think the last thing we need is another series as I feel talent is lost through the current state of affairs in single seater racing.

    As I said yesterday the road to F1 should be a road of natural progression and natural ability.

    Be gone with the pyramid of talent. Bring back the ladder.

  6. Why not a feeder series, based on the fundamental design rules of F1, using the engines from the F1 cars, with a capped budget per team. The constructers champion of the feeder series takes the place of the last placed team in the F1’s previous years constructers championship.

    1. I wondered about this as well. If the feeder series used a spec car, but built to F1 regulations (like HRT’s Dallara this year), you could even allow the newly promoted team to continue using the spec car for their first season in the top flight. The problem is that they would most likely finish bottom and be relagated straight away, thus there would never be any stability at the bottom.

      1. Sort of like the English premier league?

        I can’t see why, they can’t “tax” the teams with the highest budgets, and use that money to support teams with less budget, I don’t think losing $5mil will hurt Ferrari to badly, but it would help HRT immensely.

        It would be a better solution to the budget cap, yet it would still , even just slightly, even out the difference in team budgets. which too often decides the championship I feel.

        In other words you are saying, You can spend two hundred million dollers if you want to, but…

  7. For now, I don’t think there are any suitable candidates for the 13th team slot. The FIA must learn that it takes time to get up to speed in F1. This has been proved by this years new teams. It was also proved by Super Aguri. Should the 13th spot be taken, I think they should be given 2011 to prepare, and then be allowed to race in 2012.

  8. I think this sums everyones point up rather nicely:


    1. While I agree with the basic premise behind showing these laps side by side there are so many variables that it is not really fair to compare them. You are watching a veteran driver who has the knowledge to setup the car properly against a rookie, in his second race in this video, and there is no info on tyres or fuel load.

      I’m not saying that the HRT is as fast as the Red Bull but I think it would be interesting to see a Mark Webber or Hamilton or Massa in the HRT and see how it goes then.

      1. Well:

        a) Its in qualifying, so fuel loads should be about the same of there abouts
        b) The HRT is a dog regardless. As you can see it understeers like crazy in basically all corners.

        My point is, the drivers are irrelevant. This video just shows the absolute difference is in levels of performance between the two. Downforce in fundamental in F1 and clearly one lacks it.

  9. Over recent years the majority of teams that have come into the sport have been either major manufacturers with huge amounts of money behind their bid, or people taking over smaller independent teams, which already have a design staff, facilities and are working on developing a car for that forthcoming season already with existing data.

    The problem this year and for the new team next year, is that they are starting from scratch with none of that infrastructure or team based experience in place. That is where the problem has been. This was always going to happen with a grid expansion of this scale and no existing teams for the new ones to take over.

    I think in the future it will revert to the previous format where by teams drop out, are taken over by new people with new funding, but crucially already have the facilities in place, over time this will hopefully see each new owner build on what is already there and get the team up to speed.

    I dont see a problem with this method, and to be honest if you cant afford the play you should really leave the play ground. F1 is about the pinnacle of motor sport, a feeder series that caters for enough aspects of it for the new teams to be competitive when they step up i personally dont think is financially feasible.

    Also once the grid is full, what do these aspiring teams do? and how do they decide who gets “promoted”?

  10. It is a very interesting and very viable question you ask there Keith.

    When we look at the entrants, from the point of view of being a constructor, it offers a few ways to go.

    – Campos/HRT bought a car made by Dallara. But while dallara is very experienced in lower categories where there is no or only limited chassis competition, the car is not able to mix it with the best. The bigger problem is, that HRT ended up without any real capacity for improvement nor with any experience in setup work.
    For such a strategy to work you would need some form of customer car deal (maybe of the form the McLaren/Mercedes and FI deal) for new entrants who then get some time to develop their own team. But it would need a pool of such teams to get into F1 on the long run.

    – Lotus – in effect brought together the mean part of the Toyota technical team, now spiced up with FI people. Another way of buying a established team, this is possible but almost as costly and does not help completely new engineers in.
    – Manor/Virgin/Wirth and now entrant Epsilon Euskadi are the only teams of those applicants to offer constructor experience and existing technical capacity. Not in F1, but in the widely recognized and higly competative world of sport cars. In theory they should be in the best position to rock the F1 world with new ideas to help their teams winning

    I feel, that this last route is actually the most viable route for new teams as the Lotus way is expensive and worked only because Toyota quit and the HRT route would only work with customer cars.
    This could be suppported by deals like FI/McLaren have to bring those teams forward, if they need/want any such support.

    1. Sorry Duncan, i was so eager to read the article i seem to have missed who wrote it :-(

      Nice read, and very interesting.

  11. I welcome the new teams, they have done fantastically well to get to the grid, and especially Lotus being close to the midfield teams on some tracks. I think it adds another aspect to the weekend, as there are three major battles going on.

    However having said this, the fact that HRT hadn’t gone out on track before the race weekend was shocking! Just seems amazing that they would let them race, anything could have happened. Also, Karun Chandhok didn’t get in the car until Qualifying! Crazy!

    I think what has been said above is bang on. The indy car series is a great idea!

  12. Nice analysis. But what about Super Aguri? Just like Toyota, they started in F1 from scratch in 2006, even if they didn’t use their own cars

    1. I was just gonna say, Keith missed them! :O

  13. spanky the wonder monkey
    12th August 2010, 11:55

    costs indeed.

    the problem, as i see it, with a feeder series is cost against aims.
    the feeder would need to be -nearly- F1, so has the same aero restraints, development programmes etc. you’re then starting to talk a budget similar to F1, so why not just jump straight in to F1 rather than spend money on a series which you don’t intend staying within? if you become successful in the feeder (manufacturer), do you want to take the next step up and risk floundering in the big league?

    of course, if the regs are too like F1, then there is nothing to stop the likes of macca, the big F etc creating satellite teams that are basically test beds for potential F1 technology.

    no easy answer!

  14. Mike "the bike" Schumacher
    12th August 2010, 11:55

    The new teams had a very tough start to F1 with all the rule changes before they came into the sport.
    New teams should really have at least a year to prepare for F1.
    The FIA wanted new teams in and yet severely hindered them with these changes and we still haven’t heard who the 13th team is and its august now.

  15. I think there should be a way for new teams to buy old chassis from an established team and race it for some limited time to gain experience. Yes, I’m talking about the idea of customer cars, which Prodrive and McLaren tried to work with some years ago. The feeder series would cost too much and would get not enough attention. But monococques are freezed for the season, so why not buy an existing one year old car and try to race it. There could be some limitations, i.e. that such a team has to run a Cosworth engine or that such a team has three years to build it’s own chassis. But if you want to expand an F1 grid, this is IMO the easiest way.

  16. Allow development, but simply enforce a cost cap.

  17. maestrointhesky
    12th August 2010, 12:46

    It’ sounds pretty feasible to me. If the lowest one or two constuctors got relegated to a lower division, to be replaced 2 promoted teams, things would become a lot more interesting and mean that tenure in the top tear would not be garunteed. It would certainly mean the lower teams would have someting real to fight for, and they wouldn’t just be making up the numbers. They would be there on merit!

  18. I had never really thought about that before!

    I know that GP2 has a new Spec Chassis from next year, but maybe on for the future…

    GP2 could have constructors who operate to a set of rules, much lke F1 now. As you say, the operations would be expensive, but as the series is already part of the F1 Circus, maybe FOM could grant each team a budget. This could be equal for each team. Any other money the teams can raise by Sponsorship / Pay drivers etc is down to them.

    Then the interesting bit, GP2 aqnd F1 operate on a promotion / demotion basis, the top 2 constructors in GP2 graduate to F1, and the bottom 2 in F1 demoted to GP2.

    Riddled with problems I know, such as it would leave only the winter break for the GP2 team to design an F1 car and vice versa. Unless (as suggested elsewhere) customer cars are allowed like in the old days (Matra, March, Cooper, Lotus etc).

    Maybe I should just get back to work…!

    1. Well said i have almost the same idea,i agree with the demotion /promotion system.The teams from the second league could design their cars under f1 rules only with some exceptions such as less horsepower lower fuel consumption,aerodynamics should be as near as possible to f1 car.Also the 2 teams that promote could win their engines from other teams and the money will be paid by FOM(difficult i know )or the 2 teams that gettind demoted can give their engines and with some changes ,can work properly.
      Anyway these are just some ideas,the thing is that a decision if this needed should be taken.Believe me if they decide something like that(second league) they ‘ll find solutions to all kind of problems.
      Thank you for your time.

  19. maestrointhesky
    12th August 2010, 12:51

    I might add that the big teams have been crying out to run third cars for the last couple of years. Why not let them enter a second team into this lower formula and then if they get promoted they would have thier third (and fourth)cars – running as a separate team!

  20. An F1 feeder series ─ e.g. Formula One Junior ─ could be for racing teams from lower categories using 1- or 2-year-old F1 car designs that they have to build themselves, plus 1- or 2-year-old engines, detuned to something like 500 bhp.

    Then those teams already experienced at running a racing team, can gain experience at least in car construction. Plus, they should be allowed to alter the older F1 designs, thus gaining some design experience, too.

    There’s a risk, though, that superiour F1 cars from a previous season, could dominate said Formula One Junior series, too. But that’s the way the cookie crumbles. (One could consider equalling performance pre-season, or something like that.)

    For teams that are new to F1 ─ if the FIA, FOM and FOTA really think that they’re important to the sport ─ the FIA could claim some of Formula One’s yearly profits ─ everybody knows that there plenty of that to go around ─ to lend to those teams for them to be able to build their factory, construction facilities and design team up to Formula One standards, over a period of, say, a year in advance, plus 2 or 3 seasons.

    This way those teams and their sponsors would not have to fork out millions of dollars just to build a team from (relative) scratch, at the great risk it involves. This way, a team could start out with little sponsorship, with (more) sponsors stepping in after some time, being more certain of their investment.

    (Plus, the FIA, of course, would have to be paid back by team/sponsor by the end of said 2- or 3-year period. That’s the risk the FIA, and the sport as a whole, should want to take, if it takes new competitors seriously.)

    1. Taking this idea further, why not have a F1 second division! They have the same rule book as first division but to keep costs down travelling can be restricted to Europe. The winning constructor of the second division is promoted to the top division and last place of the top division is demoted to second division.

      This would ensure the top division grid is always full. And new teams entering the top division have proven their creditentials and quality by winning second division.

      This will also give a lot of new drivers an opportunity to get familiar with an F1 car – something that is hard with the test restrictions.

  21. Maybe GP2 needs to follow Indycar’s lead and allow some development by teams. Or maybe there could be a feeder series that is even closer to F1, maybe using previous years’ cars or a spec chassis built to F1 rules.

    To be honest though, I just think that the FIA needs to be more careful about choosing new teams – making sure that they only pick teams with a demonstrable ability to build and develop a racing car from scratch, and they should make a point of inspecting facilities. The successful applicant should be announced a lot earlier to give them as much time to get things ready as possible, and there should be targets set – and if the team isn’t hitting them by a certain point, their entry should be given to someone else.

    I also agree with Lee’s comment – now that most of the vacant grid slots have been taken up, the introduction of new teams to the sport is more likely to come from existing ones being taken over.

    1. Maybe GP2 needs to follow Indycar’s lead and allow some development by teams.

      The problem with that is that GP2 was designed to make everything as equal as possible for the drivers. As soon as you start allowing car development, it stops being about the driver and starts being about the team. Although there is a pecking order in GP2, allowing teams to develop the cars will simply muddy the waters of the talent pool, and it’s far more important for GP2 to be a showcase of drivers rather than teams.

      Or maybe there could be a feeder series that is even closer to F1, maybe using previous years’ cars or a spec chassis built to F1 rules.

      But the GP2 cars are already fairly close to Formula 1 – namely Hispania. And because of that, having another series that is closer to Formula 1 is only going to undermine Formula 1 itself.

  22. I don’t know why everyone is saying Virgin won’t be in Formula 1 next season. Sure, they had that screw-up with the fuel tank being too short and they didn’t get to start proper development of the car until five races into the season, but if you really think about it, that’s an advantage. We’re eleven races into the championship, right? Lotus caught up the distance to the established teams in ten races, or thereabouts. But Virgin are now fighting with Lotus, despite their setback – so they really started developing their car from five races in. They’ve managed to catch Lotus in the space of six races. That’s twice as fast as otus caught up with the established teams.

  23. Personally I’m really enjoying the new teams inclusion. Although I don’t really agree with the Class A/B stuff..it is evident. I like to follow the back end of the field just as much as the front and I was glad to hear that there was not one DNF at Hungary from them, so well done! And seeing Virgin really take it to Lotus was brilliant. I would like to say that Toro Rosso have improved this season and I thought that was the case until a while ago when they started falling back. I’m sure we will see either Virgin or Lotus really attacking the mid-grid next year.

    F1 has to be accessible. No need for elitism.

    1. “F1 has to be accessible. No need for elitism.”

      that is the exact opposite of what f1 is all about. it is, by definition, an elite class. ferrari, mclaren and ecclestone will have nothing to do with formula welfare.

      1. So lets all remember how Ferrari, Mclaren and even Bernie started in F1 shall we?

        ….if you don’t know, look it up!

  24. Excellent article Duncan!

    I’ve been wondering what the point of F2 is since its re-incarnation last year, and it seems we have an obvious answer: just as GP2 is a spec series for drivers, we could have F2 as a series for teams to compete with each other.

    What I’d propose is to turn F2 into a mini-F1, with very similar rules (bar things like the two-compound and Top-10-start tyre rules) but with machinery that is less sophisticated (smaller engines, less aero, thinner tyres maybe). Give them a small budget cap and a base chassis to work on, and let them go racing. As good as GP2 is, it’s so far removed from F1 that it’s not the most efficient feeder series even if it’s the best pne we have at the moment.

  25. It is a shame that anyone dares to complain about the new teams this year. No one, not even these teams themselves, expected them to be competitive this year and they won’t be for another two years. If you take a closer look, you’ll see that Virgin and HRT signed up for a limited budget F1 which didn’t happen. As a result, their budget this year is just a fraction compared to the established teams. Last summer there has also been talk about technical assistance from the established teams, something that apparently hasn’t happened. On the other hand, Lotus have a decent budget, but they had only five months to get their car ready.
    What exactly did all those people that are criticizing them now expect? They should be grateful that they have new privateer teams coming in, something that hasn’t happened for over a decade.

  26. thanks, duncan. you bring up an interesting point. there’s certainly no easy answers to be found. i myself have aborted several posts on this while trying to put together some rational thoughts, and failing :)

  27. I do miss the constructure of F1 people like Toyota, BMW & Jaguar who promised a lot but couldn’t provided the results. On the other hand I don’t think having too many feeder series is good. GP2 was great to me but then GP3 was quiet unnecessary,yes you want the best drivers in F1 but you can only have 24 of them at a time.

    And finally I was also in that list of people who were disappointed not to see Lola and Prodrive on the grid for 2010, but I think it was more to do with the FIA back then other than the potential of the team.

  28. I don’t get this. I’m sure I have the answer but it seems to me that the focus on costs are not the key. The barriers to entering F1 is not costs per se and a feeder series is not going to somehow give teams a step up into F1.

    First, it’s about return, and there is a mint to be made in F1 if you can bring the capital and get it done right. Bernie is not the second richest man in England because the F1 pie is small, and no one with equity in a team or the series is living under a bridge. They keep the pie big by operating it as a private) market, and access and resources are accordingly not distributed to each according to his need.

    In fact, in view of the transportation allowances, etc., it is well-organized to weed out the stragglers and reward winners. Look for example at Mallya. He took up the cudgel dropped by a long line of hacks and is taking that team well into the midfield and even is a threat to win at certain tracks. This is how it is supposed to work. Fernandes is on his way to doing the same thing, with a new team. We need Fernandeses, and good riddance to Kolles when he is gone.

    Second, the idea that the feeder series can somehow weed-out less efficient teams doesn’t make sense—its about RoR not costs. Unless you want to force a team to do a tour in a low-return series as a condition of entry for F1, no competent investor will agree to that, (especially when he could seek equity in an existing F1 team). The most efficient new organizations, those who can attract the most capital and best management, will not be interested. And if the team does reach F1, instead of being somehow toughened up, it may be financially depleted and the timeframe set by investors for success will be even shorter.

    The analogy to feeder series role in selecting drivers is misplaced. Driving ability can only be demonstrated on the track and must be developed in racing. A new racing team will not be comprised of engineers, mechanics, and managers fresh out of school or not experienced in the business. If it is, like any entrant to a technical, capital intesive market, it will have no prayer. The new teams, with pepole like Gascoyne and Wirth on board, are not lacking ability or talent or F1 acumen.

    However, I don’t want to sound like the Horse Whispering running down new teams. The sport should strike a balance between punshing clown shows and rewarding the most efficient operations. Part of that rebalancing should be giving new teams a grace period or allowing a sport-funded buy-in for transportation and logistical costs and certain common materiel like tires and fuel. And perhaps preferential marketing opportunities for their sponsors such as signage, website exposure, and guests access. I do not agree with letting them get extra testing, except before their first season, or other performance crutches. This is still supposed to be a sport.

    Also, what is this new brickbat sent for Yamamoto? Crash-prone? It’s ridiculous to add this to his charges when illustrious rookies like Hulk, Petrov, and Kobayashi have been stuffing cars in barriers right and left, all year. He has been driving a car that handles like an icecream truck in the snow, with no testing, and is doing a pretty fair job.

    1. theRoswellite
      13th August 2010, 21:46

      Exactly, well almost.

      If the new teams were given the financial breaks, as you mention, this would allow them to concentrate their resources on development. This introductory period could run for 2 or3 years, at which point they could be subject to all the full costs and requirements of a “regular” team.

      It would even be possible to stipulate some performance requirements, assuming you had legitimate teams waiting to have a go.

      However, the teams will still have great difficulty in bec
      oming competitive…if Toyota and BMW can’t operate with unacceptable return on investment who can?

      The answer would be to allow them not only financial considerations, but also off track privelegs, such as unlimited testing. Any concern about them becoming too competitive would be easily addressed.

      The major restriction,I would guess, on such an approach being even tried, would be the other teams having no incentive to cooperate.

  29. why not let new teams test until the first race all the new teams need is mileage virgin would not have had so many dnfs and all the new teams would get a helping hand and we would see that any new team would then have a chance they need mileage not new feeder series

    1. ..which brings us back to cost. If there was testing then Virgin may well have been more competitive, but they also may well have not been there at all due to the massive increase in cost in running cars outside of race weekends.

  30. i don’t think this has been thought through properly. As others have mentioned, we already have this set up, and the fact that F1 is so difficult to be competitive in, is testament to the hard work put in by the teams that are competitive.

    it’s not supposed to be fair in the sense of equal machinery, it’s supposed to be technical brilliance over technical brilliance. Feeder series for teams is a silly idea in my opinion, and i can’t see any manufacturers wanting to be part of it

  31. HounslowBusGarage
    12th August 2010, 18:47

    Back in the 1960’s heydays of the ‘Garagistas’ as I understand it, it was possible for an entrant to buy a car from another team and enter it from their own team (eg Rob Walker’s Lotus).
    Indeed some of the major teams of the following decades got started this way (Williams started by buying and entering March cars).
    It was a low(er) cost entry method; single car entry and lesser development costs.

    So how about reviving that facility and allowing – instead of a three car team – a third Maranello machine to be entered as Team Arbarth, Maserati or Alfa Romeo. Perhaps a revised version of last year’s Maclaren could be entered as Noble or – dare I say it – Prodrive!
    I know we are back to the customer car concept, but I never understood what was wrong with the idea then, and I don’t now.
    Customer cars cut development costs (which seem to be the principal barrier to new teams) and they get new teams to the grid with a better chance of points, or even podiums with the right car/driver combination.
    What would be the problem if Red Bull decided to sell last years cars at $200 each or 20 Cents each? They would still need to be developed, managed and run by the new team, and good luck to them.
    I don’t really want F1 as a spec series with everyone driving identical cars, or even cars with different aero packages à la Indy. I want a top-speed racing series where the cars look, sound and behave differently from each other, and where driver skill is more evident from the mangement of power than the management of fuel-economy and PR.
    I know what you’re going to say; I want 1964.

    1. I couldn’t agree more. Why can’t the feeder series to F1 be F1.

      Why the restriction on number of teams and why not one car teams, or customer cars? There didn’t used to be and there were few complaints, teams that started as jokes such as Williams developed into great teams… and some very substantial teams withered into obscurity such as the old Lotus……. That last point I think is what the Teams and Bernie are afraid of. With the current system an established team is almost guaranteed a reasonable income with the option to sell up if things go very bad. Before if things went bad they just folded.

      Given the enormous handicaps placed on the new teams they have done amazingly well and I’m sure quite a few of the rejected contenders could have done as well. One of them I’m sure will be high mid field within a couple of years. Just open up the entry and let the teams do the rest.

    2. I’m with you on this one HBG.

      I’d have no problem with the smaller teams running used chassis’ that the established teams have finished with and I’ve never really understood the objection to customer teams.

      If they can buy engines from other teams then why not chassis ?

      As you say, there are plenty of other teams that started out that way in the good/bad old days and more recently I can remember Sauber turning up at the start of a season with a car that looked like a resprayed year old Ferrari.

      Nothing compares to F1, even other elite series like Le Mans and motoGP get nowhere near to the level required while GP2 and Formula 2 are amateurish by comparison (no offence meant, I do appreciate how professional those guys are). So for me the best way to get more teams into F1 is to give them the opportunity to start off as customer teams while they get up to speed and build up the resources needed to design a car themselves.

      I’d still welcome any new team who wanted to design and build their own cars and there could be an argument for giving them preference if grid slots are limited but until the grid is full I would welcome any new team that was able to fund a full season, even if they’re doing it on the cheap as a customer team.

    3. theRoswellite
      13th August 2010, 21:52

      Actually any year in the 60’s would be OK with me.

  32. Unless you go for an F2 series where teams can be promoted into F1 by winning the Championship, or relegated into it for finishing last in F1, then there is no silver bullet answer given each series runs to such a different level of technological development and cost restrictions.

    And even that would require the feeder series running on virtually identical technical specifications so that car development for the forthcoming season means a season starting baseline car suitable for both Championships so no team prooted or regulated is wasting months of work, meaning more of an “F1 Series A” and “F1 Series B”.

    There are “regulations” which could govern the difference, including reducing RPM for reduced power (you’d need to run an equal sized engine in both series for the above mentioned technical reasons), enforced budget caps to keep costs down, and so on. It could even follow F1 around the world and race on the same tracks as a support race.

    It could even be a drivers’ feeder series as well with a season in it being compulsary before being eligible for the top flight, and even a minimum level of performance to prevent drivers like Yamamoto buying an undeserved seat.

    None of this is ideal, I realise that, but there is no other way to truly prove your worth for F1 unless you can prove your worth in an F1-esque series. And right now, there isn’t one.

  33. Sport is driven by money and fame

    wish I could turn the clock back and start driving at a young age

  34. Tom M in Australia
    13th August 2010, 3:57

    Look at the Premiership, or other similar championship. The bottom of the table is kept interesting by relegation. Indeed, the end of season relegation battle is just as exciting as the fight to win the championship (well is *was*, this coming from a Coventry City fan!).

    The bottom of the F1 table is not interesting because there is no consequence for poor performance. If Lotus, HRT and Virgin were locked in a relegation battle it would be epically exciting if one of them got near the points.

    Bring in relegation I say.

  35. In my opinion is the answer is the introduction of Formula 1 regional series, in addition to the current World Championship series.

    The way it would work, is there would be three series; The Americas, covering North and South America, Asia, covering, Asia plus Australia, New Zealand and Pacific Islands, and Europe, covering the European countries.

    The regional series would compete with the exact same rules as the World Championship series, the only addition being a budget cap.

    Each regional series would have a full 20 race calendar racing at different circuits their region on weekends when there is no world championship grand prix.

    At the end of each season, the winning team from each region gets promoted to the world championship, and lowest three teams in the world championship get to demoted to the regional championships.

    The benefits are:
    1) Gives new teams a testing ground to work out how to be a team / build car etc.
    2) It means more F1 races for fans, in more time zones, more often, resulting in more fans
    3) It gives upcoming drivers more opportunity to drive, and hence “be discovered”. Similar for other team members, more employment opportunites
    4) Gives organisations that might otherwise be limited to touring cars an opportunity to get into open wheel racing.
    5) Gives more opportunity for smaller companies to sponsor the regional teams. They might not be able to afford to sponsor Ferrari or McLaren, but sponsoring a regional team might be more possible, and
    6) Gives the FIA / FOM a plentiful supply of up and coming teams.

  36. There has to be many different types of feeder series in this now globalised world. If not you won’t draw the diversity in the sponsorship base and the drivers. A “B” class gobal hero is worth alot less than and A class local or regional hero in sponsorship dollar terms.

    A boost and funneling toward a single higher level global feeder series is just another attempt at monopolisation of the supply chain. The Brits and especially Bernie’s CVC have to watch their backs. They got themselves into this mess by paying Bernie too much but they risk the big crash and burn

  37. we need better f1 cars not this like today

  38. If there is a feeder series could be single make engine, gearbox and drive train, standard electronics and a budget cap for the rest working to F1 regs.

  39. The only way a team can really secure enough funding to operate in F1 is to be in F1. A team in a lower formula is not going to attract anywhere near as much interest as an F1 team.

    How about completely opening the process by which teams can enter F1 so that anyone can enter if they want – ie no more under the table envelope passing with Bernie. However, on Fridays have all the cars set a benchmark time. Top 15 times are automatically through to Saturday, while the remaining teams line up for a Sprint race (100km distance for example) to be run before qualifying. Podium finishers for that sprint race get a GP slot respective to their finishing position).

    It’ll make sure practice is much more important (maybe even throwing up a few surprises if a leaders car fails), all teams get a run. International exposure for struggling teams (if the event is run straight before qualifying), more rubber on the track for qualifying. A varied grid for the GP.

    A completely separate feeder series destroys the point of GP2.

    1. When i mean “respective to their position” I mean, 16th, 17th, 18th

  40. Very interesting article. Many thanks, Keith.

  41. maybe puts toyotas performance into some kind of perspective as well, despite their budget. they were competitive straight away but we all saw the budget and shook our heads. Im no Toyota fan and their last boss was as distasteful a man as you could meet but with the perspective of the B teams they did ok.

  42. I’d love to see some sort of promotion/relegation process, but I have no idea how it would be organised or funded.

    Some very thought-provoking comments here.

  43. Great analysis as always, and very interesting subject.

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