Honda website
Honda website

APRIL 24, 2007

Why life should be tough for the 11th and 12th F1 teams

It is not easy being at the back of the Formula 1 grid and many a team has failed to survive and been sold on as a result of the problem. The major reason for this is that being outside the top 10 in the Constructors' World Championship means that a team does not get any of the commercial benefits that are on offer from the Formula One group. This includes a share of the TV money and reduced transport costs. This is why there are such hard-fought battles for seemingly unimportant places at the back of the field as a ninth or even 10th place can be worth millions of dollars if it results in a team getting into the top 10 at the end of the year.

The last two teams on the F1 grid have to pay their own way and this means that they have disproportionally-high costs. This makes sure that only teams that are serious about being in F1 survive and that there are no teams who cruise along at the back and make money just by being there. If money was available for all 12 teams this incentive would disappear.

The high failure rate at the back end of the F1 grid means that newcomers can get a foothold in F1 but they must then go on from that to climb out of the danger zone and onto the real F1 ladder. They may not do any better than their predecessors but at least they are trying and this means that those who are successful have earned their spurs in F1.

In many ways, therefore, this is a better system than the traditional franchise arrangement one sees in other sports.

There are, however, other more subtle reasons why there are 12 teams but with only 10 being paid.

As part of its deal with the FIA, FOM guarantees to provide 20 cars for every race. Having the two extra teams means that FOM has a couple of teams to plug the holes if a top team has to drop out. This is a useful buffer. If all 12 teams were covered by the promotional contract, the loss of a team would be an instant breach of contract, which is not the kind of deal that FOM is likely to accept in the future.

While one has a certain amount of sympathy with the struggling teams, it is a trial through which many have been before them and why the introduction of customer cars may not be the answer that some of its supporters think it is.