Sayonara Super Aguri… Where will new F1 teams come from ?

Super Aguri F1 team

Almost exactly 2 years ago it looked like we will have full grid of 12 teams and 24 cars from 2008 season. On April 28, 2006 Prodrive were given the F1 entry. Max Mosley commented that “Prodrive have the best combination of financial backing, technical capability and motorsport experience.”

Almost exactly a year later, May 13, 2007, the new boys, Super Aguri, scored their first ever championship point after only 1 season and 4 races in Formula 1. Few months later, in August 2007, the news came out that the team’s title sponsor, SS United, does not pay. From then it was all downhill for Super Aguri …

In late November 2007, it became clear that we will not see 24 cars F1 grid in 2008. Prodrive have announced they will not enter Formula 1.

By the end of January 2008 Max Mosley expressed his doubts we will end the 2008 season with 11 teams. There were doubts whether Super Aguri will even make it for Australian GP. They just about made it to Melbourne for the season opener, but only 2 days later Dietrich Mateschitz announced he is putting his share in Toro Rosso up for sale

Then came May 6, 2008 and the withdrawal of Super Aguri from Formula 1. This is all like the 2002 deja vu. Expectations of full grid for 2002 season thanks to Toyota’s entry to Formula only to see first Prost and then Arrows to disapear. The grid went from 11 teams down to 10 instead of up to 12 before the 2002 season was over …

The Formula 1 grid has changed a lot since 2002. We have Red Bull, Toro Rosso, Force India, BMW, Honda, we had Midland, Spyker, we miss Jordan, Jaguar, Minardi, Sauber, BAR. But all these changes were only results of ownership changes. The only genuinely new team was the Super Aguri team in 2006, a team created over the 2005-2006 winter pretty much to keep Sato in F1. Now Super Aguri is gone and we are back where we were after 2002 German GP, down to 10 teams and 20 cars.

So, are we going to see any new teams anytime soon ? Where would they come from ?

I think we can be quite confident that there will not be 11 teams this season. I also see the chances of having at least 11 teams in 2009 as very very low. I can’t see anyone making the decision, getting the money together and building a new car on time to start the 2009 season. Especially with the current situation surrounding the Concorde Agreement and when the 2009 rules are not yet finalized … The only way how I see anybody new getting on the F1 grid quickly is if somebody strikes a deal with some of the manufacturers, gets a “customer car deal” for 2009 while the current status-quo makes is sort of semi legal and in the meantime gets ready for building own car for 2010 season. This is how Super Aguri were and Toro Rosso are supposed to go on. This howere still does not answer the question, where would the new F1 teams come from …

The 2006 tender for the 12th F1 entry saw 11 applicants (along with then existing 11 F1 teams). They included among others Prodrive, Direxiv, Eddie Jordan, Paul Stoddart, Carlin Motorsport, Craig Pollock … This looks like a sufficient pool of F1 wannabies to guarantee full F1 grid for years. However, most if not all of them only entered the bidding thanks to FIA’s idea of customer cars. None of these bidders came forward when Prodrive’s slot became available, none of them came out to buy Super Aguri and it seems that none of them is eager to join Gerhard Berger in running Toro Rosso. The new F1 entry is unlikely to come from this pool of people, unless (I hope not) the customer cars are allowed …

Can any of the GP2 teams try to make the step up into F1 ? While GP2 was still F3000 there was talk about Arden having F1 plans. That did happen to certain extent, the team did not make it but Christian Horner did :-) . Few of the GP2 people were among the 2006 bidders but under different conditions. So can it happen ? Perhaps, but where would the F1 car come from ?

The entry of car manufacturers that are not yet in F1 is another possibility. The last manufacturer to come to F1 by building the team from the scratch was Toyota. They announced their F1 plans in 1999, secured the entry in 2000, planned to start racing in 2001 but only made it in 2002. And this was with what is thought to be the biggest F1 budget … If any car manufacturer decides to enter now, it is unlikely we will see them on the grid earleir than 2-3 years later. Unless someone buys Toro Rosso but that would not give us extra cars … But when was the last time we heard something serious about a car maker wishing to get into F1 if we do not count failed Spyker attempt and Aston Martin / Prodrive talk ?

Yet I still think it is not impossible to build Formula One team. It takes money, engine, chassis, team of people and drivers. OK, it takes more :-) but let’s focus on these basics:

Money – Plenty available but for some reasons the weaker F1 teams are not able to attract them. Just imagine that transfer fees for 2-3 top class football players in Europe can pay for the budget of a team of the size of Toro Rosso or Force India. The sums of money involved are crazy, but the money is out there …

Engine – Honda, BMW, Mercedes do not supply any customer engines at the moment. They could if there was a buyer. And there still is the Cosworth V8 that thanks to the engine freeze could still be used …

Chassis – The toughest part for sure. But there are companies like Lola for example that could be subcontracted to build the chassis for Formula 1 team and I believe there would not be illegal even under current rules …

People – If nothing else there is the whole Super Aguri team of people without job right now …

Drivers – I do not see any problem here. There are several experienced drivers out of jobs or nearing end of their contracts. There are many rookies eager to get to F1 and some with sponsors eager to pay for the drive …

Hm, but I still did not find the answer to my question. Where will new F1 teams come from ….

3 Comments Post a Comment
  1. KotenokNo Gravatar says:

    You took out something which didn’t think about, the Concorde Agreement, of course!! I forgot of it as well, nobody is talking about it anymore last times. Well it’s still not finished as you tell and seems that everybody specialized in the F1 tries to avoid talking about the agreement.
    We shall do not know why, because it’s the main interest to everybody that the rules are clear! But we of course can guess, F1 teams technicals and managers wish to have this lack to make deals in their way.

    After one year talking and talking to finalize the Concorde Agreement, FIA and FOM did some attempts to join some team head directors but the conclusion didn’t arrive. Seems teams wish this sneaky way to remain doing what the might want with the budget, their contracts and the races strategies. This is harmful to teams as Toro Rosso, Force India or Williams which are private and their strength for important decisions is little (we only need to look back to Brazil, how McLaren tried to own the title after demanding a ban over BMW and Williams just because not existing clear rules!).

    F1 Wolf is right when announcing meanwhile doesn’t exist clear rules, few will risk to come into competition for grid places. The shortcut to be in F1 in 2010 could be getting chassis from Lola yes, but maybe it even will be not needed to arrive this date if the plans of Mosley to get standard components grow (as for now talks about the rear and front end wings), I hope the FIA looks well what they need!!! And doesn’t get any more standard element on the cars, there is always somebody winning with these deals. But if these plans arrive to good end and more standard elements will be used (forced by law)… We will see a massive grid with many competitors, I think any wish to have it is insane.

    Let’s wait and see, matters will take their course and maybe somebody will decide to join when the right time and the right moment arrive. Two or three years is an average which I also was thinking about.

    See you all in next prediction game!!! Bye!! :)

  2. VinceNo Gravatar says:

    You hit the nail on the head with this article. The only other manufacturer which has never been mentioned that has incredible participation in motorsports is…. Mazda. They have done a lot of things that many car manufacturers have not (LeMans among one of them) and if any manufacturer can do it it is them but do I see it? Not one bit.

    The problem here is these teams enter F1 with big budgets, not Toyota like but they do have money and who wants to sponsor a team that does not perform?. I don’t want my companies logo on the last place vehicle, it gets no exposure unless it crashes. If F1 wants to gain more interest from privateers and such it (and I hate to say it) needs a spec engine or chassis. A lot of money gets poured into R&D, wind tunnels, engine benchmarking, building, tuning, the amount of employees it takes to build one chassis. These new teams buy old chassis and try to build upon them, while other teams are a mile ahead in development.

    I think a spec, straight out of the box tune it as much as you like but don’t develop it engine would be the best bet, in my opinion.


  3. […] to digest this news and wait for some official word from Honda. But it looks like instead of asking where are some new Formula 1 teams going to come from we may start wondering how many teams are actually going to stay … addthis_url = […]

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