In an interview with ESPN F1 today, Sauber team principal Monisha Kaltenborn says the way in which Formula One has dealt with the collapse of the grid’s two smallest teams is “disturbing”.
Marussia and Caterham both went into administration earlier this month as their backers were unable or unwilling to pay creditors and keep the teams running. Unless buyers can be found in the near future, it is unlikely either team will make the grid next year, posing the danger of an 18-car grid in 2015.
After a season without a single point, Sauber is in a battle with Marussia for ninth place in the constructors’ championship and has had financial difficulties of its own throughout the year.
In her interview with ESPN F1 today, Kaltenborn has advocated cost cutting measures for some time to help the plight of smaller teams and says she is disappointed no action was taken before the teams hit serious trouble. Kaltenborn stated the following:-
‘I’m beyond the stage of frustration, I’m very disappointed. It’s one thing to always talk about this terrible scenario that some teams are not going to be there, but that the sport – and the people responsible for the sport – have let it come that far is very disturbing. I think some stake holders and people are not willing to understand where the problem lies.’
I think many pundits and fans would agree with Kaltenborn and will feel disappointed that nothing could be done to save Caterham or Marussia from potentially leaving the sport. As Kaltenborn says it is a terrible situation for the sport and she is right the people in charge that are responsible need to resolve these issues as quickly as possible.
Further on in her interview, Kaltenborn says F1’s stakeholders have had misplaced priorities this year and avoided the real issues. Kaltenborn added the following:-
‘We have been focusing in the last few months on social media, the show and all kinds of things. What we really need to look at – and we as a team have been saying for so long – is that you have to get the [financial] figures right in this sport. I think it’s a really shame that we have turnovers of billions of dollars and as a sport and a community we are not capable of making sure that 11 teams survive.
‘As a team and team owners there are a couple of us here that really have a tough life to make ends meet here. The worst part here is that we are damaging the sport so much here, I think that the owners of the product should think what they are doing here.’
Even though Formula One has been concentrating on social media and rightly so in order for the sport to interact and communicate with the fans more, more as to be done about the situation financially and more needs to be done to ensure that small teams such as Sauber survive as much as possible.
I would have to agree with her and that it is ever more difficult for small teams such as Sauber to make ends meet and that by not sorting out the situation we have presently, the reputation of the sport is being damaged and that cannot be good for Formula One wanting to move forward in the future.
Earlier this year the teams could not agree on a budget cap plans, despite the FIA pushing the initiative forward. Kaltenborn believes it is up to the paddock to unite and do what is best to ensure a healthy field arrives at each race. Kaltenborn said the following:-
‘I think as teams we should first find this collective which is not there at the moment. That made us strong in the past. We all have at least one common denominator which is to survive in this sport and make the sport something healthy, because we all will attract our sponsors.’
I would agree with the principle that the F1 paddock needs to reunited with this and it would show a sign of unity to the FIA and could be the motivation for them to sort out these issues as quickly as they can. And she is correct that all the teams into the sport now need to survive in the sport and if they can, they will attract sponsors in the process which will help the sport to grow.
In the latter stages of her interview today, Kaltenborn also thinks a more equitable distribution of prize money is needed, rather than the current system which rewards the bigger teams – and those with a history in the sport – far more than the smallest outfits scrapping over the minor points. Kaltenborn added the following:-
‘There should be a certain amount that guarantees each and every team to at least live decently. No one is saying you have to have the most luxurious standards, but you should be allowed to participate in the sport. All of us have put so much investment into our teams of coming to this level and then that should be respected by ensuring you get a certain basic amount that is the same for everyone.
‘There are brands here so established, such as Ferrari, that they will always get more sponsorship than a team like Sauber will get. But that way at least you create an environment where a small team doesn’t really have to suffer that much. I think it’s pretty outdated to say ‘if you don’t have the money then don’t be in the sport’ because even small teams are putting in a lot of money into the sport.’
If you take on board Kaltenborn’s perspective, it is right that every team should have the right to have a decent standing in the sport that allows every team to compete in the sport. She is right in saying that every team has put in a lot of investment to be where they are today but teams like Ferrari will always get more sponsorship than Sauber due to the fact they are more established.
Even though you need a high level of investment to be competitive in the sport, Kaltenborn is right that small teams do invest a lot of money into the sport and that needs to be recognised by the sport. But it is clear for me that something needs to be done as Kaltenborn has stated today to help small teams such as Sauber stay in the sport for as long as possible before we lose any more teams from Formula One. And that simply cannot happen.