The mood in pit lane is tense ahead of the 2014 running of the USGP, and for good reason. The sport of Formula 1- the pinnacle of motorsport with the fastest, most technologically advanced cars in the world- is crumbling under its own weight, and the grid has shrunk to just 18 cars this weekend following the collapse of the back-marking Marussia and Caterham teams. At the same time, historically “strong” teams like Lotus, Sauber, and Force India are in serious financial trouble, and rumors of more teams boycotting the rest of this season’s races loom large.
“We haven’t got anything to lose, have we?” asked Lotus team owner Gerard Lopez. “No one listens, so the only thing we can do is take action that CVC (the private equity firm that owns the commercial rights to Formula 1) will understand. (A boycott) would be painful but it would make the point.”
Teams collapsing, races getting boycott, and money troubles for everyone- despite the fact that CVC made an $8.2 billion profit on F1? It’s maddening, and more than enough to make casual fans wonder just what the hell is going on here. Sadly, there are no good answers.
There are, however, true answers. The most compelling- and probable!- of which is that Bernie Ecclestone, the octogenarian supremo of Formula 1 racing, is simply trying to grab as much cash as he can before he kicks the bucket, and damn the consequences. “It could go down to 14 (cars),” Bernie said in an interview with SkySports, who has to pay for the F1 races, regardless of how many cars run or how crappy the show becomes. “If we lose another two teams that is what will happen. I can’t predict if it won’t or it will. But if it is 18, (there should be) no drama at all.”
“No drama at all,” makes for boring races, Bernie. Not that you care.
On the other side of the “give a damn” spectrum lies Helmut Marko, who runs the powerful Infiniti Red Bull team. “Imagine if we could put a NASCAR driver like Jimmie Johnson or Tony Stewart in (a third car) here in the USGP,” he said to Germany’s Auto Motor und Sport. “The promotional effect would be huge!”
I, for one, would love to see a “past champions” car show up at the big teams. Let Nigel Mansell run at the British GP in the third Ferrari, put Juan Pablo Montoya into the third Williams at the USGP, and maybe even squeeze Mario Andretti or Emerson Fittipaldi into a Lotus, you know? THAT would be a show!