Start, Circuit de Catalunya, 2018

F1 must address B-teams after ‘questionable on-track activities’ – Brown

2021 F1 season

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“Questionable” on-track incidents during 2018 show it is “critical” for Formula 1 to tackle the rise of ‘B-teams’ according to McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown.

Speaking today in response to a question from RaceFans, Brown said he expects F1’s commercial rights holder Liberty Media to impose new restrictions on relationship between manufacturer and customer teams from 2021.

“I think Liberty are going to address the ‘B team’ business model because I think it allows the ‘A teams’ to benefit from the B-teams,” he said. “That benefit is everything from technical to political to on-track activities [we’ve seen] this year which I think people believe were questionable,” Brown did not indicate which teams or races he was referring to.

“All three of those scenarios are not what Formula 1 is about and need to change for the health of the sport,” he added. “And I believe they will. Liberty have that in their plan to address B teams and to what degree you can be a B team.”

Haas finished fifth in the championship this year despite having the lowest headcount and one of the smallest budgets in F1. It makes use of F1’s ‘listed parts’ regulations to obtain as much technology as it can from suppliers.

Brown described Haas’s performance as “excellent” but said McLaren will not adopt a similar business model as he does not believe a B team could become a championship contender.

“Haas has done a very good job working within the rules that sit in Formula 1 today. However our belief is a B-team will never be able to compete with an A-team. Therefore while going to that business model in the very short-term could potentially make you more competitive quicker and be potentially a better proposition I think you are giving up on any hopes of racing as a championship contender and that is McLaren’s intent.

“Therefore going to a B-team status you’re kind of throwing in the towel of being a championship contender. Therefore we think it is extremely important – I would say critical – that Liberty in the new Formula 1 world in 2021 address that so all teams can have a fair and equal chance to compete for the championship on an equal, level playing field. And I believe that’s what Chase [Carey, F1 CEO] will go through with.”

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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44 comments on “F1 must address B-teams after ‘questionable on-track activities’ – Brown”

  1. McLaren believe a B team could never be a championship contender but chose to be a B team and complain about it by revealing ‘undisclosed questionable act’.

    1. How did they “chose” to be a B Team exactly?

      They may be in a lower league, due to performance, but that is not what the term “B Team” refers to

  2. Force India was McLaren’s B-team.
    And they Force India has been beating McLaren…

    1. Huh? They don’t even have the same engine, and Force India went bankrupt anyway.

      1. “Was” means different things than “is”.

      2. @krommenaas A few years ago before the turbo hybrid era McLaren and Force India shared technical data and parts such as gear boxes whilst they both hand Mercedes engines….or something along those lines. Hence Nathan saying they were once McLarens B team.

        1. Weren’t McLaren barred from improving their own brakes or such like after the Ferrari blueprint saga, meaning McLaren had to get another team to develop brakes for them?

  3. Zak’s just annoyed that McLaren have the headcount of an A-team, but end up scrapping with the B-teams.

    1. This is exactly what i read into his comments. I think he is a little upset that others spent substatially less but did better. So lambash those others with the gish of saying it is not what he sport is all about. I think he is hoping something will be done to make others spend more so they have a fighting chance.

    2. @phylyp

      It actually sounds like he’s brought up some genuine concerns. We’ve seen a lot of shady stuff going on with Ferrari and Haas. They both share technical data among themselves, which cannot be monitored by the FIA. Haas just took Ferrari’s 2017 chassis for their 2018 season.

      Both Haas and Force India move out of the way of their respective A teams on track and can be used as pawns by their respective A teams on track, as well as in the political side of things. There’s no way a Sauber and Haas would have a different opinion from Ferrari when it came to supporting regulation changes, etc.

      So, despite Mclaren losing to Haas and Force India, it has to be said that the way the sport is shaping up with B and C teams is really harming the integrity of racing. They might as well allow teams to field up to 6 cars each because that’s what it’s really coming to.

      1. Haas just took Ferrari’s 2017 chassis for their 2018 season.

        @todfod – I’m sorry to be so blunt, but the moment I read this, I skipped over the rest of your comment.

        There’s never been any evidence that this has happened, apart from unfounded speculation. Toro Rosso stopped using RBR designs about a decade ago due to the FIA insisting teams design their own chassis, and I’m sure if Haas (or anyone else) breached this regulation, we’d have heard of it.

        Remember Renault’s protest at Monza over a specific point about the front wing? Now if the whole chassis were of Ferrari design, do you think anyone would have kept quiet?

        1. @phylyp

          Sorry.. There’s no evidence to back my claim. Let’s just say for the past 2 decades I’ve never noticed two chassis designs that were as similar as Ferraris 2017 car and Haas’ 2018 car were. Maybe it’s just a big coincidence that Haas has a technical partnership with Ferrari and they have both used the same wind tunnel.

          1. There were a couple of Sauber’s back in early 2000’s that looked a lot like the Ferrari’s… probably it was 2004 Sauber being a cc of 2003 Ferrari, and 2005 a cc of 2004…. Probably it was that last one, when Sauber changed from Bridgestone to Michelin.

          2. @nahumlv

            I remember those. It still wasn’t as close as the Haas’ copy. It literally just looked like some minor barge board and wing details were changed and a Haas livery on top of a Ferrari.

        2. @todfod, while I did not stop reading like @phylyp, I do think what he says here holds true. There might still be a level of data sharing beyond the engine, but certainly not to that extent. Also, didn’t Sauber take the favorite Ferrari customer this year? Maybe some of HAAS worry over RP/FI is bc. they will need to be more self-reliant in the future.

      2. @todfod Come back and say that again when you’ve investigated the situation first hand with the expertise and the sort of access the FIA has. Try to have some evidence of foul play when you return. If you don’t like what the regulations allow and consider legal as far as what the connection between Ferrari and HaasF1 is, maybe you need to find a sport with different regulations. All HaasF1 is guilty of is fully exploiting what the existing regulations allow, and they have never for one instant denied that they are doing that. Still, the regulations define the parameters. Don’t blame the team for what the regulations allow.

        1. @gwbridge

          I don’t think you get the point. The FIA has admitted that it’s hard to monitor a relationship like Haas and Ferrari have, and said there’s no way of them calling foul play unless there’s a whistleblower. If you bothered to read my comments before going on your rage rant you’ll see me mentioning that I don’t have evidence to prove that Haas and Ferrari have cheated, but I haven’t seen 2 more similar challengers in my 23 years of watching this sport. If you’d like to prove me wrong .. be my guest and do some research.

          Is it a massive coincidence that Ferrari and Haas had identical chassis while also sharing a technical partnership .. (which doesn’t allow sharing of chassis designs by the way). Do you think Haas magically turned up with the best midfield car because Dallara is that fantastic at designing an F1 chassis?

          Get back to living in your bubble.

          1. @todfod I read your comment, and anyone with two or more neurons can tell that you are accusing HaasF1 of cheating and thereby gaining an unfair advantage – all of that based on your “feeling” that something’s not right rather than just admitting that they did not waste a lot of money designing state-of-the-art parts they can legally buy right off the shelf. Using A1-grade parts with an excellent power unit might just enable you to score enough points to do well in Formula 1.5 where the only possible goal is to be the best of the rest. Why you have to detract from that achievement by accusing them of cheating with no hard evidence is your problem.

          2. @gwbridge

            It’s not a “feeling” it’s a combination of eyesight and common sense. You know… Eyes.. The same thing you used to read my comments can be used to SEE the differences between Haas’ and Ferrari’s chassis. Maybe use your eyes to spot some differences and revert.

            Common sense is another thing.. you should try using sometime. Use your common sense in understanding how a team without it’s own design department and with a outsourced chassis design and manufacturing unit can produce a chassis that is exactly like Ferraris. Please use some of your neurons to decipher that.

          3. Hi Todfod… There is of course a lot in what you say, despite the lack of proof but… if you will forgive me saying so, you will have a better debate with this if you’re a little less aggressive and insulting – otherwise people will just ignore you… ;-)

  4. Was it no fun being a Renault B-team?

  5. I agree with this 100%
    Even the driver market is too affected by this. Drivers can only swap between teams from within the same A team management. Mercs are A team, Force india their B team, Williams their C team and drivers can only travel in between these teams.
    Same for Ferrari, HAAS and Sauber. Than you have Redbull and Torro Rosso. Renaults are too new to this to be an A team to anything.
    Ocon didnt find a seat only because he cannot/would not leave the Mercs

    The current situation is so political and locked up its ridiculous

    1. There is a difference between a end b teams and the red bull toro Rosso model.
      TR is a completely own chassis builder and only gearbox and engine are bought. Outside.

      1. That is what they did in 2018. For 2019 they already announced they would buy as much parts from Red Bull as they are allowed to.

        1. @mosquito, as you note, the only reason Toro Rosso has been semi autonomous is because the rules were changed so Toro Rosso couldn’t keep using the same chassis as the works team.

          However, with Haas now pushing the limits on what can be shared, Red Bull have stated they will do the same with Toro Rosso from 2019 onwards – indeed, Newey did make a few comments suggesting it was that proposal that resulted in Key resigning from Toro Rosso, since they effectively removed most of Key’s duties by doing that.

      2. @erikje You’re talking about a time before 2018 when STR became the non-competing test mule for the 2019 Red Bull power unit, right? Their mission this season was not to score points but to develop the Honda engine. STR will ALWAYS be stuck with the B-team label as long as they are owned by Red Bull corporate and it’s drivers are under contract with Red Bull corporate. No other entity is permitted to own two F1 teams and share resources (driver) like that.

    2. Ocon didnt find a seat only because he cannot/would not leave the Mercs

      Wrong… Ocon didn’t find a seat because he was Renault bound, then Ricciardo threw the curve ball and signed instead, which left Ocon out in the cold

      1. Has anybody at Renault ever stated categorically that Ocon definitely had a drive at Renault…?
        As far as I can tell it was only Toto who claimed this and, although it might be true that Ocon had been offered a deal Renault seem not to have been in a hurry to sign contracts… because they were ALSO negotiating with RIC… It’s the way things go, and I suggest Toto was too complacent. ;-)

    3. @Mike What in the world are you talking about? Neither of the Haas drivers has ever driven for Ferrari, and neither has any Ferrari connection.

  6. They forget F1 struggles to maintain 10 teams…If B Teams are the only way to do so, then it is what it is. Push too hard against and F1 could be down to 6 teams very quickly…

  7. If McLaren were performing at the top of the sport they wouldn’t care about teams that “have no chance of being title contenders.” It’s only because they’re forced to compete amongst second tier teams that are using the rules which were intended to drive costs down. I see no problem other than the complaining and finger pointing.

    1. @watchman Agreed. And that’s also why Force India went bankrupt: Trying to operate like Ferrari or Mercedes on a HaasF1-level budget.

  8. I don’t think Liberty will do anything about it. As I’ve said before, Liberty pretty much spineless when it comes to challenging Merc and Ferrari. They control F1, not Liberty and FIA.

    1. Only because they ARE spineless. If they acted together Liberty and the FIA could dictate what the rules are and what the sport would be. Merc may have the best chassis, the best engine, and the best driver, but they are still simply buying these championships one after another. Hamilton may, in fact, be the best driver, but no one piles up these statistics without having the best car.

      1. @gwbridge

        Merc may have the best chassis, the best engine, and the best driver, but they are still simply buying these championships one after another.

        That’s how the sport has always been. The bigger teams who spend more money win. It’s not the FIA’s fault that Ferrari are rubbish despite their enormous budget and Red Bull can’t build engines, or have a healthy working relationship with engine suppliers.

        1. @todfod “That’s how the sport has always been.” Ya Ya Ya. I’ve heard this a thousand times. I’ve been following F1 since the 60’s, so I know how the sport has always been. It hasn’t always been this much disproportionate spending, and I don’t recall a lot of situations where you had to be a mammoth multinational automobile manufacturer to win a championship. Even Ferrari is small potatoes compared to Mercedes.

          1. @gwbridge

            Even Ferrari is small potatoes compared to Mercedes.

            Both Ferrari and Red bull spend as much on their F1 program as Mercedes does. Look at the article on headcount if you don’t believe it. The fact that they aren’t winning is not Mercdes’ fault or the FIAs.

          2. “… so I know how the sport has always been.”
            You’re quite right… The sport of F1 has NOT always been as it is now – for better or worse.

  9. Becoming a B team would show some ambition for McLaren.

  10. Zak probably wishes McLaren could be a Renault B team right now instead of just a PU customer. Noone can win the championship as a PU customer.

    1. They could win the lottery and pull off a Brawn GP with the new rule changes coming up. They could invest more in looking for loopholes instead of developing their car lol

  11. All the snide comments on Zak and McLaren aside, I do believe the on-track events do need someone to look into. Ocon’s incident with Verstappen and his giving way to Hamilton in Monaco spring to mind.
    In most cases, the gap between A and B teams was so high that the A team driver overlook B team irrespective of which camp B belonged to.
    But if the gap between A and B reduces, that will be the next problem (on-track collusion between teams of the same camp) to solve for Ross Brawn.

  12. Dutchguy (@justarandomdutchguy)
    20th December 2018, 23:10

    F1 costs need to be examined before B-teams can be addressed
    -Toro Rosso luckily does devellop its own chassis and occasionally even uses different engines
    -Sauber almost went under in 2016 and where last by quite a margin in 2017.
    -Manor went bankrupt in early 2017
    -Force India went bankrupt, team was luckily saved.
    -Williams is struggling badly ATM
    -Haas might not even enter had they’ve had to absolutely do everything themselves….

    And some of the teams that do most of the work themselves can’t close the gap to the A-teams either. Renault got lapped twice in races like Monaco, and McLaren is mainly blaming absoltely everything for their failure (gonna be fun in a few years for Renault). Williams, meanwhile, finished dead last this year

  13. Dutchguy (@justarandomdutchguy)
    20th December 2018, 23:12

    wrote Monaco, but of course, that is supposed to be Mexico

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