Frederic Vasseur, Alfa Romeo, 2019

Cost of F1 is “unsustainable” for more than half the grid – Vasseur

2019 F1 season

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Alfa Romeo team principal Frederic Vasseur says Formula 1’s current financial structure is “unsustainable” for more than half the teams.

Speaking in an exclusive interview with RaceFans, Vasseur urged F1’s commercial rights holders Liberty Media to press ahead with its plans to overhaul the sport in 2021. He said the sport’s owners are unlikely to find common ground between all the teams.

“The issue is that we are 10 teams around the table with completely different approach, completely different structure, different budget. I don’t want to speak about competitiveness but at the end you can have Haas and Renault, for example, they are more or less at the same level but with completely different approach

“And if you listen to everybody I think that you will never find a compromise because you won’t find something fitting with every single company. At the end of the day they have to act. To take decisions.

“Honestly it’s good to listen to everybody but at one stage we have to take decisions and to take responsibilities. For sure some teams won’t be very happy but you have to find the best, not compromise, but the best direction for the series.”

A cap on budgets and changes to F1’s prize money structure are among the changes Liberty Media is trying to introduce for 2021.

“It has to be the start honestly because you know that the situation is just unsustainable for at least six teams on the grid,” said Vasseur. “I think that we, the owners, the shareholders of the teams are doing their best effort to survive until [the] 2021 change. It has to change.”

Vasseur added teams such as his could stand to benefit if a cost cap is introduced as they are used to operating on leaner budgets than the likes of Mercedes and Ferrari.

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22 comments on “Cost of F1 is “unsustainable” for more than half the grid – Vasseur”

  1. Yeah, i think Vasseur speaks for many in F1 when he urges Liberty to get on with putting the budget cap out there.

    And off course he is right about the money spent being incredible and hardly sustainable

    1. Biskit Boy (@sean-p-newmanlive-co-uk)
      11th March 2019, 8:45

      I agree that the cost of Formula One is unsustainable, but I don’t agree that budget caps are the answer. They are unenforceable. Any attempt to impose them would lead to many arguments of the the true costs a team was incurring. There are just too many ways to cheat a budget cap.

      In the past I have suggested the Indycar route with standard components or even standard/customer chassis. I always get shouted down, people saying this is not true to the ethos of Formula One (although we already have many standard parts and customer chassis play an important part of Formula One’s history).

      The only solution is to remove most of the aerodynamic down-force and greatly increase power and mechanical grip. True the cars will be slower and yes this will need to be applied the the lower formula over time but in my opinion it is the way forward.

      The benefits will be reduced cost of aero development, closer racing and enabling of teams to be competitive at less of a cost. Also money spent will have less of an effect on performance, reducing a teams ability to spend its way to success.

      I know this is radical, but you can’t bridge a big gap with small steps. I revolution is required.

      1. A cap can be enforced quite easily actually. They do it MotoGP with the claiming rule. No point in spending millions if another team can buy your advantage for peanuts.

        And I’d say we need the cars to be more diverse, not more similar. By all means mandate common parts for those components where any gains will be tiny and the expense huge, but we should encourage ingeniousness too – let’s see some new ideas.

        1. As @rsp123 mentions, a budget cap is far from unrealistic and it has been done in other (motor)sports, including ones where the equipment is as important to results as it is in F1 @sean-p-newmanlive-co-uk.

        2. Biskit Boy (@sean-p-newmanlive-co-uk)
          11th March 2019, 17:01

          I like the idea of the claiming rule and I’ve suggested previously but everyone said it can’t work.

          I thought MotoGP had abandoned it about 4-5 years ago because there were too many loop holes?

          You are probably right. I’m happy to stand corrected.

  2. F1 could have a bright future if they are able to introduce a budget cap, reign in the excessive payments to single teams, and move to a franchise system like many American sports.
    A franchise system (and importantly a structure where franchisees share more evenly in the success of the sport) allows teams to work with the ‘owners’ on the long term future and franchisees can be sold when a team owner wants to focus on something else.

    1. @coldfly
      Motor racing in the US is not exactly hitting the high spots. In fact it Indy seems to be counting on the demise of NASCAR to increase its sponsors and viewership. So the US formula is not necessarily the key to success.

      1. When I’m talking about a franchise system it is not motor racing in the US (did not know they had a frnachise system), but American Football, Basketball, Baseball and (Ice) Hockey. @johnrkh
        Those sports and franchises are extremely successful (financially)

        1. OK fair enough, If I’m correct the franchise system in US sport revolves around the licensing of a name or brand and the transfer of talent?
          But I would like to have it explained how a franchised style system would transfer to a sport largely based around tech. Are you saying that the developers / owners of the tech would lease it out to independent teams to use? How would the ownership be controlled? How could the pirating of the tech be policed?

  3. @sean-p-newmanlive-co-uk

    In the past I have suggested the Indycar route with standard components or even standard/customer chassis. I always get shouted down, people saying this is not true to the ethos of Formula One (although we already have many standard parts and customer chassis play an important part of Formula One’s history).

    I’m one of them although I don’t shout. But yes for me and many other ‘older’ fans F1 is all about innovation, cutting edge tech.
    Besides the Cosworth V8 which was a game changer, I can’t think of anything off the top of my head that supports what you say about the importants of standard parts. Also the Cosworth was not compulsory, many of the teams in the 60’s 70’s used the same transaxles, again not compulsory innovation was allowed and many teams took advantage of it. Brabham, Lotus and Tyrrell just to name a few. the fans were rewarded with some spectacular and unpredictable racing.
    Going down the Indycar rout would be a disaster I think.

    1. Biskit Boy (@sean-p-newmanlive-co-uk)
      11th March 2019, 13:48

      Hi John, I’m an older fan too. I started following F1 in the 70’s when my Dad did some work for Shadow. My first F1 GP was Austria in 75′. I play devils advocate a bit with the suggestion of the indycar route, just to stir the discussion. F1 should plough its own furrow.

      The technical rules largely stop truly revolutionary technical innovation. I don’t think F1 has been at the cutting edge engineering wise for a while. Aerospace far outstrips it and F1 can’t claim road relevance anymore either. There’s no active suspension, ABS or traction control. Plenty of road cars have these.

      F1 Aero is already SEVERELY restricted at probably 15% of what it could be. I say just knock off another 10-12% and the racing will improve, competition will be closer and the money will be more evenly spread.. just a thought. It would be my ideal.

      I’m with you on ICE. I’ve had an EV for a year now and I would never go back. Don’t get me wrong I love those noisy V8/10/12s but electric is the future.

      Happy F1 watching.

      1. robinsonf1 (@)
        11th March 2019, 14:46

        Just here to correct something – “Aerospace far outstrips it”

        I work in engineering (done a bit of F1 and aerospace in my time) and this is not right. The only thing aerospace outstrips F1 of is paperwork and endless meetings and reviews. When it comes down to part optimisation F1 wins by a mile. The reason – aerospace is so over encumbered with legislation and traceability that it takes 10+ years for new technology to actually turn into flight parts. And by then F1 has tried the new technology, learnt it, and moved on to better things.

        1. Biskit Boy (@sean-p-newmanlive-co-uk)
          12th March 2019, 8:18

          Hmmm you have a point when it comes to the rapid refinement of technologies. I was thinking more of the true revolutionary innovations such as:
          Aluminium Monocoques, Carbon Fibre and CFD Software all of which came from aerospace. I wonder what the next might be?
          If you can give examples of innovations in F1 that are ahead of aerospace that would be cool. I’m keen to learn.

  4. Something we all need to take into account is the decline in new car purchases around the world and the fate of the ICE in the not so distant future. I’m not saying that the ICE is going to disappear tomorrow, but its continued development is directly linked to the advancement of newer tech like battery and Hydrogen. This will obviously have a direct effect on the traditional form of Motor Racing.

  5. The problem is there are essentially two groups racing in F1, manufacturers and non-manufacturers who have competing goals and reasons for being in F1. As long as the manufacturers believe that F1 is a place to innovate, the costs will be high as everyone will have to spend in order to try to keep up. Unfortunately, if Liberty impose a cost cap and the manufacturers feel that they can no longer innovate within the cost cap, they’ll likely leave as technological innovation is one of their primary reasons for being in F1. Liberty have a very difficult balancing act to perform and I doubt that they can make it work as I think the goals of the two groups are mutually exclusive.

    1. @velocityboy: Great point.

      The manufacturers have already won the un-level playing field. Williams is the last, if stubborn, independent team.

      Gene Haas could decide that F1 has done it’s marketing work and move on. Next season, Lance & Lawrence could decide that FE is a better playground to peddle their billions.

      The independent garagista F1 era is long over. F1’s future, capped or uncapped, is with the manufacturers. Unless Liberty can sell ‘innovation by spec series parity’ to fans and shareholders.

      Still…it is interesting that the TP of Ferrari’s new B team is playing the ‘F1 is unsustainable’ 2nd violin. What does that mean strategically to Ferrari’s goals? 4 teams with 5 cars? More not-tobacco tobacco sponsorship?

  6. There is no rule on minimum spend, if you dont have the money dont spend so much. Poor management by small teams. F1 has never been sustainable for any team bar Ferrari for 1 reason or another.

  7. As for F1 and technological innovation, what do you all think is currently the greatest F1 technological innovation, relevant to road cars, that is not already adopted in current road cars?

    1. That’s easy, @waptraveler, it’s the Todt Thong.

      Following a distant second, 50%+ efficient ICE power units.

  8. Vasseur has been vocal with this opinion for a while now but as Chase has said recently he’s willing no negotiate in private and spend as long as he can finding a compromise.

    I’m not sure which way is right, but I feel like the Chase method is more rational. I really do think it’s better to try to listen to everyone’s concerns and to at least try and make F1 beneficial for all parties commercially. Rather than just dictating how it should be for everyone to the benefit of some ideal vision of how they alone think F1 should be.

    I feel the latter has the danger of allowing the big teams to control the narrative through the press that Liberty are destroying F1.

  9. Costs are unsustainable for 60% of the field yet Todt wants to expand to 12 teams. Does that mean that costs will become unsustainable for 67% of the field?

  10. F1oSaurus (@)
    12th March 2019, 20:19

    Like that isn’t the case in any sport for the bottom half of the teams in a competition. At least if you would assume you should be able to win the championship on a third or quarter of the budget of the bigger teams.

    Not just in motorspors, but the biggest soccer teams have the most money to buy the best players and they dominate the championships too.

    If the tries to pretend that they will go under, then prrrrlease I have some bridges to sell for the people who fall for this. The word we are looking for here is “agenda”. He wants the gap lowered sure. That’s what this rant is suppose to achieve. Would be nice if that happened to be honest, but please stop pretending doom will come over all of us if you don’t get your way.

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