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Why a new team looking at F1 is great news for the sport

2021 F1 season

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As RaceFans revealed yesterday, a new team could join the grid in time for the 2021 F1 season.

Panthera Team Asia F1 is making preparations to enter the championship and has already put some senior staff in place.

It’s no coincidence Panthera’s planned entry date is the season after next. That will coincide with a planned overhaul of the sport which will see new technical regulations introduced and, most significantly, changes to F1’s prize money structure.

The latter is a big part of the reason why, with just one exception, every new entrant to the championship in the past decade has failed. Manor, Caterham and HRT all collapsed within a few years of entering, and US F1 didn’t even make it that far.

Those four teams all lodged entries for the 2010 season. They originally committed to entering when teams were given the option of competing under a budget cap in exchange for certain technical freedoms. But while the new teams did come in, the new regulations didn’t, and the entrants therefore found themselves competing on much tougher terms than they had anticipated.

Under the circumstances, it was remarkable any of them were still running by the time F1’s expensive new V6 hybrid turbos were introduced four years later. HRT had already gone by then and Caterham collapsed at the end of that year. That left only Manor, which had already changed hands twice, having been entered by Richard Branson’s Virgin brand and then being taken over by short-lived Russian sportscar manufacturer Marussia.

Manor’s survival came thanks to the efforts of the late Jules Bianchi, who in 2014 became the first driver of any of those new teams to score a championship point. His efforts helped secure a second consecutive top 10 finish in the constructors’ championship for the team: a precious result, for it earned them a larger share of F1’s prize money.

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After limping through 2015 Manor returned the following year with Mercedes power and held 10th in the championship until Sauber displaced them with two races to go. The team collapsed before the next season began.

Esteban Ocon, Manor, Interalgos, 2016
Manor gave Esteban Ocon his first F1 chance
Formula 1’s much-criticised prize money distribution currently hands disproportionately huge sums to the wealthiest teams. This has created an extremely imbalanced playing field – it’s over six years since anyone outside the top three teams has won a race. It has also made the financial case for setting up a new F1 team extremely unappealing.

The only team to have braved it in the intervening period is Haas, who took advantage of the opportunity to align closely with Ferrari, sourcing some parts from them and having others built by Dallara, to minimise their costs. Haas have been far more successful than the new teams of 2021, but the regulations they took advantage of have already been revised and are expected to become more restrictive in 2021.

However if the scope to obtain parts from other teams or suppliers remains, and the prize money situation becomes more favourable, 2021 could still offer the best opportunity for new teams to enter F1 for several years. And this is something which should excite us all.

For years, F1’s previous administration created a hostile environment to new teams seeking to enter the sport. At one stage a bond of tens of millions of dollars had to be lodged by any new team which came in. The prize money system minimised the payments to any team outside the top 10 in the championship, effectively ensuring the number of entrants seldom grew beyond 10. It’s been seven years since we had a 24-car grid (above) and we haven’t had a full 26-car field since 1995.

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But in 2021 that may have to change. If the long-awaited introduction of a budget cap has the desired effect of reducing the spending of the top teams, that may well require them to reduce staff numbers. While some may go to other posts in their companies, many will wish to continue working in F1. The arrival of at least one new team may give those individuals somewhere to put their talents to good use.

The expansion of the grid should be a very positive thing for the championship as well. So often F1 talks about ‘improving the show’; having more cars in a race is the simplest way of increasing the action. It means two more drivers can join the field, potentially opening F1 up to two markets currently not represented in the field.

But most encouragingly of all, the fact someone is looking at entering a team in F1 shows they believe entering the championship makes sense. It’s a positive sign that F1 is at last heading in the right direction.

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Author information

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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  • 23 comments on “Why a new team looking at F1 is great news for the sport”

    1. I have the impression that Brown/Liberty must be encouraging the asian team a lot. As they will encourage an “top level american team”.

      Depending on the turns after 2021, that can mean a chinese car manufacturer taking charge of one, and Ford taking the other. That would be then the end of the garagists.

      Or the opposite… If the budget cap works, some F2 and F3 teams may want to make the jump and the garagists dominance of the 70/80’s will be back.

      Anyway, I hope we see that long line formation back at the start, long enough that you cannot frame all rows in the same picture at Brazil’s “not-so-straight” start!

    2. F1 needs a Dodge, or Chevrolet, or Lincoln or Cadillac to be in the sport if they want the USA to take notice. Ideally Ford would enter.

      Unfortunately a lot of those brands aren’t typically American made anymore.

      Ford or Chevrolet would be the best of US brand names to see in F1. Or what about one of the sub brands used in the US like Acura?

      1. I think it would not work, having a brand such as Acura be attached to something as high profile as Formula 1. Why, you might not be asking? Because while in America, the Acura brand is the top, it’s quite the opposite elsewhere in the world. You don’t buy an Acura NSX except in the USA. Elsewhere? Honda. And since that’s the case, would it even be feasible, with Acura being a Honda sub-brand, to “supposedly” be a “high profile” USA team that is already an effective sub-brand to another manufacturer that is providing engines to a top team? In addition to that, it might actually create more brand confusion since, as I mentioned and as you alluded to, Acura is more a US sub-brand.

        1. I don’t see why that wouldn’t work. The NSX is only made in the US, and I think many realize it is a branding badge for upscale Honda in North America just as Lexus is to Toyota, Infiniti is to Nissan. I don’t think Honda considers Acura a ‘sub-brand’ since the cars are different to what Honda pumps out…more expensive, more refined…meant for more of a specialty market although they are as common as Honda on the streets in NA anyway. I think Acura is their upscale brand not sub brand.

          1. @robbie, overall, though, doesn’t it make a lot more sense for Honda to focus on promoting their own marque given that is available to a far wider section of the global market than Acura is, which is currently not on sale in most markets? It might make some sense for the US market to market Acura, but for that wider global market it probably would cause confusion to see this unknown brand that is, at the same time, aligned with Honda.

    3. Indeed this is a good sign that F1 is heading in the right direction. I’ve been optimistic about the things Liberty and Brawn want to do right from the minute they took over and started saying all the right things. Great stuff.

    4. I will believe it, when I see their billionaire behind this “project”.

      At this time it looks more like another USF1 entry.

      1. Maybe it’s the same money William Storey had access to for building a global energy drink brand…..

        1. Brilliant suggestion!
          I guess you are spot on!)

    5. A well known brand name would be good but I don’t think that that is the most important point.
      The sport needs new teams – new blood – otherwise it will become the sad old man of motorsport.

      Get new teams in and encourage them.
      The big names in the motor industry will join in when the accountants tell them to join in.
      Not because they care or love racing but because it might sell more cars.

      Yes I am growing more cynical by the day.
      No I don’t care ;)

      1. @nullapax – I’d say your level of cynicism is about spot on. :)

    6. Why would anyone want to start an F1 team? No money in it, massive expenses, no hope of winning anything.

      If somebody wanted to own a race team, there are other series inwhich it is possible to compete and if you are good enough, win. F1 is not one of them. It’s simply a car manufacturers technology demonstrator series.

      1. Why would anyone want to start an F1 team? No money in it, massive expenses, no hope of winning anything.

        Why do people climb dangerous mountains, train for years to compete in the Olympic games, learn to play a musical instrument, run for President of the United States, etc? Because it’s part of human nature. People want to try and succeed at something really difficult or ambitious. There’s an air of mystique about doing something like that. We all want to leave “our mark” on the world, even if it is only for our own personal satisfaction.
        Why did Lawrence Stroll and friends buy Force India? Because they love F1 and believe they can win races! Why did Bruce McLaren, Enzo Ferrari, Frank Williams, Frank Williams, etc start teams? Because they wanted to show they are the best of the best!

        1. @drycrust, the thing is, in the case of individuals like Bruce McLaren and Enzo Ferrari, they did still go into the sport with the knowledge that it would still be possible to turn a profit with a sensibly managed team. They might have had a passion for the sport, but they also showed significant commercial skill as well.

          In the case of Bruce McLaren, don’t forget that, at the time of his death, McLaren had grown into a pretty significant enterprise in the world of motorsport. It wasn’t just Formula 1 as, by the time of Bruce’s fatal accident in 1970, McLaren had either been active, or were already active, in Formula 2, Formula 5000, IndyCar, Can-Am and more.

          They were active in enough areas by 1970 that Trojan Group, an independent team, made a pretty healthy living from producing cars as a sub-contractor to McLaren – they alone may have produced more than 220 different “McLaren” cars – and some of McLaren’s side enterprises were very profitable.

          Teddy Mayer has talked about how, in 1969, McLaren were pulling in around $50,000 to $75,000 per race in Can-Am – that’s around $3.5 to $5.35 million per race when you adjust for inflation to 2019 prices – just in prize money. Add in the sale of customer cars via Trojan, plus being able to sell off the ex-works cars at the end of a season, and then add in sales of spare parts too, and you realise that McLaren was making serious money for that era.

          In some senses, Bruce McLaren was perhaps closer to Eric Broadley and Lola Cars – yes, they had a passion for motorsport, but they were also aware of the commercial opportunities that enabled them to make a decent living from working in the world of motorsport at the time.

          1. Thanks for the extra information. I guess that shows that besides passion it was also possible to make money from racing in F1.

    7. As the prestigious Team Panthera aims F1, Porsche & Mercedes are joining Formula E.

    8. If this new team goes the HAAS way, buying parts elsewhere, and is competitive, what will happen to a team like Williams? What is the incentive nowadays to buy everything yourself when B-teams such as HAAS and Toro Rosso perform at the front of the midfield?

      1. @francorchamps17
        I think the ideal situation would be to allow customer parts for say 3-5 years, giving the team time to bed in and sort themselves out before having to design a complete car. Going from a blank sheet to putting an F1 car on the track is a big ask for anyone, I don’t think we want a repeat of the 2010 teams’ entry to F1 where they were getting lapped 5x per race etc.

    9. Unless there is serious ‘national’ pride at stake (such as a team from China) with national money behind it, I don’t think it’s going to happen.
      Hope it does, though.

      1. TT = Team Trump
        Should work. And if they do not succeed Trump just buys everything and replaces the F1 to greenland.

    10. Stephen Higgins
      24th August 2019, 22:42

      If they could bring a new engine manufacturer in with them as well then that would be even better …

    11. If Renault need to considerably increase their spending to get near the budget cap of 175 million I think that says it all about the effect it’ll have.

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