Ross Brawn, Interlagos, 2019

F1’s prize money structure means “certain death for the 11th team”

2020 F1 season

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Formula 1 motorsport director Ross Brawn says the way the sport distributes its prize money makes it impossible for more than 10 teams to exist.

At present revenues are paid based on whether teams have finished in the top 10 constructors’ championship positions in prior seasons. Some teams are paid further bonuses on top of that.

Under the current prize money structure the number of F1 teams has fallen from 12 in 2012 to just 10 since 2017.

Brawn is in discussions with teams over how the prize money structure will change when their current commercial agreements with F1 expire at the end of this year.

“What I don’t think we want is a revenue model where only 10 teams get paid because that’s certain death for the 11th team,” said Brawn in an exclusive interview for RaceFans. “We’ve seen that, history has shown that happens every time.

“So we have to find a solution to that. What that solution is we’re in discussion at the moment.”

The new budget cap, which will be introduced for the 2021 F1 season, will constrain what teams can spend on running their F1 operations. But new teams won’t be able to get around it to spend huge sums before entering, said Brawn.

“The way the budget cap works is the period prior to competing you still have a control on what you can spend. So whereas at the moment the $175 million is spent on operations and so on and so forth, that can be spent on different things entering Formula 1.

“So there still needs to be a substantial investment to get into Formula 1. But the year or two leading up to starting, once you’ve made your entry, then you are controlling the costs as well. So there is a ceiling on investment that somebody can make.

“It is a serious investment, there’s no doubt. But if we can make the returns sensible I think it’s more justifiable.”

How much money did F1 teams earn in the past two seasons?

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Dieter Rencken
Dieter Rencken has held full FIA Formula 1 media accreditation since 2000, during which period he has reported from over 300 grands prix, plus...
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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  • 29 comments on “F1’s prize money structure means “certain death for the 11th team””

    1. Good they’re looking at this. It’s even more concerning when one realizes that often the difference between the lowest positions in the WCC can be dependent on something as fickle as a driver being lucky enough to snag a crucial point, elevating his team above the others, even if those others have performed better (but without points) over the season.

      For instance, I think 2016 had a case like this, between Manor and Sauber. One of the teams tended to have better finishing positions than the other, but it was the other that scored an elusive point at Brazil. (And I think it didn’t help matters that there was a driver movement happening between those two teams, leading to some allegations of a conspiracy).

      1. This is why I like when points are awarded lower down the ranks, especially if you are follow the racing in the low and mid field. Otherwise the end result can get very random, as it has done many times. One lucky race can easily trump a whole season of racing, which isnt exactly the kind of racing i like. And it would be more fun to if more of the drivers had more to fight about.

        1. @maisch – Very true. I was originally opposed to them increasing the number of positions for which points are awarded, wanting points to be an achievement. However, a fellow fanatic made this very argument about more points helping avoid this problem, and I found it a very compelling reason, much better than counting finishing places.

        2. I didn’t want the points to be extended from 6th initially, but then I realised that F1 was pushing the cars/parts and less and less, and becoming less about attrition and more about nursing the parts, meaning DNF’s are now a rarity.

      2. What conspiracy? If I recall correctly, Nasr was about to move to Manor, but because he scored points for Sauber and pushed Manor down to 11th, the latter couldn’t afford to stay on the grid next year, so he pushed himself out of F1 in essence. Wehrlein going the other way didn’t influence much I think.

        1. @hunocsi – that might have been it, and yes, based on your description, “conspiracy” might be too strong a phrase for it!

    2. The number of teams has been ten in the more distant past as well, though, as well as 2015.

    3. Has this has been the worst rule in f1 for the past decade? There should be a set payment plan for 13 teams then if its down to 10 or 11 ect then the remaining cash is split equally between all other teams.

      If there had been a 2008 style pull out the sport was knackered. Say Red Bull & Mercedes pulled there backing were down to 7 teams while only 5 have an engine. That scenario was threatened more than once. The biggest thing aside from having cars racing is getting the grid up to 26 cars. 3 more teams, 6 more drivers, lots more jobs, sponsorship, talking points and hopefully they can drag more engine manufacturers or suppliers back to the sport.

      1. the worst rule in F1 has always been the legacy payment and veto right to Ferrari…

          1. I don’t know if Ferrari’s “veto right” and their extra special bonus (I can’t recall its exact name) are the worst rules in F1, but they are definitely rules that shouldn’t have been written and should have been erased by now.

    4. You’d think that F1 wants to create an environment where at least 1 new teams could enter the sport and compete in the championship. You wonder how they would accommodate that new entrant into the revenue sharing model though. The amount of dollars being shared across all teams is likely to stay the same size year on year (save for some incremental growth or loss).

      When a new team enters, they will take a portion of that pie – are all of the existing 10 teams going to be getting less money in the following year just because a new team has entered? You can’t see them being happy about signing up to a system where they get less money just because an 11th team has joined.

    5. I’ve long thought that mirroring the points system from motorbikes (P1-P15) makes the most sense. That way almost everyone has the chance to score points, seperating the teams out and relying less on a lucky P12 for example.

      The prize money should simply be shared amongth all entries. Why does it have to be the top 10 only? Whilst Porsche/Audi could join and expect to finish above bottom for the year, a feeder team (DAMS, Prema etc) could be quite worried about no payments for 11th place.

      1. @racerjoss I was against expanding the point scoring positions down to 10th & would be against expanding them even further down the field because I have always felt & will continue to think that scoring a point should be an achievement & not something you get simply for pretty much just turning up.

        I remember back when points were only awarded to the top 6 & how special & how much of an achievement it was when a backmarker team managed to grab a point & how they always celebrated it like they had just got a win. You don’t see that anymore because scoring a point just doesn’t seem like as big a deal anymore because expanding it to 10th made it far easier & far less an achievement.

        Points should be hard to get, They should be earned & scoring them should feel like an achievement rather than something thats handed out just for showing up.

        1. @stefmeister ”They should be earned & scoring them should feel like an achievement rather than something thats handed out just for showing up.”
          – Indeed.

        2. I understand that many people want teams and drivers to “earn” a point. I agree that it should remain a challenge.

          However, when you compare the past of P1-6 scoring points to today’s point system, you ignore how massive progress in reliability and professionalism have reduced the opportunity to score those points.

          In the past, it was possible to simply survive the race and finish in the top 6 whilst mistakes and failures caused cars to drop out on a routine basis. Today, that would probably net you a P16, because the midfield is just so good, and we all gasp if we see an engine or gearbox failure. It’s just so rare now.

          I understand the desire to keep points an achievement, but it’s unrealistic to assume everyone has a shot at the podium or even the top 6 in F1 2020. It’s just not the case.

          1. @racerjoss How is giving out points to for all positions relevant anyway? Points are not used for handing out prize money.

      2. I really wouldn’t want to see points for the entire field – I think they’ve got the balance right now. It shouldn’t be a participation medal.

        I just think 11th (and 12th) position in the championship needs a sum of money.

    6. Not that concerned personally as they are discussing this and I’m sure will figure it out. Indeed they do want to see a few new teams in F1 from what I understand, so the motivation will be there.

      Just a couple of random points…isn’t there an entry fee of something like 25 to 40 mill for new teams? In that sense they are initially injecting money into the entity of F1. Then there is the concept that brand new teams generally don’t immediately start winning or finishing in points as they need time to build themselves up into something that solid. So I think traditionally new teams don’t exactly count on, or write into their projections that they will be immediately getting money back from F1.

      F1 is supposed to be hard. New teams are supposed to have a plan that they present to F1 on how and why they belong in F1 and how they are going to sustain themselves in those initial most difficult seasons. For me, new teams should not be allowed to enter on a shoe string budget only to in short order start holding out their hands for more and more money from F1.

      1. In the past, that entry fee tended to go straight to the commercial rights holder – the fee might have injected some capital into the sport, but it was rarely shared out.

        Even if it was, it was a one off payment – and, if split between multiple teams, not a huge amount – but, if that team did then start claiming a share of the prize money, the amount that they might be taking out could well be more than that initial payment into the sport.

        From the point of view of the other teams, they would probably be worse off in the short term – any share of the entry fee would be a one off payment, but the reduction in the value of their share of the prize money would probably be reduced by more than that, and that loss in prize money would persist over multiple years.

    7. For an industry, and F1 it is indeed an “industry”, that is just brimming with incredibly brilliant people, why has this problem not been solved.? It should have been done years ago.
      The demise of any team beyond 10th place has been a consistent situation for may years.
      When there was sufficient sponsorship resources (I know, there is never enough) and the cost of participation was lower, there were 16+ trams. Under the current model, as Ross B. points out, there will never be a viable 11th place team.
      The only rational reason seems to be that the top 6 or 8 teams just don’t care about anyone else besides themselves. Understandable, but some leadership at the top, should be evident and correct this.
      How it happens, who’s toes get trod on and who looses out shouldn’t matter if the goal is to make a 12, 14 or 16 team grid viable.
      With the impending budget cap, if it really does work, there will be redundancies across the board making this a near perfect time for additional teams to snag precious experienced resources.
      Challenge for Ross B and Co. …. like the Nike Guy said … “Just Do It.!” Get it done.

      “The problem is not the problem. The problem is your attitude about the problem.” Capt. Jack Sparrow.

    8. Is there really such an urgency to get an 11th team to join?

      Clearly some (if not most) of the current F1 teams would even be very much against it, since it would mean a reduction of their own prize money.

      Besides, if the new joiners are that poor of a team that they are unable to rank in the top 10 for a few years in a row, is there really any appetite to keep funding them as an “also ran” team?

      So it’s not just the matter of whether we need an 11th team, but “Do we need another team which can’t even beat Williams?”.

      1. @f1osaurus Another post of yours that I don’t disagree with. Particularly about new teams and their viability. This is why I thought the way it worked was that new entrants had to present their case to F1/FIA as to why they belonged in F1 and how they were going to sustain themselves and grow. I absolutely agree they do not need new teams that enter but can never compete, and I thought F1 took measures to ensure that. As we know the more recent problem in the last number of years is that mid-contracts BE moved the financial goal posts on the less funded teams when bringing in the hybrid era and that left them unable to ever catch up, and hence a team like Williams with such a rich and successful past, can be made to look amateur.

        Personally I think it would be great to have a little bigger grid for a little more variety and for the extra seats for some new drivers to get their chance, but I’m absolutely fine if that doesn’t happen too. Is their really such an urgency for an 11th (12th, 13th) team? I don’t know how urgent it is for Liberty and Brawn, but I think at a minimum they are thinking that if they can get the series to a point where new entities are seriously considering it, or indeed do enter, then that will be a huge sign that some problems are being solved in F1 as pertaining to costs to compete, chances to grow and make waves in F1 as a new competitor, and return on their investment. They want to at least make F1 much more attractive to potential new entrants than it has been lately, which leans towards growth rather than stagnation.

        1. @robbie You write a lot, but you say pretty much nothing.

          Your last sentence is the only one that makes any sense. However, the point still remains, why would F1 need to keep an eternal 11th team around?

            1. BTW my main issue is not what you want (or what I want), but that the exclusive “interview” doesn’t touch at all upon this question.

    9. And what are they gonna do about it? Show me da money!

      In interest of sport all teams should get equal revenue share. Same cost cap, then off to the races, develop what you can with the same budget.

    Comments are closed.