Could Hyundai enter Formula 1 in 2014?

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    Prisoner Monkeys

    After months of speculation, Volkswagen recently announced that they will not enter Formula 1. However, I have done some digging, and I have found some rather interesting points that line up and suggest that Hyundai might be interested in entering Formula 1:

    First of all, the Korean Grand Prix was announced in 2006 with a start date of 2010. This is very unusual because it would be four years – almost to the day – between the announcement and the race. Compare that to other recent additions to the calendar, like Austin, New York, India and Abu Dhabi: all of them had about two years between the announcement and their projected start dates. The only other country that has been given so long to prepare is Russia, and that is because they are building their circuit at the Sochi Olympic Precinct.

    Around the same time, news reports began circulating that Hyundai was considering an entry for 2010, when the sport would be accepting three new teams to the grid. Unfortuantely, the global recession hit, and Hyundai suffered; the grid entry never came to fruition and the dieas appeared to be dead in the water.

    But here’s where things get interesting: Bernie cut a new deal with the Koreans, to slow down their losses. I recall he specifically said that he didn’t want to do it because it was difficult enough negotiating with them the first time. If the circuit and the race were really such a drain on finances, it would be better to end the race now before even more debt builds up. Nevertheless, Bernie came up with a new deal to keep Korea on the calendar. And as near as I can tell, he has never done this for a circuit after just two years of the contract. The terms of the new deal are very good for South Korea, slashing costs by $20 million a year, cutting out FOM’s additonal commission fee (where they get 10% of any profits the circuit makes) and reducing the notorious 7% multiplier. That’s an unprecedented move on his part, despite his comments that he didn’t want to do it.

    The question is, why is Bernie bending over backwards like this? He never does it.

    I think he knows that there might be something in the future that will ultiamtely benefit the sport – something big enough to make him want to pass on the usual fees, but keep the Korean Grand Prix on the calendar. Meanwhile, the new Concorde Agreement appears to offer a share in the sport to teams that win World Championship, while 2014 will see the introduction of new engine regulations. All of this will make the sport far more attractive to manufacturers. And as the world’s fastest-growing car manufacturer and the eighth-largest in the world (fourth if you cound subsidiary Kia), Hyundai would be a prime candidate for entry.

    If Hyundai want in, there are several avenues that they can follow. Firstly, should Mercedes want to withdraw from the championship, the team at Brackley will need a new owner. As a race-winning team with a pedigree, they will be very attractive to companies like Hyundai. the downside is that they would have to compete in 2013 with someone else’s engine(s).

    Secondly, Lola Cars have said that they want to enter the sport when the new engine regulations come in, provided that they can find a supplier. Those comments were made as recently as November 2011, so they’re probably still working on it if they want to enter in 2014. The downside is that an entry depends on the availablity of the thirteenth grid spot, and the FIA rejected all the potential entries for 2012 on the basis that they didn’t have the money or the engineering know-how to compete. But if they got money from a manufacturer like Hyundai, they would almost certainly get in. And they could potentially rebrand PURE’s engines as Hyundai if they wanted to. They would still be starting from scratch, though, and after two years, Caterham, Marussia and HRT have scored no points. I think that this is probably the best (and most likely) way to go about it.

    Thirdly, there is always HRT. Luis Perez-Sala has said that the team is open to a name change, and more money will always help. But it would be a huge risk for someone like Hyundai to invest in them, and would probably take some time for them to start getting results. And if they did invest, they would likely want to move the team, which could be very disruptive.

    Still, I think the idea of Hyundai entering has merit. In think that circumstances surrounding the Korean Grand Prix and the expansion of the grid were an attempt to get them into the sport, and I can see the new deal for the race, the new engine regulations and the new Concorde Agreement making the sport look very promising for any aspiring new entries. So I think Hyundai could enter Formula 1 in 2014.


    Expert sleuthing! Whilst Hyundai F1 sounds incredibly cheap and tacky, I’d love to see another big company join F1 and actually do OK like Toyota. I like having the new teams in F1, but I don’t enjoy seeing the drivers getting nothing out of it. I was glad to learn Petrov had a seat in 2012, but Petrov in a Caterham isn’t nearly as fun as Petrov in a Renault. And rookies cannot possibly shine in those cars. d’Ambrosio put in a few good qualifying performances last year, but seriously, who remembers that? I fear the same will come of Pic’s “impressive” showings.

    Anyway, a new team with a good backing and the right resources (Korea must be getting close to Japan now in terms of exporting cars to the world) would improve F1, so I’m all for it. I just can’t help but get upset whenever I think of the missed opportunity that is the Korean Grand Prix. It’s in the middle of no-where and the closest city is Mokpo, which is, let’s be honest, a giant industrial suburb and in no way attractive for tourists. There’s nothing fun about the Korean Grand Prix at all. It’s very new, and it’s very wasteful, but I wish I could forget about it!

    Prisoner Monkeys


    Hyundai F1 sounds incredibly cheap and tacky

    That was very much in the 1990s. They had the same reputation that Kia and Daewoo and Daihatsu do now: cheap, throwaway cars. But they’ve recently given their entire line-up an overhaul, and they’ve actually got a really sporty approach to some of their models. The Veloster and Genesis Coupe in particular look really good.

    I like having the new teams in F1, but I don’t enjoy seeing the drivers getting nothing out of it.

    That’s why joining with Lola would be a good idea. Lola’s approach was to design a car for 2011, put in plenty of time on the windtunnel, and then upgrade it for 2012. Then they start running it through the windtunnel, and redesign for 2013. They’ll keep going until they get a car ready for 2014. But this is a very expensive long-term project, and I don’t think that the company on its own could fund it. So I think they have a backer.

    There’s nothing fun about the Korean Grand Prix at all. It’s very new, and it’s very wasteful

    And that’s precisely why I think Bernie is trying to lure Hyundai in. Ever since the project was first announced, the Korean Grand Prix has made zero sense. It’s almost as if they have made the worst decisions possible at every opportunity. But it makes a hell of a lot more sense of you think of it as trying to accomodate Hyundai.

    It’s in the middle of no-where and the closest city is Mokpo, which is, let’s be honest, a giant industrial suburb and in no way attractive for tourists.

    And one of the biggest employers in the region is Hyundai Samho Heavy Industries, the fourth-largest shipbuilder in the world and a subsidiary of the Hyundai Group. I’m also willing to bet that a lot of cars exported from Korea leave the country via Mokpo.

    I wish I could forget about it!

    I think the circuit is actually secretly brilliant. Each of the three sectors tests a very different aspect of racing. The first sector is all long straights and heavy braking, demanding top speed and good brakes. The second sector is all about the driver being able to follow a very tight racing line through fast corners. And the final sector is all about getting the right setup for the car. When Tilke designed it, I think he was trying to give the teams a choice: either set the car up to be okay in all three sectors, or concentrate on the car’s strengths and make an excellent car in two sectors, but a weak one in the third. We saw this in qualifying last year – the cars were all setting remarkably similar lap times, but they were getting their speed in very different ways, and so set vastly different sector times. McLaren and Ferrari were strong in the first sector. Red Bull and McLaren were strong in the second. Ferrari and Red Bull were strong in the third.


    Hyundai isn’t cheap and tacky anymore, we have MG for that now.


    In my mind Kia and Hyundai are equally cheap sounding, but actually both seem on the up with some surprisingly okay cars.


    I worked for Hyundai in retail sales from 2001 to 2005. The evolution of this car makers quality is unbelievable! From the Pony in 1986 to the 1990 Stellar and then to the Accent and Sonata in 1997-2000 was another major leap! From 2001 to 2005 also saw massive improvements with these cars. Since then these cars have continued to improve emmensely! Now Hyundai is making a 429 hp engine and it is also a long way from the Pony I knew!


    Hyundai are not cheap and tacky. Even if they do pay peanuts to their test engineers.
    Nice sleuthing though PM.


    I made peanut never got one… lol!

    Bren H

    If anyone thinks Kia is cheap check out my baby at [link removed by moderator]

    I’d put my 2011 Kia Optima EX Luxury up against any vehicle under $40,000.


    PM, I was going to respond to your post on Bahrain and Korea being potential non starters but I got distracted. That’s pretty much what I was getting at, Korea was renegotiated down and it would be hard to believe that they would persue a second contract at the status quo or that Bernie would sign them up for a second bite if he thought they were going to stiff him in a couple of years. Korea would only saved if Hyundai underwrote the entire event in my mind. That said, I’d like to see a new team and I’m keen to keep Korea on the schedule because I don’t have to stay up until midnight to watch the race.

    And as to cheap and tacky…since when did Renault build quality cars? I had a really crap Mercedes back in the 90’s, and don’t start me on my 1988 Jag. (Que outraged posts from Renault drivers).


    Interesting. I can well see Hyundai entering some form of motorsport, as it’s a major step towards acceptance should you win. There’s no reason why it shouldn’t be F1, and the possible link-up with Lola sounds plausible and a worthwhile endeavour for both parties (assuming it’s not like the MasterCard Lola debacle of 1997).

    Fer no.65

    Hyundais are not cheap and tacky anymore. Some friends of us owned a horrible Hyundai Atos back in the 90’s and it was hideous in every way. Terrible ride, too loud, engine power was enough to light a 5W bulb and it was horrible to look at.

    Now I see the Genesis, the i30, the i10, the Velostar and all those cars and it seems unbelievable that it’s the same company that used to build that hideous Atos or the Accent. Recent Hyundais have been great looking things, and the other day I got in a i30 and I was amaized with the quality inside!

    It’s the same with KIAs. They are now cool looking things. Korea’s catching up quickly in that matter…

    And if they do come back to the World of Motorsports (Hyundai Accent WRC anyone?), it’d be a great addition to the world championship.

    Prisoner Monkeys

    (assuming it’s not like the MasterCard Lola debacle of 1997)

    I’d say that’s incredibly unlikely, for several reasons. First, Lola went bust over that farce, and was bought out by new management. Secondly, the entire episode serves as a cautionary tale for anyone wanting to enter into Formula 1 before they’re actually ready to. If ever a sponsor says “we need you to be ready sooner”, the team simply has to point to 1997, and that should silence any dissent. And finally, if a manufacturer were to enter the sport, it makes no sense to do it before 2014, when they can supply their own engines.

    Of course, for all my detective work, all of this is still circumstantial evidence. There’s no hard proof that they will join in 2014 – but if they do, remember that you heard it here first.

    Personally, I’m tipping them to enter with a Lola chassis and PURE engine (again with the circumstantial evidence: PURE are developing an engine without anyone to buy it, which is probably more expensive than Lola’s chassis development programme). I’m not sure who would run it, though. As far as I know, Lola is mostly just a constructor. They would need an actual team to run the chassis, though. Jacques Villeneuve was interested in being a team principal a while ago …


    Heh, that’s quite an interesting thought.

    On the engine side of things, Hyundai do know what they’re doing. Their Theta engine is after all the basis of what powers the Mitsubishi Evo X. See near the bottom of this (admittedly) Wikipedia article.


    Hyundai F1 was being talked about for a 2008 F1 entry and it did not even came close to materialise, so this time around it won’t be different. If we have Hyundai F1 on the grid within the next five years, I will publicly shave my head.

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