Three-car teams must be a last resort for Formula 1

1 Comment

Following comments from Bernie Ecclestone in Singapore suggesting Formula 1 could drop to just eight teams fielding three cars each in 2015, a number of leading figures have come out and made clear that this is only a last resort for the sport – and not an active plan that is being pursued.

The first concerns about the grid dropping to just eight teams in 2015 were raised by former Williams chairman Adam Parr, who last worked in Formula 1 back in 2012.

Following the Italian Grand Prix, he took to Twitter to make his concern clear, saying: “This is the last year of F1 as we know it. In 2015 eight teams will contest the championship, with several teams entering three cars.”

Although his comments were dismissed at the time, F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone was supportive of the idea when asked about it by The Guardian.

“I think we should do it anyway,” he is quoted as saying. “I would rather see Ferrari with three cars, or any of the other top teams with three cars than having teams that are struggling.”

The teams thought to be at the greatest risk of dropping out of Formula 1 are Caterham, Lotus and Sauber, whilst Marussia’s future is also in question.

Since being sold by Tony Fernandes, Caterham has been in a particularly precarious position, with the situation not being aided by the resignation of team principal Christijan Albers after just two months in charge. His replacement, Manfredi Ravetto, spoke to the media for the first time in Singapore yesterday, and he said that stablizing the team and getting it on the grid for 2015 is his priority.

“Everybody knows the situation in which we found this team, in which state it was and, well, we are just trying to keep it alive to improve and we are working, as I said before, also providing you with some details on the programme for next year,” he said.

“This is what we are targeting. Of course we want to be on the grid in Melbourne next year – that is definitely our goal.”

However, the ongoing flux at Caterham is very reminiscent of the last F1 team to fold: HRT at the end of 2012.

The situation at Sauber and Lotus is a little less clear. Sauber was facing collapse midway through last season before fresh investment saved the team, and as a racing outfit with over two decades of history in F1, the Swiss team is perhaps the least likely to fold. Lotus’ struggles in 2014 have also been well-documented, but with plenty of finance coming into Enstone courtesy of Pastor Maldonado, it too looks stable enough to survive, even if it does not flourish.

Concerns about Marussia came about following the team’s u-turn over Alexander Rossi’s planned F1 debut at Spa. Originally, Max Chilton said that he stepped aside to allow the team to sell the seat and raise funds, only for the Briton to be reinstated the next morning. Do funds need to be raised? Some in the paddock believe that simply getting to the end of the season would be an achievement for Marussia, although finishing ninth in the constructors’ championship, and the prize money it brings, may go a long way to helping the Anglo-Russian team.

A 10-team grid is perhaps the most probable situation we’re left with in 2015, which would then be boosted to 11 with the arrival of Haas F1 Team in 2016.

Let’s play devil’s advocate and say that we do indeed have eight teams on the grid. Due to the commercial contract of the sport, it is likely that some of the bigger teams – Ferrari, Mercedes and Red Bull – would be interested in running a third car. Eight teams, three cars each, 24 car field – which is what we had in 2012 with 12 teams.

Speaking in yesterday’s FIA press conference though, it was made clear that three-car teams were a last resort, contrary to Bernie Ecclestone’s comments.

“I’m a firm believer, as I’ve always said, that every effort should be made to make sure all teams, big and small, survive and race,” Force India owner Vijay Mallya said. “That’s part of the DNA of Formula 1.

“But the regulations and the agreements do provide that, if the grid is less than 20 cars, then participating teams will race a third car. That’s something everybody signed up to as well. I hope it never comes to that.”

Given that Mallya has brought Force India up from the back of the grid towards the front of the field, he is in a good position to pass comment on the situation. However, even Eric Boullier of McLaren – at team that could easily run a third car – feels that it is not something the sport must pursue.

“We obviously all look for what will keep all the teams onboard,” Boullier said. “That’s the first priority.

“There are some mechanisms that, effectively, if some teams were not on the grid, we would maybe run three cars to keep the grid at a decent number. But I don’t think we are there yet, as I said before.”

It is well-known that there is a cost problem in Formula 1, and Claire Williams said that the fact that such ideas are being floated act as evidence of how grave the issues are.

“I think that to be having this conversation now shows where we are as a sport,” she said. “We need to be working harder to ensure that we protect the teams that we have on our grid to ensure that competition that I don’t necessarily think having three-car teams brings.

“I think we want to have a healthy grid of ten teams all fielding two cars. Not four teams fielding three cars. For Williams, that’s not the DNA of our sport.”

Of course, the cost crisis in Formula 1 is not a new thing, but the continual refusal of the bigger teams in F1 play ball and sacrifice their own interests to aid the smaller teams at the bottom has created something of an impasse.

Three-car teams would, as Adam Parr boldly said, change the very nature of F1. Although it is an idea that some support, it must be treated as a last resort and nothing more – let us hope that it never comes to that.

2023 SuperMotocross Power Rankings after Motocross season opener: Jett Lawrence rockets to the top

SuperMotocross Rankings season opener
Align Media

As the SuperMotocross season heads outdoors, the NBC Power Rankings change significantly with results from the Motocross opener at Fox Raceway in Pala, California. The Power Rankings assign a numeric value to each individual moto (90 points maximum) as well as the overall standings (100 points) and averages that number over the past 45 days. Included in the Power Rankings are results from the final five Supercross rounds, which fit into that 45-day timeframe.

Dylan Ferrandis finished on the podium in his first race back after experience a concussion in Supercross Round 4 at Houston. – Align Media

It didn’t take long for Jett Lawrence to rocket to the top of the SuperMotocross rankings – only about 74 minutes in fact. Lawrence dominated his first moto and beat his teammate Chase Sexton, the 2023 Monster Energy Supercross champion, to the line by 10 seconds. He had to fight a little harder for the second moto win as Sexton stalked him throughout the race and ended up less than a second behind.

Beginning this week, we have added the SuperMotocross points’ ranking beside the rider’s name and in one fell swoop, Lawrence went from being unranked in the 450 class to 26th. To qualify for the inaugural SuperMotocross’ guaranteed 20 positions that automatically make the gate for the three-race championship series, Lawrence needs to be inside the top 20 in combined Supercross and Motocross points. The bubble is currently held by Justin Starling and Lawrence needs to make up 44 points to overtake him.

Sexton’s second-place finish in the overall standings at Fox Raceway marked his ninth consecutive top-five finish. After the race, Sexton compared the battle he had with Lawrence to the one he experienced with Eli Tomac in last year’s Pro Motocross championship. These two riders had a significant advantage over the field in Pala, but there is still a lot of racing to be completed.

MORE: Jett Lawrence wastes no time, wins first 450 race

After missing 13 rounds to a concussion, Dylan Ferrandis told NBC Sports that he was not going to do anything risky in the season opener at Fox Raceway. If he dialed back his effort at all, one would be hard-pressed to notice. He finished third in both motos and was third in the overall standings. Ferrandis began the weekend just outside the top 20 in combined SuperMotocross points and climbed to 19th. In the next few weeks, he will get a little more breathing room over the cutline and then challenge for wins.

Adam Cianciarulo’s three-race streak of top-five finishes ended with a sixth-place overall at Fox Raceway, but that was enough to advance him one position in the NBC SuperMotocross Power Rankings and land him eighth in the combined points standings. His individual motos were moderate, but Cianciarulo is still battling the effects of injury and a nagging loss of strength in his wrist.

Aaron Plessinger returned from injury in the Supercross season finale to finish second at Salt Lake City. He added another top-five to his season total and now has six of those in the 13 rounds he’s made. With Ken Roczen and Eli Tomac not currently racing in Motocross, Plessinger has an opportunity to rise to the third seeding in short order.

450 Rankings

Driver (SMX rank) Power
1. Jett Lawrence (26) 93.33 NA
2. Chase Sexton (1) 92.36 1 -1
3. Dylan Ferrandis (19) 89.00 NA
4. Adam Cianciarulo (8) 82.89 5 1
5. Aaron Plessinger (5) 81.20 9 4
6. Justin Hill (9)
Not racing MX
79.75 8 2
7. Ken Roczen (4)
injured | Not racing MX
79.13 3 -4
8. Jose Butron (30) 75.67 NA
9. Lorenzo Locurcio (29) 75.00 NA
10. Eli Tomac (2)
74.50 2 -8
11. Dean Wilson (10)
Not racing MX
72.88 7 -4
12. Cooper Webb (3) 71.17 6 -6
13. Jerry Robin (32) 70.33 NA
14. Justin Barcia (6)
70.00 4 -10
15. Kyle Chisholm (15) 65.36 11 -4
16. Dante Oliveira (36) 65.00 NA
17. Shane McElrath (11)
Not racing MX
63.63 12 -5
18. Ryan Surratt (38) 63.33 NA
19. Josh Hill (13)
Not racing MX
62.38 13 -6
20. Justin Starling (20)
Not racing MX
62.13 19 -1

Motocross 450 Points

A bad start to Moto 1 at Fox Raceway was not enough to deter Hunter Lawrence. Neither was the fact that he was riding with sore ribs after experiencing a practice crash earlier in the week. He was a distant 10th to start the first race and for most of the 30 minutes, it seemed he would finish off the podium. Lawrence did not win the 250 East Supercross championship by giving in to hopelessness or pain, however.

Lawrence picked off one rider and then another until he found the battle for the top five in front of him at the halfway point. Once the field started to lap riders, Lawrence used the opportunity to continue forward through the grid. He passed third-place Jo Shimoda with two laps remaining and challenged Maximus Vohland for second on the final trip around Fox Raceway, but had to settle for the final spot on the podium. Lawrence dominated Moto 2 and claimed the overall victory in Pala.

Justin Cooper made his first start of the season at Fox Raceway and earned enough NBC Power Average points to climb to second. Partly this was due to consistently strong runs in both motos and a 5-4 that gave him the fifth position overall, but he is also not weighed down with moderate Supercross results. It will take a week or two to see where his strength lands him on the grid.

Motocross 250 Points

In only his third Pro Motocross National, Haiden Deegan scored a second-place finish in the overall standings. – Align Media

RJ Hampshire may feel he has something to prove after finishing second to Jett Lawrence in the 250 SX West division. He certainly rode like that was the case in Moto 1 and easily outpaced the field on his way to victory lane. In Moto 2, he crashed twice on Lap 1 and dropped back to 39th. It took half of the race to get inside the top 20 and salvage points. By the end of the race, he was 11th and while that was enough to get him on the overall podium, it cost him points in the NBC SuperMotocross Power Rankings.

Haiden Deegan surprised the field in Houston in his 250 Supercross debut by finishing fifth. At the time, he said his strong result was because there were no expectations. He echoed that statement after the Motocross season opener. His second-place finish in the overall standings was enough to project him five positions up the SuperMotocross Rankings. In 11 rounds in the combined series, Deegan has earned seven top-fives and a worst finish of eighth.

Jo Shimoda did not make his first Supercross race of 2023 until late in the season. He finished fourth on the hybrid track of Atlanta, which had some similar elements to Fox Raceway. His fourth-place finish in Moto 1 of the Motocross opener made it seem likely he would score an overall podium, but a sixth in the second race cost him points in the NBC Power Rankings in a field that promises to be extremely tight.

250 Rankings

Driver (SMX rank) Power
1. Hunter Lawrence (1) 89.56 2 1
2. Justin Cooper (42) 84.67 NA
3. RJ Hampshire (3) 83.67 3 0
3. Haiden Deegan (4) 83.67 8 5
5. Jo Shimoda (16) 82.33 7 2
6. Guillem Farres (46) 79.33 NA
7. Levi Kitchen (6) 79.11 5 -2
8. Max Anstie (5) 77.83 12 4
9. Max Vohland (8) 77.50 14 5
10. Enzo Lopes (10) 76.00 11 1
11. Mitchell Oldenburg (13) 74.25 16 5
12. Carson Mumford (19) 71.22 17 5
13. Jordon Smith (7) 70.56 9 -4
14. Ryder DiFrancesco (48) 70.33 NA
15. Chris Blose (12) 67.00 13 -2
16. Chance Hymas (27) 66.00 19 3
17. Tom Vialle (9) 65.78 18 1
18. Jett Reynolds (55) 63.33 NA
19. Michael Mosiman (28) 62.33 20 1
20. Garrett Marchbanks (64) 59.00 NA

* The NBC Power Rankings assign 100 points to a Main event winner in Supercross and overall winner in Motocross. It awards 90 points for each Moto, Heat and Triple Crown win. The points decrement by a percentage equal to the number of riders in the field until the last place rider in each event receives five points. The Power Ranking is the average of these percentage points over the past 45 days.

POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 13 AT ATLANTA: Justin Barcia leapfrogs the Big 3
POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 11 AT SEATTLE: Cooper Webb, Eli Tomac overtake Chase Sexton
POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 10 AT DETROIT: Chase Sexton narrowly leads Webb
POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 8 AT DAYTONA: Chase Sexton unseats Eli Tomac
POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 7 AT ARLINGTON: Jason Anderson narrowly trails Eli Tomac
POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 6 AT OAKLAND: Perfect night keeps Eli Tomac first
POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 5 AT TAMPA: Chase Sexton, Cooper Webb close in
POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 4 AT HOUSTON: Eli Tomac rebounds from A2 crash, retakes lead
POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 3 AT ANAHEIM 2: Consistency makes Ken Roczen king
POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 2 AT SAN DIEGO: Ken Roczen moves up, Chase Sexton falls
POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 1 AT ANAHEIM 1: Eli Tomac, Jett Lawrence gain an early advantage