Will the top powers in F1 now get the message about the cost crisis? Don’t count on it

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If you were looking for proof of Formula 1’s cost crisis, you needn’t look any further. Both Caterham and Marussia will be missing the United States Grand Prix in Austin next weekend because they simply cannot afford to race. It is a sad, sad story.

It is not, however, a surprising story. Indeed, ever since both teams joined the F1 grid at the start of the 2010 season, the aim of the game has been survival. HRT fell apart at the end of 2012, and just when Caterham and Marussia appeared to be finding their feet, both are now facing the possibility of shutting their doors.

Formula 1 has allowed this to happen. Both teams entered the sport on the proviso that there would be a cost cap in place to ensure that racing was affordable and sustainable. Such ideas were then scrapped, and despite a number of efforts to get them back in place, the selfish agendas of the big teams have prevented any progress being made.

It has been a slippery slope for the teams towards the back of the grid. Ever since the demise of FOTA and the formation of the F1 Strategy Group – a big boys club for those who have the money and weight to throw around – the writing has been on the wall for both Caterham and Marussia.

Since the beginning of the season, Caterham’s stability has been in doubt. Tony Fernandes kept insisting that there was nothing wrong and he would not be selling up, before eventually summing up his foray into F1 in just three words: “F1 hasn’t worked”.

He then supposedly sold the outfit to a company called Engavest, which claims it has not received its shares. Fernandes claims he hasn’t received his money. It’s an impasse that has ultimately put the team in administration, risking hundreds of jobs.

Through 1 Malaysia Racing Team, Caterham CF1 Grand Prix, Caterham Sports Limited and their various sub-companies, the messy nature of the team’s ownership has come to light. It’s a tragic scenario as the team collapses in far from dignified fashion.

I was told back at Spa not to expect to see Marussia at Monza. In all honesty, I was skeptical given that the team was sitting ninth in the constructors’ and in better shape than Caterham. However, the sad truth has now emerged: the financial problems are grave enough to warrant a no-show in Austin.

Is this the end for both teams? Not yet. The Concorde Agreement does permit teams to miss three races, so it may well give both outfits a chance to find fresh investment or indeed a new buyer. However, with entries for the 2015 F1 season required by November 1st, both have just one week to get their act together, otherwise we could face an 18-car grid next season.

18 cars. It’s not good, no. However, there have been a few cynics comparing it to the notorious 2005 United States GP at Indianapolis where just six cars took part. It must be stressed that this is a different case. Twenty cars qualified, and twenty cars lined up on the grid at Indy. Fourteen peeled in on the formation lap after the Michelin-shod cars felt it was unsafe to race.

Once again here, there were efforts to make the race work, only for the major powers in F1 to say “no”. They did not want to lose their competitive advantage, not even for the good of the sport. The same is true amid F1’s current cost crisis.

For some time, the cost problems in F1 have been well-known and well documented. The likes of Monisha Kaltenborn of Sauber and Bob Fernley of Force India have warned that a major scalp would have to be claimed for those at the top to get the message.

The sad truth is that even the loss of both Marussia and Caterham in the space of 12 hours won’t be enough for those leading the sport to wake up to the reality that the sport does have a crisis on its hands.

Previous F1 competition doesn’t guarantee IndyCar success at COTA

Manor F1 Photo
Manor F1 Photo
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AUSTIN, Texas – Familiarity does not breed success, according to three NTT IndyCar Series drivers who have previous experience at Circuit of the Americas in the Formula One United States Grand Prix. Several other drivers, including IndyCar Series rookie Patricio O’Ward, competed in the LMPC IMSA race in 2017.

Although the course is the same – 20-turns and 3.41-miles – the cars are completely different. The highly-advanced, technologically-driven Formula One cars are advanced beyond the realm of anything allowed in the NTT IndyCar Series. It’s more about the driver in IndyCar, which uses an impressive, but simpler formula to help showcase driver skill more than technology in its races.

Money buys speed in Formula One, but an IndyCar team doesn’t need a $400 million budget to go racing. It can get by on $5 millions to $10 million a year and contend for plenty of race victories and championships.

Andretti Autosport star Alexander Rossi drove in five Formula One races with Manor in 2015. The above photo is from his only F1 contest at COTA that season. He was the first driver ever to turn laps at COTA shortly after it was constructed in 2012.

Rossi had his best F1 finish in the 2015 United States Grand Prix when he started 17thand finished 12th.

“When I’ve come here in the past, I came into the weekend fully knowing that there was no chance to ever really do anything from a results perspective,” Rossi said. “To could come here to a track that I’ve spent a lot of time at, not necessarily driven a whole lot, but spent a huge amount of time at. To come into this weekend’s race, competing on a level where we have as good a shot as any, to win the race would be pretty cool.

“There’s kind of an almost unfinished business box that we’d like to tick here in some way. I’m very excited to get the weekend started.”

Chilton raced the entire F1 season in 2013 and 2014 with Marussia. He started 21stand finished 21stin 2013. He started in the first 16 races during the 2014 F1 season but was out of a ride by the time F1 arrived at COTA that season.

Me and Alex probably had pretty similar experiences,” Chilton told NBC Sports.com “Obviously the more laps are better — but the car we were in, we weren’t doing much racing, so the sort of racing experience part isn’t going to help.

“It’s good to be back. I first came here in 2013 for the (United States) Grand Prix. I loved the track. I love the city. I really enjoyed the whole facility, the race track. It’s a pretty long track in an Indy car but it’s got lots of overtaking potential for us and hopefully we’ll put on a great show.

“It’s great to have an English band like Muse on Saturday night, as well.”

Marcus Ericsson of Sweden has the most experience at COTA of any driver in the field for Sunday’s INDYCAR Classic. He competed in 97 F1 contests from 2014-2018 before becoming an IndyCar rookie with Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports this season.

Ericsson was 15thin 2015, 14thin 2016, 15thin 2017 and 10thin last year’s USGP.

“I’ve been here quite a few times,” Ericsson said. “It’s one of the best tracks on F1 and I think it’s great we are going here with INDYCAR. It’s going to be a great weekend.

“The racing should be very good. It’s already good on F1 on this track and from what I’ve done in INDYCAR, it’s going to be a really good show from everyone and I’m really looking forward to it.”

Ericsson emphasized that the his F1 experience does not necessarily give him any type of advantage in an IndyCar.

“I think for me I was here a couple months ago in F1 doing the race in ’18. I had all my reference points and then I did the first run and realized that didn’t really work,” Ericsson explained to NBC Sports.com “So I don’t know that the experience — it’s good to know the track, but then the Indy cars are very different cars to the F1 (car) so you have to sort of drive it quite differently and in the end, I think it didn’t really help the maximum amount in my opinion.

“The problem is we had two days of testing already in IndyCar. If we had come here straightaway without any testing it would be an advantage of one hundredth approximate. But now, if you don’t get the track in two days, I don’t think you would be in IndyCar.

“I don’t think it’s a big advantage now going into the weekend.”

But every little bit helps and if all of those little “bits” of information are added up, previous experience can provide a benefit in the race.

“For sure there’s things I can bring from my experience there that helps in INDYCAR, but the Indy car to drive today is different than the Formula One cars with the power steering and everything,” Ericsson continued. “I think it’s two different cars and what I found here on the test; things that worked in the F1 car didn’t really work in the Indy car. I think both cars of very difficult to be fast in but in different ways.

“For sure my experience in F1, it’s helped me to get into INDYCAR.”

James Hinchcliffe, who has never driven in Formula One, or at COTA, believes he has the best experience of any driver in Austin this weekend.

“I know where the restaurants are, so that’s cool,” Hinchcliffe said.