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.

Nasser Al-Attiyah, Toby Price win Dakar Rally

Dakar.com, Frederic le Floc'h / DPPI
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Driving a safe final stage that placed him 12th across the line, Nasser Al-Attiyah claimed his third Dakar Rally victory on Thursday. Toby Price claimed his second Dakar win in motorcycles after winning the final stage.

Al-Attiyah could afford to play it safe since he entered the stage with a 51-minute advantage over the field. Price barely had a minute to spare and was forced to push hard through the short 112-kilometer course.

Price’s victory was all the more dramatic in light of his riding the entire rally with a pin in his wrist from a broken scaphoid bone.

In the Quads class, Nicolas Cavigliasso showed his dominance by winning nine of the 10 stages.

Here are some of the other highlights:

In the cars class, Last year’s overall class winner, Carlos Sainz finally earned a stage win, but it was too little, too late. … Sebastien Loeb challenged for the class win throughout the stage and finished less than one minute back. … Cyril Despres rounded out the top three. … Nani Roma finished sixth, four minutes behind the leader, but less than five minutes ahead of Nasser Al-Attiyah.

Class Leaders: Al-Attiyah won his third Dakar by a margin of 46:42 over Roma and one hour, 54:18 over Loeb.

In motorcycles, Toby Price saved the best for last. He won his first stage of the rally and secured the class win. … His victory came with a margin of 2:21 over Jose Florima. … Matthias Walkner enter entered the stage with an opportunity to take the overall lead. His third-place finish was not bad, but it came with his principal rival finishing first. … Pablo Quintanilla took a fall early in the stage and injured his foot. Riding hurt, he finished the stage 22nd – nearly 20 minutes off the pace. … American Andrew Short finished seventh for his eighth top 10 of the rally.

Class Leaders: Price ended the rally with the biggest advantage of the year. He beat Walkner by 9:13. Sam Sunderland finished third, 13:34 behind the leader.

In side by sides, Reinaldo Varela won his second consecutive stage and third overall. … He had a comfortable margin of 3:39 over Cristian Baumgart and 6:10 over Francisco Lopez Contardo.

Class Leaders: Contardo’s third-place finish in the stage was more than enough to secure the class victory over Gerard Farres Guell, who finished one hour, 2:35. Varela finished one hour, 5:19 behind in third.

In quads, In a show of utter dominance, Nicolas Cavigliasso won his ninth stage of the year. … Alexandre Giroud stood on the podium for the fourth time this year. While he didn’t win a stage, he never finished worse than sixth. … Jeremias Gonzalez Ferioli rounded out the top three.

Class Leaders: Cavigliasso won by an advantage of one hour, 55:37 over Ferioli and two hours, 11:38 over Gustavo Gallego

In trucks, Ton Van Genugton rebounded from a poor Stage 9 in which he finished 12th to win his second stage of the rally. … Ales Loprais scored his first podium of the rally; his previous best finish was fourth in Stage 9. … Dmitry Sotnikov stood on the final rung of the podium.

Class Leaders: Eduard Nikolaev finished sixth in the stage, but won with an advantage of 25:36 over Sotnikov and one hour, 34:44 over Gerard de Rooy

Stage Wins

Motorcycles
Sam Sunderland [2] (Stage 5 and 7), Matthias Walkner [2] (Stage 2 and 8), Joan Barreda [1] (Stage 1), Xavier de Soultrait [1] (Stage 3), Ricky Brabec [1] (Stage 4), Pablo Quintanilla [1] (Stage 6), Michael Metge [1] (Stage 9) and Toby Price [1] (Stage 10)

Quads
Nicolas Cavigliasso [9] (Stage 1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10) and Jeremias Gonzalez Ferioli [1] (Stage 3)

Cars
Sebastien Loeb [4] (Stage 2, 5, 6 and 8), Nasser Al-Attiyah [3] (Stage 1, 4 and 9), Stephane Peterhansel [2] (Stage 3 and 7) and [1] Carlos Sainz

Side-by-sides
Francisco Lopez Contardo [4] (Stage 2, 6, 7 and 8), Reinaldo Varela [3] (Stage 1, 9 and 10), Gerard Farres Guell [1] (Stage 3), Sergei Kariakin [1] (Stage 4) and Rodrigo Piazzoli [1] (Stage 5)

Trucks
Eduard Nikolaev [3] (Stage 1, 2, and 9), Andrey Karginov [2] (Stage 3 and 4), Ton Van Genugton [2] (Stage 5 and 10), Dmitry Sotnikov [2] (Stage 6 and 8), and Gerard de Rooy [1] (Stage 7)

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