Wolff: Losing teams the brutal reality of F1

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Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff has said that the loss of both Caterham and Marussia is merely the brutal reality of the economics within modern-day Formula 1.

In the past week, both of the backmarker teams have entered administration, meaning that they will not be racing in Austin this weekend at the United States Grand Prix. As a result, the F1 field will be the smallest in almost ten years at COTA, with just 18 cars set to race.

The F1 cost crisis has been self-induced, with the formation of the F1 Strategy Group – a big boys club for those with money – calling the shots for the future of the sport. Smaller teams such as Sauber and Lotus have been excluded from this, and as a result are left trying to compete with the might of the manufacturers with far more limited resources.

Earlier this week, Sauber team principal Monisha Kaltenborn expressed her frustration and sadness over the situation, but Wolff said that this was simply the economic reality of competing in Formula 1.

“You could probably reduce it to a very brutal reality,” Wolff said in Friday’s FIA press conference. “Gerard [Lopez] mentioned the words ‘economic reality.’ If today you run a team, it’s like running a company.

“And this shouldn’t be sounding arrogant in any way, but you’re not obliged to spend more than you have. There are different agendas. If you run a company today and you own it, you should probably run it in a sensible way, and that means spending what you have. If you decide to invest or to go into debt because you believe that there is a sound business case behind it, this is what you should do.

“Now, I find it disturbing as well that you need to spend one hundred million, or you want to spend one hundred million if your income is only 60 or 70 million. In my time back at Williams that was the philosophy. You spent what you have. And if you decide to follow a more aggressive strategy, you need to know what happens tomorrow.

“I have a lot of respect for everybody sitting on the stage, from an entrepreneurial view, but that is the economic reality and the economic reality is valid for any company out there and for any sports team.”

Wolff believes that F1 does need to act, though, and come up with a short-term solution for the good of the sport.

“We are nine teams today, 18 cars and we have lost two teams which is not nice and I’ve said that before,” he said. “I think the teams who are in Formula 1 today should stay in Formula 1 and we should all look at the situation and come up with a short term plan: how to have a healthy grid, and a long term plan.

“We are talking about money distribution that is an issue for the commercial rights holder, and I don’t have a solution. I can come up with many ideas which can be short term solutions but it comes back to the principle and what’s been said before: whatever you give to the teams, they are going to spend it.”

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Eli Tomac, Ken Roczen’s two-man battle in Motocross provides surprises

Rich Shepherd, ProMotocross
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The 2019 Motocross season is one-third in the books and the title battle may have already come down to a two-man contest, while the pair of contenders might just be a little surprising in their own way.

Strictly by the numbers, no one can count Eli Tomac’s early season charge of first- and second-place finishes shocking, but threepeating in Motocross is such an incredibly difficult feat that no one would have been surprised to see him struggle out of the gates either. And in fact, that is precisely what happened.

Tomac came out of the gates slow in Round 1 and was seventh by the end of Lap 1 of Moto 1 – hardly the auspicious start he hoped for. He rebounded only as far as fourth and that ultimately cost him a chance to win the overall. Tomac won Moto 2 to claim second overall.

In Round 2, Tomac found his rhythm and won both Motos and grabbed the red plate. For the moment, he had the momentum with three consecutive Moto wins.

Tomac stumbled again in Round 3 – this time finishing only fifth in Moto 1 and earning only 16 points to dig a deep hole that eventually surrendered the red plate to Ken Roczen.

It was at Thunder Valley in Round 3 that a pattern emerged. Tomac would not make it easy on himself early in the day, but was more than capable of winning the second Motos to overcome his deficit.

That Roczen has won this season is also not a surprise in itself. Many believed his ascent to the top step of the podium was way overdue.

That he has run so well, however, was not entirely expected at the start of the season. Since injuring both arms in a pair of accidents, Roczen came tantalizingly close to snapping his winless streak a dozen times. He won heat races during the Supercross season and finished second at Anaheim I, Minneapolis, Dallas, and Seattle earlier this year.

He just couldn’t secure the overall win.

Roczen’s Moto 1 victory at Hangtown might have been the precursor to another disappointing weekend, but once Tomac got into the lead, Roczen zeroed in on the Kawasaki’s back tire and finished second in route to the overall victory.

Roczen lost the overall and the red plate to Tomac in Round 2 at Pala, but he stood on the podium in both Motos. Roczen podiumed twice again in Round 3 while taking that overall victory to regain the red plate in what has become a seesaw affair in the early part of the 2019 season.

Last week, Roczen looked more like Tomac with his desperate struggle in Moto 1 and sixth-place finish. That was the first (and so far only) time this season that he failed to stand on the podium.

Roczen’s Moto 2 win last week was just enough to put him second overall with barely enough points to force a tie at the top of the leaderboard with 176 points apiece.

Meanwhile, Tomac failed to win either Moto with a third in the first race and runner-up finish in the second.

The moral victory and advantage may shift to Roczen this week.

As they have swapped the victory in the first four rounds with Roczen winning the odd-numbered events, he sees this weekend’s Round 5 as an opportunity.

“I’m looking forward to next weekend’s race,” Roczen said in a team press release. “The track is sandy. It’s very similar—actually almost identical—to what I ride on a regular basis at home.”

Tomac and Roczen enter Round 5 with a 32-point advantage over two riders tied for third in the standings.

So far Zach Osborne and Jason Anderson have not been in the same league as the leaders, but it only takes one slip of the wheel to fall out of the points in in a race and allow these racers to close the gap.

Season passes can be purchased at NBC Sports Gold.

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