If the teams and manufacturers threatening to boycott next year’s Formula One championship were to make good on that threat, how big an impact would it have on the UK’s motorsport industry?
Usually when spats break out over the F1 rules we just sit back and wait for them to resolve themselves – as they inevitably do.
F1 is only one strand of our coverage, albeit one that quite a few people are interested in, and there are people out there much better-informed than us, not to mention more prepared to delve into the minutiae and analyse them.
But this current row is now getting rather serious.
Basically, teams have to announce their intention to enter next year’s championship by May 29. And several teams, unhappy about the budget cap and resulting two-tier regulations that the FIA is imposing, have said no thank you very much. The refuseniks are mostly, but not entirely, teams run by manufacturers.
Now, while there are reportedly numerous motorsport outfits waiting in the wings to fill the vacated grid slots, we invite you to imagine the upheaval created should Ferrari, BMW, Toyota and Renault give way to, for example, Lola, US Grand Prix Engineering, iSport and whatever Mark Gallagher’s rebranded A1 Team Ireland wants to race as.
It will make this year’s massive shake-up in regulations and performance look like a smoothly-conducted 10-second pitstop.
Because so many motorsport jobs are UK-based, we thought it would be worth taking a look at how badly those jobs could be affected. And the answer seems to be somewhat.
At least one British-based manufacturer, Renault, is talking about leaving, as is the independent Red Bull, based in Buckinghamshire. Both, of course, have widespread motorsports interests that go far beyond F1 so it’s impossible to us predict with accuracy how things would shake out.
While Britain mostly specialises in smaller, independent outfits that are more likely to welcome a budget cap than oppose it, those teams mostly still rely on the manufacturers for their engines and other expertise.
However one winner is likely to be the Northamptonshire-based Cosworth Engineering, former supplier of racing engines to the F1 great and good. It is said to be on standby if needed, having last acted as suppliers to Williams and Toro Rosso in 2006.
Here’s a full breakdown of the teams and their positions:
|Brawn GP||Independent, but obvious links to former entrant Honda. Team is based in Brackley, Northants.||Looking for cost-cutting measures to be implemented, no threatened withdrawal. May be vulnerable to manufacturer action from engine supplier Mercedes.|
|Red Bull||Independent, has factory in Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire.||Owner Dietrich Mateschitz has stated that it will not compete in 2010 under the proposed regulations. Gets its engines from Renault who are also threatening a pull-out.|
|Toyota||Manufacturer, has no British connections.||The first manufacturer to categorically state that it would withdraw.|
|McLaren||Semi-independent, based in Woking, Surrey.||Mercedes has a 40 per cent stake in this team. Team principal Martin Whitmarsh has been conciliatory, trying to find common ground in the row. Could be influenced by the position taken by its engine partner.|
|Renault||Manufacturer, has a factory in Enstone, Oxfordshire.||Has stated categorically that it will not compete under the proposed regulations for 2010.|
|Ferrari||Manufacturer, has no British connections.||Has stated categorically that it will not compete under the proposed regulations for 2010.|
|BMW Sauber||Manufacturer, has no British connections.||Team boss Mario Theissen has said that BMW would consider its position if the changes went ahead.|
|Williams||Independent, based in Grove, Oxfordshire.||In favour of cost reductions, supporting a budget cap but not two-tier regulation. Toyota is its engine supplier.|
|Toro Rosso||Independent, has no British connections||Presumably what holds good for Red Bull also applies here. Gets its engines from Ferrari.|
|Force India||Independent, based in Silverstone, Northamptonshire.||Team principal Vijay Mallya has given the proposals a cautious welcome, saying he supports cost-cutting, but stressing he would need to review them thoroughly. May be vulnerable to manufacturer action from engine and technical supplier Mercedes.|