Putting the pricetag on F1

It seems that even the most elitist sports, like Formula One, are not immune to  the damaging effects of the ongoing economic crisis.

Photo: EPA/JENS BUETTNER

Among drivers’ expectations for Silverstone, the news have recently been made up of stories relating to cost-cutting measures in Formula One and the sport’s failure to arrive to a consensus on that matter. In an attempt to prevent dramatic changes to the driver line-up in the future, the FIA has extended the date for proposals of changes to the 2013 regulations charter until July 24, seeing that the teams had failed to agree on policing of the Resource Restriction Agreement (RRA) before the original date of 30 June.

The RRA is a voluntary commitment of Formula One teams to controlling costs and re-balancing the expenditure for a more efficient discipline and for the benefit of motorsport in general. It was drawn by the Formula One Teams Association (FOTA), set up in 2008 to give the teams an equal voice in discussions with the FIA. However, since then the original membership of all teams participating in the Championship was cut short by the likes of Ferrari, HRT, Sauber, Red Bull and its sister Toro Rosso, who didn’t agree with the way the RRA was being handled.

It has been reported that prior to the 30 June 2012 deadline ten teams had agreed on a range of cost measures which were however met with Red Bull and Toro Rosso’s objections, who believe that the RRA does not deal with engine restrictions in a proper manner, which could lead to some manufacturer consumer teams gaining advantages in the coming years – the reason why both teams left FOTA by the end of 2011.

“FOTA did a lot of good things when it was first created,” Christian Horner, Red Bull team principal, was quoted by AUTOSPORT. “It focused on saving costs. In recent months, it has been less effective and more fractured in the way of thinking of how FOTA should move forward and what it is responsible for…

“There’s a willingness from all of the teams to try and contain costs, it’s just the manner that you do it. And you can’t exclude the engine from that with some teams producing their own engines, so it’s important to look at the teams as a whole rather than cherry-picking the chassis.”

The topic of engine supply is indeed a huge part of the cost debate, with the sport’s incentive to introduce the greener turbo-engines from 2014 – a move that many fear will raise the initial expenses to a sky-high level, subsequently seeing several teams – unable to finance the changes – drop out of the competition all together.

With the extended deadline for the RRA amendment approaching, McLaren team principal, and FOTA president, Martin Witmarsh, speaking for AUTOSPORT appealed to the opponents for action:

Single price of a front wing – one of the parts most prone to damages during a race – is set around £15,000
Photo: Laszlo Balogh/Reuters for The Guardian

“What we cannot afford is for the sport to become a completely unfettered spend fest. That gives no prospect to the small teams of surviving and it gives no prospect to new teams coming in. We owe it to show constraint.”

Currently the costs of a team running in a Championship average between £50m and £250m, depending on the size and the level of development of the team. As outlined by Netcars, a lifetime cost of an F1 car is over £4.5m; an average driver earns between £3.5m and nearly £14m, whilst the average salary of pit crew members range between £24,000 and £62,000

However, the prestige of the elitist sport can also contribute to charitable initiatives. As reported by the Formula1 website, the official F1 party for the opening of the British Grand Prix 2012, held  at London’s Battersea Evolution, has raised £540,000 for Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) surgery department. The event, hosted by the Sky Sports pit-lane reporter, Natalie Pinkham, and planned by Tamara Ecclestone, daughter of the sport’s CEO, Bernie Ecclestone, was attended by present and former racing stars, including Mark Webber, David Coulthard and Eddie Jordan.

The collaboration between the Santander British GP and GOSH has so far raised over £3m.

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