F1 Teams Are Effectively Taking The Sport Hostage

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McLaren CEO Zak Brown wearing an orange face mask.

McLaren CEO Zak Brown thinking about B teams.
Photo: Andrej Isakovic / Contributor (Getty Images)

Poor Formula 1, it seems the sport can’t go more than a week without some new threat to its global reputation. The latest saga has been outlined by McLaren CEO Zak Brown, who warned that it might actually be F1 teams themselves that are risking the integrity of the series.

According to Brown, the sport is facing backlash from the teams about its move to impose a tighter budget cap. Additionally, he also believes that the prevalence of “B teams” in the sport is “not in line with F1’s principle. Strong words from the McLaren man.

Brown aired his thoughts in a blog post on the McLaren website ahead of his teams launch of its 2022 F1 campaign. The team will premiere its 2022 F1 challenger on February 11, alongside its contenders for this year’s IndyCar season and the Extreme E series.

An orange McLaren F1 car stops in the pits.

It’s not orange, it’s papaya.
Photo: Pool / Pool (Getty Images)

In the post, Brown warned that some teams “seem unable to accept that a budget cap is in the best interests of the sport and cannot kick their habit of spending their way to the front.”

As well as a new set of technical regulations, F1 this year will lower its budget cap to $140 million. That figure will drop again from 2023 onwards, when teams will have just $135m to spend.

That cost cap covers any expenditure that relates to car performance. It excludes all marketing costs, race driver fees/salaries and the salaries of a team’s three top paid employees.

McLaren CEO Zak Brown drinks from Daniel Ricciardo's shoe on the Monza podium.

The F1 budget cap does not cover the salaries for the three top-paid employees.
Photo: Lars Baron / Staff (Getty Images)

But it isn’t just the future of the cost cap that Brown is worried about. He also writes about the impact “B teams” are having on the sport.

Brown writes:

“In a nutshell, the current situation allows B teams to be overcompetitive compared to constructors, and A teams to be overcompetitive by having the benefit of a B team. Without a correction, the way things stand mean that any team with championship aspirations needs to have a B team in place and that simply is not Formula 1.”

The McLaren CEO suggests that partnerships between teams like Red Bull and Alpha Tauri, or Ferrari and Alfa Romeo, are “diminishing what being an F1 ‘team’ means and the fabric of the sport.”

A photo of a McLaren Formula 1 car racing at night.

All by myself. Should McLaren have a sister team in F1?
Photo: Lars Baron / Staff (Getty Images)

These close ties between frontrunner and backmarker squads could have an unfair influence of the sport’s governance, Brown suggested.

He said:

“On top of this, the voting pressure placed by the A teams on their B teams is not consistent with the promotion of an equitable sport based on individual team merit. As I have said before – and these teams won’t admit to it – there are times when some smaller teams vote against their own interests to satisfy the agenda of their A team.”

But, with F1 seats at a premium and few manufacturers likely to make a bid to join the sport in the coming years, can F1 really go after the teams it currently has on its roster?

Sure, the prospect of an Alfa Romeo aiding a Ferrari win on-track, or backing the same rules as the parent team doesn’t sound like the best way for the sport to run. But, If McLaren and every other manufacturer on the grid had a sister team, would Brown have the same qualms with the standings?

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