F1 Winter Break
The fallout from F1’s latest shocks
The fallout from F1’s latest shocks
Posted By: James Allen  |  05 Nov 2009   |  6:52 pm GMT  |  53 comments

So what happens next in this dramatic final act of the 2009 season? As Toyota F1’s tearful president Tadashi Yamashina made his sorry way off the podium after announcing the company’s withdrawal from F1, it seemed that Formula 1 was in trouble again. Renault’s board meeting to discuss it’s F1 involvement added to the tension, Bridgestone’s decision to end its involvement was still ringing in the ears. So is F1 in a crisis, or are these the inevitable aftershocks of a credit crunch? F1 is always the last into a recession and the last out of it.

The noises I hear on Renault are that the meeting was broadly supportive of the F1 programme, for now at least. There will be no sudden pull out, it seems.

And this is important because the balance of power is shifting in F1 back towards the FIA and Bernie Ecclestone. The lesson of 2009 was that if the teams stay together, as FOTA did, with the backing of the world’s leading car makers they can get things done. FOTA won the battle in June when it threatened the breakaway series and forced Max Mosley and the FIA to back down on its budget cap proposals, but it looks like the other side is winning the war.

With BMW and now Toyota out FOTA’s power is being diluted, thanks to a host of fragile new teams, all behoven to Ecclestone for the $10 million cheque and liable to side with whoever can help them to survive, rather than feel a spirit of brotherhood with their rivals. Especially when rivals like Ferrari publicly belittle them as non-entities, barely worthy of being in F1, as they did in May and again yesterday.

Ferrari were dismissive of the new teams on their website yesterday,
“In reality, the steady trickle of desertion is more the result of a war against the big car manufacturers, ” it said. “Formula 1 continues losing important parts. In exchange, if one could call it that, Manor, Lotus, USF1 and Campos Meta arrived. You might say, “same-same” because it is enough if there are participants. But that’s not entirely true and the we’ve got to see if next year we’ll be really as many in Bahrain for the first starting grid of the 2010 season.”

Ferrari feel that Sauber should be in F1 ahead of all the new teams. They are a long time Ferrari customer and will be again next year. FOTA needs another strong partner, as Sauber would be. It also needs Renault to maintain the balance. Without that their influence will diminish on issues like forcing Ecclestone to retain the British Grand Prix or to put a US Grand Prix back on the calendar. And where will their diminished power leave them in the negotiations which are set to start soon into the new Concorde Agreement post 2011? The teams are looking to greatly increase their share of the commercial revenues from the sport. Having the big manufacturers behind them increased their bargaining power. It will be much easier now for them to be divided and ruled.

As Ecclestone observed yesterday, “When you look at the history, since Formula 1 started, I think there have been 73 teams coming and going.” Only Ferrari has stayed the course.

Defeated FIA presidential candidate Ari Vatanen couldn’t resist having his say on the latest developments and had a pop at the FIA, “We must realise the economic reality is nothing to do with the crisis, ” he said. “Big companies always look to market and promote, even when times are tough, but only if it is in a sensible way. I do hope [Renault do not leave], but if they do it is the final alarm call that we cannot continue with business as usual. I’m sad to say the old guard are still in power in the FIA, but teams are starting to vote with their feet.”

The withdrawal of manufacturers was foreshadowed by Mosley last year. The issue here is did he see that they were likely to jump and acted accordingly, or did he give them a push?

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Glad to see the sport back on the Beeb! Just need Murry back now! One point I haven’t seen anyone discussing… With teams leaving the sport, what happens to the team positions and prize money for next year? Toyota, and the possible event of Renault pulling out would surely move Sir Frank and his team up from 7th to 5th in the Pit Lanes next year?

This year was great, (if you ignore all the political flimflam) Well done Jensen, and the Brawn Team, well done Redbull for their fight, and well done Mclaren for their comeback. Next year, I’ll be a little disappointed to see the end of refuelling as this added another variable into the racing which sometimes can be a procession. However the thought of watching Massa take Alonso to the cleaners, Mclaren possibly having two competitive drivers, and hoping that Brawn can defend both titles confidently… I can’t wait.


Hi James,

It was quite funny to me to find out that Toyota left F1 and the next day reported a profit after many quarters(though this is attributed to the

‘cash for clunkers’). But really why dont the manufacturers let their engine dept to continue? I guess the teams pay for them anyway. This would still leave the impression for the less informed fans that its a sport of racing cars.

James what are your thoughts of the Lotus team? Despite all the build up about them being the British Ferraris It just seems like another “super Aguri” version of Malaysia. Just naming them Lotus will not associate them with History


I agree, but of all the new teams, they claim to be the most advanced. I am looking forward to going to see their set up.


Heidfeld to McLaren would be interesting next year, either way with Kimi or Nick I think we’ll be in for a treat!


James, are you hearing any news on Kobayashi finding a seat for next year? A complete long shot, but potentially a partner for Lewis at Mclaren if the Kimi contract falls through?


I hope half the new teams don’t make it for next year. This will give Ferrari a chance to run 3 cars. Enter M. Schumacher for one year only…bring it on..


I’m laughin’. Money talks, BS walks.

I’ve said it before here: these big car manufacturers are strictly “temps” in *every racing series they enter. They are only in it for the advertising and status. They are subject to the real-world need to make profits that do not affect the indy teams that only exist to race. ANd when those outside forces get too big for them to afford the half-billion dollar costs, they bail.

Consider that number for just a minute: h.a.l.f.a.b.i.l.l.i.o.n. Dollars.Per.year. You could have your own nuclear sub for that much! How many additional Toyotas do you have to sell to make it *back?

And the idea that these “temps” should run the show is just nonsense. They’re gonna make the rules and then a few months later leave? What kind of way is *that to run a railroad?

And btw Ferarri shouldn’t be looking down their nose at *anybody. This year *their half-billion got them… what exactly? They should quit running their mouth.


The smart companies recognize the fading relevance of F1 and they’ve left the party. It’s not only money which has driven these moves : it is the understanding that F1 has become a travesty of what it once was.

History will show the companies which stayed are like those who would choose to arrange the deck chairs on the Titanic instead of preparing to abandon ship. Of course, teams like

Williams have few other options which can bring them revenue, so it’s not surprising they will stay on deck until the ship sinks beneath the surface, which it most certainly will.

Of course, some of you cannot grasp just how dire the current world economic climate really is, so you will disagree. How shocking the awakening will be for you — perhaps when you stand on line for the dole for a while, you will change your tune.


Nice try by Luca to deflect the blame back to Mosley, but only a fool would buy it. If Toyota/BMW really left because they were unable to reconcile with the FIA/the way the sport is run, then why they did sign the new Concorde agreement? Weren’t they going to start their own new series? Do you wonder what would the alternative would have been if they had accepted the $50mm budget cap?



Toyota signed the new Concorde Agreement when Max was at his nadir. Then Max said he would run again but this ruffles the feathers of FOTA as an actionable breach and most teams hadn’t signed a thing. Soon after that Max got his puppet/clone Jean Todt to run. In a swift aggressive move Max unilaterally inserted the Lola team to preempt Sauber/Ferrari and further dilute FOTA. Toyota’s departure has more to do with Todt’s victory and the continuation of the hostile tactics of the old guard power structure than anything else.

The modus operundi of the Max/Bernie, now Jean/Bernie power structure is to rob the teams of any determinative voice. They are diluting FOTA with weak teams who are dependent upon Bernie’s checks for survival. These new teams, and Cosworth will live under the capricious whims of Bernie/Jean. They are born slaves with no hope of ever gaining independence because their entire existence will be metered by Bernie’s checkbook. Bernie knows he can starve a team by slow paying and he knows ha can further enslave a team by financial advances like he did with Williams. Only the manufacturer teams had the muscle to stand up to this corrupt tyrannical regime.

It is too bad that long ago Bernie subscribed to Max’s adversarial governance philosophy. F1 could have been much greater if they just took a cooperative approach such as we see in NASCAR. Even though the France family rules it in an unchallenged way, they only hold onto 15-20% of the money after distribution. They make sure ticket prices are within reach of the fans. The track owners aren’t starved. The fans aren’t shielded from meaningful contact with the teams and drivers. NASCAR is a spec series and with push rods and carburetors they make no pretense of being technology oriented. But NASCAR knows that good relations with the teams, with the manufacturers, with the fans and with the media are all vital to the health of the series. Bernie and Max have no regard for any of this.

F1 is sadly killing all its claim to technology with specs that regulate 99% of the car. LMP is rightfully the new home of automotive technologies. F1 is losing the plot because of Bernie’s greed and Max’s power lust.

FOTA made the same mistake as did the GPMA. They wimped out and now F1 may soon die because of it. Is that a drastic statement? Well let us examine it. In two or three years time half the grid will be Cosworth kit car teams. The std. ECU will remain. 99% of the chassis is regulated. Standard tires will remain. There may even be another push for the so-called “world” engine. KERS, if it is to be used will be standardized. Renault will surely leave F1 before long and go on to LMP with Peugeot, Porsche, and Audi. And F1 will be of limited interest to engineers and real racers. Even now F1 is a “cut flower”. It looks vibrant but it really died when it was snipped from the stem. What we see now is the first few petals browning. Soon more petals will fall off and all will see its lack of sustainable life.

F1’s prestige is rapidly fading with endless court cases, scandals and disputes. Not to mention abandoning key markets like North America, France, soon to be GB after leaving Austria in 2004. Japan is now not represented in any meaningful way once Bridgestone leaves next year. Pay no attention to those empty seats. LMP on the other hand is experiencing a revival. But, hey… nothing is wrong. Move along now.


I totally disagree, Graham.

Specs rule 98.4%.

Mind you, the rest was spot on.


While I’m not a big fan of the way many large corporations use cash and power to sometimes bully their way into a market, in this case into F1, something just doesn’t seem right here the way they’re dropping like flies.

I do not know how these manufacturing companies work on the inside, or how that is blended with their racing divisions, but it seems it has become awfully easy to point fingers at them for being fickle towards their commitment to F1.

Sure, perhaps Toyota, Honda and BMW should have done better for the enormous investments they put into their teams, but are we really getting the whole story here? As James alluded to, maybe they were “pushed” out of F1 by Mosley.

How could he have bullied and pushed around such large, powerful corporations? I think one way would be to change the rules every year, and make those rules vague enough that teams could spend hundreds of millions developing a car in one way that supposedly adhered to such rules, only to find there were loopholes to be exploited, or that their hard spent developments in fact ended up contravening those vague rules. Then change the rules all over again the next year and so on.

Such expenditures and their failures to get results would then certainly be very hard to justify to corporate HQ and their share holders.

Oh wait, that’s exactly what Mosley did. 😉


Buck, I am agreeing with you, just adding my two pence worth, apologies if my English doesn’t make it clear.


“…but are we really getting the whole story here?…they were “pushed” out of F1 by Mosley.”

The only people who really know why teams pull out are those people on the boards who take the decisions.

BMW, I think it was, issued a press release talking about “…realignment of strategic objectives.”

What does that mean? Anything you want it to mean, therefore it has no meaning.


I’m not sure if you’re agreeing or disagreeing with me here but I do agree that we may never know exactly what goes on in the board meetings of these big companies, and their reasons for both joining and then abandoning F1, despite what they say publicly (which no doubt usually has an enormous amount of spin on it).

But then why is it that these big boys were once welcomed with open arms by F1 brass, and now it seems they are uninvited house guests who have overstayed their welcome. “Good riddance you bums and take your dirty underwear with you!” seems to be the response to their departure.

I’m no chef, but something definitely smells fishy.


James, your site crashes with astonishing regularity! It feels like twice a week it is totally down and unobtainable… that’ll start to wear thin at some stage… just sayin’.


the “cost cutting” measures have been disastrous for the sport. for all the talk of wanting costs down, one of the sells to the suits was that the money was not only going into publicity but into automotive r&d. now that you can barely change anything on the car it’s less interesting for manufacturer teams. you see this with bridgestone, with no r&d return they’ve gotten bored of it, and an f1 presence is worth less to the company.

design needs to be reopened on a number of fronts.


Renault should not be considered “just” a manufacturer,for me they are a real F1 team,they have been in the sport for over 30 years and not for nothing they are the only one(besides Ferrari of course) that have won a title.They know how to run a team.

Renault,they way I see it,are always looking for a new technical challenge in F1,perhaps they can’t find it right now and in the years to come in order to stay in the sport.


I believe that the regulations have become so strict and refined lately, that it has forced up the cost and budgets of F1 to find that extra tenth!

In the 80’s & 90’s when things were more ‘open’ with the regulations, teams could pursue many areas to gain the time in the car, not having to spend millions just in a small area of focus.


“F1 is always the last into a recession and the last out of it. “

I wouldnt say that F1 is suffering with the recession in comparison with normal people, not when you can have people afford to spend in the region of $8 billon for a new circuit, anyway racing was more fun in the 80’s and 90’s and they did it on less money and at better circuits. I always said the big manufacturers would bail out…I mentioned it a few months back. I am starting to get more and more into GT racing now, its more interesting, has less politics, doesnt drip with money and has more of a fan atmosphere and not a corporate one and the racing is miles better. Although I still like F1 all that has happened this year has tarnished its image with me to some extent and if Silverstone is not on the calender that would make me dislike it even more. It seems that the F1 paymasters are leading F1 into new areas for monetary purposes at the expense of traditional historic venues. I dont really care who is racing in F1 as long as it gives good racing. I would rather see a track with crap facilities that gives fantastic racing rather than a showcase for architects talents. Yes Abu Dhabi is impressive as a venue but the racing was not racing. It was a showcase for money and lots of it. A good venue for business deals and corporate development. What I find most tragic though is big car manufactuers buy private teams like BAR and Sauber, flash the cash for a vehicle to promote thier products then leave when the going gets tough leaving engineers, designers and machinists etc who have mortgages and families, in the lurch worried about thier jobs. That is morally wrong in my opinion and I wont buy a car of any of these manufacturers for that reason alone. Its really sad but it seems to me F1 is all about money now, and who can make the most, all I see is greed really. Dissappointed to say the least.


Hey James,

I just want to say how much I enjoy reading your blog and have enjoyed it for the past year. It’s incredibly informative!

I hope Renault stay in F1, if anything to see Kubica race.


“Only Ferrari has stayed the course” – surely McLaren and Williams haven’t vanished since they first entered!?

It was obvious with a global credit crunch looming 2 or so years ago, that certain manufacturers would return to their core business, in time. You don’t have to be Mystic Max to see that!! Bizarrely Max and Bernie were the ones trying to get the manufactures on board in the past, in the first place.

Like everything, F1 evolves to suit the circumstances.


James, great writing as usual.

My personal gut feeling is that Max knew at some level that the position of the manufacturer was tenous at best. In short he knew (from inside source) that they would leave.

What is your thoughts?



I never have been, and in all likelihood probably never will be a fan of Ferrari, but Luca is right about the “smaller” teams, as usual their entries have been well orchestrated and assisted by Max n Co, and the reason they’re there is as you hint at, to dilute FOTA, so to answer your question, of course he gave them a push, and the first public display of his shoving was against Flavio, it will be interesting indeed to see just how many teams actually line up on the grid in 2010.


There must surely be a viable way to run an F1 team on considerably less cash than has been. But it either requires all teams to agree to that (can you see Ferrari agreeing?) or by imposition through regulation, and we saw the results of that earlier in the year.

Interesting point: the 70s/80s were dominated by cigarette cash (F1 being the only real global advertsing platform left to them), then the dominant revenue stream was manufacturer ownership. Does this really represent a fundamental shift in the financial structure for teams and is there another big revenue stream around the corner? Could it be businesses/countries from the developing world taking control, tying in with moves to Korea & India? Or genuinely are we about to see a cost-basis revolution in F1…?

Would love to hear your thoughts, James, on this progression of key revenue streams from ciggies to manufacturers to whatever is next.

PS. Fantastic site, easily the best reporting and opinion site. Thanks for the insights through the year – long may it continue!


I’m surprised Toyota and Renault have left it until now to be looking at their involvement, since their cited reasons existed before the signing of the Concorde agreement, or could this be a sign that they thought they could get their own way in ousting Max and getting a replacement, and see Todt as a continuation of how things were?

It seems at least Toyota did the right thing by signing up first so that they have a place on the grid to sell on, unlike BMW who left Sauber out to dry, but it does raise questions about the strength of the Concorde – from what I’ve read, a big part of getting the teams to sign up was for stability, not so much for the good of the sport itself, but so that the TV rights etc could be sold on the back of the commitment of the teams to be in it. With 2 manufacturers saying “Yeah, we’re signed up, but it doesn’t mean we’ll stick around” then surely that’s going to have a knock-on effect on the value of the rights?


Med, isn’t it also going to have a knock-on effect in countries like China and Turkey, and for the reasons that you put forward in connection with the value of TV rights.

Locals have hardly taken F1 into their hearts in those, and other, countries with the attraction of high-profile teams/companies like BMW and Toyota. Unaffordable tickets perhaps. Replacing well known manufacturers with Manor, Campos etc is unlikely to improve the appeal to locals.

How long will the governments that subsidise these races be willing to keep on paying the fees if the big names have quit?

How will CVC manage their debt if that happens?


But are BMW and Toyota ‘big names’ as you put it? Martin Whitmarsh believes that Toyota were ‘not integral’ to F1 and that the strength of FOTA is Ferrari and McLaren. To lose Renault might be a different matter as they are multiple world champions and innovators. But they do not want to breach the Concorde Agreement as Toyota have done.


Replace the name “Ferrari” with the brand “Manchester United”. Now imagine that those Reds, heavy with the Glazers’ debt burden, were to win the Champions League but could not bank on any significant revenue following their win, except any positive effect their victory might have on their brand reputation. How long would you imagine Alex Ferguson would have a team?

I do not wish to burden the analogy beyond this. Suffice to say, the business model of F1 for manufacturers has always been unusual to say the least.

But now imagine that your name is “Renault” and you have been investing for a decade or more for the pleasure of that “trickle down” effect. Finally, the sport’s authorities decide that your reward for this commitment is an arbitrary decision that the millions you have invested in your technical development strategy is irrelevant. When they told you KERS was the next big thing and that “every one should have one” … they were only kidding. Really?!

I am astonished to think anyone could believe that the loss of such giants of global manufacturing as Renault, BMW, Toyota, Honda, and tomorrow possibly Fiat and Mercedes, would be a “good thing” for motor sport’s premier formula. There seem to be those who will empathise warmly with a “few hundred” jobs “saved” at Brawn GP yet feel nothing for the thousands being laid off around in Japan, Germany, Italy and wherever else the auto industry’s manufacturing heart continues to beat.

Formula 1 might have been a significant weapon in the life-or-death struggle faced by the world automotive industry today. Instead, it seems hell-bent on remaining the private fiefdom of a narrow group determined to serve their own interests regardless of the fallout.


Have to say im kind of confused. Im no fan of Mosley and ii dont think demanding a £30m budget for next year was ever going to work, but if in 4 years time teams ARE running in F1 on £30m budgets, then the demand for F1 could go through the roof.

Im no economist, but given the revenue streams from F1 and advertising,promotion, livery etc, if teams were running to a £30m budget (excluding driver salaries) then they would be in with a shout of being profitable.

Standardising certain expensive parts like gearboxes would help also, as long as teams can still develop certain areas and not lose their identity. Then you might see the Toyotas, Hondas of this world wanting back in.

James what do you think about this? Can you see a low cost F1 working or would it take away from the true F1 ethos?


I think there is every chance that teams could be turned into profit centers, too bad they werent really interested in competing on innovation but rather on who has deeper pockets .. Most of the money spent probably didn’t improve the racing one bit anyway, do you really need to make 50 different front wings every season or whatever? Keep remmebering that the FW14B was built on a budget of 25mm or whatever … and it was the most advanced car when technology was a lot more epxensive too


This was the ideological debate of the year and I’ve written about it extensively if you look back through the May and June entries in particular.


James, cool site, it is on my daily F1 reading list now.

Do you think the real problem is the commercial structure that stops the sport being more flexible and able to respond to the current economic situations.

Manufacturers have now found out that spending the money does not make wins… understanding the spirit of the sport and the intricacy of the race do. Yet this spirit only seems to be in teams that race because they want to race (Indy teams), not because they are paid to race (manufacturer teams).

Years ago we had cars turning up on a trailer pulled by a transit van (maybe not true but a great image) and the racings was both good and bad from race to race. I think this is just the nature of this sport. The teams could spend what they could afford which tended to be limited by the amount of sponsorship they could bring in. This did seem to be a natural budget regulation tool.

Good regulation control does bring the season that we have seen this year and whilst sceptical about no fuelling next year (it will at least save Räikkönen getting sore eyes) I am sure we will see another mix of both great wheel to wheel racing and processions.

The current commercial agreement is restrictive when manufacturers are involved because decisions are made with more consideration to the bottom line and payback. The real race teams want to feel the race with the fans at a technical circuit with the challenge of bringing months or work together for a win.

So we appear to have a Toyota that will hold on tight to their Concord signature which now has commercial collateral, 4 new teams all hold one of these concord agreements, maybe Sauber should go shopping for one of those?


Not all of the new teams have signed the Concord yet, and any teams place on the grid cannot be sold on, FOTA’s rules demanded a unanimous vote to allow that to happen, apparently one team opposed it, USF1.


Ironically, the phantom-atic USF1 team, may not even pass the crash test. according to mr. Brawn.


He did not say that at all…


Not all of the 4 teams have yet signed the Concorde Steve, and in any case, FOTA’s rules demand a unanimous vote in order to allow a teams right to its place on the grid to be sold on, say for instance to Sauber, they dont have that unanimity, one of the “new” teams blocked it, USF1.


Thanks. Yes I think the manufacturers didn’t really get what they wanted from the peace deal in the summer and that is part of the reason Toyota is on its way out now, rather than just the economic situation


They should have let the manufacturers go off and start their own series….. it would be in tatters now 🙂

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