Bob McMurray: F1 struggles to put bums in seats
Search Driven for vehicles for sale
There’s a strange situation for the bigger Formula 1 teams at the moment with too many young chargers waiting to get into too few Formula 1 seats.
It has always been a situation for the Red Bull organisation, with a seemingly unending conveyor belt of young hopefuls signing contracts shortly after they complete potty training. But, unusually at this time, they have the reverse problem: not enough young drivers to fill their four available seats.
Mercedes on the other hand have drivers in the junior ranks needing to step up and even existing Formula 1 drivers who may well be out of a seat come season’s end.
Not a good situation in a sport that relies heavily on “momentum” and continuance of competitive driving.
To take a year off may well be okay for the likes of Fernando Alonso but not for drivers trying to make their mark and climb the ladder.
The grid is peppered with drivers contracted to a particular team but “on loan” to another and it is usually the small teams, especially the satellite teams of the “big spenders”, who take them on. More often than not they are accompanied by a cheaper engine deal or some mechanical assistance or perhaps the big team pays the driver’s wages.
In any case the young driver gets the experience of driving in Formula 1 while being examined by the larger team and held in readiness to step up.
Charles Leclerc (Alfa Romeo Sauber and Ferrari) and Esteban Ocon (Force India and Mercedes) are two in the news right now.
The Formula 1 career of Pascal Wehrlein was brought to an abrupt halt when the available seats dried up and he was forced to look for employment elsewhere.
This practice is being closely looked at by the FIA as it seems they are worried that some of these teams will simply become junior or “B” teams to those with the money and power.
For that, read the engine suppliers Mercedes, Ferrari, Honda and Renault.
If this does become the norm, the winners of most F1 races will almost certainly come from just four teams.
Not so different from now, you may say, but at least there is still the possibility for the teams at the wrong end of the pit lane to climb the ranks and that would certainly never happen if they were all servile to their “A” teams.
Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff has suggested that all teams should be permitted to run a third car, which, he says, would promote young drivers and new talent.
On the face of it that seems a good idea, bringing expanded grids, young and comparatively unknown drivers fighting with the big names and a pathway to more success.
However I think the problems of doing that would outweigh the advantages.
Not all teams, perhaps only two, would be able to run a third car
Wolff says with a certain trace of “us and them”, “The costs wouldn’t be huge, the grid would be packed and we would have fantastic shows of new kids on the block coming up and fighting hard with the Valtteris and Lewises of this world and maybe surprising us.”
I am not sure the likes of the Williams F1 team would agree as they can barely afford the two cars they do have, let alone committing to a third.
Extra garage space, costs of transportation around the world, extra people to run and service the cars, extra tyres and engines and myriad added hidden costs.
Not to mention how extra cars and drivers on track could well be used to hamper the progress of a rival in the championship battles.
There are far too many issues to overcome before we see third cars on the grid, so how about the manufacturers agree to make a sensible budget cap with a sensible engine cost and relatively simple and sensible power units?
The aim of more teams coming into the sport may well then be achieved, with more cars on the grid and a more level playing field for all.
Sensible, I reckon.