Yet again we have been given a stark warning of the grave health that Formula One is in with news that we could be left with just SEVEN teams for 2015 as Marussia, Caterham, Sauber and Lotus all struggle to get enough finance to see themselves over to next year. Gene Haas’ F1 team will not be ready until 2016, whilst the Stefan Grand Prix team entry has gone eerily quiet.
Contrast that to the British Touring Car Championship. This is a race series in the form of its life, with over 30 entries per race meeting coupled with record crowd numbers. The BTCC is fast becoming the racing format of choice for your average British motorsport fan. And there are a number of factors for this.
Firstly, the management of the BTCC is much better than the often chaotic mess we’re served up with by the FIA and Bernie Ecclestone. Alan Gow is a racing man. He knows what will put bums on seats with the BTCC, and there is no way he is in it for the money. You cannot say the same of Ecclestone or the FIA, with those two combined making billions of pounds at the expense of F1’s health. Sadly, that money doesn’t trickle down to Formula One teams.
Prior to the 2014 season, the FIA actually increased the entry fee from $10m to $40m (according to the Guardian). Don’t adjust your screen. You read that right. At a time when the Power Units brought in for 2014 cost upwards of 20% more than the V8s of 2013, that is as baffling as employing George Michael as your chauffeur. Another baffling decision was the decision not to award the last placed Constructor any prize money at all. Who on earth does that benefit in the long run? The sad fact is that they are not interested in whether Formula One prospers. They only care about their wallet.
The same can be said of Ecclestone. It’s all well and good securing these lucrative new deals in all the glitzy and glamourous locations such as Abu Dhabi and Singapore, but what’s the point if they continue to line the pockets of one man instead of getting to the bread and butter of the Formula One paddock?
Some have suggested running three car teams. But that would have a similar effect on F1 as dynamite would on a small house. Who would want to see a race where only one Formula One team made the podium, and where only four teams score points? The only small team left in F1 were all of the above scenarios to come true, Force India, would stand no chance at all post-Silverstone. Where would the interest be? Where would the unpredictability (That despite Mercedes’ dominance, we do still have) be? Do we want that for F1?
Contrast that with the BTCC again. Twice in the last 15 years the organisers have introduced cost-cutting measures, with the Super Touring era being brought to an end in 2000, when they realised it was becoming unsustainable. After a couple of years the BTCC was almost as exciting as before, and the sport’s popularity went from strength to strength as the unpredictability grew and grew. Again in 2010, they brought in the cheaper ‘Next Generation Touring Car’, and the results speak for themselves. The BTCC is as popular as ever, with fans being able to go to watch for a not extortionate amount of money as more and more drivers enter. The accessibility for drivers and fans alike is magnificent.
The hierarchy have propelled the BTCC to what it is today by putting the fans first. And it’s about time Formula One did likewise.