Some sports don’t come cheap. And Formula 1 is the least cheap of them all. But in recent years, the budgets of the top teams have been astronomical. Just to stay in the game requires a commitment of tens of millions every year. So when proposals were put forward to cut costs recently, it might have been thought that there would be broad approval. Instead, there has been an all too routine power struggle, which will lead to the exit of Max Mosley from the FIA later this year.
In the midst of all the wrangling was an apparent inability to see that the cost of competing had the potential to drive players out of the sport: Honda had already thrown in the towel, although the team was rescued at the eleventh hour and has since become Brawn GP. Well, today there has been another withdrawal: BMW, who entered F1 with such high hopes when they took over Peter Sauber’s team in 2005, will end their participation at the close of the 2009 season. The BBC has the details of this morning’s announcement.
It was not always thus. In 1974, the team principal at Brabham – who won three GPs that year – was asked how much it cost to compete and win in F1. The answer was that it cost about 100k per car – so 200k for a two car team. If that figure were adjusted for inflation, and then increased by a factor of ten, it would still be less than the lowest of today’s team budgets. Back in the 1970s, Formula 1 was considered expensive – now the numbers are getting silly. But that team principal from Brabham is still in the game.
His name was Bernie Ecclestone.