''Four Teams Could Disappear'' - McLaren’s Zak Brown On F1's Fragile Future

McLaren boss Zak Brown has urged further changes to come into place to save the sport
10:48, 06 Apr 2020

McLaren’s Formula One chief executive officer Zak Brown is of the firm opinion that the $10 billion sport’s future is in jeopardy as a consequence of the coronavirus pandemic.

The season has already been postponed, with the cancellation of the opener in Melbourne, Australia and the Monaco Grand Prix, and the delay to a great number of other fixtures.

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A minimum of 11 races are required to determine the championship and at the moment, as a consequence of the global crisis, just 14 are still scheduled on the calendar. The further effect is the severe loss of revenue with the already short scheduled season potentially becoming even shorter. 

Brown has now articulated that significant changes need to be instigated by the F1 hierarchy in order to save the sport, starting with the lowering of the budget cap from $175m (£143m) to $100m (£81.5m). The budget gap had been intended to come into force for the 2021 season though this looks now in doubt.

The plan, announced on 31 October, 2019, was put into place in order to improve on-track competition by levelling the playing field for the ten outfits registered. It also intends to reduce the risk of teams going bankrupt by spending beyond their means in order to compete.

If the budget cap isn’t dramatically decreased further, Brown vehemently states, the fate of certain F1 teams look distinctly precarious.

"This is potentially devastating to teams, and if [it is devastating] to enough teams - which doesn't have to mean more than two - then very threatening to F1 as a whole," Brown told BBC Sport.

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"Could I see, through what is going on right now in the world if we don't tackle this situation head on very aggressively, two teams disappearing? Yeah.

"In fact, I could see four teams disappearing if this isn't handled the right way.

"And then, given how long it takes to ramp up an F1 team, and given the economic and health crisis we are in right now, to think there would be people lined up to take over those teams like there has historically been... I don't think the timing could be worse from that standpoint.

"So I think F1 is in a very fragile state at the moment."

The ten Formula One teams in competition currently consist of Ferrari, AlphaTauri Honda, Alfa Romeo, Haas, Renault, Red Bull, BWT Racing Point, Williams, McLaren,  and Mercedes-Benz, a $430 million (£350m) per year operation that has had a driver acquire the last six consecutive Championships.

Amidst the coronvirus outbreak, McLaren were the first team to announce that they had placed staff on furlogh, Brown, senior management and both drivers Lando Norris and Carlos Sainz have taken pay cuts. 

Brown has also revealed that, through a series of crunch talks with his counterparts, that the budget caps will now be postponed for another season, until 2022, meaning that the retention of the same vehicles for each team for the next Championship.

Brown has been the CEO of the McLaren team since April 2018 and, in the 2019 F1 season at the Brazilian Grand Prix, oversaw his driver the Spaniard Sainz, recently moved from Renault, securing McLaren's first podium since 2014.

During that time, Mercedes had registered 180.

Mercedes may dominate and indeed continue to dominate for the foreseeable future, but with the combination from the uncertainty of external circumstance and poor leadership from those that control F1’s future, racing against an empty grid will ultimately mean you’d end up being both winner, and loser.