Learning the lessons of last time

So I know its been a while since i’ve posted on the blog, applogies for that but I hope you’ve all been enjoying the racing! The story of 2014 has been domination with Mercedes winning all the 4 wheeled Grand Prix’s while Marc Marquez has taken 6 from 6 in the Moto GP (I’ve only caught a few races but that was a belter at Mugello over the weekend) however there have been tales up and down the grid not least towards the back. After gaining an entry to the sport in 2010 one of the young teams have finally scored a point with Jules Bianchi bringing his Marussia home in 9th place after penalties in a race of attrition in Monaco. Points these days go all the way down to tenth place meaning in theory it should of been possible for one of the teams to have grabbed points but with those extra places came extra reliability and the failed effort of HRT managed to record the two lowest finishing positions in world championship history!

But the news this morning is that former HRT boss Colin Kolles (he was team manager and was hired to help the team limp round looking semi professional) has had his Romanian backed Forza Rossa (FRR) accepted as the 13th team in F1 to join Gene Haas’s effort we have a look at where the pitfalls are in starting a new team.

1. Money Money Money

It comes as no surprise that many a promising effort over the years has fallen flat due to a lack of cash and with money issue’s stretching all the way up to Lotus it should come as no surprise that liquidity is key in the money mad world of F1. With the rumours surrounding many teams fiscal state the decision to start a new team from scratch is a puzzling one, since one could take a few hundred million and purchase Sauber, Toro Rosso or Caterham to gain a place on the grid its an odd choice to sink the same amount of cash into starting a new team just to get to the back of the grid. Over the course of the last 4 seasons and a bit HRT folded after being bought and sold like a failing stock while Manor was first funded by Virgin before Marussia bought a stake in the team. Virgin started trying to run the team using no wind tunnel time and a budget of around 40 million that clearly didn’t work out and the team are now spending closer to 70 million a season!

New New Teams:
Gene Haas has made some bold claims about doing F1 the American way and doing it for a competitive amount of money, this seems unlikely since many American sports have rules that limit the amount of money you can spend in them. NFL has team salary caps and a player draft, while Indy Car is a spec series (with engine competition). Nascar allows car development but it severely limited to keep the budgets down and the competitor numbers up. Haas could well find himself HRT-ing at the back or with a black hole in his budget, but then he is no cowboy and does know how to run a tight ship.

Forza Rossa have the backing of a Romanian Ferrari importer as well as Government funds looking to promote the country, now it remains to be seen how long both of those will stick around if they are rooted to the foot of the table. Hopefully there will be some corporate sponsors who would look to take advantage of corporate hospitality while the team gets moving in the right direction.

2. Location, Location, Location

All 3 of the new teams within a few years had relocated from their idyllic settings in search of pastures new, with HRT getting it very wrong in a comedy of errors and moving to Spain only to find the region was bankrupt! The other two teams moved from Norwich and Rotherham to the South East of England where all of the other teams are located bar Ferrari, Toro Rosso and Sauber (who form a Northern Italy / Swiss cluster). This allows the teams to easily hire from other teams so that people do not have to up root their entire families for a change of team. Also there are other considerations such as the South East of England has 4 major airports and you can send the trucks off to the Ferry/Tunnel for the European rounds whereas other locations in the country simply add to the stress of getting to the races.

New New teams:
Well Mr Haas haven’t we been here before? The aborted USF1 project faltered due in part to the added costs of running a team out of the states (furthermore just think, every team member you poach you have to pay a huge relocation fee for them to move to the US!). However its not as insane as it may seem at first, the team is located in the US’s cluster of racing firms so there should be plenty of talent there the difficulty will be in getting experienced F1 hands to go and help start the team. Haas also has a F1 standard wind tunnel (that some of the teams rent out from time to time) and a huge facility the only question remains is what will happen in Europe and what will happen in the US.

Forza Rossa on the other hand are going to start at least out of Colin Kolles’s Munich base where the HRT team was based prior to the doomed Madrid switch, there are some racing teams in Germany – most notably Toyota’s former F1 facility but its a little out of the way in F1 terms and it will be a struggle to run a team there long term with no other teams in the vicinity.

3. If at first you don’t succeed – buy it

The entry process for the new teams in 2010 was packaged together with a sweet deal of a ready to go engine (Cosworth), gearbox (Xtrac) and transmission (Ricardo) to slot into you new chassis and aero package, all at the bargain price of £5.5 million a season (and 1.5 million initial setup costs). This was supposed to help the teams quickly get to grips and adapt to F1 and also help them not spend their way into oblivion, there was however one slight problem with all of this. The new parts were made to be a cost effective solution but while the engine was good enough (if a little fuel thirsty) the gearbox was atrocious and left the new teams having to worms their way out of the deals. By the end of the second season the teams had either walked away from the package all together (Caterham), designed their own gearboxes instead (Marussia) or bought a better gearbox from an F1 team (HRT).

But the issues didn’t end there, HRT’s chassis which was designed by Dallara was about 10 years out of date and shocked some of the new staff when they were brought in to evaluate the project. The moral of this story is buying is a good way to get good parts cheap, however only ever buy from racing teams.

New New teams:
While at first glance Mr Haas may have walked into a huge pitfall marked HRT with announcing Dallara will make its chassis, however with one simple caveat. The team will be designing it and using Dallara’s facilities to manufacture it which hopefully should be a good cost effective solution. Haas has delayed his entry until 2016 and may partner with one of the existing engine manufactures or use Cosworth to bring back Ford to the party if they are willing to part with lots of Dollars.

Bizarrely Forza Rossa are planning on using Renault engines according to reports in the media, which seems strange on all fronts considering they are slowest of the new packages and they’re funded by a Ferrari importer. Past that little is known about the suppliers at this stage but the team are aiming for 2015 so they need to get a move on!

 

All in all F1 is an expensive business and these mistakes cost the last batch of teams tens of millions of pounds, so it remains to be seen if any lessons have been learned but it wont be too long until we’re finding out.

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