Cash pressures mount on the little fishes in Formula One pond
- Credit: Archant
Williams celebrated 600 not out in Germany – a grands prix record beaten only by McLaren and Ferrari. But maybe celebrated is the wrong word, given where the team currently finds itself.
The focus was on Frank Williams and a team that has enjoyed huge success in the past. Yet the feeling is the great marque is miles away from having any present relevance – apart from such red letter occasions.
And the team's problem is clear – there isn't enough money.
While Formula One appears in rude health, there is a reason why cost-cutting led much of the political agenda a few seasons ago.
Indeed, the likes of Caterham and Marussia joined the F1 grid for 2010 under the premise of a significant budget cap that never arrived.
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What has been left is the status quo – a black hole that devours at least £1m per day for the smaller teams and several times that figure for the others. With sponsorship revenues far from their heyday highs, the situation is unsustainable.
Williams' funding has left them short, while the only two teams behind them have seen hopes of joining the midfield group rendered a pipe dream due to the costs involved in catching up.
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In F1, money equals performance. It's the only equation that matters.
But the situation is even worse for Sauber, with the team in arrears over payments due to Nico Hulkenberg and a question mark over whether the team will even complete the year.
'It is very difficult at the moment,' said team owner Peter Sauber. 'Our resources are very limited and the situation is uncomfortable and embarrassing.
'In 20 years in Formula One, we have never not paid wages on time.
'It is affecting not only the development of the car, but also the suppliers. For the large part, we are being met with understanding, but it is very stressful for us and in many regards painful.'
Sauber's plight is serious. The man with racing in his blood has never had to lay off a member of staff – and doesn't want to start now.
Equally, they need either fresh investment or new sponsors – and quickly. Time is of the essence, and time is also running out. So much so, Sauber may not be able to run for the remainder of the season.
'In principle, no – but I feel safe,' he added. 'Currently we are working day to day. If there is no other way out, that is a possibility (to sell the team). But we are far from that. Closure is not an option.
'The fire inside me is kindled by situations like this. There is nothing else to do than fight.'
Nothing is straight forward. F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone has openly said 10 teams is his ideal for the grid – one fewer than present and the number we enjoyed before 2010.
And as discussed on the EDPF1 podcast this week, for every team struggling for cash there are plenty of others willing to take their place – even if they have no comprehension of the costs involved.
That's the mercenary nature of F1 – and given it didn't change for the new teams in 2010, there's little chance of it changing for anything or anyone else any time soon.