Michael Bailey: Don’t stop F1 teams from going it alone

They are all at it – and for the new teams, it has been vital: the much trumpeted technical partnership. It has been the primary tool for those new teams of 2010 avoiding a four-second-per-lap gap widening beyond even slightly competitive.

Virgin Racing secured the helping hand of McLaren since Silverstone. HRT get similar expertise and development from Williams. Norfolk's Team Lotus – read Caterham – have lapped up the assistance too.

The Hingham team's gearboxes come from Red Bull Racing. A Kers system from the double constructors' champions will follow next season.

And Williams dish out their wind tunnel for Team Lotus' use too – which effectively ruled out the need for the team to build its own facility at Hingham; so not the best news for these parts.

It's not just those pesky new teams though. No guessing where Toro Rosso (Red Bull in Italian) get their help from.

Then there is Force India's tie-up with McLaren. The list goes on.

The formula has grown in recent years, and no wonder. Using the experience and resource of established teams makes perfect sense – and realistically is the only way for a new team to develop without blowing an entire season's budget before getting as far as a winter test.

Most Read

While those teams remain miles off the lead pace – and certainly behind their technical parents – there won't be an issue. And it would take a notable effort for that to change.

But that doesn't mean it won't.

As the rules stay the same, the difference between the cars will narrow – the current chassis directives have one more season in them, at least.

What needs to be avoided is the likes of Williams questioning exactly why they should bother paying out for their own wind tunnel and development.

Why should they share their facilities, gearboxes and technical knowhow, and in turn fall behind those teams spending a fraction of the money and getting more success?

As the landscape changes – be it car technology, greener engines or the very rules and ethos the sport is built around – sustaining the financial viability for iconic teams like Williams is key to keeping the fans' interest and the sport healthy.

Everyone needs a helping hand – but those teams should both have and be able to go it alone eventually.

• So here we are – the final round of the 2011 season and one that offered regular intrigue, rather than a campaign to rival last year's drama.

I guess that is always going to be the case when both drivers' and constructors' titles look sewn up so early.

My modest pre-season bets did at least deliver �50 on that double – given they were wagers I won, it must have been fairly predictable even in winter testing that both Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull would dominate the 19 rounds of 2011.

We have one more to go, of course. The season climax in Sao Paulo this weekend. A classic track, one which may see the final race of Rubens Barrichello's prolonged and steady Formula One career.

Whether he will admit it or not, the noises are Williams may look elsewhere for next season. Whether any of the other teams would look for – or be able to afford – Barrichello for an entire campaign would then become a big question to be answered.

What would be interesting in Brazil is if McLaren can build on their win in Abu Dhabi with a successive success – be it from Jenson or Lewis.

The key for 2012 is that Red Bull have to be pushed harder than their rivals managed this season – especially if fans here are expected to spend either: money on Sky, or time avoiding results before getting free-to-view highlights of half the races.

So now we know how things panned out, how did your 2011 predictions go? I'll start with mine – directly quoted from the first of my columns, on March 23…

'You are all free to bring them up in November.

'Vettel and Mark Webber seem to have put last season's differences behind them, but given the former has signed a contract extension and Webber is in the final year of his Red Bull deal, there is plenty of scope for the spark to re-ignite in 2011.

'The rest of the field may have been brought closer together, but Vettel – another year wiser – is in with a serious shout of becoming only the ninth driver ever to successfully defend his title.

'Team Lotus will pick up their first points since rejoining the grid but Lotus Renault will be some way up ahead, while Sauber's Sergio Perez will surprise everyone in his debut season – unlike Pastor Maldonado, who may well occasionally find the wall.'

I would say close, but no cigar on a few of those – hope you managed better…