Formula One is one of the most exciting sports in the world. Over 200mph cars, wheel to wheel action and high speed crashes. There’s a reason Formula One is so popular all over the world.
However despite it’s immense popularity, the teams involved in Formula One are not competing on a level playing field. It has always been said, to win in Formula One, you need money. Simple as that. Without money, teams cannot get the best out of their cars. But some teams have more money than others. In Formula One, there are three marquee teams: Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull who operate with the most money and have been the most successful teams over recent seasons. The rest of the field is known as the midfield such as: McLaren, Haas, Renault and Williams.
Mercedes and particularly British driver Lewis Hamilton have dominated recent seasons with Hamilton winning four Drivers’ Championships in five years and Mercedes winning all of the last five Constructors’ Championships.
According to Race Fans; Mercedes had a £302m budget for the 2018 F1 season, Ferrari had even more to spend at £310m, while Red Bull had more of a modest budget among the top three teams at £234m. This is just over £846m combined.
“RaceFans’ exclusive Formula 1 team budgets analysis shows the three biggest teams spent more money in 2018 than the rest of their rivals put together.”
Competitive midfield teams like Haas are operating on a budget of £98m which isn’t half of the budget of Mercedes or Ferrari. Other teams in the midfield like Williams (£113m), Renault (£143m) and McLaren (£166m) operate on similar budgets. This means the gap in the midfield is small, allowing all of those teams to be competitive with each other, but not near the top three.
There has always been a top team in Formula One. Ferrari have been on top with Michael Schumacher, Renault have won with Fernando Alonso and Red Bull won four Constructors’ Championships in a row with Sebastian Vettel. So the gap between the top teams and the midfield has always been there.
However, it has never been there to this scale. In 2014, the budget for the top three teams was a total of £908m according to Bleacher Report. This might equal slightly more than today’s budget, but it was the amount of money the other teams had which was the difference.
The two teams that were racing in 2014 that have already been mentioned; Williams and McLaren had budgets of £120m and £184m respectively. So while the budgets of the bigger teams have remained constant, midfield teams especially McLaren have seen their budgets decrease overtime.
Formula One are aiming to fix this problem though. In April last year, teams were presented with a plan for a budget cap of £118m in 2021. Money will still be distributed on a performance-related basis, but the difference between first and last will be dramatically reduced.
But the problem is, every year before this cap is introduced, it gives more time for the big teams to invest in resources and equipment that will put them even more of an advantage for years to come.