I was doing some research for this blog the other day when I happened to notice a page that placed the national flag of each constructor next to its name. What really caught my eye was that there were only two Union flags included. “Only two Brit teams?” I thought. “That can’t be!”
Closer inspection revealed this to be true, after a fashion. The BBC lists the team nationalities as follows:
Renault – French
Toyota – Japanese
Red Bull Racing – British/Austrian
Scuderia Toro Rosso – Austrian/Italian
McLaren – British/German
Williams – British
BMW/Sauber – Swiss
Super Aguri – Japanese
Ferrari – Italian
Honda – British/USA/Japanese
Midland – Russia/British/Canadian
So, according to the Beeb, there is only one completely British team. How different from a few years ago, when the Brits swarmed everywhere. Yes, I know that many teams are classed as multinational since their base is in England but engine supplier or ownership comes from elsewhere; but this surely illustrates a tendency in F1 that will continue.
Britain remains as a fairly convenient site for a GP team; it is close to Europe, where most of the races are held, and has a strong tradition of racing chassis and suspension developers. Increasingly, however, the money and engine technology comes from abroad. For how much longer can the UK retain what has been a tight grip on the premier motor sport formula?
Italy has always been in there punching and will continue to do so as long as Fiat provide the finance for Ferrari. France, too, has had a strong base for many years, thanks to Renault. But the real threat comes from Japan.
And that is only to be expected, when we consider how seriously the Japanese take motor racing; they are as enthusiastic as the Italians and as fanatical about it as only the Japanese can be. I can see a time coming when they will dominate the sport and the Brits will no longer be able to afford it.
That’s the key, of course. To take part in F1, you have to care nothing for the economics and everything for being the best. Nobody except Bernie and the FIA ever made any money out of the sport and fielding a team requires endless and enormous amounts of cash. And, sooner or later, the Brits will bow to the diktats of the bean counters.
Only those who are blinded by their love of the sport will carry on and that means the Italians and Japanese. Oh, the Germans will dabble by producing engines and the States will probably keep a finger in the pie through Ford; but, essentially, I can see it becoming a battle between Ferrari and Japan.
Which is not entirely a bad thing for Britain. It is, after all, about time we let the other guys have a go and then we can always do what we do best: revel in the glow of past glories. And think of the money we’ll save…
There is one tiny flaw in my glimpse into the future, however. Did you notice that Midland team up there? And who has a third stake in it, according to the Beeb? Yes, Russia, of all nations. Suddenly we are reminded of Chelsea Football Club and a championship won with Russian money. Is it possible that the land of the Lada and the Volga is about to show us how it’s done?