For a circuit that is used to serving up spectacular championship deciders, it is sad that off-track stories dominate at Interlagos. It is unsurprising however that the plight of Formula 1’s smaller teams is hogging the limelight.
And then there were 10…
At the time of writing, the Marussia team is confirmed to have folded. For a brave group that has battled constantly, experienced the highs of Monaco and the subsequent tragic lows of Suzuka, it is a miserable end. Their demise might however be just one footnote on a bigger issue.
Caterham are, as of today, seeking crowd-funding to get them to Abu Dhabi. With Marussia gone and if they can make the final race, Caterham stand to finish tenth in constructors by default and qualify for prize money. Many doubt that will be enough to keep them afloat with some even suggesting, rightly or wrongly, that any investment now will simply assist administrators in finding a buyer at a higher price.
Sauber have long been rumoured to be teetering on the brink and with costly litigation by their contracted drivers a possibility, who knows if they will make 2015. And then there could be only 8.
In my US Grand Prix preview I suggested F1’s leading teams are leaning towards running 3 cars. They would get more cash, a potentially more stable sport and the ‘teams’ lobbying power would be centralised amongst fewer teams. That is very attractive and as Christian Horner pointed out, top teams are not there to subsidise their rivals. He is correct: why should the leading teams be, in effect, punished for being successful?
The money will still flow in to F1 at the same rate irrespective, sadly, of whether Marussia, Caterham, Sauber, Haas F1 or any other back markers are there. As long as the big boys are there to play, the cash will still roll in and ultimately, there will always be flamboyant billionaires and car manufacturers convinced they will get it right where others didn’t.
Double-points nerves kick in
Lewis Hamilton is in imperious form but the Abu Dhabi banana-skin is looming large. And that makes Brazil more important than most people think. Hamilton can use Interlagos to create more distance between himself and Nico Rosberg. Increasing his 24-point lead would allow him the comfort of a lower placed finish in Abu Dhabi to secure the title.
Conversely, the fact Mercedes have not had any significant mechanical issues for several races will be a worry. A DNF in the season finale could undo all of Hamilton’s recent success. Thus Brazil is important as an opportunity to run hard and essentially ‘break’ the car. Better to experience a failure in Brazil and take a penalty than have it rear it’s head when there is nothing Hamilton or his team can do about it.
Sauber off the hook
The pressure on Sauber has been ratcheting up with every race recently. Prior to Marussia folding, Sauber were facing the real prospect of missing out on teams prize money with no points. With Marussia gone, their points void and Caterham the next domino to fall, this pressure is off the Swiss team.
That could have allowed the team to relax and build on the promise shown in qualifying in Texas. However the timing of their 2015 driver announcement has ruined that chance. Both Gutierrez and Sutil find themselves out and seriously unhappy about it. Tensions in the team could now be even higher.
Fingers crossed for some great on-track action to distract us from F1’s latest round of crises.