With new entrants now required to pay a $200 million fee to the existing ten teams in addition to all the other expenses of entering the pinnacle of motorsport, it’s now more difficult than ever to join the Formula One grid.
Last month, Haas F1 team principal Guenther Steiner told this publication that they almost certainly wouldn’t have been able to enter the sport if they had to pay such a high entry fee.
And now, former F1 driver Marc Surer has expressed his opposition to this $200 million entry fee, warning that it will make it very difficult to expand the grid.
“I was surprised about the $200 million entry fee. I understand it from the existing teams’ perspective, as they want F1 to be an exclusive club which not just anyone can enter,” Surer said in an interview with Formula1News.co.uk managing editor Suliman Mulhem.
“But for any new team, they already have to invest a hell of a lot of money to enter F1 just for the set-up. So I think this extra $200 million is a little bit too much.”
Continuing, Surer – who competed in Formula One with the likes of Brabham and ATS – said the sport needs more competitors to at least stop underperforming works teams from occasionally being at the very back of the grid.
“We need more cars on the grid. Lately we’ve had the Ferraris towards the very back in some sessions. This is not acceptable. We need some cars from smaller teams to fill up the field, so it doesn’t look that terrible for Ferrari and other works teams in a similar position.”
Instead of having to pay the $200 million fee upfront, Surer believes new entrants should simply have to demonstrate that they have the wherewithal to enter Formula One.
Allowing new teams to deposit the money into an account and then slowly spend it could be an effective and better way of ensuring only serious bids are considered, according to the Swiss racing driver.
New Teams In Need Of Help
In recent years, even without having to pay a $200 million entry fee, most newcomers have struggled due to the sheer cost of putting together an F1 operation and trying to build a competitive car from scratch.
Consequently, many new teams – such as Marussia, Caterham and HRT – had fairly short-lived tenures in Formula One.
Surer believes that it’s in the interests of the sport to help new entrants get through their first few years of competing in F1.
“As seen with Haas when they first entered F1, they needed help from Ferrari to be competitive and they’ve been struggling in more recent years.
“All teams need some help in the beginning. So, I think they should be able to buy last year’s car from another team for the first two years,” he added.
With regards to the soon to be introduced budget cap, which will start off at $145 million for the 2021 season before being reduced to $140 million and $135 million over the following two years, Surer believes it will significantly level the playing field.
“Smaller teams still have a budget below $135 million, but prize money can bridge the gap, so the budget cap should help level the playing field and make everyone closer.”
He also suggested allocating development tokens to teams based on their finishing position in the prior year’s Constructors’ Standings, with less successful teams getting additional tokens to develop their cars.
“Giving teams with slower cars more tokens could be very effective, as weaker teams could develop their packages more and close up to the front. For example, the winner gets one token, the runner-up gets two tokens, and so on.”