• Home
  • formula-1
  • The big crises of Formula 1: five times the sell-off threatened

The big crises of Formula 1: five times the sell-off threatened

The big crises of Formula 1
Subscriptions & booklets

A lles talks about crisis. Races are canceled in a row. Factories stay closed for weeks. Employees are sent on unpaid leave. Regulations are postponed. Teams fight for survival. Formula 1 has never seen such drastic measures. The corona virus paralyzes the whole world. Bad for a sport where the wheels have to turn for the ruble to roll. Everyone involved agrees. This is the greatest crisis GP sport has gone through in its 70-year history. Especially because the height of the fall is so great.

Memories of difficult years

But the corona crisis is not the first threat that Formula 1 is exposed to. Since 1950 there have been five smaller and larger hurdles to overcome. And we're not talking about the Suez crisis in 1956 and the oil crisis in 1973. Motorsport got away with minor damage.

One or two canceled races, nothing more. In both cases it was not about the existence of the series. It was completely different in 1952 when there was a shortage of Formula 1 vehicles. Or in 1955, when governments banned motorsport after the Le Mans accident.

Or in 1969, when the starting fields shrank because sponsors and manufacturers had dropped out. Or 1980 and 1981 when Formula 1 was at war: the English garage drivers against the works teams. Or in 2009, when four car companies withdrew in response to the corporate crisis within a year. We remind you once again of the difficult years of Formula 1.

Motorsport Images
Alberto Ascari in a Maserati 4CL from 1948.

1952/53: No Formula 1 -Cars

Alfa Romeo had withdrawn. The lights went out at Talbot-Lago. Gordini parted ways with partner Simca. Maserati only had the aged 4CLT /48 from 1948 on offer. The B.R.M.project was dying, even though the English were theHad secured the services of Juan-Manuel Fangio and Froilan Gonzalez.

Only Ferrari still had a competitive Formula 1 car. Mercedes quietly prepared a Formula 1 outing based on the 1939 W165. The project was supposed to die before it was even born.

In view of the dark clouds that were gathering on the horizon, the seven European organizers got together and gave preference to the better-filled Formula 2 races. With only 112 days between the season opener in Bern and the finale in Monza, it was the shortest season ever.

The French association was busy lobbying for the small category. The FIA ​​reacted and turned Formula 2 with a displacement of just two liters and engines with 190 hp into a Formula 1 World Championship. A total of seven races with Formula 1 cars still took place: Valentino Park, Goodwood, Djurgard Park, Albi, Dundrod, Boreham, Skarpnack. None of them had World Cup status. Real Formula 1 cars were not driven again until 1954.

1955: Le Mans accident and consequences

In 1955, motorsport was under a bad star. Alberto Ascari lost Formula 1 in a mysterious test accident in Monza. Mercedes after the Le Mans disaster. Lancia because of empty registers. Indianapolis beat two-time winner Bill Vukovich through a disastrous collision on the back straight. All disasters happened within just 18 days between May 26th and June 11th.

The sport was on the brink of collapse when Pierre Levegh's Mercedes flew into the audience at the 24 Hours of Le Mans and 82 viewers killed. As a result, Switzerland, Germany and Spain canceled their Grand Prix events. Switzerland and temporarily also Sweden banned circuit races from 1956 onwards.

The French government announced on Tuesday after the Le Mans tragedy that car races would be temporarily suspended until a viable safety concept was in place. The US automobile club AAA no longer hosted motorsport events. The USAC took over its task for the Indianapolis formula and the SCCA for sports car races.

The Grand Prix of France, Germany, Spain and Switzerland were canceled at short notice. In 1956 the situation calmed down again. Although security should remain a foreign concept for a long time. In the 1961 Trips accident in Monza, 14 spectators died

Motorsport Images
Start of the GP France 1969: Formula 1 fought with a small field.

1969: No money in the till

Formula 1 was on the brink in 1969. In the fourth season since the introduction of the three-liter formula, the premier class suffered from emaciation. The starting fields were sometimes as small as at the end of the 1950s. 13 participants in the French GP, 14 in the Spanish GP. The highlight was the Canadian GP with 20 drivers on the grid. The costs had risen above their heads for many teams.

Except for Lotus, no one had managed to attract a sponsor from outside the industry. The rest depended on the oil companies, tire manufacturers and accessories industries. BP withdrew. This hit the English teams in particular. Honda, Eagle and Cooper disappeared completely from the scene. Without the private teams of Rob Walker, Colin Crabbe and Frank Williams, the starting fields would have been even poorer.

Repco and Weslake stopped delivering engines. Matra took a year off with his V12. Ferrari engines could not be bought. The B.R.M.-V12 was an expensive and unreliable option. Had Cosworth not offered its eight-cylinder on the open market, the series might have ended.

The series only recovered in 1970. Lotus continued to drive around the world as a frenzied pack of cigarettes for Gold Leaf. B.R.M. advertised the cosmetics company Yardley for the equivalent of 110,000 euros, the Rob Walker team drove in Brooke Bond oxo colors and March received sponsorship money from STP. The Geneva Agreement between organizers and teams guaranteed the participants fixed transport fees, entry fees and prize money. It was the longest season to date with 13 races.

Motorsport Images
GP South Africa 1981 in Kyalami: Formula 1 organizes a pirate race.

1980/1981: War for power

During the 1980 season broke out between the FIA ​​and theConstructors Association FOCA started a war that would have ruined almost the entire sport. FIA President Jean-Marie Balestre wanted to abolish the aprons and thus undermine the ground effect principle of cars. He argued with the increasing speeds and the associated risks. The lap records tumbled between one and four seconds, depending on the racetrack.

The English teams rebelled. They saw aerodynamics as their only weapon against the automobile factories, which, with their turbo engines, were increasingly competing and threatening the Cosworth League. Formula 1 was split into two camps. The Ferrari, Alfa Romeo and Renault plants were behind the world association. Bernie Ecclestone gathered the traditionalists from England around him.

At the 1980 Spanish GP, there was a first trial of strength. The English teams competed in Jarama. The number was too hot for the three manufacturers. They left again. The FIA ​​subsequently withdrew World Championship status from the race that Alan Jones won. She had won the first battle.

The real rulers of Formula 1 were neither in London nor in Paris, but in Akron and Clermont-Ferrand. Goodyear did not want to invest any more money in the tire war against Michelin and threatened to withdraw if the FIA ​​did not ban the short-lived qualifying tires. Michelin refused to follow the proposal.

Because the war between the world association and the constructors escalated, Goodyear surprisingly dropped out of Formula 1 in the winter of 1980/81. The sport was on the brink. In England the parliament even dealt with the issue. In an emergency operation, Michelin promised to equip the field. Goodyear returned half a year later. By then the waves had calmed down a bit. That didn't look like it in winter.

Pirate race in South Africa 1981

On the contrary: Two championships threatened with a split field. There the automobile manufacturers, there the garage owners. Two calendars were already in circulation. The English teams organized in FOCA founded a championship with the abbreviation WMFS. They wanted to write their own rules. And stated that they had contracts with 15 racetracks. The FIA ​​threatened all track owners with license revocation if they host races for the pirate series.

The season opener in Argentina was canceled. On February 7, the English separatists rehearsed the uprising in South Africa. They held a pirate grand prix just to show FIA President Jean-Marie Balestre that you could do without the sports authority. Carlos Reutemann won the race with only 18 participants, but didn't get any World Championship points for it.

Bernie Ecclestone and his partner Max Mosley had gambled heavily. 'We had nothing in our hands and didn't know who was going to pay for it all. The race in Kyalami was supposed to give the impression that everything was fine for uswas standing. Fortunately, Balestre fell for it. '

In the opinion of the teams, Balestre's apron ban was unlawful, as every change to the regulations required two years' notice It allowed him to turn the rules upside down overnight. The many accidents after defects in the apron gave him good arguments.

At Ferrari's initiative, the teams and officials sat down of the federation at a table in Maranello for 13 hours on January 19. The result was initially a compromise. FOCA retained sovereignty over the finances, the FIA ​​over the regulations.

The so-called Modena Agreement At the end of February for another peace summit in Paris on the Place de la Concorde, the brawlers fought their way to an agreement that stipulated the distribution of income and the procedure for determining the rules hang with the race in South Africa has been dropped. The document was called the Concorde Agreement. It was the first basic contract between the teams and the FIA.

There was still no official owner of the commercial rights. In the past few years, Bernie Ecclestone had begun to sell the TV rights individually and to demand entry fees from the organizers on behalf of the teams. Balestre was a thorn in the side of the power of Ecclestone and his entourage. The FIA ​​wanted to participate in the windfall that Formula 1 brought in. Ecclestone had averted this in the Concorde Agreement.

Wolfgang Wilhelm
With BMW, Renault and Toyota, three manufacturers said goodbye to Formula 1 at the end of 2009.

2009: The Manufacturers' Flight

In the 60th year of Formula 1, a crisis broke out in the premier class. Banks and companies went bust, people lost their jobs. The voracious Formula 1 circus was hit by the financial crisis half a year late. Automobile manufacturers and sponsors put their commitment to the test.

And that's not all. FIA President Max Mosley, Bernie Ecclestone and the FOTA team fought a bitter war.Because the Concorde Agreement, which expired in 2007, was waiting for an extension, Mosley tried to use the legal vacuum to reform it.

With ING, the Royal Bank of Scotland and Credit Suisse, three big donors had already dropped out. Honda announced its withdrawal in November 2008. Mosley wanted the teams to have a budget cap of $ 50 million, lured three new teams into the business and, with the return of Cosworth, offered a low-cost provider in the engine market. That should break the omnipotence of the plants.

Eight teams threatened to split off and fought for a better payout for the new Concorde agreement. 51 instead of 47 percent of all income. Max Mosley had to go. The ringleader was Ferrari President Luca di Montezemolo. He resisted Mosley's savings plans. McLaren, Red Bull and Renault helped diligently. The big teams didn't want to give up their money advantage. For Mosley and Ecclestone, the FOTA interest group was a dangerous opponent. For a while, the teams spoke with one voice.

Withdrawal of the manufacturers

Mosley made the teams promise to continue to recognize the FIA's sports sovereignty and to set up their own savings plan. And he installed the preferred candidate Jean Todt as his successor. The teams quickly forgot their savings promises. At the end of the 2009 season, Formula 1 was about to sell out.

It happened what Mosley had prophesied. First BMW got out, then Toyota, then Renault. All with the same hypothetical argument that one must take care of sustainable environmental technologies. In fact, failure drove her out of the sport. The defeats had become too expensive. Bridgestone also announced its withdrawal for the end of 2010.

Once again the large safety net was set up. Sauber bought back the BMW team with great financial pain. Otherwise BMW would have let the 600 employees in Hinwil jump over the edge. Renault privatized its racing team. The Luxembourg financial investors Gérard Lopez and Eric Lux bought in with their company Genii Capitals.

Toyota was canceled without replacement. Cologne only made its two wind tunnels and simulators available to Formula 1 customers. As a final act, Mosley and Ecclestone paved the way for three new teams named Virgin, Lotus and HRT into Formula 1. The newcomers received a cash injection of ten million dollars each. The revived Cosworth V8 could be bought for five million euros, four million cheaper than the factory engines. An X-Trac transmission was available for one million euros. At the request of everyone, Kers was put on the back burner until 2011. That also saved costs.

The three new teams felt cheated. They were lured into Formula 1 with the promise of a budget cap of $ 50 million, which would never happen. They soon realized that thePremier class was a size too big for them. Even so, the end justified the means. The field was filled, the show went on.


Leave a reply

Name *