Formula 1 must rethink its prize money structure if it is going to guarantee the survival of all its teams, claims Lotus owner Gerard Lopez (LEFT).
Amid growing concerns about F1’s costs spiraling out of control, there has been an increased focus on the way that its prize fund heavily favors the top teams to seal their advantage.
F1’s biggest earners Ferrari and Red Bull took home around $170 million each last year from their share of the commercial rights money that is given to teams. That is vastly more than the $68 million Lotus got for finishing fourth, or the $10 million that Caterham got for finishing in the top 10.
With the huge disparity between the top and bottom teams being in stark contrast to the way other sports operate, Lopez thinks that the payments need looking at again. Although his team agreed to its payment plan when it signed a bilateral agreement with Bernie Ecclestone two years ago, he says the financial situation in F1 has changed enough to warrant a rethink.
“The sport needs to find a better way to encapsulate financial equity,” he said. “What was true two years ago is maybe not true anymore, in terms of where the sport is going.
“Two years ago we were told the engines would last longer and be cheaper than what we had – but they are now almost twice as expensive. The bilaterals are what was true two years ago. What is true today is that F1 still has to attract sponsors, which it still hasn’t done like it did in the early 2000s or late 1990s. That is something where two years ago people thought the world would come around.”
Lopez believes F1’s chiefs should do more to protect the interest of all the participants, and not just the top outfits.
“It is not a sport that can afford to lose many, if any, teams,” he said. “If you were playing the [soccer] Champions League, and there was a risk of losing Real Madrid, Barcelona or Bayern Munich, you just could not imagine it. It should be the same way in F1. The idea should be to have almost a franchise system, and work out how do you more equally distribute the revenues.
“I am not saying everyone has to get the same, but how do you make sure every team at each level has enough to sustain a good campaign and provide a good spectacle.”
As well as a better distribution of the sport’s income, Lopez thinks that some form of cost control is essential, too – which he thinks will be best served by clamping down on aerodynamic development.
“It would be too easy to say that we all want money, because F1 is designed in such a way that if you get more you spend more. So how do you make sure that you also stabilize the cost base, so you don’t have situations that get out of hand.”