The COVID-19 crisis is Formula 1’s final wake-up call to try and give an unsustainable sport a bright future, according to McLaren team principal Andreas Seidl.
The first nine races of the 2020 season have so far been postponed or cancelled, and McLaren is one of a number of teams to have furloughed some members of staff to try and reduce costs due to a lack of income. With F1 collectively making significant changes that include delaying the introduction of new regulations, freezing car development and discussing a lower budget cap than the $175 million that was due to be introduced in 2021, Seidl said the pandemic has highlighted how unstable the sport was.
“I think the crisis we’re in now is the final wake-up call that a sport which was unhealthy before and not sustainable has now reached a point where we need big changes, and drastic changes,” Seidl said.
“As we communicated, for us the most important thing is we simply make the next big step on the budget cap. We think it’s absolutely important now with all the financial losses we will face this year – the magnitude of it still being unknown because so far we don’t actually know when we can go back racing – I think it’s important to combine with all the other measures like freezing the cars and so on to survive this year. And then it’s also important for our shareholders to show them that the losses you make this year, we can somehow compensate them over the next few years.”
Seidl praised the work being one by FIA president Jean Todt and Formula 1 chairman and CEO Chase Carey in response to the crisis, in terms of trying to work for the benefit of all of the teams.
“I have to say we are very happy with the leadership Jean Todt especially has taken on this, we had a lot of meetings already over the last two or three weeks with the FIA, with Formula 1, with the other teams.
“We know that Jean Todt is having – together with Chase – a lot of meetings individually with the teams which are there to make decisions, big decisions, in order to protect the teams and also the future of F1. I would say we’re very happy with what we’re seeing there.
“Of course we would like to see the budget cap as low as possible. We have put out also the number of $100 million, which is something we would be in favor of. At the same time, we understand that obviously it’s a discussion that involves a lot of different parties, and a lot of different teams with different sizes at the moment. So we’re looking forward to the next meeting which we have tomorrow afternoon, and then hopefully we come to some big decisions soon.”
Despite fears some teams could fail to survive the current situation – something Seidl said is genuine risk – the team principal is more confident in the future of the sport itself.
“I don’t see any signs that Formula 1 will not exist next year,” he said. “I think the biggest risk that I see is that we lose teams if we don’t take decisive actions for now. It is very important that we put all these actions in place that we have discussed in recent weeks, regarding the freezing of the cars, extension of our shutdowns and so on, in order to make sure we do maximum money saving this year.
“And then, as I said before, it is very important simply to have a lower budget cap in order to have a positive output for everyone taking part in Formula 1 in the future and that you actually can be part of a sport that is also healthy and sustainable from the financial side.”