The drivers are sorted for 2011, but what about the teams?

June 9, 2010

Felipe Massa's seat at Ferrari is secure for 2011

The recent announcements that both Mark Webber and Felipe Massa will be remaining at Red Bull and Ferrari respectively for 2011, suggests that the driver’s market for 2011 is already fairly well sorted. The speculation that the two stars of 2010 – Mark Webber and Robert Kubica may be going to take Massa’s seat at Ferrari now appears to be over, and with most of the leading drivers in place for 2011 it appears that the line ups for the front-running teams will remain the same as 2010, with perhaps the biggest question being whether Michael Schumacher will continue into 2011. He only signed a one year contract with Mercedes back in December 2009, and a lot will probably depend on how well the Mercedes team do in terms of developing the car to remain in touch with Red Bull and McLaren.

The other question is of course how many teams will be competing in 2011? The FIA plan is for 13 teams, they have a process currently underway to identify both team number 13 and a reserve. Bernie Ecclestone has already made the comment that he expects one of the current new teams to fail. As Lotus seem to be actively recruiting for the long term, the two candidates have to be Virgin Racing or HRT. HRT have the greatest uncertainty surrounding their operation as they have parted company from their car designer and builder – Dallara, and are planning to set up their own design/construction operation which is not easy if you do it from scratch and will need to be in place pretty quickly if they are to stand a chance of getting a competitive car put together for 2011. With all the doubt surrounding their funding earlier in the year, it is unclear as to how committed their investors really are, so they may well be the team most likely to fall away in 2010.

However I do have a further concern for the current teams and it is the current lack of existing sponsorship and new sponsors coming into F1. In particular the Sauber and Williams teams show very little evidence of sponsors on their cars – Sauber are trying to rebuild their brand after taking over the BMW operation and Williams will be losing their long-time partner and now nationalised bank – RBS at the end of the year. Williams are currently running their own Williams Hybrid Power logo in one of the prime locations on the chassis. If the FIA increase the number of the teams next year that will mean even more teams looking for fewer sponsors, so this is not good news for the commercial departments who are trying to sell space on their cars at premium rates. Let’s hope that these teams already have deals lined up which are still to be announced for 2011.

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