After eleven teams competed the 2016 Formula 1 season there will only be ten in 2017 after it was confirmed that Manor Racing had failed to find a new buyer and would therefore not be able to compete in the upcoming season.
It’s an incredible shame as the team performed well in 2016, scoring a point in Austria and being narrowly beaten to tenth in the Constructors’ Championship by Sauber. It also gave three drivers their debut and first taste of competing in Formula 1 by having Pascal Wehrlein, Rio Haryanto and Esteban Ocon as its drivers during the season. It’s also the only team out of the three that were introduced in the 2010 season to have scored championship points.
The team may likely be forgotten by the time the new Formula 1 season is fully underway but smaller teams such as the now defunct Manor Racing and still active Sauber, Force India and Scuderia Toro Rosso (who can trace their roots back to F1 minnows Minardi), are just as important in the sport as the big names like Mercedes, Scuderia Ferrari and McLaren.
If you look through the 2017 grid, the likes of Kimi Raikkonen, Fernando Alonso, Sebastian Vettel, Daniel Ricciardo, Felipe Massa and Sergio Perez didn’t make their debut with the likes of McLaren, Ferrari, Williams or Renault but with smaller teams such as Sauber, Minardi, Scuderia Toro Rosso and Hispania Racing Team (HRT). Despite some of them having the backing of bigger teams (Daniel Ricciardo and Sebastian Vettel being part of the Red Bull driver programme for example).
Another concern however is that Manor Racing haven’t been the only team to have faced financial difficulties in this decade with Caterham, HRT, Williams, McLaren, Sauber and the previous owners of the Enstone based Renault team all having struggled to either replace sponsorship partners or secure long term investment.
Some of the teams mentioned have ceased to exist (Caterham and HRT) whilst others have undergone periods of decline as they have struggled to replace sponsorship partners (Williams) whilst others have only just managed to secure new investors (Sauber). This puts at risk the sizes of the grid and generates talk about the need for bigger teams to field three cars in order to bolster grid numbers. Although some may not see that as a negative thing, it is concerning especially when other motorsport series such as MotoGP have managed to steadily increase the grid size of the premier class during this decade.
With Liberty Media having recently completed their takeover of Formula 1, talk has once again been building about introducing a budget cap in the sport. It’s something that to me needs to be introduced sooner rather than later in the sport otherwise the sport will have a grid the size of that which eventually competed the 2005 United States Grand Prix as teams and potential sponsorship partners and investors go to other series such as the World Endurance Championship or Formula E.