A potential pain in the Haas.

haas

With just 34 days and counting til the lights go out on the start of the new F1 season we at Manor Racing Fan Blog HQ have never been so excited about our beloved Banbury Babes prospects for the forthcoming season.

We now have the best engine in F1 powering the 2016 Banbury Bullet, a host of excellent and experienced technical staff have joined the team and we have a new hunky super promising driver to swoon over.   Compared to this time last year, when it was looking extremely likely that we may not even have a team to support, it is fair to say that we Manor fans have never had it so good. However, I have to confess fellow fans, and I am sure I am not the only one,  I am losing sleep at night over the potential impact that a new team on the grid will have on our beloved heroes.

So who are the potential villains? Well it’s Haas F1, the first all American team to hit the F1 grid in quite some time.   Worse than being American, they actually have the potential to be good, very good.  They come to F1 with decades of racing experience in America and reportedly have an annual budget of 100 million Euro’s.   USF1 this is not.

USF1ToasterF

Readers may recall our own heroes humble beginnings in F1.  Back in 2010 we entered the sport with a minuscule budget in a year when the FIA were ensuring the world a budget cap was on it’s way.  Predictably, the budget cap never did come into fruition and we have been playing catch up ever since.

There will be no such problems for Haas F1.   They have acquired  a technical partnership with the mighty Ferrari who will provide them with engines, powers units, gearbox and suspension, which reduces R&D costs, whilst allowing the team access to proven Ferrari equipment.  No Nick Wirth for these guys! The FIA actually accepted Haas F1’s application to join the grid in April of 2014 and the team team was granted a place in the 2015 championship but they opted for a 2016 start to further prepare themselves.   It is fair to say this is the most prepared new team in F1 in a very long time.

Even more concerning, they managed to sign Romain Grosjean to drive for them next season.  Grosjean may see them as a better long-term bet than what he thought would be available at Team Enstone prior to the Renault takeover, or he sees performing well for what effectively is a Ferrari B team as the best route of driving for Ferrari in 2017.  Either way, Grosjean is a top notch driver and was probably the best realistic target they could have signed.    His is sure to use all his skill and experience when the possibility of points finish presents itself.  Thankfully, Esteban Gutierrez is in the second car.

We are used to teams finishing ahead of our heroes so why the worry? Well, an 11th team entering F1, one that may happen to be a solid midfield runner straight out of the box, has serious financial implications for Manor.   F1 teams are rewarded for their performance over the previous seasons. The prize money is given to the teams, then it is further divided into several parts.   Column 1 payments are divided equally among the top 10 teams.   Column 2 payments are then further divided by the teams performance in the previous season.    Only the top 10 teams get both column 1 and 2 payments and column 1 payments are shared equally among the teams who have finished in the top 10 on 3 successive seasons.   A more detailed analysis of distribution of F1’s profits can be found here.

Manor have finished in the top 10 in the Championship two seasons in a row.  In 2014, they outscored both Sauber and Caterham thanks to a stunning points scoring drive by Jules Bianchi in Monaco.  Last season, there were only 10 teams in the Championship.   Haas now brings the total up to 11 and someone will have to miss out.   A finish of 10th place or above in 2016 would see Manor qualify for both column 1 and 2 payments which could be worth an estimated 60 million dollars to the team. Finishing outside the top 10 would only entitle them to the column 3 payment of a mere 10 million dollars prize money which is due to all teams participating in the championship. Failure to secure column 1 and 2 money in 2014 is considered one of the key reasons why Caterham F1 had to close their doors.   The grid below shows the most recent published payments.

2014

2016 is going to be a huge year for our heroes.  We cannot wait to see them rise to the challenge, but rise to the challenge they must, failure to finish 10th of higher has serious implications for the team.

Of course, it is possible that we are lying awake at night at the prospect of Haas F1 denying us that all important pot of money for no reason at all.   The Haas powered Ferrari might be no match for the Banbury Bullet with a Merc engine.   Initial teething problems for Haas are almost certainly guaranteed.   Pascal Wehrlein might very well be the next Sebastian Vettel and put a comfortable distance between the two teams before they even get up and running.    Toyota, Honda and most recently have Caterham F1 have shown that big budgets do not always translate into results. There is always the possibility of freak race where one of our drivers scores an Oliver Panis sized surprise. For all those Panis size queens out there, it was HUGE!

Manor have already beaten Sauber in 2014 and the Swiss team have been sliding down the grid for years.  Their current driver line-up does not really strike fear into our hearts. In hindsight, maybe there is not too much to worry about. After all,  Monisha Kaltenborn is still steering the good ship Sauber.