Sauber’s Latest Crisis Shows the Chaos of Formula One.

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by JACK PRENTICE

As Formula One dusts off the cobwebs and prepares for another eight months of action, tears and one or two surprises along the way, the issue of money never seems too far away from the pinnacle of motorsport.

And what pre-season would be complete without less than complimentary stories surrounding Sauber and finance?

In 2015 they signed three drivers for two seats that eventually left Giedo van der Garde looking at an end to his Formula One career. As a result, the Dutchman took the Swiss team to court, meaning  Sauber were unable to run this past Friday because of a court order.

While it isn’t a blatant breach of contract this year, rumours are rife that Monisha Kaltenborn’s team have failed to pay their staff’s salary and are once again in a pickle.

And so we go over a debate that, for F1, is about as tired and old as your great-grandfather.

Yep, we’re back to talking about sharing the prize money properly.

Or more accurately, the fact that F1 can’t.

Mercedes and Ferrari both get in excess of £200m per year just for turning up to each event. Williams, although a privateer, get £160m due to their success in the 1980s and 1990s, a period during which they were a factory outfit – apart from a spell in the late ‘80s when Honda pulled out.

McLaren are another team that get an almost obscene amount of money from Formula One Management (FOM), especially considering their performance over the last three years.

Meanwhile, Manor were only able to make the grid last year courtesy of the late Jules Bianchi’s fairytale drive at the 2014 Monaco Grand Prix as he took 9th place and secured the first two points of the team’s history.

Motor Racing - Formula One World Championship - Monaco Grand Prix - Sunday - Monte Carlo, Monaco
Bianchi’s 9th placed finish at Monaco effectively saved Manor from bankruptcy. (Image Credit: Autosport.com)

Without that, spiralling costs would have seen them go bust before last year’s salvage package.

Lotus, before they were saved by Renault in what was the most protracted of takeovers, had bailiffs come knocking while they celebrated a magnificent podium at the Belgian Grand Prix, having had to fight off rumours over their financial state since 2013.

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Grosjean took third but the Belgian Grand Prix ended on a sour note. (Image Credit: Autosport.com)

Why has so little been done by the teams, FOM and the FIA to ensure that Formula One doesn’t lose teams from the middle and back end of the grid.

Do these teams not matter?

Can they not spread £25-30m from the basic rate of over £150/200m awarded in prize money alone, to those further down the order to ensure we have a stronger sport?

If they did it would ensure less need for controversial pay drivers that in some cases simply don’t have the speed to really compete in F1. If those at the top carry on as they are then teams will disappear.

Manor, who due to a new partnership with Mercedes, can now obtain access to better Power Units and have been able to recruit Mercedes’ reserve driver from last year, Pascal Wehrlein.

But despite all this, they have still needed to hire government-backed Indonesian driver Rio Haryanto.

Haryanto doesn’t have the most inspiring of records in the primary feeder series GP2, having won only from pole position in shorter “Sprint races” on a reverse grid.

However, he brings with him a wad of cash that Alexander Rossi – who performed admirably last year in his five races for Manor, doesn’t.

Then we have Sauber’s current issues issues. They have retained the less than impressive Marcus Ericsson for 2016, after the Swede was comfortably outpaced in both 2014 and 2015 by Kamui Kobayashi and rookie Felipe Nasr respectively.

But, Ericsson brings a reported £18m in sponsorship.

And while all of this is going on, what is top of Formula One’s agenda?

Changing a qualifying system that was simple, workable and most of all exciting for the majority of viewers into a system that would leave the average motorsport fan about as confused as a Chimpanzee attempting to perform eye surgery.

That just about sums up where Formula One is right now.

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