Four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel has urged Formula 1 to “look out for each other” because small teams’ “existence is in question” amid the current global crisis.
McLaren CEO Zak Brown has already warned that as many as four teams could disappear due to the fallout of the coronavirus pandemic, with racing paused and no clear date for when the 2020 F1 season could begin.
The certainty of a global economic downturn is also a factor in concerns over F1 teams’ future, with McLaren team principal Andreas Seidl calling the situation a “final wake-up call” for the championship.
All the UK-based teams except Red Bull and Mercedes have now furloughed their staff, with the F1 organisation itself doing likewise with half its staff. F1 chiefs Chase Carey and Ross Brawn have joined many drivers in taking temporary pay cuts.
“Definitely for some of the smaller teams this situation is putting their existence in question and it is quite extreme,” said Vettel during a media conference call with The Race and selected other outlets.
“As a family of Formula 1 I think we ought to look out for each other.”
Action already taken includes postponing the major rule changes originally planned for next year to 2022, with 2020 cars being carried over into 2021 and many design elements frozen.
The budget cap is also being brought lower, to at least $150million and potentially the $130m figure the large teams rejected when it was proposed by the FIA and F1 two years ago.
Ferrari is holding out against the lowest budget cap figure on the grounds that the largest teams have additional R&D and infrastructure costs incurred by producing components smaller teams then buy in deals such as its relationship with Haas and Mercedes’ tie-up with Racing Point.
“As far as I know they talked about this subject in particular quite a lot,” said Vettel of the budget cap debate.
“I don’t think there have been conclusions, if they have then they keep on changing every sort of week or every two weeks.
“What we all strive for – and also with the new regulations that’s the idea – is to bring the field closer together.
“If this special situation in a way would help the sport to come closer together in order to then have better racing and a better sport. then that would be a good side effect.
“But I think we will only be able to judge once we have some really concrete decisions in our hands, and then see how they would work in practical life.”
A keen F1 historian, Vettel said he accepted that the radical change the world championship might require amid the global situation could affect some of F1’s traditions – but hoped its core principles would be maintained.
“Our sport is very rich in terms of traditions and rituals and things that we can relate to,” he said.
“So I think it’s our responsibility, in a way, to be responsible nowadays, to make sure that the core of the sport doesn’t change – so it still stands for the same set of qualities it stood for, for so long.
“But obviously times are changing, the world is changing, so we would be ignorant to ignore these facts and we have to obviously meet those expectations as well.”