The Concorde Agreement – at least the one that lasts for a few more weeks – provides for more than 10 Formula 1 teams. Originally the plan was for 13 but one fell by the wayside and so there were 12. This year HRT has gone to the wall. And so we have 11. Bernie Ecclestone now says that he does not want more than 10. There was a time, not so long ago when Bernie believed that an 11th team was essential for the sport. I am sure if I dig through all the old articles I have I might find a quote, but at the moment I don’t have time to do that and so you will have to take my word for it. The logic was very simple. If there is a financial deal that provides funding for 10 teams, then the 10th team has no incentive to do anything more than survive, because it will get the money for 10th when it tries hard or not at all. Having a hungry (one might say desperate) 11th team is good in that it keeps the 10th team hungry. NASCAR has suffered from this concept in recent years with a number of “start and park” teams which turn up in order to collect prize money but do the minimum number of laps possible so as to avoid expenditure on engines, tyres and, of course, staff.
The logic for not having 11 teams seems to be that the 11th costs the Formula One group money, because it is not paid for from the prize fund, but rather directly from the Commercial Rights Holder’s share on the take. Thus an estimated extra $20 million will flow into FOM’s share of the take if there are no deals under whatever the new Concorde Agreement may bring. Private equity boys tend to deal in hundreds of millions but they also know that, as the old saying goes, “if you look after the pennies, the Pounds will look after themselves”. These guys love Pounds and could not give a toss about the sport.
I tend to think that F1 is better served to have 11, 12 or even 13 teams. The extra ones might come in handy if, one day, one of the other teams falls over, a la HRT. The British aristocracy has been well-served over the years by the concept of always having “an heir and a spare” just in case they are needed.