Friday’s announcement of the closure of Marussia triggered plenty of genuine sadness up and down the paddock, but also a disgraceful display of hand-wringing from a number of figures who were complicit in the Banbury-based squad’s demise: Toto Wolff and Christian Horner, the respective team principals of the Mercedes and Red Bull Racing teams.
With fellow backmarkers Caterham potentially just days away from the same fate, the Leafield team’s administator, Finbarr O’Connell, has opted to go the crowdfunding route via CrowdCube. As the team’s administrator and acting team principal, he doesn’t have any other choice.
Horner’s were fine words from a man heading a team blessed with an almost bottomless pit of money to burn, that – along with Ferrari, Mercedes and McLaren – has stonewalled every attempt by the smaller outfits to negotiate some sensible cost-saving initiatives that could have spared the fate of Marussia and Caterham.
If the green machines are to make the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in less than two weeks’ time, it needs £2.35 million by Friday. It’s a monumental task – just under 50% of that target has already been achieved in pledges so far – and it of course smacks of desperation.
But things are desperate. If the team can’t get on the final train carriage, it will head for obliteration just like fellow 2010 debutantes Marussia and HRT. Just making the Abu Dhabi finale, however, doesn’t guarantee the team’s future, but it does give it a faint sniff of keeping the dreams of its few hundred remaining staff alive.
Crowdfunding is a relatively new concept to motorsport, and perhaps the most recent high profile example as been the outstanding #ProjectBrabham exercise to reignite the famous Brabham marque as it sets about – under the leadership of the late Sir Jack’s youngest son, David – the task of entering next year’s FIA World Endurance Championship. The team easily hit its first funding benchmark in a matter of days.
But the TV screens lit up on Sunday afternoon when Christian Horner was interviewed by the Sky F1 team. The Red Bull Racing team principal declared that he was opposed to crowdfunding and that it was wrong to expect fans to foot the bill for an F1 team’s activities.
“I don’t agree with the fans having to fund a team,” he said. “The fans pay to be entertained by the teams, they shouldn’t be having to pay for a team. The concept is wrong and it shouldn’t be allowed.”
Fine words from a man heading a team blessed with an almost bottomless pit of money to burn in competing at the front of the field. A team that – along with Ferrari, Mercedes and McLaren – has stonewalled every attempt by the smaller outfits to negotiate some sensible cost-saving initiatives that could have spared the fate of Marussia and Caterham.
And they’re dangerous, hypocritical words too. Wind the clock back a few years – heck, even to 2012 – and you might recall a certain team, Red Bull Racing, raising roughly €1 million during the British Grand Prix towards its Wings For Life spinal cord injury charity by allowing fans to make a donation and have their photograph included on a collage livery on Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel’s cars?
I’m not for one second criticising the initiative or the fantastic work that Wings For Life does, but isn’t it the same fundamental concept: asking fans to part with their money?
Far from your finest PR moment there, Christian…
Image via XPB Images