Formula One is always glamorous and shiny, but this weekend in Valencia, a harsh alter-reality is also obvious.
Floating in the port city’s harbour is the Indian Express, one of the world’s biggest and most valuable private superyachts that is owned by Vijay Mallya, the boss not only of Force India but also the sinking airline Kingfisher. That the Indian billionaire’s boat is such a centrepiece this weekend is a paradox, amid near-empty grandstands in crisis-struck Spain and frenzied discussions in the motor homes about the urgent need to slash costs.
“He (Mallya) probably doesn’t know whether it’s good times or bad,” Williams co-owner Toto Wolff shrugged to the Austrian newspaper Kleine Zeitung.
F1 is considering a number of measures to reduce costs, or increase incomes. One option for the latter is simply to expand the calendar, collecting and sharing new promoters’ money. One rumour is that up to three or four new races could be added to the 2013 schedule.
“The year has 52 weeks. We should have 26 grand prix!” Toro Rosso’s Franz Tost said half-seriously, causing his Lotus counterpart Eric Boullier to explode with laughter.
“There is no exact number, no magic number,” the Frenchman agreed, “but I’m rather like Franz — more races, why not?”
Another idea could provide a new source of income for the bigger teams, whilst reducing the vast design and manufacturing costs for the minnows and providing better value for their sponsors — customer cars.
“I would like to see some of the smaller teams with a single car sold by a top team, which had been used the previous year,” Bernie Ecclestone is quoted by the Sapa-AFP news agency. “Perhaps it could be driven by a rookie. Some teams would certainly get better results compared to now and spend less, immediately,” he added.
The F1 chief executive seemed to rule out a “budget cap”.
“It wouldn’t work,” he is quoted by the Spanish newspaper AS. “You can’t stop the teams from spending all of the money they have.”