With rumours flying that Michael Schumacher may be tempted back into Formula 1 as a team owner, and with Gerhard Berger making a return to the sport as the Scuderi Toro Rosso’s co-owner, it raises the question whether a successful Formula 1 driver can also make a successful Formula 1 team owner.
If we take a look at Formula 1’s history, the answer has to be ‘no’. There have been minor successes here and there, but noone has ever come even close to matching their success as a driver – Jackie Stewart, Graham Hill and Alain Prost to name a few. Noone can deny that they were at the top of the sport during their hayday, but running a team seems to require a different skillset to being a successful driver. In fact, of the top teams, none of the owners have been successful race drivers.
We are at a time in Formula 1 where there are no true independents – all teams are either owned by or have close relationships with motor manufacturers. These manufacturers hold the money and have a massive impact in the way a team is run. There are also immense sponsorship deals to negotiate and work to keep the FIA pacified. Politics are now rife, and ever more complex rules are being introduced.
We’ve seen film stars creating successul teams in the USA, so why not the same in Formula 1? It’s good to see Berger back in F1, but I don’t think he has what it takes to make it to the top. Whereas Schumacher – if there’s one race driver who could take a team to the top, it’s him. But I won’t be betting my house on it any time soon!