Giles Richards – The Guardian
McLaren’s Zak Brown said the huge drop in revenue with the first eight races cancelled ‘is potentially devastating to teams’. Photograph: Michael Dodge/EPA
The McLaren chief executive, Zak Brown, has warned of potentially devastating effects for Formula One from the coronavirus pandemic.
Brown cautioned that as many as four teams could be lost if F1 does not act aggressively to tackle the substantial loss of income.
The Williams team reacted to the seriousness of the situation by announcing they had put a number of staff on furlough, with drivers and management taking a 20% pay cut. Racing Point have also put staff on furlough and have accepted voluntary pay cuts from their drivers Lance Stroll and Sergio Pérez.
Eight races have been called off, with no action possible until the Canadian Grand Prix on 14 June at the earliest. Race fees are one of the three biggest sources of income and the other two streams, broadcasting rights payments and sponsorship, will be similarly diminishing.
McLaren have put staff on furlough but Brown believes the drop in revenue could leave F1 at crisis point. “This is potentially devastating to teams,” he told the BBC. “If [it is devastating] to enough teams, which doesn’t have to mean more than two, then it’s very threatening to F1 as a whole.
“Could I see, through what is going on right now in the world if we don’t tackle this situation head on very aggressively, two teams disappearing? Yeah. I could see four teams disappearing if this isn’t handled the right way.”
Brown, having added that “F1 is in a very fragile state”, argued the budget cap of $175m (£142m) set to be introduced in 2021, needs to be lowered urgently. The teams have already agreed in principle to drop the spending limit to $150m.
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“You have everyone at $150m, and the strong majority – including one of the big teams – willing to come substantially under $150m,” Brown said. “If we don’t make an aggressive enough budget cap and some people feel they have to top up this year and have no chance of getting it back, then they ask themselves: ‘Why are we in it?’”
It is understood Mercedes are one of the three highest-spending teams willing to see the budget cap lowered, with Ferrari and Red Bull opposed to doing so.
Last week, the promoter of MotoGP, Dorna, offered financial assistance to some of its motorcycling teams to ensure they can pay staff salaries.