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Unexpected Consequences - F1 Future in Jeopardy?

-- Archived from 25/01/2022 --

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Matteo Nannini was born in Faenza, Italy on 10th July 2003, and is the nephew of Sandro Nannini, who drove 5 seasons in F1 for Minardi and Benetton, and managed to win the 1989 Japanese Grand Prix. He comes from money, lots of money, and with some racing pedigree, he started his karting career, and in 2018, competed in 4 different F4 level series, winning the UAE Formula 4 series, and secured a seat at Jenzer Motorsport for the 2019 Formula 3 World Championship. He got 11 points on the season, 1 from the feature race at Catalunya, which put him on pole in the reverse grid Sprint Race, where he got a third. Not awful, to be sure, but certainly nothing special either.

Why talk about him then? He’s just another rich kid destined to stall in the lower formula. Maybe if I told you that he’s racing in both F2 and F3 next season, both times for HWA Racelab, that might open your eyes a little more. But it’s only when you open your eyes to all of the potential ramifications of this move, that the true issue becomes apparent. 

But first, how is this possible, and why even bother? Well, from 2021 onwards, the junior series’ will alternate being the support for the main Formula One Championship. The FIA announced this as a cost-saving measure, but I foresee it causing more issues for those with less money, and Matteo Nannini is just the first to take advantage of this. Put very simply, with the option for drivers to run both of the lower series, and with teams consistently choosing to pick up those who are willing to pay their way, there are going to be fewer and fewer seats available for those who can earn their way in on merit. Already we see Theo Pourchaire, an exceptionally talented young Frenchman, who finished runner-up in F3 in 2020, and drove four races for HWA in F2, is without a seat at the team for next season, and potentially without any chance elsewhere. The French rookie has won practically everything he’s ever entered, with support from the French Academy of Motorsport. With no more backing though, his career looks over, the next rung of his climb taken by someone who doesn’t even deserve one seat next year, let alone two. Because of money. Always money.

There are of course alternatives to just being rich, should you wish to get to Formula One, and probably the one that comes to mind most freely is through one of the Driver Academies. There are four, run by Ferrari, Red Bull, Mercedes and Renault. Even with these options available, a famous name is going to help you out massively, as Mick Schumacher, Giuliano Alesi, Enzo Fittipaldi and Sebastian Montoya will be able to attest. 

One obvious consequence of only having talent coming through junior teams, is that teams who do not have their own scouting system must either look to take drivers from other teams’ driver academies, normally by agreeing to become a faux B team, or they must take pay drivers. We see this in F1 with Haas and Williams especially. 

It is no coincidence either, that the four teams with a junior programme are also engine manufacturers (Red Bull is complicated, but I feel justified in saying that). The balance of power in Formula One is shifting to those teams with money, and the cost saving measures implemented by the FIA recently threaten to make it worse. Let us see then, if these unexpected consequences will be identified and corrected, or if the delicate ecosystem of the motorsport world will continue to shift. 
 

 

-- Archived from 25/01/2022 --

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