The Critical Flaws of Formula One

Written by Nakul Naik, Edited by Haneen Abbas

(Image: Thaier Al-Sudani/Reuters)

Formula One is one of the biggest, most complex, and money-driven sports in the world with races happening throughout the year across different continents. Big business decisions take place, often at the compromise of what the fans want, in favour of monetary gain.


Over time, cracks start appearing in such a sport, with flaws, errors, and questionable decisions falling through these cracks. The following are the flaws and problems that plague Formula One today, in no particular order of criticality.

(Image: Mark Sutton/Motorsport Images)

Talent Falls by the Wayside

“Cash is King,” said Lewis Hamilton at the 2020 Australian Grand Prix press conference. This phrase fits aptly when you look at the junior categories brimming with talent, knowing that only a handful of drivers will ever make it to Formula One. The seats of those who are left out will be taken by pay drivers backed by millions to give financial backing to struggling backmarker teams.


Several drivers such as Oscar Piastri; the reigning F2 champion who won the title in his very first year, Calum Ilott, Antonio Giovinazzi, Romain Grosjean, and a whole host of drivers were unable to make it to Formula One because they didn’t have the financial backing.


Teams with lesser funding opt to hire “pay drivers” in order to stay afloat while bigger teams spend several times the budget of these smaller teams to gain a performance advantage, and therefore a higher position in the constructors’ championship, with higher winnings. While a budget cap is in place this year to make sure that the gap between the bigger and smaller teams is reduced, if not bridged, one can only hope that talent isn’t sacrificed at the expense of money in the future of the sport.


Losing Touch with its Roots

(Image: Sutton Images)

Formula One is a growing sport with growing fan bases in countries around the world. Hence, it would only be beneficial for the sport to add new tracks in different countries in order to diversify its fan base. However, this becomes a problem when the newer tracks are added at the expense of iconic older tracks.


Tracks like Hockenheim, Nurburgring, Turkey, Kyalami, and Sepang are no longer on the F1 calendar. Meanwhile, F1 will be hosting three races in The United States, and another three in the Middle East. While it’s not wrong for F1 to host multiple races in the same country or region, the sport must also ensure that already present tracks providing good racing aren’t sacrificed as a result of hosting new races.


While it is easier said than done to bring these classic tracks back into the sport, F1 needs to ensure that in search of growing the sport, it doesn’t lose touch with its roots.


Not Enough Space

(Image: Mark Sutton/Motorsport Images)

F1 currently has ten teams, making 20 seats. Meanwhile, F2 has 22 and F3 has 30. While it could be argued that a lesser number of seats in F1 ensures that only the best of talent makes it to the F1, this often backfires as seen in the case of Oscar Piastri who, despite winning the F2 championship in his first year , still doesn’t have an F1 seat. Calum Ilott, who was runners up in the 2020 F2 championship and who races in Indycar today.


F1 teams have so far had a mixed reaction to the entrance of new teams into the sport. Stefano Domenicalli, current F1 boss, said:

- “I have to be very honest, today F1 with 10 teams, with the competition on the track, is very, very solid. There's complexities that need to be considered if other teams can be added.”

- "Therefore I don't think it's the most important element to grow F1, to be honest.”


Whilst ten teams are currently sufficient to give us an exciting season every year, F1 still falls short of being able to give the current talent a proper shot at a place in the sport.


The Path to F1

Max Verstappen during his karting days

F1 is an expensive sport. Throughout the years, the sport has seen big companies fund backmarker teams with hundreds of millions of dollars to not only ensure a sponsorship, but a seat as well.


Funding your karting career will reach around 1,000,000 euros in total. Following this, progressing into and competing in single seater racing series such as Formula Renault, would require around 350,000 Euros for a single season. Further progressing into one of the Formula Three Classes will need 1.3mil euros per season. Formula Two, the primary feeder series to F1, costs around 2mil euros per season.


While these estimates will vary widely, it is obvious that it requires a lot of money to make it into F1. It becomes very difficult for drivers who do not have sponsorships or wealthy parents to progress through the ranks to make it to the sport. While young driver programmes help solve this problem, they are nowhere near a concrete solution to make the sport more affordable.


Formula One must change to be more inclusive as a whole. The various issues above must be addressed, for the betterment of the sport.