Racing Point BWT finished the 2020 Formula 1 season with a Grand Prix win (Sergio Perez, Bahrain) and taking fourth in the Constructor’s Championship. That’s impressive for the little, albeit growing, independent outlet.
In the process, Racing Point beat manufacturer-owned teams Renault and Ferrari, as well as multi-championship winning Williams Racing. The team finished fourth in the championship once before in its history, in 2016, when it was called Force India.
Even more impressive, Racing Point entering the final Grand Prix of the season third in the points, but a mechanical failure on Perez’s car cost the team too many points to keep McLaren from snagging the Constructor’s bronze. But it all begs the question, what does it mean to be a mid-pack team? And, more important, how does a team convert to front-runner status?
Right off the bat, we can rule out manufacturer involvement. Renault is proving that as we speak. BMW flirted with Success in 2007, managing to finish second to Ferrari. But the Munich brand fell to third in 2008, sixth in 2009, and non-existence in 2010. Similar story with Honda, as its best finish was a modest fourth in 2006. That was a year that Renault won, ironically enough. And, Toyota managed no better than fourth either, in 2005.
Clearly, then, it must just be money. After all, Mercedes has a ton of it and it’s winning. Done and done. Except that Ferrari also has a ton of money and priority is always on Formula 1 for the Maranello-based brand, Ferrari finished the season sixth. And, good grief, so does Dietrich Mateschitz. He’s the founder of Red Bull and owns two very well funded Formula 1 teams: Red Bull Racing, and Scuderia Alpha Tauri. And while Red Bull Racing did win four championships in a row between 2010-2013, the eleventeen gazillion cans of Red Bull flying off the shelves since have not produced another F1 title.
And then you have the once powerhouse teams that have fallen—Williams Racing and McLaren. Williams won nine Constructors Championships between 1980-1997 and McLaren won eight Constructors Championships between 1974-1998. And both teams are now struggling, while McLaren is on an upswing, with the aforementioned third place this year, but Williams finished dead last in 2020—for the third year in a row.
Finally, what about the people? Not just the drivers, as several teams had world-championship winning drivers in their cars without success. Maybe team principals and technical directors and the engineers and crew and all the staff that make teams function are what makes the difference?
In a word: Yes.
More than any other one source, it’s having the right people at the right time that can turn something rather small, just look at Racing Point, into a team that flirts with the front of the pack. Williams’ dominance, ultimately, stemmed from Frank Williams and Patrick Head as brilliant leaders. McLaren had Adrian Newey and Ron Dennis. Ferrari’s incredible run of into the 2000s was the result of not just Michael Schumacher, but also jean Todt and Ross Brawn. And today, Toto Wolff along with James Allison work extremely well together or keep Mercedes on top.
Money plays a huge role in Formula 1 as do other resources that manufacturer teams have that others don’t. But, despite all the technology, F1 is a human endeavor. And, just like any other sport or competition, may the best person win.
Is it as simple as having the right people in the right places? Or, is F1 all driven by money? Join in the conversation in the comments section below.
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