Do we need the new teams?

Bernie Ecclestone has gone on record saying that, apart from Lotus, He wouldn’t miss the new teams in F1 this season. He also suggests that two teams may not make the end of the year.

So what have the new teams brought to the pinnacle of motor racing? Well it can’t be argued they’ve bought a challenge to the established guys that is for sure. But are they simply touring around making up the numbers? Could F1 do without them?

The answer, in my mind anyway, is no.

At the start of the year, three new teams, Lotus, Virgin and HRT entered the fray. With the in-season testing ban, they’ve had to develop their cars at races, while their rookie drivers haven’t had a chance to pound circuits for lap after lap and concentrate on their job, without jumping out of the way for someone. As I’ve said all along, this year will be one long test for teams that may have some experienced staff, but are new to the operations and dynamics of the F1 world.

Yet for too long, F1 was aiming itself at being an exclusive club, and to a general fan, it felt like that too. All the teams spent hundreds of millions of pounds on their seasons, developments, and there was an air that the ordinary fan couldn’t get close. However, the three new teams have succeeded in getting closer to the audience and keeping it this way. Even the now defunct USF1 was looking at producing a series of videos on YouTube, about what goes on at a factory.

Today, interactive media is at its peak. Twitter and Facebook are king. While established teams do have Twitter accounts, they don’t use them that often, and don’t always respond to a direct question. Or, they will use them to promote themselves, sometimes in the face of opinion. Ferrari’s account carried on the talk of a great team job and deserved win for Fernando in Germany despite many fan thoughts to the contrary. Renault and McLaren only seem to tweet when there is something important happening, as do Red Bull.

Of the new teams, Lotus constantly tweet, with information about the team, where they are, what they’re doing. Mike Gascoyne also views his opinions, often from the pit wall during the race. Virgin Racing never stop, and are always answering questions or giving thoughts, not just on what’s happening with them, but also what’s going on in the F1 world and beyond. HRT don’t use twitter, but they have bought in Karun Chandhok, a driver who is always talking, and that’s not a bad thing!

So the new guys have made F1 more open, and by doing this, more interesting to the fans. No longer is the sport an exclusive club, it’s proven that anyone can be involved.

Looking at the on-track action. David Coulthard is constantly criticised by Eddie Jordan for calling the new team battle ‘Class B’. But it isn’t a bad thing. I’m sure Lotus, Virgin and HRT will admit to being unable to beat the more established teams. But as much as I enjoy watching the leaders battle for position, I also enjoy seeing what’s going on at the back. It’s like a second championship – which new team will come out on top.

Then there’s the bet between Richard Branson of Virgin, and Tony Fernandes of Lotus, that whoever comes in behind the other will need to work as a stewardess on the winners airline. Somehow I couldn’t see Martin Whitmarsh and Stefano Domenicalli doing the same thing.

Next year, with a full season under their belts, I expect the new boys to be better, and closer to the midfield. Does F1 need them? Yes – they’ve opened the sport to the fans, and provide some excitement at the same time. Long may they continue.

You can follow the people mentioned in this article on Twitter…

@VirginRacing – Virgin Racing F1 team

@MyLotusRacing – Lotus F1 team

@MikeGascoyne – Mike Gascoyne – Lotus F1 Technical Director

@karunchandhok – Karun Chandhok – HRT F1 Driver

@allaboutf1 – that’s me!

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