Should Marussia and HRT be on the grid?


Question. One that has been asked before but never properly answered, one that may justifiably be posed again.

When we look at the entries for the 2012 Grand Prix season what is it we want? Quality or quantity?

Do we really need 24 cars to make a great motor race? A motor race that claims to be the pinnacle of the sport. Or would we in fact be quite happy with 20 when the lights go out in Albert Park next week?

Neither HRT nor Marussia have managed to do any proper pre-season testing, bar a few shakedown laps for filming purposes. Reasons given range from crash test failures to lack of parts, to lack of build time. While all these may be valid, have we not been here before? It will not be the first time, for example, that HRT has used practice sessions for the first Grand Prix as a test day.

I feel particularly sorry for Pedro de la Rosa. A nicer, more charming man you could not hope to meet. Highly respected for his abilities as a test driver by McLaren – where he performed this task year in, year out – he has many admirers. So why on earth has he walked away from Woking to race for HRT? He won’t actually be racing, will he? He will be making up the numbers.

Marussia, formerly Virgin, has suffered from a lack of resources since its inception. Now owned by wealthy Russians, and with Pat Symonds on board as an advisor, greater things were expected. But they too go to Melbourne without the benefit of enough pre-season testing.

I do understand that if I was a wealthy Russian, or a Spanish millionaire, I too would want to have a Formula One racing team and I would want to be in Melbourne to see my cars on the grid. And, no doubt, would my business partners. And I do understand that the lack of economic growth, especially in Europe, is causing problems for even the biggest businesses.

But surely this is not the point. Grand Prix racing, like the Olympic Games, is the pinnacle, the highest level of the sport, and has room only for the absolute best. We have, over the decades, seen some great racing with far smaller grids than we have today.

I do not underestimate the challenges of creating a Formula One team, let alone the work involved in winning a race. I have no reason to pillory either HRT or Marussia. But I do question the sense of starting 24 cars when 20 would suffice. And I do question whether or not it is right to have four cars on a Grand Prix grid that have not been tested in any significant way. Above all, I hope that Pedro de la Rosa has some kind of option to return to McLaren should he become disillusioned with his decision to race for a Spanish team in the last few years of his career as a driver.

I have no doubt that engineers at Marussia and at HRT will have plenty of good reasons why they were unable to test and why this should not affect their eligibility to be on the grid next week. You will have your own views on a matter that does, in my view, affect the status of Grand Prix racing.

You may also like