By Lee McKenzie
Formula 1 is in a strange place just now. We are heading into the most exciting race weekend for several years after one of the most exciting seasons, and yet the sport is not in a good place.
Internal fighting is not uncommon but it seems to have reached a new level. The smaller teams feel unloved; worse than that, they feel they are being made to look silly and finally they have had enough.
Marussia went into administration and with Caterham also in the hands of the receivers there are several teams in the paddock that are feeling very unsettled, realising that there is sometimes a fine line – maybe only one weekend – between competing in one of the world’s biggest sporting showcases, and ceasing to be.
Sauber, Lotus and Force India have become increasingly vocal. Some may argue that is it cyclical. In the last couple of seasons, Sauber scored podiums while Lotus won a race and had several podiums. Despite that win in Barcelona in 2012, Williams were forced to look on in envy, struggling with direction and budget. Now look at them, with a new title sponsor and new personnel, resulting in a consistently high standard this season.
By the time we reach Abu Dhabi in 10 days, Marussia is hoping for an investor to come along and pay the necessary funds to get it back on the grid for the final race of the season. It would mean that so long as Caterham or Sauber don’t score more points, it will get the huge pot of money for ninth in the championship. If it doesn’t make it then the money will go to Sauber as it will be the team who competed in every race of the championship.
That pot of gold for Marussia would be a temporary lifeline but its debts are pretty big and the question is how they fund an entire season in 2015.
The same goes for Caterham. I interviewed the administrator for the team on Friday. A crowd funding scheme has been set up, which is gaining momentum, but if that £2.5 million is reached and Caterham does get to the season finale, then what? The idea of the fans vs Bernie is a fun one, getting a team back on the grid against adversity, but is it a good business proposition in the long run?
I’m really looking forward to the desert dual in Abu Dhabi. Lewis Hamilton has been flawless on a Sunday while Rosberg has been the Saturday star. That was until Interlagos where Rosberg controlled things beautifully and Hamilton blinked. Rosberg is stronger than ever and although there is plenty for both to lose, it will be Hamilton who will be feeling more pressure after the weekend in Brazil.
While those two battle it out, there is a whole raft of drivers uncertain about their future and whether they will be in F1 next season. Former world champion Jenson Button and team-mate Kevin Magnussen are fighting it out for the final seat at McLaren, although it’s thought the deal has already been done and that, sadly, Button will be out F1. Sauber drivers Adrian Sutil and Esteban Gutiérrez have not been retained. Jean-Éric Vergne is unconfirmed at Toro Rosso for next year, although there is a thought he might return now that Daniil Kvyat has been promoted to Red Bull. The Lotus line-up is not firm either and there is still Bernie’s talk of three-car teams.
Add in those double points and Abu Dhabi is going to be highly charged, emotional and with a sense of drama fitting for the end of this season. I just hope we are talking mostly about the racing. Get ready for the final chapter.