The Threat of Brexit to Formula One
Formula One – a sport that I hold very dear to my heart. I’ve never really talked about politics and sport in the same discussion, but that changes today. A sport revered for being the pinnacle of motorsport around the world, it continues to evolve and be at the forefront of technological innovation, as well as being a hub of talent for drivers, engineers, bosses, and entrepreneurs. When thinking about Formula One, you might think about Britain and its importance in the functioning of the sport. However, it now faces a potentially-devastating problem because of Brexit. With unrest beginning to grow over Theresa May’s inability to secure her deal, and the ‘extreme’ options such as a second referendum or a no-deal Brexit sitting on the table, the future of Formula One in Britain is under threat.
What is Formula One?
For those who might not be completely aware of the sport, Formula One is a category of motorsport that has existed since 1950. Covering twenty-one races across four continents, involving teams originating in seven countries, whose drivers come from fourteen different countries, its name is heard throughout the world. It was controlled predominantly by a man called Bernie Ecclestone, who was commonly known as the ‘F1 Supremo’, he was replaced in 2017 by Chase Carey, who leads the American company known as Liberty Media which now controls the sport. Having recently acquired ownership last year, they are seeking to expand F1 and globalise it to an unprecedented degree. New races, more manufacturers, and a review of the racing itself are all on the agenda of the new management.
I’m creating this shopping list of facts to demonstrate the very problem we now face, with regards to Brexit. Brexit has been discussed in many different ways for years, now. The economy, immigration, impacts on communities, changes in foreign policy and relations with the international community; the list goes on. But what is not discussed very often, is the impact of Brexit on sports. Even then, perhaps the most notable sport to discuss in relation to Brexit is football. That makes sense, considering it is such an incredibly large contributor to sport across the world, not just Britain. But another sport to consider is Formula One.
Impact of Brexit
Despite being a global sport, Britain, in particular, is very important to the functioning of F1. In the history of Formula One, 160 drivers have been British, while ten of them have been world champions. The most notable one, arguably, is Lewis Hamilton, who has recently become the most successful British driver in Formula One. Of the ten teams that participate, 7 of them are based across the country. Though Britain hosts just 1 of the 21 races on the calendar, Silverstone nonetheless continues to be at the heart of racing and is a track that few want to see lost. London is home to the headquarters of F1 too, employing hundreds in their efforts to keep the sport moving.
Brexit could prove to become a logistical nightmare if it turns out to be a botched process after March of 2019 when the United Kingdom is officially meant to leave the European Union. These teams rely on accessible, easy-to-organise, smooth transport links. They also depend on imports from around the world that supply them with the necessary components and services that they need to function and compete. Their staff comprise of nationalities from around the world, so ensuring that they can obtain residence in the country is incredibly crucial. If problems were to arise with any of these aspects of racing, these teams might not be racing at all. That is the significance of the problem that is being caused by Brexit.
Certain teams, such as Williams, will especially be affected by Brexit. Though not completely clear, estimated budgets show that Williams, a British team, has the smallest budget available. And with recent developments including the withdrawal of several key financial backers, this team will find it very difficult to cover the costs and develop a competitive car in future years, should Brexit be counter-productive to them.
Today, Britain continues to play an important role in F1. With seven out of the ten teams that are competing being based in Britain, it’s crucial for these teams to have clarity on issues such as logistics and connectivity. Organisations need to transport necessary parts and components across the world on time, to the letter. With Brexit potentially affecting the accessibility and ease of mass transport, this could become a problem. If something goes wrong in the preparation and transportation of team resources to a race, they might not be racing at all.
There’s also a potential issue surrounding immigration. Immigration remains at the forefront of Brexit negotiations and was a key factor in the result of the referendum that has led us to this point in 2016. Seeing as Formula One is a globalised sport, the best of the best must be recruited, and the best come from all around the world. With bases predominantly being in Britain, having a secure residence in the United Kingdom could prove to be difficult, and if it proves to be difficult, recruiting the best and optimising teams could become frustrating.
Recently, McLaren’s chief operations officer, Jonathan Neale, was quoted by Autosport saying that “23 different nationalities” work at McLaren. Though not exclusively European, it still demonstrates the need for teams to recruit globally, and because of that the dependence they have on free, open immigration.
In short, there is a multitude of factors to consider when thinking about Brexit and its impact. Logistics cannot be overlooked in a globalised sport like this and considering the budgets of some of the teams such as Williams; the financial impact could also become troublesome. Would it force these teams to withdraw from the sport? Highly unlikely. However, it would cost a great deal of money to relocate overseas, and considering the benefits of being based in Britain; whether it be supporting the country’s extensive motorsport pedigree, close links to Europe, the English language, and access to crucial transport networks, having to leave would be devastating for those who work in the sport, and those who love watching it here, too. It is imperative that Brexit leads to a close partnership with the European Union, doesn’t disrupt logistics or the residency of the thousands of employees who work for these teams. Britain has long been a close member of motorsport, it has contributed to it more than most other nations and will continue to follow that path so long as Brexit does not ruin it. Let us hope for a smooth result so that we can look forward to the next few years of Formula One.