It’s March and that means that very soon the 66th season of the Formula One Championship will get underway. Following Mercedes AMG Petronas’ dominance in 2014 and the notable movement of drivers among the competing teams in the off-season, there are a lot of questions which fans are looking forward to having answered in 2015. While the F1 leadership have been worrying about drivers changing their helmet designs mid-season, we, the fans, have wondered about other things. Can Mercedes maintain their total dominance? How will Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel do with their new teams? Can Honda make any sort of impact with its return to F1 this season? Yes, it’s all shaping up to be a potentially great year in the championship.
Of course, near the end of the 2014 season, Caterham and Marussia found themselves in financial trouble and were forced into administration. Caterham didn’t make it out, but Marussia somehow found financial backing and has, at the time of writing, been placed on the roster of eligible teams for the 2015 competition. The plight of these smaller teams proves that F1 can be a financially unforgiving venture. Yet, the risk is worth it as millions in investment and sponsorship money are up for grabs to the teams who do enter. From the giants of Ferrari and McLaren to the likes of Toro Rosso and Sauber, F1 is a multi-billion dollar sport with team values heading into the billions of dollars.
The following looks at the 10 F1 constructors entered in this year’s competition and ranks them by value. Figures used are from Forbes’ annual valuation of F1 constructors which uses 2013 financial figures along with known revenue, budget, sponsorship and investment data. For those who are used to team valuations of NFL or football (soccer) clubs, the figures may be a bit underwhelming. Despite a combined $4.5 billion valuation, only one of the 10 constructors has a valuation which would place it among the teams of the NFL. Nonetheless, it remains impressive that all of this ultimately boils down to getting just two cars and two drivers out onto the track.
10 Manor - Team Value: $90 Million*
Last season Marussia was one of two teams to go into administration thanks to terrible finances and debt. This is where the asterisk comes into play. Marussia found some new investors and looks to be set to race at Melbourne this March 15th. However, depending on who you talk to there are still some question marks hanging over almost every aspect of this team. Now officially known as Manor Motorsport, the constructor has a reported budget of around $60 million. Here’s another reason for the asterisk – the constructor still technically needs ‘Marussia’ in its title because it looks set to start the new season with a chassis from the 2014 season. They’ll also reportedly be using 2014 engines from Ferrari, at least until parts run out.
9 Toro Rosso - Team Value: $150 Million
So, Austrian beverage company Red Bull owns two F1 teams. The first is Red Bull Racing, the team which won four straight titles between 2010 and 2013. The other is called Toro Rosso which is Italian for Red Bull. To sum up – Red Bull owns two F1 teams named Red Bull. In all seriousness, Scuderia Toro Rosso has been in F1 since 2006 and won a single race thanks to Sebastian Vettel at the 2008 Italian GP. Last season they finished seventh and accumulated 30 points. Not bad for operating with a revenue and budget each under $90 million. Like the other Red Bull F1 team, Toro Rosso relies on Renault power units which proved capable but still well behind what Mercedes produced last season.
8 Sauber - Team Value: $155 Million
Sauber Motorsports was founded in the 1970s and took part in their first F1 race in 1993. Interestingly, it was Sauber’s relationship with Mercedes and the 24 Hours of Le Mans that put the Swiss team on the map. In F1, Sauber developed a reputation with its partnerships with Red Bull and BMW. However, it wasn’t until 2010 that they entered F1 as an independent constructor. Since then, the team has finished no higher than sixth and ended up a disappointing 10th last season. Whether they can improve upon this finish for the 2015 season is a big question and is probably tied to whether or not engine supplier Ferrari has improved their power unit substantially in the off-season.
7 Force India - Team Value: $160 Million
In terms of ‘bang for your buck,’ the Sahara Force India Formula One Team came out as clear winners last season. The Silverstone-based team has a reputation for being a mid-table team when it comes to the end of the season standings. In 2014, Force India achieved 155 points and sixth place overall in the constructors’ standings. Not impressed? You should be because that was achieved with a budget of only $100 million. The Mercedes PU106 power unit played a role in helping Force India achieve these results, but this constructor generally shows that a little money can be used efficiently in a series known to be for only the richest. Stability and consistency will likely see this constructor’s value creep upwards for next season.
6 Lotus - Team Value: $245 Million
This Lotus constructor is not to be confused with the original Lotus that competed in F1 decades ago. No, the original Lotus was purchased by Tony Fernandes who managed, with the eventual help of an investment group, to drive it into the ground (and eventual administration) as Caterham. The current Lotus F1 Team, as it’s officially known, was born from Renault F1 which itself was created from Benetton which had originally come from Toleman Motorsport. With the family tree figured out (or not), this current team entered its first F1 race in 2012 and has won two races and claimed 24 podiums since. Despite having the fifth highest budget ($225 million) Lotus finished a disappointing eighth out of 11 teams. In an attempt to address this issue, team leadership decided that Lotus would drop engine supplier Renault and switch over to the Mercedes PU106 power unit for the 2015 season.
5 Williams - Team Value: $380 Million
Officially known as Williams Martini Racing, Williams was formed in 1977 and has won a total of 9 Constructors’ and 7 Drivers’ championships. Over the years, the team has had an all-star lineup of drivers including Nigel Mansell, Damon Hill, Jenson Button, Jacques Villeneuve, Alain Prost, Nelson Piquet and Ayrton Senna. After 1997, success eluded the historic constructor and Williams dropped into mid-table mediocrity for much of the following period. Last season’s switch in engine regulations and a partnership with Mercedes appears to have rejuvenated the team and Williams jumped to an impressive third place finish highlighted by a double podium win at Abu Dhabi. The big question remains as to whether Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas can improve over last season – helping Williams up the table in terms of points and constructor value.
4 Mercedes - Team Value: $560 Million
The 2014 season was owned from top to bottom by Mercedes AMG Petronas F1. Powered by the outstanding PU106 power unit and led by drivers Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg, Mercedes were outstanding. They finished on top of the podium in all but three races and developed a nearly 300 point lead by season’s end. With the likes of Toto Wolff and Niki Lauda providing direction and leadership and Daimler providing a budget of $295 million, it’s no wonder Mercedes have emerged as the team to beat for 2015. Many competitors (and F1 leadership) fear a long period of domination by Mercedes could cost the championship viewership and support as F1 develops into a one-horse race. That said, another season like 2014 and Mercedes’ value can only go higher as more fans and sponsors jump on board to support the likes of Hamilton and Rosberg.
3 Red Bull - Team Value: $640 Million
Only a few years ago Red Bull ruled the world of racing. The journey had been long – originating with Stewart Grand Prix which turned into Jaguar Racing which eventually turned into Red Bull Racing. In F1, with Sebastian Vettel behind the wheel, the Austrian team were unstoppable and took home both the Constructors’ and Drivers’ championships every year from 2010 to 2013. This golden era no doubt helped Red Bull improve their value significantly. Then, last season, new regulations came into effect which saw the introduction of the 1.6L turbocharged motor. The changes saw Red Bull’s wings get clipped, finishing in second place but well behind the leaders Mercedes. A driver change has seen Vettel move on, his #1 position filled by Daniel Ricciardo – the only non-Mercedes driver to win a GP last season.
2 McLaren - Team Value: $810 Million
Runner-up on the list of constructor values and the second oldest F1 team still racing, McLaren has been in the F1 business since 1963 when Bruce McLaren founded the team. Since then, the team has won 8 Constructors’ and 12 Drivers’ championships – the last of which was claimed in 2008 by Lewis Hamilton. Finishing last season in fifth place, McLaren also raced without its main sponsor Vodafone, a deal which was worth a reported $75 million annually. Nevertheless, things may be taking a turn for the better this season as driver Fernando Alonso has joined from Ferrari and Honda are also on-board as the engine supplier in a deal worth an estimated $100 million per year. The team’s $280 million budget is the fourth largest. Whether this money can be put to good use and result in a higher finish is a question many are interested in learning the answer to.
1 Ferrari - Team Value: $1.35 Billion
In terms of valuation, Scuderia Ferrari is head and shoulders above the rest. In terms of world-wide sports valuation, Ferrari finds itself ranked closely to the NHL’s #1 valued Toronto Maple Leafs, at $1.3 billion. The most successful constructor, it is also the oldest surviving original team and has competed in the world championship since 1950. Over the decades, this constructor has built itself up, developed one of the world’s most recognizable brands and topped it off with 16 Constructors’ and 15 Drivers’ championships. Handling the famous prancing horse around the various world circuits have been some of the biggest names, including Alain Prost, Niki Lauda, Michael Schumacher and Fernando Alonso. With a revenue of $460 million and budget of approximately $400 million, the Italian outfit looks set to remain a financial heavyweight of the F1 world for the foreseeable future.