If you look back to when Formula 1 had so many entries they had to have a separate qualifying to qualify for qualifying, it was because the cars were so simple, with the vast majority of teams using the same engines and gearboxes, that you didn’t need to be a multi-national to get on the grid. Indeed, wealthy private individuals could buy last season’s F1 cars and go it alone at the very top level.
And what did that bring, other than packed grids and close racing? It brought character, it brought great David & Goliath stories, it gave Formula 1 a human face. If it has one today, which I doubt, it is hidden so far behind the corporate mask as to be entirely obscured.
Just think about it for a moment. The FIA and Formula 1 come good on their promise to even up the playing field because they’ve realised that by the time the circus gets to Melbourne it will have been fully eight seasons since anything other than a Mercedes, Ferrari or Red Bull has won a race. Incredible, isn’t it. By the time Mercedes leaves at the end of 2020, if it leaves, it will almost certainly be nine.
But suddenly all these other teams, not those already on the Grand Prix grid, but doing good work in Formula 2 and Formula 3 suddenly realise that F1 is a possibility. They might not win straight away, but they’d fill the grids with interesting cars and interesting people not contractually obliged to toe the corporate line. And their sponsors would love it. Last year Jolyon Palmer told me that if the big names left there’d be ‘a queue’ to fill their places in a cost-controlled Formula 1.