In Formula 1, Customer Is Never King

Formula 1 is an interesting business. A business where laws of regular businesses seldom apply. Given that my blog reaches out to new Formula 1 audiences, there are people who write in to verify if and how a Formula 1 team business doesn’t make money, despite earning millions from the sport and in sponsorship. Most readers would’ve come across the phrase ‘customer is king’ several times in their lifetime, however, when it comes to Formula 1, customer is NEVER king, especially in the current era.


A quick look at the current Ferrari and Mercedes customer teams reaffirms this statement. I highly doubt if a Force India / Williams car will ever be allowed to consistently challenge the Mercedes works team – and the same holds true for Sauber / Haas too, Ferrari’s customers.
But for Mclaren, being Honda’s works team is a bane. So much so that they’re now working hard to secure a customer supply relationship with Renault – the very supplier that Red Bull Racing (Max Verstappen, in particular) are unhappy with. But that’s just how the current ‘engine politics’ of Formula 1 works – Ferrari and Mercedes are controlling the pace of the current grid and their level of competitiveness.

Max Verstappen & Carlos Sainz Jr.

I dislike how Red Bull Racing control their drivers, but I guess it is the need of the business. Verstappen’s questioning of Red Bull Racing’s capabilities post-Spa were tamed by the owner of Red Bull himself. I think it might be worth checking if Renault are selling Red Bull Racing a re-badged Honda engines! If only, there was a refund available for blown engines!
As for Carlos Sainz Jr.’s outbursts about his career with Red Bull Racing stagnating a few races ago, he turned to confessing that Red Bull Racing control his fate in Formula 1. I am sure throwing a Honda engine in his 2018 car wasn’t what Sainz meant by that! There’s a good chance that Toro Rosso might partner with Honda and Renault might switch to supplying to Mclaren.
In which case, Sainz might just end up taking ‘radio lessons’ from his mentor and compatriot, Fernando Alonso.

Force India – Fernando Alonso?

There’s a lot of speculation regarding Alonso’s future in the sport, so here’s me adding to it. Force India could be a good short-term destination for Alonso. The team is consistently quick and has a Mercedes engine! It might not help him challenge for wins, but regular podiums might definitely be possible. For Force India, having a former World Champion and the sport’s complete driver on their driver roster would definitely raise the team’s stature and interest from sponsors, the latter being important if they want to raise money to afford Alonso. In fact, on the current grid and basis sponsorship form, Force India is best placed to sell additional sponsorship to cover Alonso’s high fee.
Here’s an interesting tweet from Mercedes on Alonso’s drivers’ parade car with an apparent oil leak! Maybe it is just Alonso’s bad-luck with engines and he should go all-electric?

The Temple Of Speed – Millennial Certified

The ‘Temple Of Speed’ is what Monza has been long known. Given the sport’s aggressive attempts to attract the millennial audiences, ‘Temple of Speed’ could be the perfect name to interest audiences that have probably grown up to playing ‘Temple Run’!
For Monza, Formula 1 organised a special drivers’ parade in the city of Milan in yet another attempt to bring the sport closer to the fans. Innovative and affordable would be the two words that I would use to describe this activation, especially in comparison with events such as the F1 Live in London.

Heineken’s Footballers vs Formula 1 Drivers

After pitching Formula 1 drivers against Footballers for a game of football on a make-shift football pitch on the pit-straight earlier this season, Heineken switched the sport this time. Footballers were given a chance to showcase their karting skills against the Formula 1 drivers. Apart from the social media interest, this is possibly the only time the best drivers in the world (okay, maybe not you, Ericsson) were pitched against each other in equal machinery!

2018 Driver Silly Season

Vettel and Raikkonen’s extension at Ferrari actually make it easier for one to guess what could happen next. I would expect Bottas to receive a one-year extension too, while Hamilton has expressed interest in extending with Mercedes beyond 2018 too. Interestingly, Hamilton did issue a few veiled statements about how Vettel’s three-year extension maybe a surprise for him, but at least allows him to choose his own direction. Was Hamilton planning a switch to Ferrari and did Vettel refuse such a signing?
As for Williams, I hope Paul Di Resta is on their radar still. After Hungary, Williams indicated that Di Resta could be considered and I hope it isn’t ‘out of sight, out of mind’ that works against Di Resta’s favour, because given his television duties, he’s always in the Paddock!

Co-hosted by Mithila Mehta and Kunal Shah, the Inside Line F1 Podcast is a weekly show on Formula 1 that attempts to simplify the sport and business of Formula 1. This show also aims to add some much needed humour to the otherwise serious sport of Formula 1. In 2016, the show crossed 150,000 listens and was top-rated on iTunes and Audio Boom. The show is available on Kunal’s F1 Blog and partner websites such as Motorsport, Firstpost, NDTVAuto, Sport360, Sportskeeda, Scroll, Talking About F1, Motor Octane and others.

Kunal Shah is an FIA-accredited Formula 1 journalist who has been reporting on Formula 1 for nearly two decades. He worked with the Force India Formula 1 Team for 6 seasons in Marketing, Sponsorship and Commercial roles. As a former single-seater racer, he was responsible for Force India's grassroots talent program, One from a Billion Hunt. Presently, he co-writes a regular Formula 1 column for Firstpost, speaks on Inside Line F1 Podcast & Pits to Podium and produces broadcast/OTT content for NENT Group (Viasport & Viaplay).

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