Zak Brown has supported Williams’ stance to remain independent in an ever changing Formula 1 where many smaller, formerly autonomous teams are partnering with ‘works’ outfits in order to reduce costs, the need for in-house resource and improve performance.
They do this in exchange for providing their parent team with data, political support and driver placement amongst other things.
This B-team business model has led to a performance spike in teams like Haas and Sauber who have partnered with Ferrari, Toro Rosso who have always been closely aligned with Red Bull and Racing Point Force India who are becoming increasingly tethered to the Mercedes F1 team.
The benefits for the A-team are such, that any top team with serious designs on challenging for wins and championships are at a huge disadvantage without a B-team.
While it gives these smaller teams an immediate boost, they are so beholden to their A-team it introduces a ceiling as to how competitive they might actually become.
All this leaves true constructors like Williams and McLaren in a tough situation, as not only are they losing ground to the top teams with whom they want to compete, but with the same stroke they are also losing ground to B-teams with whom the Williams and McLaren of 2019 should realistically be able to compete.
Some of the greatest names in the sport have done so as constructors and thanks to their ability to innovate, develop and build in-house. Lotus, Brabham, Williams, McLaren, Tyrrell…the list goes on.
In previous seasons, independent constructors could secure themselves a works engine deal with which to compete with manufacturers like Ferrari and Mercedes (think Williams-Renault or McLaren-Honda) or even a non-works deal with a competitive engine manufacturer (think Red Bull Renault, Brawn-Mercedes or Tyrrell-Ford).
Today, there’s just one engine manufacturer in Formula 1 without its own team – Honda – and they have a works deal with Red Bull that excludes them supplying anyone bar Red Bull’s B-team Toro Rosso.
So a works engine deal for Williams or McLaren is out of the question, unless they can persuade a manufacturer from outside F1 to build them an engine.
And with customer Mercedes and Renault engines, it’s practically inconceivable to imagine Williams and McLaren beating the manufacturers’ own teams.
Which is where my sympathy for Zak Brown starts to wane.
His McLaren had a works deal with Honda, and rather than work and grow with them to achieve their ultimate goal, they threw them under the bus to explain their abysmal showings.
But, it’s difficult to disagree with Zak Brown’s argument that the desire to be an independent constructor in Formula 1 shouldn’t leave you at a disadvantage.
“[It’s] not what Formula 1 is about.” said Zak Brown.
“[The regulations on B-Teams] need to change for the health of the sport.”
“We think it is critical that Liberty, in the new Formula 1 world addresses that so that all teams can have a fair and equal chance to compete for the championship on a more level playing field.”