Ferrari and change: the only constants in Formula One

After today’s Fuji Television Japanese Grand PrixBrawn GP have all but won the Formula One Constructors’ Championship, which is a remarkable result in their debut season. Their drivers Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello also head the individual standings with two races left. 

Brawn GP, led by Ross Brawn, was created in March from the Honda team which withdrew from Formula One at the end of last season. It’s not the only team to have changed since last year. In fact, four of the ten teams on the starting grid have at least a different name and several more changes are expected for next season.

Ferrari is the only team still active which was involved in the first year of Formula One in 1950. It is also the most successful with 15 constructors’ titles. Car manufacturers such as BMW, Honda, Toyota, Renault and Mercedes-Benz have dipped in and out of Formula One over the years while independent teams have also come and gone. A useful chart shows that Ferrari, Williams and McLaren are the three long-standing teams, each with over 30 years of continuous involvement. 

And it’s not only the teams which vary from one year to the next. Abu Dhabi will host its first ever Grand Prix in four weeks. In 2010 there will be races in Bahrain, South Korea and Canada, none of which are on the calendar this year.

As for sponsors and drivers well, you get the idea. Formula One lives in a constant state of change, which is perhaps inevitable given the fundamental role played by technology. It’s potentially confusing for fans, who can at least support individual drivers even if they move around from one team to another on a regular basis.

In the last six months Formula One has had to deal with numerous crises both on the track (life-threatening accidents, a deliberate crash) and off it (ill-advised comments from leading figures, a narrowly-averted threat by the teams to break away). Mercifully, the serious accidents are rarer than they used to be but the political and financial crises seem to be becoming more common. Nevertheless, Formula One rumbles on from one circuit to the next every couple of weeks from March to October, year after year. 

There’s little doubt that a new combination of teams and drivers will be back next season driving their modified cars on a different range of circuits. 

Faced with such contant change, the companies trying to benefit from Formula One need persistence and deep pockets. The likes of Ferrari, Bridgestone and Santander have strengthened their brands over a period of years by making big investments and by staying the course. Those who wish to join them should take note.

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