Depending on how GP2 Asia debts are handled (or pardoned) by the GP2 Gods, Monaco may prove to be the beginning of the end for several teams. I was probably too generous in my May 4th post predicting when teams would run out of cash, underestimating the impact of the devastating Asia Series and the insufficient cash entering the teams.
Remember that most teams actually receive only part of the cash from drivers at this stage in the season, normally split into 2 or 3 payments. The risk of a driver not paying his installments, or on the cash-in being insufficient, could be too much to bear for many teams in this current climate.
Not helping in this situation is the mind-boggling replacement part costs presented to teams this past weekend. GP2 is pushing simple spares at exorbitant prices, adding more and more wood to the already vivid financial fire that many teams are facing. The uproar among the GP2 teams was significant, though their pleas as usual will go ignored and unanswered by those “in charge”. With this philosophy and vision, they will simply accelerate the demise of those teams in trouble – which could be what their ultimate goal is:
First in line is Trident, which regardless of the Sonangol cash brought in by Teixeira is facing its final days as a GP2 team. Rumours of Hamad Al Fardan jumping on board could save the team, though the Bahraini driver’s budget could serve for little more than delay the inevitable. Trident’s problems are deep, dragged on from at least 2 seasons of a terrible cash management and vision. If you recall, Trident started off well in their 2006 season, with Bruni winning a couple of races. Since then, Trident has raced paying drivers: Kohei Hirate (Toyota driver), Mike Conway (Honda driver) and Ho-Pin Tung. Even with this, today they find themselves in the worst financial situation of all, having thrown away their “brand equity” and falling to the pits of GP2. Some, with very specific detail, would say – as Alan Greenspan would say – it is the result of irrational exhuberance…. Time will be the judge of this.
Durango joins the rank of troubled teams, with Ivone Pinton searching for buyers left and right. Pinton is an experienced team owner and his situation, in my opinion, is more strategic than financial. Pinton knows it’s a good time to look for buyers. His sporting situation will not improve with Valsecchi underperforming and Panciatici adapting to GP2, so he wants to step to the front of the line, cutting in ahead of Trident, DPR or Coloni. He has suffered through some up and down seasons before, but he is probably sure his team will not be in the Top 5 any time soon. A string of mediocre results from average-to-poor drivers (Valerio, García, Puglisi, Chandhok, Hernández) has not helped his case. He may feel it’s too late and that a radical change is needed.
The DPR situation is a bit different. As we have written and many have posted comments on, André Herck has no financial problems and can weather this storm. We can’t forget, though, that Herck is also a successful businessman and this GP2 team will be no exception. Rumour is he could be driving this team into the ground, increasing his already heavy losses, arriving at a stalemate with the GP2 organization. Could make sense, since this would be a way to survive his terrible sporting situation, renegotiate and come up with a breath of fresh air from this mess. If he wants to change his team’s direction, he could start by putting James Jakes in his second car – the only driver left with budget and some ability to aim for Top 10 finishes.
After this brief analysis, question is: what would happen if Trident can’t be at the Turkish GP at the beginning of June?
1. Will Bruno Michel pay for his expenses? Hmmmmm… no. If you don’t pay, you get fined – and instead of helping, Michel will charge €40k per car not on the grid, even if the debt is now approaching €1 million.
2. Is any F3/WSR team waiting for an opportunity to join GP2? I doubt Prema, Epsilon Euskadi, Mucke, Manor or Carlin are sitting on the sidelines at this point. No one is willing to bet their own cash, and the lack of sponsors and drivers at this stage of the season and economy make for a general lack of interest.
Monaco will be the perfect setting for these backmarkers to show their cards…