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Musical vanishing chairs

  The music is playing. The chairs are waiting. The players all, world champions, contenders, also rans and hopeful newcomers alike, prance about in ever more frantic circles. The music stops. The chairs have mysteriously vanished. The players all look startled, anxious, perplexed. The conductor says some composers will have to provide extra chairs. The composers claim that the conductor and his masters take too much of the wood for them to make extra chairs. The players are nervous. Will there be a chair for them in the next game?

  While some of those seats have recently, and in some cases somewhat surprisingly, have been settled, there are still many  drivers contending for an ever decreasing number of drives next year. Prior to the Friday night before Sochi not many, Christian Horner included, had any inkling that Sebastian Vettel  would be quitting Red Bull for Ferrari. There were many rumours swirling about that King Fernando was unhappy at the Scuderia and was sniffing around Mercedes just in case… Then that door slammed firmly shut with Rosberg being confirmed for next year and beyond and that left McLaren and it's new Honda engine as the only real alternative. And McLaren have not yet confirmed either of it's current drivers for next year, so queue another nervous former world champion. Button's future is seemingly intertwined with that of King Fernando. Or is it? Will McLaren have two world champions on their books? A situation that would leave Kevin Magnussen, a driver that they have spent a small fortune on bringing through the junior formulas and into his fairly impressive debut season, dangling in the wind. Or does it?

  Remember that Bernie's contracts with the circuit promoters includes guarantees regarding minimum numbers of entries and agreements for the major teams to supply third cars if the numbers drop too low. With both Caterham and Marussia both going into administration it is close, if not at, the point where Bernie will have to request at least two or more teams to run third cars next year. Despite the noises made by the administrators it is unlikely that any buyers will be found for the deaply indebted teams, considering the level of debt and the current distribution of the money that comes into the sport. Even the two new teams that are due to enter the championship in 2016 are more likely to start from scratch rather than buy out the existing debt. And there are at least two, if not three more teams teetering on the edge. Lotus, Force India and Sauber have plenty of rumours surrounding them and their financial health, or lack thereof.

  A worst case scenario, if not probably very likely but who knows, would be that five of the current entries do not show up next year. That leaves just six teams and twelve entries. Even if they all supply a third car that would only bring the numbers up to the eighteen that we had at Austin. Four car teams anyone? There is little chance that some of the six could even afford a third car and almost certainly none could afford a fourth. So one way or another Bernie is going to have to come up with some way of getting more of that money that is flowing out to the venture capitalists that he sold the sport to to go back to the teams, especially the smaller ones that are on the edge. Even then it may well be that Ferrari, Mercedes, McLaren and Red Bull, the current big four, will be asked to run a third car.

  So, is the reason we are still waiting to hear where King Fernando ends up is that he is waiting to hear if there will be a third Mercedes for him next year. Is the reason McLaren has not announced who they are dropping from their line-up, asuming King Fernando has indeed signed that mythical contract with Honda, is that they will not be dropping anyone after all? Then again there has been no announcement from Ferrari that King Fernando is actually leaving so will they have three former world champions in their line-up?  Could he end up at Red Bull?

   Just a thought. None of this may happen and King Fernando signs for the vacant Toro Rosso seat. That's probably not very likely, but neither is the latest rumour that Alonso wants to buy Lotus with Santander dosh and bung Ferrari engines in the back. Considering how Ferrari's engines have performed so far I suggest that this option is even less likely than the other scenarios listed above.

BUT….To quote Murray Walker, "if, if,if, F1 is if spelt backwards".

Sam Snape

31-10-2014