Why Formula 1 teams are worried about the impact of Brexit

Formula 1 teams are fearful of the impact of Britain's exit from the European Union due to concerns they could suffer employment and logistical problems after Brexit

Why Formula 1 teams are worried about the impact of Brexit

The United Kingdom is due to leave the EU on March 29, 2019 but Prime Minister Theresa May is still struggling to win over members of Parliament to support her proposed Brexit deal.

That means it is unknown whether the protracted negotiations could result in the UK leaving without a deal, lead to a second referendum to rerun the vote from 2016, or scupper Brexit entirely.

Leading F1 figures will watch very closely as the UK government prepares to conclude a pivotal five-day debate next week ahead of a crucial vote on Tuesday.

Why teams fear personnel loss

McLaren's chief operations officer Jonathan Neale says there are three "pillars" of concern: what it means for the talent teams hire from European countries, making sure the supply chain is unaffected by border restrictions and enshrining working capital requirements.

Neale cites "23 different nationalities" at McLaren, although they are not exclusively from Europe.

"It would be a pity, it would be awkward, if we suddenly got into visa work like we do with bringing people in from the US," Neale tells Autosport.

"It is not impossible but it's a pain, and we'd like greater mobility for talent from anywhere.

"It would cost us more time and be more difficult to recruit, so we would not like to see friction in being able to recruit talent.

"We are a diverse workforce, we're international by nature and that stimulus of having skills from everywhere and different ideas is what keeps the creativity going."

That concern is so real that Ferrari boss Maurizio Arrivabene has been moved to point out that staff members will be forced away from British-based rivals and "I suspect in the near future we will find a lot of people that are knocking on the door of Maranello".

But Arrivabene says this is not the best solution for F1, and Ferrari does not want it to happen.

'Not a very pleasant development'

As well as the core group of independent teams - Red Bull, Haas, Racing Point, McLaren and Williams - being based in the UK, the works Mercedes and Renault teams are also rooted in the country.

Mercedes' race team is based in Brackley and has its High Performance Powertrains division in Brixworth, while Renault continues to use the Enstone facility that has been crucial to that outfit's many guises.

Renault boss Cyril Abiteboul says Brexit is a concern because of the role the UK has played in the works team's progress since returning to the grid in 2015.

"We've grown very quickly in the recent years and it's been done in particular thanks to the possibilities offered by the UK - bringing in youngsters, people are coming out from school," says Abiteboul.

"We don't want that to change."

Abiteboul says Renault, and its partner Nissan, is engaging with UK authorities to establish what the impact could be on its staff members.

It is a similar position to the one taken by Mercedes, where team principal Toto Wolff describes Brexit as "not a very pleasant development".

"We are monitoring it very closely because as Mercedes we have a large operation in the UK," says Wolff.

"Our motorsport division, call it 1800 people, with a large percentage of EU citizens working for the team."

Cost of time and money

While staffing is evidently the primary concern for F1 teams, a close second is the impact of closed borders.

The logistical challenge of managing the freight demands of an F1 is not exactly insignificant already and teams are fearful it will become even more complex.

Wolff says Mercedes has already "taken steps" to make sure goods that the team imports from the EU "are not stuck on the border", while Neale points out that F1 effectively operates on a knife-edge in terms of meeting deadlines when transporting freight for races.

He gives the example of McLaren almost being caught short for this year's Abu Dhabi season finale because of a customs clearance issue over hydraulic parts going into the United Arab Emirates.

Neale says "three or four pallets" were held up in customs for three days and left McLaren "24 hours away" from being stopped from taking part in Friday practice.

The logistical concern of border restrictions is linked to the third "pillar", which is the impact it will have on the cost of making sure things run smoothly.

"It is going to cost more, it will be more paperwork, more administration, it's more time," says Neale.

"In some cases complex systems are coming in, going back out and crossing borders, multiple times.

"When you do that - if you're having to do the customs forms, pay the VAT, do this, do the trade tariff - those inefficiencies just cost you not only time but it puts working capital requirements up."

'No upside' for F1

One advantage F1 has is a significant amount of muscle-power, given it comprises so many strong individual companies.

As well as individual conversations with HMRC and other relevant UK authorities, teams are understood to be in conversation with Formula One Management and its logistical partner DHL.

F1 teams have not reported a negative impact in the pre-Brexit process, but the expectation is there will be imperfections if it becomes a reality.

When asked if there will be an upside to Brexit after the initial disruption, Neale says: "Not one that Formula 1 can see at the moment."

Some teams had hoped for clarity on the situation in recent weeks, but this was before the turbulence around the deal descended into greater turmoil, thanks to the ongoing rebellion against the PM's proposed deal.

The PM has suffered three defeats already, the first two relating to the government's shortcomings over publishing Brexit legal advice and the third as MPs voted to exert more influence over the process if the current proposed deal fails.

MPs will vote on the Brexit deal next Tuesday (11 December), which means the wait goes on for F1 teams to discover if and how they will be impacted in the coming months.

shares
comments
Mercedes suffers 'setback' with 2019 Formula 1 engine design

Previous article

Mercedes suffers 'setback' with 2019 Formula 1 engine design

Next article

Aeroscreen only '10% as effective' as halo in Spa F1 start crash

Aeroscreen only '10% as effective' as halo in Spa F1 start crash
Load comments

About this article

Series Formula 1
Author Scott Mitchell
The back-bedroom world-beater that began a new F1 era Plus

The back-bedroom world-beater that began a new F1 era

The first in a line of world beaters was designed in a back bedroom and then constructed in a shed. STUART CODLING recalls the Tyrrell 001

The clues Hamilton’s F1 contract afterthought gives to his future Plus

The clues Hamilton’s F1 contract afterthought gives to his future

The Formula 1 world reacted with surprise when it learned Lewis Hamilton’s long-awaited new Mercedes deal guarantees his presence on the grid only until the end of 2021. Both parties claimed publicly they were happy with the arrangement but, asks MARK GALLAGHER, is there more to it than that?

Formula 1
Apr 17, 2021
How a harshly ejected Red Bull star has been hooked by racing again Plus

How a harshly ejected Red Bull star has been hooked by racing again

Driver-turned-DJ Jaime Alguersuari lost his love for motorsport when he was booted out of Formula 1 just as he was starting to polish his rough edges. Having drifted from category to category then turned his back on racing altogether in 2015, he’s come full circle and is planning a return in karts for fun

Formula 1
Apr 17, 2021
Why Mercedes isn't confident it's really ahead of Red Bull at Imola Plus

Why Mercedes isn't confident it's really ahead of Red Bull at Imola

While Mercedes struck back against Red Bull by topping the times at Imola on Friday ahead of the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, the overall picture remains incredibly close. Despite having a possible edge this weekend, the reigning Formula 1 world champion squad is not taking anything for granted...

Formula 1
Apr 16, 2021
What Mercedes must do to keep its F1 title challenge on track Plus

What Mercedes must do to keep its F1 title challenge on track

Mercedes may find itself leading the drivers' and constructors' standings after Lewis Hamilton's victory in the Bahrain Grand Prix, but it is well-aware that it came against the odds, with Red Bull clearly ahead on pace. Here's what the Brackley team must do to avoid its crown slipping

Formula 1
Apr 16, 2021
Why Tsunoda can become Japan’s greatest F1 talent Plus

Why Tsunoda can become Japan’s greatest F1 talent

While Japan's fever for motor racing is well-documented, the country has yet to produce a Formula 1 superstar – but that could be about to change, says BEN EDWARDS

Formula 1
Apr 15, 2021
Why the demise of F1's hypocritical spending habit is cause for celebration Plus

Why the demise of F1's hypocritical spending habit is cause for celebration

For too long, F1's richest teams have justified being able to spend as much as they want because that's the way they've always conducted their business. STUART CODLING says that's no reason not to kick a bad habit

Formula 1
Apr 14, 2021
The double whammy that is defining Vettel’s F1 fate Plus

The double whammy that is defining Vettel’s F1 fate

It's been a tough start to Sebastian Vettel's Aston Martin F1 career, with a lack of pre-season testing mileage followed by an incident-packed Bahrain GP. But two key underlying factors mean a turnaround is not guaranteed

Formula 1
Apr 14, 2021