Formula One Business Diary – Abu Dhabi: team-by-team

The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix was the 17th of 19 races on this year's Formula One calendar. The championships may have been decided but every team in the pit-lane is facing its own set of challenges - financial, technical or personnel-related - as the end of a long season nears.

The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix was the 17th of the 19 races on this year's lengthy Formula One calendar and, in its fifth year, the spectacular venue was an official 50,000 sell-out, despite several shots depicting empty seats during Sunday's race.

This year's world championship titles, of course, already belong to Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull Racing, leaving broadcasters and fans searching for storylines to fill the hours of airtime in and around this race and the next two in Texas and Sao Paulo. Teams are searching for multi-million dollar scraps, more than one is in dire need of investment and senior personnel could be on the move. Here's our guide to the state of play at each team as the end of the season draws near:

Red Bull Racing
1st – 513 points

In comparison to many other teams, there is little for Red Bull Racing to be too concerned about. Already well funded, and in line for the largest slice of Formula One prize money yet again, a figure which could be in the region of US$90 million, the team has become one of the financial powerhouses of Formula One, with rock solid support from its Austrian owners. Daniel Ricciardo, a product of Red Bull's young driver programme, will step into Mark Webber's shoes alongside the all-conquering Vettel next season but the team has lost one of its most senior technical figures, aerodynamicist Peter Prodromou, to McLaren. Retaining chief technical officer Adrian Newey, who has openly said he is intrigued by a potential shot at designing America's Cup catamarans, is a longer-term objective.

2nd – 334 points

Nowhere near Red Bull in terms of points, but this has still been the most successful season yet for a team positioning itself well for a sustained championship challenge in 2014, when the biggest technical regulation change in a generation comes into effect in Formula One. Who will lead the team into the season, however, is still unclear. Team principal Ross Brawn will not be drawn on his future, with speculation he is set to leave at the end of the year. Former McLaren technical director Paddy Lowe arrived at Mercedes earlier in 2013 as part of what was supposed to be a soft handover with Brawn, orchestrated by newly installed Mercedes motorsport chief Toto Wolff and the team's new executive chairman Niki Lauda. The mood appears to have changed as the season has progressed, however, with Lauda in particular now determined to keep Brawn on board. The three-time world champion says the team will sit down at the end of the season and work things through. Most, however, still expect Brawn, who would be an asset to nearly every team, to depart. 

3rd – 323 points

A season that began so well for Ferrari has tailed off to the point where the Italian team finds itself 11 points behind Mercedes in the battle for second place in the world championship. Financially, it is not critical for the team to beat its German rival – Ferrari has historically received a larger share of the pie than other teams, a legacy of its perceived importance to the sport – but in pride terms it would be a major blow to finish third. Signs of frustration within Ferrari have threatened to boil over at times, notably over the summer when president Luca di Montezemolo publicly rebuked Fernando Alonso, his star asset, for the Spaniard's criticism of the team. Kimi Raikkonen joins the mix next season, with Ferrari bidding a fond farewell to Felipe Massa after the Brazilian Grand Prix.

4th – 297 points

Lotus made most of the headlines in Abu Dhabi when Kimi Raikkonen, infuriated by an angry radio message at last weekend's Indian Grand Prix, revealed to reporters he had not been paid a single euro all season – the Finn is owed €8 million in basic salary, plus €50,000 for each of the 183 points he has scored thus far in 2013. By the end of a fractious week, in which team principal Eric Boullier did his best in the face of some awkward questions which should have been aimed at the team's Genii Capital shareholders, it seemed as though a payment plan had been agreed, following Raikkonen's suggestion he may skip the last two races of the year. Lotus have insisted for much of the year that its priority has been paying the rest of its workforce and investing in improving the car, an explanation which appeared to satisfy Raikkonen up to the point when he was aggressively told to let his teammate past in India. The BBC's Andrew Benson reported on Sunday that Raikkonen had even threatened the team with a winding-up order as he pondered whether to travel to Abu Dhabi for the race.

The unseemly dispute, however, is a sign of the team's wider financial plight. Since announcing new investment from a consortium known as Infinity Racing Partners in June the team has been trying and failing to close the deal. Infinity, since renamed Quantum, indicated over the weekend that the complex agreement, which will see it take a 35 per cent stake in the team, was finally done. The knock-on effect of the delay has been to virtually stall the Formula One driver market. With Raikkonen leaving and Romain Grosjean certain to be retained, Lotus, which holds the most competitive seat yet to be filled, is thought to have agreed deals with both Nico Hulkenberg and Pastor Maldonado for next season. The current thinking appears to be that Hulkenberg, who brings little personal sponsorship but is extremely highly rated, will join the team should the Quantum investment finally appear, with Maldonado, backed by significant funding from his native Venezuela, coming aboard if the team needs his sponsorship.

– 95 points

Unless Force India managed to bag a freak result, McLaren are locked into a dismal fifth place in the championship this season. It has been a terrible year for the team, with not one podium finish, and indicative of the transitional phase it finds itself in. Next year will be its final season with Mercedes before a switch to Honda in 2015, while the team is also preparing for life without title sponsor Vodafone, which will exit at the end of the year. Gillette, which has partnered the team at Asian races this year, and Mexican telecoms firm Claro are believed to be contenders to fill the title slot before the Honda era begins.

Force India
6th – 77 points

Force India look safe in sixth place in the championship, one place up on last year. That means more prize money for a team co-owned by Vijay Mallya and the Sahara Group. Although both owners have their domestic issues in India, there has been little noticeably affect on their Formula One project to date. On the driving front, the team is likely to be amongst the last to confirm its driver line-up for 2014. It traditionally makes the announcement close to Christmas although Adrian Sutil, well backed by computer firm Medion, is very likely to stay on.

– 45 points

After a terrific 2012 season and a dismal start to 2013, Sauber has rallied in recent races, helped by the mid-season changes Pirelli made to tyre compounds. Financially, the year has been a struggle but new investment announced in July appears to offer hope for the future. Three Russian institutions – the Investment Corporation International Fund, the State Fund of Development of North West Russian Federation and the National Institute of Aviation Technologies – are investing in the team. Part of the deal is that Segery Sirotkin, a 17-year-old from Moscow, will drive for the team next season, although it is unconfirmed whether he will be in a race seat or a reserve driver role. The team will also be keen to retain the battalion of Mexican partners which arrived when Sergio Perez joined the team in 2011 and stayed when Perez left for McLaren and was replaced by fellow Mexican Esteban Gutierrez this season.

Toro Rosso
8th – 32 points

Red Bull's junior team has done its job this year, producing in Daniel Ricciardo a driver considered good enough to progress to the senior team for next season. The team has promoted another of its young drivers, 19-year old Russian Daniil Kyvat to a race seat for next season alongside incumbent Jean-Eric Vergne. Although reliant on Red Bull for funding, Toro Rosso is also increasingly tied to the International Petroleum Investment Company, a Middle East firm which owns several of the team's sponsors, Nova, Falcon Bank and oil firm Cepsa. Team principal Franz Tost has described it only as a “very close business relationship”.

– 1 point

That Williams has scored just one point this year is a source of sadness throughout Formula One. The British team is one of the great names for the sport but has not won a world championship since 1997 and taken only one race since 2004. Commercially, it has come to rely on Venezuelan money from oil giant PDVSA since 2011, a deal which has seen Pastor Maldonado drive for the team. While Maldonado now appears to be orchestrating an exit, the team is believed to have a solid contract with PDVSA and will be paid off even if the Venezuelan driver leaves for Lotus.

Williams is also poised for a switch from Renault to Mercedes engines next year, while, intriguingly, Sir Frank Williams has not ruled out a move for Ross Brawn should the Briton leave Mercedes. Should he rejoin Williams, where he began his career in the 1980s, Brawn would find himself working again with another recent recruit to the team, technical director Pat Symonds. The pair worked together engineering Michael Schumacher's world championships for Benetton in 1994 and 1995. In the shorter term, however, Williams is desperate for there not to be a freak race in which Caterham or Marussia score points, a situation which could see the team fall down to 10th or 11th in the final championship table at a cost of millions of dollars.

10th – 0 points

After losing out on the precious tenth place in the championship, which could be the key to additional revenues in Formula One's complex and secretive wealth distribution formula, in the final laps of last season's final race, Marussia are counting no chickens despite holding tenth place over chief rivals Caterham with just two races left. The team holds tenth by dint of Frenchman Jules Bianchi's 13th-place finish at the Malaysian Grand Prix back in March – if teams are tied on points, the best finishing result is what counts. Bianchi, a member of Ferrari's young driver programme, has already been retained for next season, when the team switches from Cosworth to Ferrari power. The Anglo-British team, meanwhile, has only signed a commercial agreement with Formula One itself in the last few weeks, having run for most of the season without the kind of deal every other team had struck by March.

11th – 0 points

The Caterham empire, revived by Air Asia and Queens Park Rangers owner Tony Fernandes, is expanding around the Formula One team, with a new road car programme and specialist engineering division now up and running. The Formula One team, launched like Marussia in 2010 at a time when it looked as though the series may introduce a budget cap, has so far failed to score a point and stands to finish 11th and last in this year's standings, meaning it will miss out on perhaps as much as US$10 million. In Abu Dhabi, it was confirmed that Graham McDonald, previously the chief executive of Caterham Cars, had become group chief executive. The company's various division heads, including Cyril Abiteboul who runs the Formula One team, will report into him with immediate effect.


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