F1 US Grand Prix 2014: Rival teams struggling to make ends meet as Lewis Hamilton bids to set new British wins record

Caterham and Marussia have gone into administration since the last race, but the championship leader is focusing on scoring his 32nd career victory in Texas

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The Independent Online

Formula One finds itself facing a harsh reality here because, while losing one team might be unfortunate, losing two in one hit is beginning to look downright careless.

And while there is no shortage of people in the paddock who really don’t care that Caterham and Marussia have slipped into administration since the Russian Grand Prix, the fact that at least three others are heading for the financial rocks should be sounding alarm bells with CVC Capital Partners, who hold the commercial rights.

Both Caterham and Marussia came into F1 in 2010, together with Spanish team HRT – which folded at the end of 2012 – after a promised $40m cost cap from then FIA president Max Mosley. Since then the big teams have steadfastly vetoed the idea.

Where the two new teams struggled to find $120m to keep afloat, Ferrari get that at the start of the season before their new car turns a wheel, as a share of the prize monies they receive simply for being F1’s longest-serving team.

Recently, former Caterham owner Tony Fernandes exclusively revealed to The Independent: “To me there should be enough money in the system for every team to be able to go and race.

“I don’t believe in an egalitarian system. I don’t believe I should have the same as Ferrari or Red Bull. But none of us should have to put in money to race, be it $60m, $70m. That should come from the prize money. If you get more sponsorship and you can raise your budget to $120m, so be it.”

Recently, before they went into administration, in an interview with Autosport.com Marussia chief Graeme Lowdon likened F1 to a river journey by canoe: “Every so often you are going to hit some rapids,” he said. “And at the minute we are in some very, very severe rapids – and everybody is suffering. Nobody can afford to sustain this level without damaging the sport. I think the sport is worse off if we don’t have an environment that at least allows sustainability.”

The fans here face further disappointment, as Sebastian Vettel is unlikely to take part in qualifying. His Red Bull will face a 10-grid place drop as he uses his sixth power unit for this race when only five are allowed in a season.

The team will most likely choose to change the whole powertrain, which would mean him starting from the pit lane, in which case they would skip qualifying to save engine mileage.

These are tricky times for F1. The other ticking timebomb is the possibility of the double points finish in the final grand prix in Abu Dhabi skewing the outcome of the world title battle between Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg. Hamilton, the winner here in 2012, holds a 17-point advantage over his Mercedes team-mate and said he was only focusing on scoring a 32nd career win here in Sunday’s US Grand Prix, which would make him the most successful British F1 driver in history.

The FIA will trial a virtual safety car after Friday’s first and second practice, in response to Jules Bianchi’s accident. The system is aimed at ensuring drivers stick to a certain speed through each sector by way of a delta time which is believed to be about 35 per cent slower than a dry lap.

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