F1 gets in gear to try to head off a Brexit pile-up

With seven of the 10 Formula One teams in the 2019 series based in England, F1 chief is implementing contingency plans

epa07407101 British Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton, of Mercedes, takes part in the last day of the second round of F-1 pre-season official training sessions at Circuito de Barcelona-Catalunya track in Montmelo, northeastern Spain, 01 March 2019.  EPA/ENRIC FONTCUBERTA
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Formula 1 is implementing "contingency plans" to deal with the consequences of Brexit, including possibly basing more material on mainland Europe, its chief executive Chase Carey said on Tuesday.

Several F1 teams have warned that Britain's departure from the European Union, especially if it comes without a withdrawal agreement, will create logistical nightmares for an industry that relies on international staff and specialised goods moving in and out of Britain.

Seven of the 10 teams who took part in the 2019 grand prix series are based in England, within a 150km diameter area.

McLaren is based in Woking, Mercedes is based in Brackley, Racing Point at Silverstone, Red Bull Racing in Milton Keynes, Williams in Grove and Renault F1 in Enstone.

Mr Carey said at the Geneva International Motor Show that F1 was trying to prepare despite the uncertainty surrounding the timing and nature of Brexit.

"We are making contingency plans for trying to make sure we are prepared to deal with the issues that possibly arise that would make getting people and things in and out of the UK more difficult," he said.

He added that he considered complications surrounding the movement of goods more problematic than possible visa issues for international staffers with British-based teams.

Currently, F1 supports teams by transferring goods predominately from Britain to various European sites.

"We bring them in and out of the UK now. We obviously can bring them in and out of somewhere else," Mr Carey said.

Some F1 teams have suggested that teams based on the continent would have an advantage if new rules complicated the import of products into Britain, especially since teams typically work on tight deadlines.

Mr Carey declined to comment on "speculation" about competitive imbalance.

"We don't know what is going to happen anymore than anyone else," he said.

Red Bull Racing's title sponsor Aston Martin, which has authorised up to £30 million (Dh146.5m) worth of contingencies, is stocking more components and could fly in parts if ports are clogged up.

Policymakers will vote on whether to delay Brexit on March 14, just over two weeks before the scheduled departure date.

“I would categorise it as a further annoyance,” chief executive Andy Palmer told Reuters. “You’re holding that contingency stock for longer which means that your working capital is tied up for longer.”

“More importantly, what you’re doing is you’re creating continued uncertainty,” he added.

Britain is scheduled to leave the EU on March 29 but Prime Minister Theresa May's divorce deal has not yet been approved by parliament, raising the prospect of Brexit being delayed.

The alternative is Britain leaving on time without an agreement, a doomsday option both sides would like to avoid.

EU and UK officials were trying to negotiate a compromise in Brussels on Tuesday that could win parliamentary support.

Last month, F1 world champions Mercedes said the team fears the "mother of all messes" could cause huge damage to Britain's motorsport industry while also helping rivals Ferrari.

Speaking on the first day of pre-season testing at Barcelona's Circuit de Catalunya, the Austrian Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff suggested a chaotic British departure from the European Union was the nightmare scenario for his team.

Mercedes, champions for the past five seasons, have their Formula One factory and high performance engine operations based at Brackley and Brixworth near the British Grand Prix circuit Silverstone, Bloomberg said.

"The way we get parts and services is just in time, at the last minute into the UK and any major disruption in borders or with access would massively damage the Formula One industry in the UK," said Mr Wolff.

"There is uncertainty at the moment whether the industry is going to be impacted by a no-deal Brexit, or a Brexit that is damaging to what for me is one of the outstanding industries in the UK. We have said before, the mother of all messes."

According to the Motorsport Industry Association, Britain's "Motorsport Valley" has an annual turnover of some £9 billion (Dh43.56bn) with British motorsport employing at least 41,000 people.

"Ferrari in Italy, Sauber [Alfa Romeo] in Switzerland, they would have a massive advantage over every UK-based team," Mr Wolff said

Ferrari design and build their chassis and engine in Maranello, also supplying the Alfa Romeo and Haas team with power units.