There is a lot of money in Formula One; that is no secret. According to Reuters, the sport generated more than $1.5 billion in revenue in 2011.
But how much of that money finds its way back to the teams? How much is a victory worth? Or the Constructors' Championship?
As with many questions in F1, there are no simple answers.
At the beginning of the 2013 season, F1 CEO Bernie Ecclestone explained that part of the deal to bring three new teams into the sport in 2010 had been that even teams finishing outside the top 10 would get a small share in the prize fund.
Going forward, though, Ecclestone told the Daily Telegraph:
We pay the top ten, that’s what we do. For three years we did something different because we had an agreement with [FIA president] Max [Mosley] but from now on we will pay the top ten and that is it.
This caused a stir, as one of the three new teams, HRT, had just withdrawn from the sport due to financial problems. That left Caterham and Marussia presumably battling for 10th place and the final prize money payout.
Based on a 13th-place finish at the Malaysian Grand Prix, Marussia claimed 10th in the Constructors' standings. As Caterham had finished 10th in the previous three years, this was something of an upset.
So, Marussia got paid and Caterham did not, right? Not quite.
Caterham's head of communications, Tom Webb, told me in a phone interview, "It's not the disastrous picture that was painted by many outside observers. Having achieved 10th place in the championship for our first three seasons, we became established as what's known as a Column 1 team. ... So for us, finishing 11th means slightly reduced prize money income, but it wasn't a case of 'all or nothing' as some people may have imagined it was."
Confused yet? You should be.
Luckily, longtime F1 journalist Joe Saward has an excellent explanation of the prize money breakdown on his blog, Joe Blogs F1.
According to Saward, there are two different categories for distributing the prize fund (the total amount of which changes each season, based on the sport's revenues). First, the Column 1 teams receive an equal share of 50 percent of the fund. Column 1 teams are those which have finished in the top 10 for at least two of the previous three seasons (hence Webb's comment).
The other 50 percent of the fund is distributed in Column 2 payments, based only on the previous season's Constructors' standings. The first-place team, per one of Saward's comments on his post, receives 19 percent of the Column 2 money, down to 4 percent for the 10th-place team.
By finishing 10th in 2013, Marussia qualified for Column 2, but Caterham retained its Column 1 status for its 10th-place finishes in 2011 and 2012.
Saward also refers to Column 3 payments for teams outside the top 10, although these would seem to be the same payments that Ecclestone said no longer existed. For 2013, it is probably irrelevant anyway, as all the teams received either Column 1 or 2 payments.
Here is a look at what each team earned for the 2013 season, assuming a $700 million prize fund:
|2013 Formula 1 Prize Money|
|Team||2013 Standings||Column 1||Column 2||Total|
|Red Bull||1||$35 million||$66.5 million||$101.5 million|
|Mercedes||2||$35 million||$56 million||$91 million|
|Ferrari||3||$35 million||$45.5 million||$80.5 million|
|Lotus||4||$35 million||$38.5 million||$73.5 million|
|McLaren||5||$35 million||$35 million||$70 million|
|Force India||6||$35 million||$31.5 million||$66.5 million|
|Sauber||7||$35 million||$24.5 million||$59.5 million|
|Toro Rosso||8||$35 million||$21 million||$56 million|
|Williams||9||$35 million||$17.5 million||$52.5 million|
|Marussia||10||$0||$14 million||$14 million|
|Caterham||11||$35 million||$0||$35 million|
|Joe Saward, joesaward.wordpress.com|
In addition, Saward notes, "Ferrari has a special deal which means that the Italian team takes a small percentage of the prize money straight off the top. This is believed to be two and half percent, but may have increased."
That is because Ferrari is the oldest and most prestigious team in the sport, and Ecclestone wants to keep the bosses in Maranello happy.
So, at least for the teams near the back of the grid, the big money comes from the Column 1 payouts. For that reason, Caterham still received more than double Marussia's prize money for 2013.
Of course, should Marussia finish ahead again in 2014, it would claim both the Column 1 and Column 2 payments, leaving Caterham hoping that Column 3 does, in fact, still exist.
It should also be apparent from these numbers that a specific value cannot be placed on each race victory or even each point scored. The prize distribution is based on consistent success over the course of a season and, in the case of the Column 1 payments, over multiple seasons.
At least, if the battle at the top of the standings in 2014 devolves into another game of follow-the-Red Bull, you can enjoy the skirmish for 10th and 11th places, knowing the result will sway more money one team's way than the fight for first and second.
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