Of the 10 teams that line up on the Formula 1 grid this year, there are three that debuted in the 1950s. Another team did so in the 1960s and two in the 1970s. Lastly, there are four teams that debuted in the 2000s. As F1 crosses a longevity milestone of 1,000 races in a week, that chronology of its current team composition says a lot about two paradoxes that F1 continues to grapple with.

The first paradox is inclusion. For all its claims about being more egalitarian for teams and wanting more teams, F1 remains an exclusive club. It’s a tough club to crack, both sportingly and commercially. Over the 70-year history of the sport, 162 teams have tried to take their passion for motor-racing and make a reasonable living from it.

In other words, 152 teams have folded, quit, merged or morphed.

That’s roughly two teams per season, though a lot of that attrition is from the early, maverick days of F1, when the spirit was more of an adventure into the unknown. Several teams barely started: 27 teams managed just one race. In all, 80 teams didn’t even compete 10 races.

There are others that had longer, mostly unsuccessful, spells. Among them are world champions who ran eponymous teams, notably Alain Prost (83 races) and Jackie Stewart (49 races). Among them are also car manufacturers that sell some of the best-selling road cars (Toyota, Honda, Peugeot) and car manufacturers that dazzle with their high-end cars (Porsche, Jaguar). Between them, these seven teams won five races.

Winning in F1 is notoriously concentrated. Only 34 teams have won a race in F1. Further, 880 of the 999 races, or about 88% of races, have been won by the 10 most prolific teams in terms of participation. They are led by Ferrari (235 wins in 972 races).

Ferrari has the longest record of participation in F1. It is followed by McLaren and Williams, both of which are enduring spells of wallowing in the lower reaches of F1. Among teams that have won more than 10 races, only six teams have won more than 10% of the races they have been part of, as technology—and, by extension, money—plays a disproportionate role in F1.

Ferrari has a winning percentage of 24%. McLaren has a winning percentage of 22% and Williams 16%, but both those numbers are spiraling down: the last win for both teams came in 2012. Barren spells have usually been the root cause for teams disappearing from F1, whether in name or spirit.

As many as six of the top 10 most prolific teams are no longer in F1. Among them, Minardi and Sauber had the lowest winning percentage, never winning a race in their several years of existence in F1. And the highest among past teams is Lotus, which won 13.4% of the 606 races it had participated in (chart 2).


Yet, the lure of featuring in the pinnacle of motor racing remains. Some do get it right, finding that sustainable mix of winning success and commercial feasibility. Red Bull entered F1 only in 2005, and it has notched up an impressive winning record of 22%.

Similarly, though Mercedes briefly first ran in the sport in 1954 and 1955, it is only in 2010 that it returned to F1 with a certain long-term commitment, and has since built an enviable winning record of 47%—the best in F1.

At its heart, F1, despite being a global pursuit, retains a European engine. Of the 10 teams in F1 currently, nine are based in Europe.


The exception to this is Haas. This relatively new team has its roots in motor-racing series in the US, but it has had to set up a second base in the UK.

That locational nuance leads to the second paradox inherent to F1: the sport wants to go beyond Europe. And, it is. So far, the 999 F1 races have been held in 72 tracks. As many as 39 of these tracks (or 54%) have been in Europe, and they have hosted 617 races (or 62%).

Beginning the late-nineties, F1 started expanding to Asia with purpose: races in Malaysia, China, Singapore, South Korea and India . The Indian race is since gone, the South Korean and Chinese races have issues, and the needle is again turning to Europe and North America.


Even as it searches for new markets, the heart of F1 remains distinctly European. There’s not a single Asian driver on the grid.

As it ushers in its 1,000th race, ironically in China, that’s a paradox F1 has to live with, and solve.

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