Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, and Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton may have cruised to first, second and third on the podium at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix – but the real drama unfolded midfield, as McLaren leapfrogged Racing Point to take third in the constructor standings.
McLaren, whose majority stake is owned by Bahrain’s sovereign wealth fund Mumtalakat, enjoyed its best result since 2012 as its drivers Lando Norris and Carlos Sainz took fifth and sixth places, earning the team a hefty 18 points.
Meanwhile, Racing Point, which was third in the standings before the race, was only able to add one extra point, courtesy of Lance Stroll’s ninth place finish.
“We did it!” exclaimed Andreas Seidl, McLaren’s team principal.
“P3 in the Constructors’ Championship. What an outstanding result at the end of a very challenging and difficult season.”
While midfield rankings beyond Mercedes and Red Bull may not be of particular interest to many spectators, a few points can mean millions of dollars for smaller teams like McLaren and Haas in what is perhaps the world’s most expensive sport.
While the FIA remains opaque about prize money distribution, the teams split a pot of $1.012 billion (BD380 million) in 2019 on a sliding scale based on points earned in the constructors championships.
In 2021, the FIA will be introducing budget caps of $145m per team to level the playing field between the Big Four – Mercedes, Red Bull, Williams and Ferrari – and the rest of the constructors.
However, this only covers car performance expenditures, and a higher cash prize will help the team recruit top-notch talent and develop a better power unit for their vehicle, both of which are exempt from the budget cap.
Already McLaren, which has put up a stellar performance this season, has attracted a cash injection of £185m (BD93.5million) over the next three years from MSP capital. This was announced just ahead of the Abu Dhabi race. The team is now expected to take some bold steps to strengthen its standing next year. It has already announced the recruitment of Daniel Ricciardo as Sainz makes the leap to Ferrari.
It will also be using the much more expensive Mercedes engine next year as they drop Renault as their supplier, dealing a blow to the French supplier.
“Looking ahead, our results this season, together with our financial news today, provide a stable foundation on which we can build towards the goal of getting back to the front of Formula 1,” Andreas said. “At the same time, we’re realistic about where we stand and will continue our journey.
“We’re looking forward to having Lando onboard for the future and Carlos leaves with our best wishes for his next chapter in Formula 1.
“A special thanks to Renault for their great support over the last three years.”