Formula One: the unknown victim of Brexit

27 Feb 2019



Throughout the Brexit process, we have heard countless warnings from almost every industry possible about the potential negative impact of a no-deal Brexit on the efficiency of supply chains and the ability to maintain delivery schedules. Also there are countless warnings about the negative impact that a no-deal would have on border control, which would have a detrimental effect on businesses using international trade routes, especially the Dover-Calais link, for their ‘just-in-time’ inventory systems.


We have heard the opinions of the agri-foods industry which relies massively on an almost seamless border to assure that produce is kept as fresh as possible in transit to supermarkets, both in the UK and on the continent. Furthermore, we have heard of how a no-deal may affect the UK’s car manufacturing industry, with the likes of Ford, Nissan and Honda issuing warnings regarding disruptions to their supply chains and the markets to which they ship their cars.


However, until today there was one sector within the motor industry that had seemingly been forgotten by the vast majority of people, the motorsport industry. The 2019 Formula One World Championship is approaching, with pre-season testing underway at Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya. Additionally, the boss of the Mercedes F1 team, Toto Wolff, has given strict criticism of a no-deal Brexit, an event which will provide no assurance of seamless border transportation.


Speaking at a press conference, Wolff made it clear that should a no-deal Brexit be the outcome of the current negotiations, then it would cause the ‘mother of all messes’. Wolff raises the concern that the supply lines used by Formula One teams, especially those who are based in the UK, would ultimately be compromised by any complications at border points and customs checks. 


It may not seem like the biggest issue in the world and, when compared to the issues surrounding food and medicine imports, it most certainly is not. Yet, the issues currently being discussed by Toto Wolff, along other team bosses, offer a brief inside view of what industries that rely heavily on current supply routes face in the midst of a potential no-deal Brexit.


Whilst you may have those within the European Research Group (ERG) singing the praises of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and its trading principles, they do not represent Britain as a whole. Instead, they represent what is a small minority when compared to the bigger picture. Whilst Formula One may not be the primary concern of the vast majority, it is certainly an issue that can provide a microcosm of the logistical issues a no-deal Brexit could bring to companies based in the UK.



Formula One teams based in the UK may face major issues when racing in Europe during the championship in the event of a no-deal Brexit. If a driver in one of the Friday practice sessions damages the floor of the car, then it will need to be flown overnight from the factory in the UK - if one is not already at the track. However, if there is no UK-EU agreement over what can move across borders without customs checks, then there is no assurance for the delivery of the part needed to maintain running on the Saturday practice and qualifying session. If these logistical lines are compromised in the event of a no-deal, it could have catastrophic consequences on the sport as a whole, with teams struggling to get the parts they need to the track garages in time.


Whilst the effect of a no-deal Brexit is near impossible to predict, as with all other Brexit outcomes, the concerns of industries – not only motorsport, but also medicine and agri-foods – highlight the unmitigated dumpster fire that Brexit has become. The points raised by Wolff are the first signs that even relatively small portions of the industrial sector in Britain are starting to consider whether they can feasibly work within the UK should it leave the EU without a deal. 


Wolff’s comments may come to nothing in the end, and the supply and logistics of Formula One teams might not be affected. Nevertheless, it definitely shows that government mismanagement of negotiations, and failure to reach a consensus on both sides, has led to operations such as the Mercedes F1 team to consider partially relocating to the continent in order to minimise the impact that a no-deal Brexit might bring.

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