The long-awaited new Formula 1 season will start in Austria this weekend. Within the sport, the car brands Ferrari, Honda, Mercedes-Benz and Renault form the service for the fifth consecutive year. Recent newcomers only turned out to be namesakes, such as Alfa Romeo and Aston Martin. However, in the past a variety of volume brands were active in sports. That was not always a success.
None of the car manufacturers that build F1 engines can be found in the top five largest manufacturers in the world. Honda, which supplies engines to AlphaTauri and Max Verstappen's Red Bull Racing, is the largest car manufacturer in the sport with over 5.1 million copies.
Renault is following suitably with 3.8 million units in 2019. That number also includes the sales of Alpine, Dacia, Lada and Samsung Renault Motors. Renault has a factory team and last year will be supplying engines to McLaren. Mercedes-Benz, supplier of Racing Point and Williams, sold 2.83 million passenger cars last year.
Ferrari was and is a small sports car manufacturer. The brand delivered 10,131 cars to wealthy customers last year. Admittedly, such a manufacturer fits the sport better than a volume brand like Volkswagen. Yet, as mentioned, there were well-known players in the past who made an attempt.
Toyota was unable to rise above mid-range
The most recent example is that of Toyota, the second largest manufacturer in the world and the most valuable car brand today. As a large group, it entered Formula 1 in 2002 with a factory team.
Moderate performance and outages characterized the first three seasons of the Japanese. Only in 2005 did the drivers of the time, Jarno Trulli and Ralf Schumacher, get podium places. The manufacturers came in fourth place. However, the team got stuck in the middle in the following years.
Between 2005 and 2009, Toyota was also engine suppliers, including the Dutch Spyker and driver Christiaan Albers. In the back of the Williams, the Toyota engine also did not provide thunderous speed, as only three podium places were scored in three seasons. Toyota ceased to be a manufacturer and engine supplier in 2009.
Jarno Trulli in Japan in 2009 on his way to a podium finish. (Photo: Morio)
Peugeot not very reliable
After successes in rally and long-distance races, Peugeot decided in 1994 to take the step to Formula 1. McLaren took the gamble and teamed up with the French supplier. If the engine did, drivers Mika Häkkinen and Martin Brundle almost invariably scored podium spots. Unfortunately, there were more downtime than finishes.
In the three seasons that followed, Peugeot found refuge with the Jordan team. Despite a podium finish here and there, the team's performance was disappointing. The Peugeot engine was in the back of the car of former world champion Alain Prost from 1998.
However, the Gauloises Prost Peugeot team performed dramatically. In the 2000 season, driver Jean Alesi only reached the finish five of the 17 times. No points were scored that year and Peugeot quit.
Mika Häkkinen recorded more downtime than podium places with Peugeot. (Photo: Martin Lee)
Volume brands seek salvation in Formula E.
Ford is another volume brand that was active in Formula 1 - and successfully. After Mercedes and Ferrari it is the brand with the most Formula 1 wins to its name: 176 pieces. However, this is more the merit of the British company Cosworth than of Ford itself, since the engines - despite the Ford logo - mostly came from the British Cosworth factory.
Big names like Graham Hill, Jackie Stewart, Emerson Fittipaldi, James Hunt, Keke Rosberg and Michael Schumacher became world champions with a Ford-Cosworth engine.
Ford also had a de facto factory team on the Steward Grand Prix team between 1997 and 1999. Jos Verstappen drove there without much success in the second half of the 1998 season.
Despite the agreed cost ceiling, the return of such volume brands to Formula 1 is unlikely. The latest newcomer was Honda, which after his return as an engine supplier in 2015 to last year had to be patient for his first podium and victory.
Car brands seem to seek refuge in the electric racing class of Formula E, which includes Audi, BMW, DS, Jaguar, Mercedes-Benz, Nissan and Porsche.
Jos Verstappen drove a large part of his career with Ford engines. (Photo: F1 Pictures)