The debate over third cars continues to rumble on, but until it becomes clear that two current teams won’t be on the 2015 grid, it remains an academic exercise.
As is well known should the field fall below 20, which realistically means losing two teams, third cars become a serious possibility under current arrangements.
However in public at least bosses of top teams seem to have little enthusiasm for that prospect, despite the obvious advantage of being able to gainfully employ a third driver.
“It’s a debate with wrong timing, we have to wait and see if there’s a need to run three cars,” said McLaren’s Eric Boullier today. “And then we will see. If at the end one day we are called and asked to help F1 to run three cars, we’ll have to.”
Asked how much notice would be needed he said: “I think the driver is the easiest to get on board. The chassis, logistics, the people around, we would need at least six months notice.”
It’s worth noting that we have already passed that deadline for Australia 2015.
“It depends how many teams there are, to be honest with you,” said Christian Horner. “If there’s not enough teams then we’ll run a third car, if there’s enough teams then we’ll stick with two cars. Hopefully all the teams will be there next year, and a third car won’t be necessary, but should the numbers drop down then of course it’s something that we’d have to consider.”
Meanwhile Mercedes boss Toto Wolff made it clear that he doesn’t think it will be either healthy for F1, or cost effective for the teams – even those who could take a paying third driver.
“I don’t think it’s good for the sport,” he said. “There’s a regulation which says if the grid drops below 20 cars, so 19 cars, then there is a certain mechanism which would trigger certain teams to fill in. Now that’s not the case, and I don’t see the grid dropping below 20 cars, because that would mean two teams disappearing.
“I’m not a big fan of it. A third car means additional costs, the way you can refinance it is not enough, so even for the smaller teams it wouldn’t be a profitable business case to put in a third car, and for the moment I don’t see that coming.
“But obviously if it would ever happen and the grid would get diluted to less than 20 cars, that is a good tool to fill it up, and then obviously the devil lies in the detail. Would you fill it with rookie drivers, which would be very exciting for F1, to give rookie drivers a chance? But we don’t want to harm F1 by the top teams suddenly filing three cars. The midfield teams would really struggle, it would bite them hard, so I’m not very keen on that idea.”
He also gave an interesting insight into the cost: “If you run it properly it’s about £20-25m to run a third car. So even if you have one of the very good pay drivers, it wouldn’t pay.”