F1 customer car plan in hand if struggling teams collapse

Ron Dennis has helped to convince the F1 Strategy Group to formally support the long-standing provision for third cars from top teams being introduced to make up the numbers should a current team fail – with customer car teams as the potential next step.

Both options are supposedly in the works only if they are needed should car numbers dwindle due to team financial collapses. And yet at the same meeting any discussions about the sort of cost-cutting or a redistribution of income that might help to save the struggling outfits apparently quickly fizzled out, in the face of opposition from the works-supported teams.

There was also no debate about a cheaper alternative engine being introduced for smaller teams – potentially a twin-turbo with KERS but not a full hybrid – despite Bernie Ecclestone pushing the idea in recent weeks.

The works teams now have to get together a proposal and a format for how customer cars could work, which presumably will have to be completed ahead of the next F1 Commission and World Motor Sport Council meetings in July.

It’s understood that the existing independent teams such as Lotus, Sauber, Force India and Manor will be given “first refusal” on whether or not they want to switch to using customer cars, although none has indicated any support for such an idea, and they clearly won’t be too impressed that it is being pushed through.

It’s no surprise that Dennis was fully behind the potential move towards customer cars in the meeting. McLaren has long been a supporter of the concept, and with Honda in dire need of a second team with which to get track mileage, it makes sense more than ever.

There is no shortage of drivers, with Kevin Magnussen, Stoffel Vandoorne, Nyck de Vries and Honda protege Nobuhara Matsushita all available.

Intriguingly the ART GP2 cars of Vandoorne and Matsushita ran in full McLaren replica livery in Barcelona last weekend, further strengthening the ties between the F1 team and the outfit co-owned by Nicolas Todt. It would be logical to suggest that ART would be able to step forward and run McLaren customer cars in the future, should the opportunity arise.

McLaren also has an ongoing relationship with Manor, although the team’s difficult financial position is a potential hurdle.


Filed under F1, F1 News, Grand Prix News

4 responses to “F1 customer car plan in hand if struggling teams collapse

  1. @ncsfoo

    So rather than solving the problem they’ll ruin the sport we love. What an absolute joke. Complete bunch of self serving idiots.

  2. Peterg

    Smaller teams being able to buy and run a competitive, customer car would solve half if F1’s problems. It would also produce a revenue stream for the factory team thereby reducing costs.

    However, 3 car teams would be a disaster. Can you imagine the team orders controversies? Or, if a dominant team like Merc 2015, qualified 1,2,3 and did the same to the podium.

  3. George

    Was it so bad when Vettel won Monza in 2008 in a Toro Rosso that was “similar” to the Red Bull? Did the F1 world fold in on itself when the 1995 Ligier looked remarkably similar to the Benetton?

    Manor have spent a fortune (which they don’t have) over the years to are 2-3 secs off the pace of the mid field; why not use one of last year’s cars for a fraction of the cost? The constructors will still develop their way in front of the customers.

    Yes, this is a blatant effort to redistribute the income that smaller teams get back into the pockets of the larger teams. Who said life was fair? Adam’s Autosport colleague Dieter Rencken seems to think there should be an equal distribution of funds. Socialism doesn’t work, as demonstrated by the USSR!

    So much money is wasted in F1. I really couldn’t care less whether a car has a 3 element or 7 element front wing (and I’m an engineer).

  4. peterg

    George, while I agree with you in principle about teams being able to buy customer cars.However, I’m not sure the Torro Rosso 2008, Monza victory will encourage top teams to start filling orders. The 2008 STR was the fully developed 2007 Red Bull, it came with a season of testing/racing, all the 2007 mods and RB passed on the set-up knowledge like suspension geometry. It then went on to give the RB 2008 factory effort a very good run for its money!

    Ron Dennis has been pushing the customer car plan for years, he rightly sees it as another source of income and has openly admitted that if McLaren were to lose, to its own customer, it would be McLaren’s fault. There were all sorts customer “plans”a few years back. Direxiv & Pro Drive were leaning that way, with their proposed entries into the sport, if I recall.

    I think it’s a great idea, but I will be surprised if it ever happens. The self interest of each F1 team seems to stifle any good proposals.

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