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.