F1’s top teams discuss “franchise” cars contingency plan

The bosses of the four major teams met this afternoon in Montreal to discuss some of the ideas that emerged from last month’s F1 Strategy Group meeting – with a focus on how customer cars, or what they now call “franchise” cars, will work.

Hosted by McLaren’s Ron Dennis, the meeting was also attended by Eric Boullier, Toto Wolff, Niki Lauda, Maurizio Arrivabene and Christian Horner. Williams and Force India, the other teams in the Strategy Group, was not represented. The FIA’s Charlie Whiting as also invited along for part of the meeting.

Wolff insisted that today’s meeting was just a follow-up to the May 14th Strategy Group gathering, and was intended to refine some of the concepts tabled at the time.

“The mandate of the Strategy Group was for some of the teams to sit down and discuss potential avenues of customer cars versus third cars, the rules and regulations for 2017,” he told this writer. “This is a structured approach, and we have been discussing some of the issues. It was a good meeting. It’s important to get it right, and therefore all the solutions and possibilities were discussed, and it needs to be tackled in a good way.”

Wolff first used the term “franchise” cars in Monaco, and he said that the phrase has now been officially adopted.

“We call them franchise cars. I think we need to have a contingency plan in place to say what happens if a team or two drops out? What do we do? I think we don’t want to be in front of the snake, ‘Oh my God. now we are down to 18 cars or 16 cars.’

“We hope that everything stays like it is, and they [the struggling teams] can make it commercially viable for themselves. But you need to be responsible enough for F1 to say, ‘What happens if’?

“We need to talk solutions, like how is it viable in terms of the sporting and technical regs? Who’s going to pay for it or who’s going to finance it? Who’s going to supply cars? Do we want to have standard suppliers entering, or do we want to do it ourselves? Can last year’s cars enter or not? Down to the detail, like who’s going to go on the podium? We’ve also discussed the downsides. We don’t want to have junior teams.

“All of us are responsible enough that we need to look at the next years. At the moment we hope it stays like it is.”

Wolff says that while there were different ideas on how to progress, the meeting was a positive one.

“I think we had really good discussions which are not ‘actual,’ because it’s not happening, but we need to have a contingency in place. There are different ideas and different opinions, but we kind of went through a multiple choice, and we found a pretty good consensus on most of the things.”

He confirmed that Bernie Ecclestone’s idea for a ‘GP1’-style package to be provided by a third party has lost momentum: “I think the way forward which we including Bernie see at the moment is that the constructors should be able to supply cars to interested parties, rather than having a single source of chassis supplier.”

Another key subject discussed today was how F1 cars should look in 2017.

“We talked about the regulations we have decided on for 2017, wider tyres, wider cars. We discussed, ‘Are those cars attractive?’ Or if not, do we want to tackle it from a design side, or do we want to tackle it from a technical side? Do we want to say those cars want to be five seconds quicker and they just happen to look like they do from a technical point of view, which is my opinion? Or do we want to bring up some design concepts and say this is how the car needs to look, which is not going to make it faster.”

Meanwhile Horner agreed that it had been a good meeting.

“We had a mandate from the Strategy Group to discuss a few things,” the Red Bull boss told this writer. “All of the discussions for the future were positive, so nice to see that the teams were on the same page for once. Customer cars are something I’ve supported for a few years now. It’s to offer an alternative if teams really get themselves into trouble. They can focus on being a race team. I think it would be a healthy thing for either an existing team or a new team coming into the sport.”

8 Comments

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8 responses to “F1’s top teams discuss “franchise” cars contingency plan

  1. Glen

    Jesus Christ!

    Hey, people, here’s a suggestion for you: Instead of spending your energy coming up with complicated plans which will ruin F1, in case a few teams drop out, why don’t you spend that same energy to come up with simple plans which will prevent those teams dropping out? Prevention is better than cure, as they say.

    For a bunch of really clever executives, these people are absolute fuckwits.

  2. Rearranging chairs on the Titanic, anyone?

    This is window dressing from the most optimistic point of view. It does absolutely nothing to address the key problems in a sport that I’ve loved, idolised and watched for over 20 years. These people can’t see the trees for the woods, nor the woods for the trees. They’re too busy making sure their leaf isn’t the first one to fall.

    As with other sports, the Ts and Cs, the regulations and the running of the sport should not be left to anyone with an interest in the machinations of the sport. Look at FIFA: they get their income solely from the sport and they’re more corrupt than Mugabe. Bernie Ecclestone is more of a Teflon sheik than Sepp Blatter, Juan Antonio Samaranche, Tony Blair, George Dubya Bush and Lance Armstrong ever were.

    Franchise cars aren’t the way to go. The sport needs to look at why, at an stage since the FW14b of the early 90s, there haven’t been more than two or three truly competitive cars in a world championship year.

    I have my own ideas, if anyone with a dick wants to give me a shout.

  3. Peterg

    What’s the difference between a customer car and a franchise car?

    Franchise cars don’t overtake the official team! This proposal has the potential to produce a team whose sole role is to block for the primary team.

  4. Robert McKay

    ““We call them franchise cars. I think we need to have a contingency plan in place to say what happens if a team or two drops out? What do we do? I think we don’t want to be in front of the snake, ‘Oh my God. now we are down to 18 cars or 16 cars.’”

    What you COULD do, Toto, is sit down with some of those other teams and actually work out a proper solution for the sport, instead of cutting off even some of the Strategy Group teams, let alone the rest of the grid, and getting together with your BFFFTs (Best Friends Forever…For Today) to work out ways to actively cut the smaller teams out of the sport.

    Glen…spot on. These guys are fuckwits.

  5. GeorgeK

    This is a Gordian knot of epic proportions. Not only are we lacking an Alexander to cut through the ensnarling bullshit, they seemingly are determined to add more rope to the pile.

    The most intriguing part is the franchisees don’t get to work on the cars between races? They get the chariots on Wednesday before a race and give them back afterwards? What’s the point in being a race team??

  6. Stuart

    The irony of all this is that the teams discussing this included two teams, who in a previous life, were manufactures who at the drop of a hat dropped out of the series and were only rescued at the last second. The idea that their fix for the problems F1 is having is to ensure that if a manufactuer leaves, rather than having two cars leave the series, we now have 4, 6 or more leave is absolutely ridiculous. Go to a $100 million dollar budget for 2016, and give all teams a reasonably equal share of the prize money with no payments for how long they were in the sport, or whether they signed an agreement 8 years ago, and the issues are fixed. The money involved in F1 is self sustaining, its only the greed of the few that are causing these problems.

  7. Gary

    This “franchise car” concept sounds like it is one step removed from a Skip Barber Racing “arrive and drive” program.

    Technology and cost have ruined my sport. For reference, I started watching and going in 1969 when I was 8 years old.

  8. DaveyM

    F1 is dead. Long live the WEC.

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