Formula One is split over a new proposal to allow ‘customer cars’ on the grid.
The idea is being powered chiefly by Ferrari and Bernie Ecclestone, and marketed as a way to cut costs by opening a new revenue stream for the big teams and reducing the design and manufacturing burden for struggling minnows. Mercedes, however, does not sound keen on the idea of selling a year-old chassis to its smaller rivals.
“If you ran this year with last year’s car then just guess what happens,” said the marque’s Norbert Haug.
Lotus’ Eric Boullier, however, sounds keener.
“If we have to go to customer cars to serve Formula One and be the Formula One of the future, why not? I think the discussion is open now,” he said.
Currently, all teams must design and build their own car, but the existing Concorde Agreement expires at the end of the season. Caterham, initially Team Lotus, entered F1 in 2010 and is yet to score a point.
“An idea is an idea,” said Caterham chief executive Riad Asmat when asked about customer cars. “We are proud of where we are, what we’ve built — we came in as a constructor and we hope to stay that way for now.”
Joan Villadelprat, a former F1 engineer and manager, told AS newspaper: “This idea undermines the spirit of F1. We need to reduce costs in another way.”
The ‘customer car’ issue in Formula One might not be dead quite yet. Just before last week’s meeting of the World Motor Sport Council in Paris, it emerged that proposals to allow big teams to sell full cars to their smaller F1 rivals had been talked down at the recent Canadian grand prix. But Italy’s Autosprint is reporting that the FIA “discussed the possibility” of allowing customer cars during last Friday’s Paris meeting.
The news follows the Jean Todt-led FIA’s confirmation that it is having “active discussions” about cost-cutting at the request of the teams. F1’s governing body added that “any amendments to the technical regulations resulting from a further limit on expenditure on the chassis” must be decided before the end of June.
“The intention is to help all teams participate in the championship in a fair and equal manner.”
A new ‘customer car’ plan for F1’s future is dead in the water, Germany’s Auto Motor und Sport reports.
Bernie Ecclestone revealed recently that he is planning to allow small teams to buy year-old customer cars in the next Concorde Agreement. But the F1 chief executive acknowledged the dilemma that teams taking up that option would most likely all flock to the best constructors, resulting in a dearth of constructors on the grid.
“The way I’m imagining it, this would not be possible,” Ecclestone said recently. “I’ll tell you about it soon.”
His plan may now never see the light of day. Auto Motor und Sport reports that the customer car issue is once again dead for now. The report said Ferrari and Red Bull were also championing the idea, which would have included McLaren, Mercedes, Lotus and Williams also designated as F1’s official constructors.
The other half of the grid – Sauber, Force India, Toro Rosso, Marussia, Caterham and HRT – would have had to buy their single seaters ‘off the shelf’. The report said Sauber and Force India protested the loudest.
“Who is going to forbid them from making cars?” German reporter Tobias Gruner said. “Some teams were even threatening with a move to a EU court,” he revealed.