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Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Difficult days for the small teams

Will Marussia survive the coming season in its current form or might they do better if they were able to buy their design from the likes of Williams, Sauber, or Force India.  This would benefit the midfield teams from a monetary point-of-view and provide Marussia with a design which has been shown to be good enough to score points consistently and reach the podium on occasion.

It would give us, the fans, a good idea of the drivers' abilities in a reasonable machine and would tighten up the midfield battle.  Let's face it we've had situations in the recent past where works teams are being raced against and beaten by teams to whom they have supplied engines, what is the difference between that and two midfield teams racing each other using the same base chassis?

HRT & Marussia might have raced competitively had they the use of another team's tried and tested design
Courtesy HRT F1
You'll remember that, prior to the US GP in Austin this year, Mario Andretti called for teams to be able to run third cars and guest drivers in an effort to increase the popularity of the sport in the USA and around the world. He told the media that he wouldn't have been in F1, not to mind World Drivers' Champion if the third car rule wasn't in place.  Andretti got his first pole position at his first race in Formula 1 at the 1968 US GP in Watkins Glen thanks to Colin Chapman who provided him with a Lotus 49:

I would love F1 go back to the rule where you could add a third car and have guest driver come in; that's how I broke in. If you can have your own guys flying their own flag in their country it brings a lot more attention. It always plays well and the more buzz you 
can create the better
Ferrari have been calling for the re-introduction of this rule since 2009 when Luca di Montezemolo wanted to bring Michael Schumacher back to race alongside Felipe Massa and Fernando Alonso in 2010.  At that time he said that the teams at the back of the grid were dangerous because they were too small and too slow and a third car being raced by Ferrari, Red Bull, McLaren and Williams would provide for a more competitive and safer spectacle.

In 2010 Ferrari clarified their position in relation to the third car question at the FOTA Fans' Forum saying that they would make a competitive car available to a new team on the grid.

di Montezemolo is nothing if not consistent; at the Ferrari World Finals at Mugello last year he further clarified the Ferrari position:
There's the issue of the third car, which mark my words, we support not so much for our own interests but more for those of the sport in general. We believe the interest of the fans, media and sponsors could increase if there is a bigger number of competitive cars on track rather than cars that are two or three seconds off the pace, being lapped after just a few laps.
There you are, it would be nice one day in the future to see one of our cars running in American colours, or Chinese, or maybe those of Abu Dhabi.
When asked by Autosport Bernie Ecclestone said that:
If by chance we lost a couple of teams then I think it will probably be good.  But the other teams don't like it. You can imagine if we have got three Ferraris, three Red Bulls, and three McLarens, it is not so good for other people.
Martin Whitmarsh, McLaren disagrees with the third car proposals on the basis that F1 should be concentrating on ensuring that all the teams on the grid can be competitive:
I think the DNA, the structure of Formula 1, requires the variety of teams and we have got some new teams and we have got some smaller teams and we recognise that it is very, very challenging to get the budget to compete in Formula 1.If, today, Ferrari, Red Bull, McLaren, Mercedes all fielded third cars then I think, in my view, it would be damaging for the sport. There are pros and cons and I think it is right to have the debate and people have different views but at the moment I think what we should be concentrating on is ensuring that we have got a viable and sustainable model for all of the teams in F1.
It doesn't discuss the impact of having guest drivers participating in local events in competitive machinery, something which might see Indycar drivers sitting on the F1 grid in the USA, Fisichella or Trulli at Monza, etc.

The idea has been mooted before and has operated in one form or another over recent years.  David Richards (ex-BAR Team Principal) planned to enter a Prodrive Team in 2008 running a privateer McLaren, Super Aguri ran  the previous year's Honda F1 car in '06, '07 & '08, and Toro Rosso used cars designed by Red Bull for a long time even though they made alterations to the rear of the cars to enable Ferrari engines to be fitted.

Vettel wins in Monza in 2008 in a Toro Rosso owing much to its sister Red Bull as shown below
both photographs copyright owned by: Clive Mason/Getty Images

In fact, it was the Toro Rosso/Red Bull car (as above) giving Sebastian Vettel his maiden win at Monza in 2008 which prompted the midfield teams to complain on the basis that Formula 1 is about the constructors and each constructor was only entitled to race two cars, not four.

Ross Brawn, last year after a meeting of the Technical Working Group said that the possibility wasn't out of the question, but that it would have to make any arrangement fair to the smaller constructor teams, while Martin Whitmarsh said:

We'd all be excited to see a Valentino Rossi or a Sebastien Loeb in an F1 car but we have to act responsibly. It's challenging for teams to attract the budgets to go racing and if the top four teams ran third cars I feel it would be damaging to the sport
Marussia Team Boss, John Booth agreed that every entrant should be a constructor.

The real argument, historically, would appear to have been that the new teams would need time to build up resources, experience, and improve and as such, bringing in privateers racing third cars would kill the small constructor teams off.  That argument is losing credence now with the demise of HRT, the elevation of Caterham to Column 2 of the Concorde Agreement and the recent news that Marussia, the only "new" team left has not been offered a new Concorde Agreement deal.

Ferrari will continue to agitate for the customer car option:
There are three basic reasons for this. The gap between the best five or six teams and the back is too big, secondly to race for a small team today is very expensive when you have to develop a new car it gets difficult, thirdly I want to see new new drivers in Formula One
Look at the past Giancarlo Baghetti that won a fantastic race in Formula One, his first with the privately run Ferrari. I would like to see McLaren, Ferrari, Williams and Red Bull supplying other teams to make sure that they are more competitive. it means that they spend less money and then we can give room to the drivers of the future
I would like to see Williams, Sauber, and Force India supplying the smaller teams: it would achieve the same result but would provide the monetary benefit to the midfield, as they improve so do those at the back.