Despite establishing links with teams further down the F1 grid, McLaren
would not back supplying rivals with complete cars, according to head man Martin Whitmarsh.
Responding to the latest suggestion from F1 ringmaster Bernie Ecclestone, who admitted that 'customer cars' may be a means of levelling the grid in times of economic struggle [see story here
], Whitmarsh explained that it was not within McLaren's tenet for F1 to become a forum for buying and selling between teams.
“I think McLaren, philosophically, are not sure that customer cars are the right thing for the sport," he told a McLaren
media phone-in, "It is a characteristic of F1, one of the features that differentiates it from other motorsport, to have teams as constructors, responsible for building and developing their own vehicles, and having the variety that comes from that."
The Woking team has enjoyed a 'technical partnership' with fellow Mercedes customer Force India
for several years, has added a similar agreement with Marussia for 2012, and was once rumoured to be on the verge of supplying customer cars to Prodrive, only to have that deal scuppered by a clarification of the rules concerning such relationships.
As such, and despite his reservations, Whitmarsh conceded that, should the F1 regulations be opened up to allow the supply of customer cars, his team would be obliged to consider the possibility, both for its own business and the ongoing future of F1.
"We'd obviously have to look at it,” Whitmarsh acknowledged, "We have to be aware of the financial challenges of this sport, and it may be necessary, to either allow some of the smaller teams to survive or to allow new entrants to come in, for there to be an interim customer car allowance. However, we have to be careful that, while some teams may find [the idea] attractive, it may be a threat to the structure of the middle order teams, such as Williams
and Force India, if customer teams were able, without the capital investment, to compete with them. It could damage the balance we currently have in the sport."
That said, however, Whitmarsh accepted the need for F1 to survive with a good field and a degree of competition between those taking part.
“We need at least 20 cars, and we need them to relatively competitive to put on a show, so we may have to resort to a variety of tactics to achieve that.”