Team bosses have played down suggestions that three-car teams could be on the F1 horizon, unless there is a major reduction in grid numbers.
Faced with the question that the sport might again be considering switching its format to have fewer teams running more cars, principals from either end of the pit-lane appeared united in claiming that the scenario would only occur if teams were forced to drop out for business reasons, rather than some being squeezed out to accommodate the new look.
“I think I'm correct in saying that, under current regulations, if the numbers of cars on the grid falls below a certain number, then certain teams are required to run three cars – but, as far as I know, there's been no discussion about three-car teams in the near future,” Marussia's John Booth explained, “Certainly, I've not been part of the discussions, [but] I assume it would need a big change in regulations to achieve that.”
Mercedes' Ross Brawn, a veteran of the fluctuating fortunes of F1 teams, confirmed Booth's assertion.
“I think it would be if we had some teams drop out and the number of entrants, the number of cars entered, dropped below a certain level, then we do have to support extra entries,” he confirmed.
Talk about three-car teams is going hand-in-hand with the suggestion – from the bigger teams – that customer cars are the best way to secure the integrity of the grid. The smaller teams, however, don't agree that that is the way that F1 should go.
“We're not a supporter of customer cars, we think the identity of the teams is important, the fact that the teams design and build their own cars is important,” Brawn continued, “However, if F1 faced a situation where we didn't have sufficient cars on the grid then, of course, a three-car team is a possibility - but only in those circumstances.”
While Booth admits that running two cars is tough enough for Marussia, Caterham's Cyril Abiteboul believes that customer cars is not the way forward, even if costs need to be reduced across the board to make it viable for the smaller teams.
“I'm not in favour of customer cars [but], having said that, I think the situation we have is not necessarily sustainable,” the Frenchman insisted, “Clearly, an analysis must be made regarding what to do, and to make sure that we anticipate that correctly, [so that] there is also a gliding path to whatever solution is retained, whether it's a budget cap, RRA….
“If we're all at fifty or one hundred million budget, the show will be no different at all, so I think that we need to be sensible about that, make sure that we are doing the right thing. If a third car is one thing to do, why not, but [in the given] example, there were only eight teams, so I would like to hope that we are not one of the three teams that will be out of the game….”
“Obviously [the smaller teams] are outnumbered, but F1 knows very well that it cannot really live without everyone, so maybe the process is a bit less inclusive than it's been in the past. It's more the goodwill and the agenda in general, rather than who is sitting [on the F1 strategy group] that will make a difference.”