The issue of whether F1 teams should be allowed to field a third car in each grand prix will be debated in future meetings of the F1 Commission, after Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo raised the subject once more in the build-up to the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

Although the Commission met between the Indian and Abu Dhabi rounds of the world championship, the matter was not on the agenda, and it is clear that various team principals have different ideas about its implementation. While the sport's minnows, like Marussia Virgin Racing, would be happy to keep the two-car format currently employed, the bigger players can see reasons for and against the introduction of an additional entry.

All, however, insist that the subject has to be approached responsibly, in order not to damage the livelihoods of the smaller entrants or the sport in general. While di Montezemolo has his own reasons for continually pushing the proposal, such as increased exposure for the Ferrari brand and its technical expertise, the current gulf between the top three or four teams and the midfield, and the same sort of gap to the 'third division' outfits such as Marussia Virgin, would make it difficult for the smaller teams to score points without the system being revamped again. Indeed, given the current status quo, and the level of reliability throughout the field, di Montezemolo may find his precious scarlet cars fighting for seventh place behind three Red Bulls and three McLarens, with the threat of improvement at Mercedes potentially weakening the Prancing Horse still further.

"We didn't discuss it in Geneva, as it wasn't on the agenda, [but] it is a point of discussion for the future of F1," Ferrari team principal Stefano Domenicali confirmed, "As always, I think it is very important to understand the pros and cons of all these things and it is fundamental to discuss with all the stakeholders, the constructors and the teams that are involved in F1. At the moment, I cannot say more than that [but], for sure, [it is] something that we need to put on the table and, if it a solution for a better F1, we will go for it. Otherwise, we will see."

Mercedes team principal Ross Brawn, who has seen F1 from both sides of the financial coin, admitted that the idea of third cars could not be discounted, even though he understood the threat to the smaller teams.

"I don't think third cars are out of the question, but I think what we mustn't do is create a situation that harms the financial and sporting environment for the smaller constructors because, if we do something that makes their situation far more difficult, then what have we achieved?" he mused, "We'd have achieved a smaller group of manufacturers and I don't think that's good. It can be a solution if we are getting short of cars, but I would far rather see a healthy group of constructors and as many as we can."

McLaren's Martin Whitmarsh echoed Brawn's caution, but admitted that there could be some interesting uses for an additional entry.

"We would all be excited to have [Valentino] Rossi or Sebastien Loeb or someone [like that] in an F1 car," he ventured, "It would be great but, as Ross said, I think we have got to act responsibly.

"I think the DNA, the structure of F1, requires a 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 F1. 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 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."

That view would come as welcome relief for Marussia Virgin team boss John Booth, whose operation continues to search for a way top move up the grid. Like Force India, Virgin will enjoy a technical collaboration with McLaren from next season but, with a nod to the parallel argument about allowing the smaller teams to run 'customer cars', the Yorkshireman insists that every team should continue to build its own machines.

"I think, first of all, we have a very healthy grid of cars at the moment," Booth claimed, "I don't really see any need to change the formula. From our point of view, it is important that every entrant is a constructor."



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