F1 teams plot junior championship
A championship-within-a-championship could increase interest and boost grid numbers
F1 chiefs are considering setting up a ‘junior world championship’ should the grid drop below a certain level, F1 Racing can exclusively reveal.
Mercedes F1 boss Toto Wolff told F1 Racing that the idea had been discussed as a possible “contingency plan” should the sport “lose another team or two”.
Wolff said that he and his fellow bosses were thinking about: “Giving the opportunity [for teams] to enter a third car with young drivers or junior drivers, with the potential of selling the livery to different sponsors. Maybe even setting up a junior world championship.”
He added: “The third car wouldn’t be part of the main drivers’ championship, because you don’t want the third car to interfere in what’s seen as the main championship.
“So you could put the best-placed junior driver on the podium with the other three and make him score points in the ‘junior championship’. And that would spice up Formula 1.
“Imagine a field where you had, say, Pascal Wehrlein in a Mercedes, Max Verstappen in a Red Bull, Alex Lynn in a Williams and Jolyon Palmer in a Lotus. And you put them in the same car as the two main drivers. Wouldn’t that be interesting, to see how they perform, fighting it out their own championship?
“But they would only be allowed to stay in the car for a year before they had to progress into the main championship.” The idea has emerged from continuing discussions over what to do if some of the teams experiencing financial difficulties fail to survive.
The collapse of Caterham at the end of last season has dropped the grid to 20 cars – a figure considered the ideal minimum for the sport, and on which all the financial contracts are based.
Only the last-minute revival of Manor Marussia stopped the grid plummeting to 18 cars. And Lotus, Force India and Sauber are still all struggling to make ends meet.
Small teams have long been opposed to F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone’s proposals for the larger teams to run third cars, as they fear it would push them further from points-scoring positions. They have also rejected his idea for the larger teams to sell customer cars to the smaller teams.
Wolff said he didn’t support customer cars. “This is a constructors’ championship and the highest league in motorsport,” he said. “Even the small teams have clearly expressed the opinion that they would like to remain as constructors. That rule has already been weakened because the only thing you need to make today is the monocoque and the bodywork and we shouldn’t loosen it up even more.”
This debate is one of many parallel discussions about the state of F1 and how to revive interest. Bosses have been concerned about the drop in television audiences in some major markets, such as Germany and Italy in 2014. OTHER IDEAS CONSIDERED Ecclestone has proposed another series of gimmicks, including the re-introduction of the controversial double points scheme, although he wants to extend it to the last three races of the season, as he had originally intended, rather than just the last grand prix of the year.
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