F1 teams plot ju­nior cham­pi­onship

F1 Racing - - INSIDER - FI­NAN­CIAL STRUG­GLES

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.

Wil­liams devel­op­ment driver Susie Wolff sees a women-only cham­pi­onship as a ret­ro­grade step

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