Cus­tomer-car plan sparks fresh ar­gu­ments

F1 Racing - - INSIDER -

Mercedes call cus­tomer cars a ‘con­tin­gency plan’; small teams claim they’ll put them out of busi­ness

The row over cus­tomer cars has moved up a gear af­ter the F1 Strat­egy Group agreed to draw up reg­u­la­tions set­ting out how the con­cept would work in prac­tice.

The de­ci­sion cre­ated anger among the smaller teams in­clud­ing Force In­dia, even though they have a seat on the Strat­egy Group.

All teams who would po­ten­tially run cus­tomer cars – Force In­dia, Lo­tus, Sauber and Manor-Marus­sia – said they have no in­ter­est in not be­ing con­struc­tors in their own right. But Mercedes F1 boss Toto Wolff cast doubt on that, say­ing: “Three of them came to see me about sup­ply­ing cus­tomer cars.”

The Strat­egy Group’s cus­tomer­car plan is based on fac­tory teams sup­ply­ing cars, with would-be cus­tomer teams ar­rang­ing in­di­vid­ual deals with them. For ex­am­ple, a cus­tomer team could choose to buy a cur­rent car, or a year-old car. They could choose the level of up­grade pack­age to in­vest in, and so on. The more com­pet­i­tive the car, the more it would cost. But since cus­tomer teams lack the tech­ni­cal ca­pac­ity of man­u­fac­tur­ers, even a team buy­ing a top-spec pack­age would be un­likely to chal­lenge the works outts.

There is sup­port for the idea from Haas F1, who will make their de­but next year and who have based their busi­ness model on buy­ing as many parts as pos­si­ble from Fer­rari. That means ev­ery­thing ex­cept the chas­sis and aero­dy­namic sur­faces, although Haas would buy those, too, if the rules al­lowed.

The smaller teams claim cus­tomer teams are a back­door way of driv­ing them out of busi­ness. But Wolff de­scribes it as a “con­tin­gency plan” in case the smaller teams can no longer make ends meet as con­struc­tors.

“We have seen it done in NASCAR and it works pretty well,” Wolff said. “It is a case of how we nance that and the sport­ing and tech­ni­cal reg­u­la­tions. If we can nd a busi­ness case around it, we shouldn’t rule it out.”

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