Customer-car plan sparks fresh arguments
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 outts.
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.”