NEW RULES BUT NO THIRD CARS

F1 Racing (UK) - - INSIDER -

Talk of teams run­ning third cars in For­mula 1 has ebbed and flowed for over a decade, and the gen­er­ally unloved idea reap­peared on the agenda this sum­mer courtesy of Mercedes boss Toto Wolff. For him it pre­sented a neat so­lu­tion to his prob­lem of what to do with Es­te­ban Ocon (see page 42), but while Wolff found some re­cep­tive ears – F1 race di­rec­tor Char­lie Whit­ing said there was some merit – it failed to go the dis­tance.

Third cars were dis­cussed briefly at the most re­cent meet­ing of F1’s Strat­egy Group, but the idea was shot down and Wolff ad­mit­ted he didn’t fight to save it. The ma­jor­ity of teams fear that ex­tra cars from the big­gest out­fits would sim­ply lock out more po­si­tions at the front of the field, thereby mak­ing life harder for those out­side the priv­i­leged cir­cle.

How­ever, while third cars will not be com­ing to F1 soon, there are other rules changes in the off­ing that could have a sub­stan­tial im­pact for fans and teams.

The first is an idea for a shake-up of F1’s qual­i­fy­ing sys­tem – adding one more ses­sion to the hour of ac­tion on a Satur­day af­ter­noon. In prac­tice this would mean four cars would be elim­i­nated in Q1, Q2 and Q3, leav­ing just eight for a fi­nal shoot-out in a new Q4 ses­sion.

In the­ory, adding a ses­sion should cre­ate un­cer­tainty and op­por­tu­ni­ties to fail, since the top driv­ers would need to nail at least one more quick lap than they do un­der the cur­rent sys­tem. Also, hav­ing only eight cars in Q4 should make the com­pe­ti­tion in Q3 more in­tense.

A change such as this would re­quire some think­ing about un­in­tended consequences – at the mo­ment, rules re­gard­ing tyre choice can make it strate­gi­cally ad­van­ta­geous to start just out­side the top 10 – but Whit­ing be­lieves the con­cept has po­ten­tial.

“Slightly shorter [ses­sions], less time be­tween them, four go out in Q1, four, four, leav­ing eight. I per­son­ally think it’s quite a nice idea,” he says.

An­other, more sig­nif­i­cant change is the like­li­hood of more stan­dard parts in the fu­ture. This is a philo­soph­i­cal bat­tle­ground since a num­ber of man­u­fac­tur­ers be­lieve it di­lutes the power of their brands – and brand im­age is what drew them to F1 in the first place.

But move­ment on cost con­trol is now vir­tu­ally in­evitable be­cause it is the wish of the com­mer­cial rights holder and has the tacit back­ing of the FIA. A bud­get cap is highly likely to be part of the 2021 reg­u­la­tions.

“THE MA­JOR­ITY OF TEAMS FEAR THAT EX­TRA CARS FROM THE BIG­GEST OUT­FITS WOULD SIM­PLY LOCK OUT MORE PO­SI­TIONS AT THE FRONT OF THE FIELD

Be­ing able to run three cars would solve Toto Wolff’s prob­lem…

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