NEW RULES BUT NO THIRD CARS
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…