One of the more intriguing notions in Formula One is the concept of a customer car. In the past, F1 used to have this type of format with March chassis’s and Ford DFV engines. You could buy a chassis and lump and compete on decent footing in F1 but those days have long gone. The concept was stirred a few years ago when then-president of FIA, Max Mosley, suggested the idea of new teams in F1 and three came calling. Caterham F1, Marussia and HRT. Althought they weren’t customer car teams, they were new teams with small budgets and some wondered if a customer car format wouldn’t have been a better idea.
Caterhams F1 has made a few, large changes in 2012 and one of the biggest is the removal of team owner, Tony Fernandes, as the team boss. That role has been given to Cyril Abiteboul and the youngest team boss in F1 says he thinks the 2014 rule changes will force teams to collaborate:
“It is a bit new to F1, because the teams also have to compete against each on the track, but I think the future will be about collaboration – and 2014 will urge us into considering more collaboration.”
The idea is to collaborate on systems and platforms that will help spread costs and technology across the grid. Abiteboul stops short of customer cars, however:
“There is a limit and in particular we don’t want customer cars,” he said.
“But between no collaboration at all and customer cars, there is a compromise to be found.
“I am sure we can do better than we do right now – both for Caterham and F1 in general.”
If you’ve been following Formula One for a while, you’ll recall teams such as Ferrari stating they’d like to see teams run three cars per team and some even suggest that the larger teams could offer last year’s model to smaller teams to run giving them competitive equipment.
What do you think? Collaboration amongst teams, customer cars or three-car teams? Which concept do you feel would be best for F1? Some teams, Williams F1 among them, are not keen to allow for customer teams to simply buy a Ferrari or Red Bull and race in F1. They believe a team must build their own chassis and while you can understand the issue as Williams builds their own, the team did get their start in F1 using customer cars so it’s a bit of a po/kettle issue.
Is there room for collaboration in F1? Could you see teams working together to build platforms and technologies? Force India have a technical relationship with McLaren already and you have to consider that Red Bull’s prosperity benefits their junior team, Toro Rosso. Ferrari have a relationship with Sauber as their engine supplier but the new teams and Lotus as well as Mercedes are forging their own futures. Could Abiteboul’s idea work?