Forget F1’s third car idea; ‘Servant Teams’ already a ‘real problem’

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Regardless of the recent spate of Jean Todt fueled commentary about the 2021 regulations not luring new manufacturers to the sport, about how four manufacturers is about all he thought would be involved and how it’s good because they service 2.5 each, the discussions continue and much of it centered around the manufacturer dominance, third cars and satellite teams.

While Mercedes boss, Toto Wolff, was keen to see a third car to each team in order to find a home for his junior drivers, Esteban Ocon and George Russell, other teams aren’t too keen on the idea and feel that Mercedes, Ferrari, and Red Bull would then lock out the top 9 positions on the grid leaving the midfield pointless. Red Bull boss Christian Horner said:

“It’s an interesting one. But the practicalities of running three-car teams – there are things like pitstops – it’s a very complicated thing to do,” Red Bull boss Christian Horner told Autosport.

“Interesting in concept, but once you get into the practicalities of it, it’s very, very complex. I can’t see the midfield being particularly happy with it.”

The third car may not be a favorite as the current team alliances and satellite teams are presenting enough of a challenge as it is. Renault’s technical chief, Nick Chester, reckons these “servant teams” are a real issue especially if the FIA mandates any sort of budget cap in 2021.

“I think it is a real problem if that model continues into budget cap,” Chester told Autosport. “I cannot see how a team can fight at the front without having one or two satellite teams.

“I think it is something really important that the FIA and F1 need to look at. If that model cannot be effectively got rid of, it will be a big problem and you will end up where, if you want to win, you have to be a manufacturer with two satellite teams or you don’t think about winning.

“I think it has a lot of implications going forward.”

Ultimately the FIA have to consider what the servant teams are doing and what role they will have in F1 as well. Haas being the punching bag du jour as they took advantage of a listed-parts program to enter the sport. The FIA’s Charlie Whiting says it is something they are looking at and they’ve closed the loophole that allowed Haas F1 into the sport under that program.

“It’s something that we should be concerned about, and it’s something we will be discussing,” said Whiting. “The [Haas/Ferrari] relationship started it.

“We knew exactly how that was possible in the beginning, and there was a loophole in the beginning which has been closed to new entrants, which is what [Haas] were able to do.

“But the sort of things we’re hearing about are alliances between existing teams. I think that needs to be looked at very carefully.”

Haas F1 says that those who are complaining are just jealous and sure, why wouldn’t McLaren be as they trundle around in the back and this new team is beating them like an area rug at spring cleaning.

There’s also a couple of things Chester say that might help.

“We either need to reverse out of some of the non-listed parts, so there is less part sharing.

“If there is going to be part sharing then they need to be standardized,” he said.

“Otherwise there are just too many benefits to the satellite team model, which just makes it unattractive for anyone not operating that model.”

Now before you get all funny and wobbly-knees, the fact is that the manufacturers are calling most of the shots in F1 because they are the ones paying for it and this comes back to my repetitive warning that the 2021 regulations could be the most significant time in F1 history.

Whether the FIA make serious changes with spec parts, or will they just stick with what the current four manufacturers want? Will they have some deference for the mid-field privateers or has F1 become and engineering propeller-head lab for rapid prototyping of road-relevant tech, safety and sustainability? If it is the latter, the fans will have a choice. If it is the former, the manufacturers will have a choice but in either scenario, F1 had better have a backup plan because it could get ugly.

“I think it is bad news because ideally, you want a lot of teams that can win.

“You want the manufacturers, you want some very good independents, and if you have this model where teams can collaborate, there is no point in being an independent any more.

“It kills that chance of having a good independent team.

“None of the satellites will ever make it to the front either, so you will just end up with three teams at the top.”

The interesting thing is that this is coming from a team member of a manufacturer and it’s the kind of thing you used to hear Ferrari say but now it’s coming from France. Enzo had little interest in what he called the “Garagistas” or privateers/independents until they started beating him and then that’s when the fun started. These days, that’s just not going to happen with the current regulations. Clean slate time or more of the same? Only time and Jean Todt will tell.

Hat Tip: Autosport and Autosport

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Fast Freddy

Bottom line is more cars and more teams with a chance of winning. IMHO of course.


It’s fascinating that we all hate “standardized parts” (F1 isn’t a spec series!!!), yet we all desperately crave for the return of the era when all the teams were running the same engine (a Cosworth DFV, sans Ferrari). Can we have this again? Not in the hybrid era!!! Endurance racing has tons of cheap engine suppliers available, and the reason is most teams run big V8s (other than the 1 LMP1 Hybrid team and a few V6 turbos). The point is, if you want more teams, more winners, better racing, and more opportunities for young drivers; you don’t need three… Read more »


I’m not clear why this site is so fixated on the idea that the hybrid p.u is ruining the sport. Having four p.u’s available to the teams that are closely matched (they are getting there), and affordable (the suppliers have agreed on a maximum cost to the teams) gives a situation similar to the ‘golden’ cosworth era. I look at the grid and see that the top three teams each have different p.u’s and are a significant step faster than rival teams with the same p.u’s (Mercedes vs F.I and Williams, RBR vs Renault, and Ferrari vs Haas and Sauber)… Read more »


Let me ask you a question: Have you physically been to a race and heard the hybrids? If so, would you rather hear the beastly V10s, or the snowflake hybrids?


At the end of the era, with the engines from all manufacturers constrained to the same bore, stroke and V angle, they all tended to sound the same. This got much worse with the rev limited V8s that followed. At least now the different manufacturers products sound different. Admittedly not as different as they did in 1989, but then there were V8s, V10s and V12s to listen to.


Nope I haven’t heard the hybrids first hand. I have heard the late 1990’s V10’s first hand and they (to me) were painfully loud. I’ve also heard the 1980’s turbo fours, and early 2010’s V8’s with KERS, also to me just loud, impressive at first but ultimately too loud. If I can’t hear what the person beside me is shouting when the cars are still a few corners away, its too loud to be enjoyable. Also a massive waste of energy, I’m happy the hybrids can capture all that energy and use it to propel the car, and spare my… Read more »


There’s a bit of double standards going on here. Toro Rosso have been Red Bulls satellite team since 2006, and we’ve loved them for most of that time, because they have been the driver and engineer development lab for RBR. We haven’t been horrified by the idea that STR could never expect to win the championship, and are only a bit miffed that STR don’t fight RBR on track. But now that Mercedes and Ferrari are making similar arrangements its a tragedy and F1 will be ruined. How odd that the person raising the alarm is from the manufacturer without… Read more »

Tom Firth

Think Red Bull and STR have rights to complain. They came in with the idea of Toro Rosso running last years Red Bull as a pure satellite team in the motoGP sense of the word and at the time that was fine. Honda did it with Super Aguri and Mclaren tried to do it with ProDrive and the one that began with d and ended in x and i can’t remember the exact name of. After a little bit, the other teams got cold feet about that idea of pure satellite teams and Mateschitz has had to pay a lot… Read more »


You’re right Tom, though It could probably save Mateschitz a big swag of money.
Since the period they could run STR as pure satellite team, they’ve used them in a very strategic way, particularly this season with the trial period of the Honda p.u.
It might be that Mercedes and Ferrari would use their satellite teams in a strategic way too (i.e to trial alternative chassis and aero configurations) so maybe it could bring more diversity to the grid rather than eliminating it.


Okay, Todd, they have the budget of a factory team, and were the lead Renault powered team(s) for much of that period, so why do you think they’d be considered differently?