Sir Frank Williams may have gotten his start in Formula 1 by using a customer chassis but he’s been a strong proponent of only allowing true constructors in the series for decades. He foots the bill and builds his own chassis and feels that all teams should.
Some teams have offered a solution to a waning grid by suggesting that customer cars may be a good move to fill the grid and while Dave Richards of Pro Drive was keen to enter F1 a few years ago, the ban on customers cars prevented him from going any further. Is 2016 a year to offer customer cars like March did all those years ago?
For new F1 entrant Haas F1, the lines have been blurred on what a constructor actually is. Team owner, Gene Haas, spoke in Mexico last week and parsed words very carefully when he said:
“I think there is a lot of muddle in terms of what is a constructor,” said Haas. “As soon as you buy your first bolt you’re no longer 100 per cent a constructor. Apart from two teams that I know of, everybody else buys engines and transmissions from other suppliers.
“All the teams are having customer cars, it’s just to what percentage. I think that Formula One is a little bit unique in that everybody believes that Formula One are unique constructors but when you start looking behind the scenes the reality is it’s not such a black and white line, it’s more in the middle.”
In reality, you could suggest that buying transmissions or a wheel nut from a vendor means you are not 100% constructor but that’s not what F1 legends such as Williams is referring to. It’s building your own chassis regardless of where you get your bolts from. Designing and building a chassis is a key issue.
Haas F1 will field a Dallara chassis with a Ferrari power unit and transmission leaving many wondering just how much of the car is truly Haas F1.
Haas ultimately feels F1 is focused on the wrong issue. Cost controls are one thing but as usual, implemented cost controls usually are met with cost increases and that’s the nature of F1. Haas feels they should get their focus on creating a series of true international competition and not get hung up over constructor vs customer cars issues:
“The bigger influence we have is on this as national rivals… basically, an American team now is going to compete with the Germans and the Italians and I think that has a much more international interest than say what we do as a team to the other teams because let’s face it Formula One is an international motor sport.
“In racing everybody wants to do it for as little as possible but everybody wants to win. Obviously there’s these counter productive goals. If you want to win you’re going to have to spend money to do that and quite frankly all these cost controls that they put in place only seem to wind up costing a lot more money in some other areas. I don’t know if we really save a lot of money with all these cost controls. We want cost controls, but for him not for me.”
As F1 fans, are you concerned over the thought of customer cars? Would you be offended or would it be bad for F1 if a team like Haas showed up on the grid in 2017 with a Ferrari chassis and power train? This is not very unlike buying a March chassis and a Ford DFV engine to go racing but has the sport progressed beyond that model or is it time to revisit it in favor of controlling costs?
Hat Tip: James Allen on F1