Is F1 ready for customer cars again?

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Initial reports from the F1 Strategy Group meeting seem to imply that the door has been opened to customer cars. This is not a new concept and they used to be an entry point for small teams back in the glory years. Former FIA president Max Mosley was instrumental in the March team and chassis options that folks could purchase and race.

Now, I know that Sir Frank Williams has always been against the idea of customer cars and when the topic came up last, it ushered in the option of three-car teams. That didn’t go anywhere either.

The fact is, some folks are for it and others against it and interestingly, you would think all the small teams would be in favor but I seem to recall even Sauber having concerns over the notion.

Is this the key to cutting costs? Sir Frank himself may not have gotten into F1 had it not been for customer cars. If memory serves correctly, it was the issue that prevented Dave Richards at ProDrive from entering the series several years ago.

The row prompted allegations that Toro Rosso was effectively using Red Bull’s chassis and that didn’t go over very well prompting the team to redouble their efforts and create their own cars from the ground up.

So could this be a grand equalizer given that topics on the table were centered on cutting wind tunnel work, widening tires, capping engine supply costs and more? It seems odd that those were tabled in favor for a discussion over customer cars but then this model worked in the past and could provide more cars on the grid so you could see why they went down this rabbit trail. What do you think? Good idea or bad?

Hat Tip: AUTOSPORT

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anthonyvop

Kind of funny the Frank Williams is against customer cars when he started Willaims Grand Prix Engineering by running a March 761 for Patrick Nève

Veldask Krofkomanov

That was over 40 years ago. Have you kept every single one of your values, beliefs, and opinions the same throughout 40 years? I doubt it. I certainly haven’t. We come upon circumstances, happenings, changes, etc, in our life experiences, that alter the way we view things. Things do not remain constant, rather, they are dynamic. Just because FW may have been in favor of customer cars 40 years ago does not mean there is anything wrong if he is against them now. First, Formula 1 is different now than it was then. I remember 40 years ago I was… Read more »

anthonyvop

It is one thing to change one’s opinion.
It is another thing to benefit and establish oneself a certain way and then want to deny others(potential competitors) the same opportunity.

Yeti

Customer cars are a bad idea, because it will strengthen one manufacturer, therefore pushing other manufacturers to the back. And because of this, these manufacturers will pull out when they keep ending up last, reducing the number of manufacturers. This will continue until there is one manufacturer left with a lot of customers and F1 is effectively a one-make series. This has happened to other Open Wheel Series in the past as well, like CART en IRL. Circumstances are different than 40 years ago when the manufacturers were mostly garagists (who didn’t need to defend the spending of money in… Read more »

Richardnew

Most of the English teams began with the kit cars. March, Williams, Lotus and McLaren to mention a few. Now that they don’t want anyone else to do what they did.

MIE

March were the constructor selling their chassis to other customers.
The kit cars of the 1970s were either an off the shelf chassis (from March or another constructor) mated to a Cosworth engine and Heal and gearbox. It was these two components that enabled small teams to try building their own chassis to try and beat the opposition.
The manufacturer teams (Ferrari, Alfa, Renault etc) never sold their cars and engines or gearboxes to customers. This proposal is not a return to the old days of F1, but a repeat of the downfall of CART.

Richardnew

You simply can’t have a major race with 10 cars. And that is exactly where we’re headed.

Mike W

I would worry that a move to customer cars would weaken the manufacturer base that supports F1, that it would cheapen the image of F1, reduce the exclusive nature of F1 teams, and that it would bring too many unfortunate comparisons to spec series. I worry that F1 has gone too long with its current management structure and that it is doomed to kill itself in the long run, since nobody seems to be interested in making wise decisions for the health of the sport. Meanwhile, WEC has a fantastic manufacturer based championship going on… and Formula E (while it… Read more »

Fred Talmadge

Maybe this is a way to entice VW/Audi into the sport by making it a littler easier/cheaper.

Schmorbraten

It kills the business model of the existing small teams – are you really asking who is in favour of that concept? I’d modify the conditions for buying parts of the car like this: if you can’t construct an engine, then you can buy an engine but only if you construct your own chassis (this part is how it’s currently done), or if you don’t want to invest in constructing your own chassis, you can buy a complete chassis, but only if you bring in your own, new engine. Even better would be an added restriction the other way round:… Read more »

JustCoz

That would never, ever work. Ferrari would just develop the engine or the chassis under the Maserati name, provide it to Sauber, and resell it back to themselves. Problem solved. Mercedes would do something similar with Lotus or Force India.

DRS_Matt

If you must do this, and there are reasons to, make it an extentsion of the unofficial “B team” system. One manufacturer has to only supply one team at a time. That way they dont all flock to one successful company so quickly.

Also make them ineligible for the constructors championship, as they arent constructors.

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