It is difficult to know just how the third-car rules would work in Formula 1 and given that those details and the regulatory underpinnings of the sports deal with each team is not made public, it leaves room for many assumptions.
One thing is clear, it is not as simple as the top teams fielding a third car on the grid and according to the Daily Mail, it may have more to do with providing a third car under obligation of contract to struggling teams or at least that is what F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone is insinuating:
‘They would supply a third car to someone else so if, for example, Sauber disappeared, a team could do a deal with Sauber. Ferrari could say, ”we will give you a car, all that goes with it, and we want you to put this sponsor on it. You have your own sponsors but we want you to include this one as well and we want you to take this driver”. The team wouldn’t have to go under then would they? If Red Bull decided they would give a car to Caterham for example that could solve their problem.’
This opens an interesting conversation but it still betrays the fact of payroll, daily expenses, hoteling, and per diem expenses for travel etc. While the team may enjoy a free car from, say, Ferrari, it still doesn’t get Sauber out of the wood shed as far as daily expenses go.
According to the report, Marussia gave notified to London’s High Court earlier this month that it intends to go into administration. On October 7, 2014 to quote the article. That means that both Caterham and Marussia are most likely in administration and it doesn’t look good for not only the remainder of the year but for 2015 as well.
There is little doubt that Marussia’s Japanese Grand Prix has played a toll on the team as well but it is unclear as to if a Ferrari-provided car would see the team continue in the sport even with the reduction of the research and development costs of the sport.
As the article points out, it may very well be a safety valve in order to protect the sport from contractual obligations to race organizers to retain 16 cars on the grid.
While unfortunate, it is not the end of the world for F1. HRT, Caterham and Marussia were an effort by former FIA president Max Mosley to bring new teams to F1 in a cost-controlled manor. The cost control regulations never materialized and therefore it is hard to blame small teams who entered under these pretenses to continue to battle at the financial investment level demanded by the current regulations the FIA have instituted for 2014.
It seems that the sport isn’t ready to initiate its third-car regulation as they will still have 18 cars on the grid for the remaining races. Ecclestone said:
‘We don’t have to introduce a third car at this stage because they can miss a couple of races. They lose any money they would have got for those races but they don’t lose their position in the championship. I have no idea if Marussia are going to make it in the long run. It’s better if they didn’t have to go into administration.’
It is, however, running dangerously close if rumors of Lotus or Sauber’s possible exit from F1 are true. Both teams maintain their statement of commitment to the series but that is to be expected and these are, of course, simply rumors.
Perhaps most pressing is that the news continues to bring to light the current business model of F1 and whether it is sustainable in its current format. This narrative is being played out in forums and fan comments the world over and it’s a narrative that F1 would do well to address under the circumstances of Caterham and Marussia’s situation.
Hat Tip: Daily Mail