Op-Ed: A modest proposal — to be in F1 you have to build a road car

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Martin Whitmarsh’s statements from earlier today that the top Formula 1 teams would welcome the chance to field a third car got me thinking, a little of it in the post on Whitmarsh’s comments.

I’ve added in some consideration of Le Mans, which looms this weekend, and my thoughts have fleshed out a bit more.

Here’s my thinking:

Although it flies in the face of Formula 1’s history (as if that’s ever stopped Bernie Ecclestone and/or the FIA), I’m intrigued by a rule that would allow teams into F1 only if the company also produced a street-legal production car.

Yeah, I guess I’m suggesting a manufacturers-only F1.

So McLaren, Ferrari, even Lotus, in. Sauber, Force India, HRT (as far as I know), out.

Yes, out, too, Williams. (That one hurts maybe.)

What this would produce, of course, is ultimate bragging rights, much along the lines of what was at stake at Le Mans in the 1960s between Ford and Ferrari.

If, say, McLaren were to win the constructors’ championship, it could very credibly claim it beat the best of the best.

It might also be the key to getting some reluctant teams — I’m looking at you, Audi — into the series, spicing up the competition.

I also think it would behoove an American manufacturer — Ford, GM — to step up and show the world what it’s got. Bonus: It would help support a USGP.

In Mark Webber’s parlance, this would be the ultimate man challenge.

Now, I know it’s blasphemy, and I even wonder if this rule wasn’t proposed somewhere in a deep dungeon by Max Mosley as he sought to create a manufacturers-dominated series. It’s the ultimate trump card when it comes to turning Formula 1 into a manufacturer’s series.

And I know that a manufacturer’s F1 is just anathema to many of you. I think that includes Negative Camber, if I’m remembering right.

I also know all the dangers involved, most notably when manufacturers pull a Honda or Toyota. Or if they suddenly are too powerful as a group.

But the teams don’t all have to be the big car companies. They can be near glorified racing outfits.

Spyker has a car out there on the road, much as McLaren does. Ferrari’s probably the biggest of the “little companies” (setting aside its being owned by Fiat). But why not a Lamborghini? It doesn’t have to be a Toyota, after all, joining up.

Maybe we could get Jaguar back out to play. Or how about an Aston-Martin F1 team? Why not Bugatti or Bentley?

And you honestly wouldn’t be excited about the Koenigsegg F1 team?

Plus, maybe if this rule were in place it would discourage companies from leaving. Doing so would be a total surrender.

Now, I’m certain this idea will be hugely unpopular. And I’m not saying it has to happen or that I’m 100% behind it.

I’m just intrigued. It seems like it might be a way to build broader support among fans who would be more familiar with Mercedes than Sauber, for instance.

It seems like all those governments Bernie works with would like to welcome Audi more than Williams.

So, I’m intrigued. Mostly to hear why this is a terrible idea.

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