Time for 3-car teams in F1…again?

It was a sunny day on July 2, 1961 at the French Grand Prix and that Sunday, Ferrari had four cars on the grid. Richie Ginther, Phil hill, Wolfgang von Trips and a man who won his very first grand prix that day—Giancarlo Baghetti.

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Baghetti entered the race in a privately entered Ferrari and the crowd at Reims was delighted to see Baghetti win his very first race in Formula 1. It was an era with loose restrictions on who entered the race and obviously so but it also proved a point back in 2011.

On November 13, 2011, AUTOSPORT ran a story featuring Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo as he was on a fresh push for three-car teams in F1. The Italian team brought the notion forth during a discussion involving the issue of intellectual property and technology being transferred between teams. For Luca’s part, he felt it was time to visit the idea of three-car teams:

“We believe the interest of the fans, media and sponsors could increase if there is a bigger number of competitive cars on track rather than cars that are two or three seconds off the pace, being lapped after just a few laps.

“As an example, remember in 1961 Giancarlo Baghetti won the French Grand Prix at Reims with a privately entered Ferrari. There you are, it would be nice one day in the future to see one of our cars running in American colours, or Chinese, or maybe those of Abu Dhabi.”

At the time, F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone said he didn’t think this would become a reality unless the series started losing teams—and that’s the key point in this quote:

“If by chance we lost a couple of teams then I think it will probably be good.

“But the other teams don’t like it. You can imagine if we have got three Ferraris, three Red Bulls, and three McLarens, it is not so good for other people.”

While McLaren’s boss, at the time, Martin Whitmarsh was against the idea and so too was Williams F1’s Sir Frank Williams, Ferrari were keen to give it a whirl. Today, the issue has raised its head again with Ecclestone commenting on the issue of small teams possibly leaving F1 due to financial restraints and soaring costs to compete in F1:

“They must stop. If you don’t have the finances, you quit.

“I’m ready for a Formula 1 with eight teams with three cars each.

“Is it better to have a third Ferrari or a Caterham? Ferrari could maybe find new sponsors in the USA and an American driver: fantastic. It is the same for the others.

“Take Caterham: it has invested lots of money and it would need just as much, so it looks for paying drivers. What for, since it has never been competitive?”

Ecclestone chose his words carefully when suggesting that he’s ready for eight teams. Rumor has it that Caterham and Sauber could be in dire straights as well as possibly Marussia and Lotus but those are rumors and no one has access to their financials to definitively know for sure.

Is the idea of a third car off-putting to you? Would it be better to see 16 cars with closer competitiveness compete in F1 rather than 6 cars toiling round at the back trying hard to disappear when being lapped? Has F1’s regulations missed the balancing needed to keep teams closer and how can a team who spends $100 million expect to have enough regulatory balance of power placed on a team that spends $350 million? Is that fair? It is in the United Sportscar Championship.

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