Would a new F1 class save the small teams; the Privateer Class

If pressed, most fans would say they want a full grid of two-car teams competing in Formula 1. However, the current financial pressure on small teams has seen the demise of Marussia and now, most likely, Caterham. If buyers can be found for either team, some say they might be salvageable for 2015. That’s a big “if”.

Small teams such as Force India, Suaber and Caterham have all lodged complaints about the prize money distribution rate which is rumored to be 4.5 to 1 in favor of the top team to the tenth team. Force India intimated drastic steps in Austin that the press interpreted as a potential boycott and Force India were not quick to dispel that notion either.

With pressures mounting and the small teams suggesting they can’t survive, F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone said he would speak with CVC’s Donald McKenzie about the situation but has now told the press that financial help will not be coming from the commercial rights holders:

“I tell you the way forward: it is very easy. Don’t spend as much,” he said.

“We are giving these teams collectively $900 million and that’s enough.

“To survive in the way they have been surviving, start running the business like a business rather than a hobby.”

“I am speaking to Donald about something completely different,” he said. “It is not their [the small teams’] position to decide.”

While the teams are advocating cutting the pie into different sizes, the big teams aren’t to keen on the idea and neither, it seems, is CVC. This has prompted discussion about the big teams running three cars in 2015 but Ecclestone says there is currently no plan to do so:

“No,” he said. “At the moment there has been no agreement for a third car.”

He does add an additional thought, however, to the discussion and one in which we discussed last week—a new class within the current F1 championship:

“There may be an idea we could run a constructors’ championship alongside a team championship,” he said.

“In the team championship they run the same cars and same engines, which is really going back to the old days when we had a DFV engine and a Hewland gearbox and we just made the chassis.”

Ecclestone’s idea has been done before and many teams bought March chassis’s in which to compete…this is effectively called Customer Cars. The March company was once owned by former FIA president Max Mosley who, as fate would have it, was the man responsible from bringing Marussia, Caterhama nd HRT to the series under the premise they would race in a new, less expensive F1. Then the FIA radically changed the engine regulations and priced the small teams out of the sport.

What Max advocated was a small team set of rules and regulations that would allow for unlimited engine revs, different chassis underbody, and different technical regulations that would allow them to compete with top teams with far less money.

The question is, could the solution moving forward be a new class and championship called, say, the Privateer Class in which teams deposit $100 million in an account held by the FIA in which to draw from in order to operate? Would this solve the issue and yet keep the cars competitive?

Could the Privateer Class run V8’s or a different engine and aero package and perhaps even tires and stay in touch with the top teams who are intent on using F1 to build green cars?

Interestingly some teams had to borrow technology from their road car divisions in order to use in F1 and not the other way around so the entire notion is really a bit of a damp squib in some case while in others, it has been very innovative but perhaps a death knell for small teams.

What do you reckon? If the FIA divided prize money evenly, that would see an additional $30 million to the small teams and that’s about what their new power unit costs as a customer so the point, in my mind, is moot on the equity of the prize money.


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