Poll: Allow customer teams in F1?

Sebastian Vettel, Toro Rosso-Ferrari, Fuji Speedway, 2007 | GEPA / Bildagentur Kraeling

This poll is closed. Results are as follows:

Yes: 115 votes (50%)
No: 107 votes (46%)
I have no opinion: 9 (4%)

The FIA’s plan to allow teams to buy chassis from other teams as of next year appears to have failed, and with it has gone Prodrive’s hopes of competing in 2008.

Allowing teams to run customer chassis potentially lowers the costs of competing in F1. But many of the teams complain that it is not fair to allow other teams to race potentially more competitive chassis without going to the expense of designing them.

I do sympathise with the plight of less well funded teams like Williams and Spyker (nee Force India) who in recent years have struggled to produce competitive cars, and find teams like Super Aguri and Toro Rosso running cars that are ‘customer chassis’ in all but name and taking points (and therefore money) off them.

And I appreciate the position of those who feel that all teams in F1 should be constructors who build their own cars.

But I am at heart a pragmatist, and this is why I think customer chassis should be made legal:

First there is the argument of competition. If more teams have access to the best equipment, then there will be greater competition for victories, and that can only be a good thing.

Customer chassis have been legal in Formula 1 in the past and indeed that is how individuals like Frank Williams became constructors in the first place. He got his F1 team started that way – why shouldn’t David Richards be allowed to do the same?

Most compelling for me is the argument of economics. Formula 1 is hideously expensive and the enormous budgets being thrown around at present can only be sustained as long as the major car manufacturers remain in the sport.

Robert Kubica, BMW, Barcelona, 2007 | BMW MediaBut even makers of popular and expensive cars like BMW are beginning to look at long-term management strategies with an eye on improving profitability – which means cutting costs. In the long or even medium term the dependability of the car makers has to be questioned.

Toyota became the world’s number one car maker earlier this year – would it honestly sell that many fewer cars if it was no longer in F1? What will Renault do if it gets a McLaren-sized penalty in December’s espionage hearing?

Allowing smaller teams to run customer chassis would give Formula 1 a vital reserve of extra teams to fall back on should a recession bite and several of the big names quit.

Of course, allowing customer chassis would not be the remedy to all F1’s ills. I think the governing body would have to take a few things into account if they were to legalise customer chassis.

It would be particularly important to ensure that teams buying chassis off another team did not lend favours to that team on the track. It’s already been claimed that in the 1997 championship decider the Ferrari-supplied Sauber team were ordered to let Michael Schumacher through and hinder Williams’s Jacques Villenueve.

F1 must not turn into a single-seater DTM, featuring only two manufacturers that use the majority of their cars to delay all the other drivers but for their two or three championship contenders.

Nor would it be fair to allow ‘customer’ teams to score ‘constructors’ points, as they are patently not constructors.

This is a highly charged debate that goes right to the heart of what F1 is supposed to be. But I think it’s practical and sensible to allow teams to use customer chassis, given certain restrictions.

Photo: GEPA / Bildagentur Kraeling | BMW Media

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13 comments on Poll: Allow customer teams in F1?

  1. I think there is a merit to designing the car but I think some realsim has to come into it.

    To get started a small team needs to get fully funded to the tune of millions, before getting anywhere near a track. That isn’t easy and probably sets them off into the world with massive debts.

    To be able to complete for a few years with a customer chasis gives the potential for them to reduce the initial outlay and get a following on which to build.

    That makes sense.

    I think there needs to be limits though. For example, there could be a limit on the number of components that can be bought from one team. Anything that prevents a team slapping a badge over the Mercedes sign and calling it a privateer.

  2. The trouble with the customer car philosophy is that it has moved on a lot from the Williams days. Nowadays, to take on the customer car means you have to take on the source team’s instructions to a great extent.

    In addition, the best bits are going to be the most highly coveted, meaning the prices for them get expensive and other suppliers will be unable to get customers. This is why the maximum number of teams an engine supplier can supply is limited (apart from Ferrari, who can supply whoever they like…)

    Eventually, the customer car route will lead to there being two or three constructors, plus “B”, “C” and maybe “D”, the latter paying the former a fortune to get slightly worse bits (as historically happens with customer parts of all kinds). Since Formula 1’s rules do not really allow overtaking unless there are large differences between the two car/driver combinations involved, it will probably lead to long chains of cars on circuits, but it won’t lead to more overtaking because that requires inequality in the cars.

  3. We already have series wich allow customer cars. A1, NASCRAP and such. Why would we want F1 to be like them beats me.

    Customer chassis are a thing of the past.

    The economic thing is really ********, any F1 team WILL spend the same money is spending now, just on other things. They’l start building Communications Centres. Really guys, they have all this money and they have to spend it, FIA or no FIA, customer chassis or nor, they will find a way to spend it anyway.

    I’m all for to each his own. No customer cars. If you like customer cars go see restrictor plates in NASCRAP.

  4. perhaps the reason why williams has declined to sanction the use of customer cars is basically no one wants their’s – they do however seem to have a knack of bringing in new drivers and when they get reasonable – (despite great protests) are sold on to bigger teams – of course rosberg is not leaving them – yet!!

  5. If Prodrive finish in points, do the constructor points go to McLaren? It’s not a bad idea in theory except that it means that there will be an uneven amount of chassis by each manufacturer on the grid each day.

  6. Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 27th November 2007, 18:50

    I don’t think that’s the intention and I’m not sure it would be very fair if it was.

    As we saw this year McLaren are perfectly capable of building an excellent racing car and then throwing away the chance of victory through poor strategy. They would hardly deserve to gain points because a bunch of guys that bought their cars off them ran a better race team.

  7. Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 27th November 2007, 19:53

    Looks like we’re split down the middle on this: so far 61 say ‘no’ and 59 say ‘yes’.

  8. One thing I’ve never seen mentioned is the limit on the number of teams allowed to compete in F1. I kind of feel that customer cars are incompatible with the current 24-car grid limit. If you want to have team franchises, which is what you have right now, each of those teams should be a constructor. If you want to have customer cars, then open up the grid for free qualifying. Let _me_ be able to spend some cash and buy a chassis and an engine and give it a shot (with a driver who has a superlicense of course). That’s how a ton of the current franchise owners got their start.

    I’d be fine with that as long as they found some way to limit team integration so that it really was no more than 2 cars per team. It makes me sick to death when I think of the grid becoming basically 6 teams of 4 cars each. How is that exciting? Allow customer cars but find some legal way to limit information flow, etc, and it could be exciting.

  9. I think this fear of the customer car teams being the pawns of their suppliers is a bit exaggerated. Did Red Bull tell STR to stay behind their cars in the races? Okay, they rarely had the chance but it did happen on occasion. And did Honda suggest to SA that this matter of collecting more points than the factory team must stop? No, the worst they could do was refuse to pass on a new wing to the customer.

    ‘B’ teams are named so because they invariably get ‘B’ quality supplies from the constructor team – it’s not a matter of the ‘A’ team having to dictate race strategy to its customers but a product of second class equipment being run by the smaller team. On those rare occasions when the factory team gets beaten by a customer, generally they grin and bear it, knowing that the balance will swing again once they get their hands on the new widget coming out soon.

    The fear does need to be addressed, however, and it should be easy enough for the FIA to issue a new rule that bans team-to-team instructions. Just like team orders (except those should be legalised, of course!). :D

  10. I think the Barcelona test has shown one of the dark sides of the A – B team link. Aguri has no money to run all the miles they are allowed to. Aguri uses same cars during the test as Honda does, only painted in different colors. Honda places their drivers in Aguri cars and gets around the test limit agreements…

    And I can’t agree that no one would want William’s chassis… Toyota would not mind :-)

  11. In full agreement with milos(ROTF)! Good one mate. Toyota guys must really be envying Williams now.

    I voted no, as they are supposed to be earning the dough, by the sweat of their brow. I mean, what you are telling me, is that if i had enough money, even i could buy a car and line it on the grid( As much as i love the thought, it i feel is a sick joke). No kidding, it is a dream of mine, to be somwhow working in the F1 industry, like 99.99% of us guys who visit this page do, some already work may be. However, i think it is just a sham, a ploy for Bernie to make a little more dough. The old man is epitome of greed and he worries as if he’s gonna take it away with him(sic).

  12. 199 votes in, might as well close it at 200. Clearly the ayes have it – let’s allow customer cars!

  13. Number 38 said on 28th November 2007, 22:01

    Clive wins AGAIN, the most common sense response.
    There’s NOTHING wrong with customer cars and what would F1 look like without them? Also consider how similar F1 chassis are becoming, they’re all very close in design, does it really matter WHO or WHERE the chassis itself is manufactured? MadMax’s regs book can define WHO manufactures it but does it really matter?

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