Whitmarsh: Three-car teams “wrong” for F1

2011 F1 season

Martin Whitmarsh, McLaren, 2011

Martin Whitmarsh, McLaren, 2011

Martin Whitmarsh says introducing three-car teams would be “the wrong solution” for F1.

The McLaren team principal said F1 teams must stick to their cost-cutting plans for the good of the sport.

The Formula 1 Teams Association will debate the future of its Resource Restriction Agreement in Abu Dhabi this weekend.

Speaking in a Vodafone McLaren Mercedes phone-in, Whitmarsh said cost containment is as high a priority now as it was when the RRA was introduced:

“The statistics that I live by are the ones since McLaren entered Formula 1 it’s been quite moderately successful, winning a quarter of the races and on the podium for more than half of them.

“During that team 101 teams have disappeared from the sport. I think that really demonstrates the volatility of the sport.

“We have in the last few years evolved from being a sub-set of the automotive sector, being pretty well back to a more pure Formula 1 set of business.

“I think we shouldn’t underestimate how tough it is for the smaller teams. It’s fine for perhaps some of the bigger teams, who feel quite confident about their future, but the fact is we need ten or twelve teams in the sport to race against.

“I personally think that going to generate grid size with three-car teams – I understand why some people are attracted to that, if it was necessary it has some interest to McLaren – but I think for Formula 1 it’s the wrong solution.

“Formula 1 requires the diversity of entry. I think we therefore have to work hard to endeavour to ensure that there are sustainable business models for all of the teams that are in Formula 1.”

Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo has repeatedly urged the sport to increase team sizes from two cars to three.

Whitmarsh played down recent comments from di Montezemolo suggesting Ferrari could leave F1 if restrictions on car development are not lifted:

“In fairness to Luca, I think Luca’s an extremely charismatic figure within Ferrari, within Italy and within motorsport.

“I know how off-the-cuff comments can be construed and amplified. I think he is passionate about Formula 1, I think he’s very proud of Ferrari’s history and heritage, and he will inevitably push with great passion his personal opinions and views.

“I think in my day-to-day business Formula 1 is much better when the teams and the governing body work together to design regulations.”

Whitmarsh stressed that F1 teams should continue to work together to improve F1:

“We’ve had some great races in the last two years. I think we should be very proud of that, and that’s been achieved by the teams working together with the FIA to develop sporting and technical regulations to achieve those ends.”

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58 comments on Whitmarsh: Three-car teams “wrong” for F1

  1. Prisoner Monkeys (@prisoner-monkeys) said on 9th November 2011, 12:00

    Three cars was never a viable idea. It was just an attempt by Ferrari to secure better results. Because the RRA doesn’t extend to driver salaries, Ferrari would be able to throw money at the three best drivers on the grid. Even if their car was poor, they could rack up more Constructors’ points, secure a better WCC standings, and thus get a better pay-out from FOM.

    • Probably one solution is to allow three cars & but only points will be awarded to two cars (Teams has to select those two cars at beginning of season & no changes allowed unless driver changes). Then it servers ferrari purpose of testing young drivers without compromising individual teams.

      • TimG (@timg) said on 9th November 2011, 16:30

        Nice idea, but it’s not an ideal solution.

        Even if the third car didn’t count for points it could still interfere with the points scoring cars around it. This could happen in the normal course of a race – faster car stuck behind slower car, unable to pass. More cynically, the third car could become a part of team strategy to block, slow down or even crash into its points-scoring rivals. It’s not often we see teams working to manipulate races but it does happen, even now – see Japan 1997 when Jacques Villeneuve (racing under appeal for a yellow flag infringement) tried to back up the back to allow people to pass Michael Schumacher. See also the tactics Ferrari deployed so that it didn’t work. If we allow non-points eligible third cars we’ll see more of this.

        It also makes the sport more complicated – some drivers can score points, other can’t – to explain and less accessible to the casual fan.

    • Randy (@randy) said on 9th November 2011, 15:54

      …And then happily go on and destroy all that with team orders.

    • Alex (@smallvizier) said on 9th November 2011, 17:50

      This isn’t borne out by the evidence. You claim that Ferrari would buy the three best drivers on the grid. But if that’s the case, why don’t they already employ the best two drivers on the grid?

      In fact, could you point to any year in the last couple of decades when Ferrari have employed the best two drivers in F1?

    • SVettel (@) said on 9th November 2011, 20:03

      I agree with everything whitmarsh says… or at least the title (I didn’t read the whole article)
      My biggest concern would be that 36 cars on the grid is too much. Imagine qualifying at monte carlo, or interlagos. it would be complete chaos

  2. Three car teams is a horrible idea but Ferrari seem obsessed with it. Whenever there is a space on the grid new teams should be allowed in, rather than the space filled up with a third car from existing teams. There is no shortage of teams wanting to become involved in F1, so the need for three team cars is a complete non-starter.

    • Julian (@julian) said on 9th November 2011, 12:55

      I don’t know why Luca is so obsessed over 3 cars either.. Sure Ferrari would have an extra car but so would McLaren and Red Bull. Keeping in mind how Ferrari are the third fastest this year it’d be a miracle if they got on the podium.

      Just imagine 3 Red Bulls in this years grid…

      • Bullfrog (@bullfrog) said on 10th November 2011, 10:09

        The Red Bull pit crew have already been showing off this year by doing pit stops for 2 cars on the same lap…I bet they’d like to try 3!

        I wouldn’t mind if only Ferrari had a third car – but with all these competitive people around in F1, everyone else would have to have one too. I doubt they’d be going round in groups of three in team formation very often – there’s too much variation in tyre and driver performance for that – but still the races would be decided from up on the prat perch too much for my liking!

  3. Kiril Varbanov (@kiril-varbanov) said on 9th November 2011, 12:20

    Three cars is really a bad idea. Imagine the magnitude of team orders …

    On the other hand, it’s really sad to see teams so far away from each other – but I guess that’s not going to change either.

    • Robbie (@robbie) said on 9th November 2011, 14:14

      While I agree with many who don’t see the point of 3-car teams, I do agree with LdM about the lack of testing being an issue, as well as the cars being overly aero-dependant.

      ie. teams being so far away from each other would be much less of an issue if they concentrated on reducing the amount of allowable downforce while they have the mechanical grip from the soft Pirellis. They could get rid of the artificial passing created from the DRS as well.

      But then guys like JV, who called grooved tires a joke and was hauled up on the carpet in Paris for said opinion, who said give us back the big slicks (mechanical grip) of the 70’s which created so much drag down the straightaways that teams had no choice but to run less wing (less aero-dependancy) if they wanted any kind of respectable straightaway speeds, have been voicing this opinion for years. But obviously F1 doesn’t care to listen and would prefer to see fast cars stuck behind slow ones until they can deploy a device.

      • Alfie Widger said on 9th November 2011, 18:19

        Reducing downforce is a bad idea..the cars are supposed to be the fastest in the world and the keep being made slower and slower!

    • W-K (@w-k) said on 10th November 2011, 3:37

      If you look at all the old records you will probably find that, at the moment all the cars a very close together. When did we last have a race won by a driver, and in some case by a team, by over a lap.
      Also we have recently seen Glock get two new records, for finishing 23rd and 24th. Many times in the past we had less than 10 drivers finish a race, probably one of the reasons only the top 6 got points.

  4. Fer no.65 (@fer-no65) said on 9th November 2011, 12:30

    He almost said:

    “In fairness to Luce, he does talk some rubbish sometimes”.

  5. silencer (@silencer) said on 9th November 2011, 12:32

    3 cars for 1 team is a joke to formula 1

  6. Dave (@davea86) said on 9th November 2011, 12:35

    Rather then have three car teams I think the FIA needs to sort out their definition of a customer car and what is and isn’t allowed there. Technically Toro Rosso aren’t customers of Red Bull Racing and they build their own chassis but I’d be surprised if their sudden improvement in pace over the last few races isn’t down to help from RBR. Then there’s the technical collaborations that McLaren have with Force India and Virgin. Depending on how open the rules are in this regard Ferrari can develop a tie up with a lower team and have a third and fourth car in their B team like RBR. They just need to find a balance in the rules so that new teams can’t come in, buy a whole car and immediately beat the lower independents.

  7. BasCB (@bascb) said on 9th November 2011, 13:01

    “In fairness to Luca, I think Luca’s an extremely charismatic figure within Ferrari, within Italy and within motorsport.

    “I know how off-the-cuff comments can be construed and amplified.

    To me that means, “I know a lot of people are talking with and about Luca in Italy now. He is showing how good a leader he can be, but the he should not be taken to seriously on the content of what he said there as it was just a remark te be in the spotlight”

  8. John H (@john-h) said on 9th November 2011, 14:25

    Whitmarsh 1 Montezemolo 0

  9. Havergal said on 9th November 2011, 14:45

    Sorry Keith – mistake found:

    “During that team 101 teams have disappeared”

    Presumably should read “During that time”

  10. cduk_mugello (@cduk_mugello) said on 9th November 2011, 14:46

    Yet the latest proposals from Di Montezemolo are for 3 cars made by one constructor, with the 3rd car being run by a separate team. Not 3 car teams. No?

  11. Fixy (@fixy) said on 9th November 2011, 15:34

    Three-car teams is a good idea, in theory. Who wouldn’t like to see 3 Ferraris, 3 McLarens and 3 Red Bulls battle for the win? Also, this would help change the first driver status: now Ferrari can concentrate on Alonso and help him win the title, while keeping Massa behind him in the points. Already in this way Ferrari lose the constructors’ trophy before the season starts.
    With three drivers, they couldn’t afford two “number two” drivers, or they’d risk more positions in the championship. At least two drivers out of three would be helped by the team, with the third driver being either a young driver, who lacking experience can help the other two, or another great driver to try and win the constructors’ battle.

    But I like having, with the same number of total drivers, more teams. When an underdog obtains a great result everyone enjoys it. I think 24 cars is enough, more would be fine but not too much. I like watching at battles in the mid-field and behind, like Lotus vs. Virgin vs. HRT. Also, the costs would be unaffordable for the smaller teams, and we would see them fall out even more often.

    I prefer the way F1 currently is. Also, would Montezemolo really like to finish 7th, 8th and 9th rather than 5th and 6th?

    • bag0 (@bag0) said on 9th November 2011, 17:38

      At least two drivers out of three would be helped by the team

      If you look at team Alonso, it is highly unlikely. I think Ferrari would have 2 moving roadblocks, who could “destroy” others race. (No offense to Massa)

  12. Tifoso1989 (@tifoso1989) said on 9th November 2011, 15:43

    there’s a football game today between the f1 drivers & other local player from UAE in abudhabi

  13. Wait a minute, isn’t he the guy who went on record saying McLaren have no information about pilfering of Ferrari data in ’07? wasn’t he the guy who also was involved in the case of Lewis not informing stewards correctly? Hmm…

    Nevertheless, as observed earlier, big bad Ferrari would suffer to get as many points it did this season, if Macca and Red Bull were running 3 cars too. Now it is not a bad idea. More cars would obviously mean a better spectacle. However, the smaller teams shouldn’t be squeezed out of their monies. May be they could simply renegotiate that bit and have 3 cars per team. As it is, there are a lot of drivers without a car next year. Having 3 cars would allow more of them to come in and hopefully it will work better for spectators than all the KERS/ DRS crap.

    • Ilanin (@ilanin) said on 10th November 2011, 1:22

      The problem is, there’s absolutely no way to fit 36 cars (12 3-car teams) around Monaco, and it’d be a struggle in several other places as well. 3 car teams does pretty much mean 8 teams in F1, and while I don’t think Marussia would be a huge loss and I could probably live without HRT, Caterham and Toro Rosso would both be big losses to the sport.

      • BasCB (@bascb) said on 10th November 2011, 7:34

        But would everyone feel good with Ferrari struggling to get on the podium this year? With 6 faster cars in front of them, I seriously doubt even Alonso would have been able to win in Silverstone.

        Not to mention having megateams will surely mean the likes of Williams, Sauber and Force India will also struggle to even get into the points and into the spotlight. Making it a realistic outlook of not only losing HRT, Caterham and Marussia, but these teams as well (for lack of sponsorship money).

  14. The Limit said on 9th November 2011, 18:26

    I never really liked Formula One when the big motorcar companies had their own teams, in many ways the sport lost its soul and is now a better place without the likes of Toyota and Honda. The appealing thing about the 2009 season was not Jenson Button’s championship, but the fact that a small bunch of guys had taken Honda’s ideas and made them work. The David vs Goliath spirit inwhich teams like Jordan, Stewart, Brabham and others evolved and then sadly died away.
    We must remember that even McLaren and Williams were both small teams when they started back in 1966 and 1975 respectively. They were able to flourish and become two of the sports most successfull, and that means something. Who knows where HRT, Virgin Racing, and the newly named Caterham be in ten years time? This is, as Martin Whitmarsh pointed out, a ‘volatile’ sport.
    F1 is not just about spending billions of dollars needlessly, as Toyota and Honda both did to their peril, but about getting the right people. Red Bull have blended the big bucks spending with the right personel, and it has achieved back to back championships for them. Lest we forget, just seven years ago they were Jaguar. A team that spent more time in the garage than out on the racetrack.

    • Outsider said on 10th November 2011, 2:37

      The thing is, even when the big boys were about, the grid was no where near as competitive as it has been over the last couple years..in 08, 7 different drivers won races, which was brilliant..this didnt happen back in the early 2000s when you had, Ferrari, Renault, BMW, Toyota and Honda present.

      I think there needs to be a balance. Privateers are vital to the sport and we also need Constructors to be present. I think we could use another constructor in the sport, too many privateers just now, would love to see BMW or Porche back in the sport. It could be a turning of the tide however, the last 4 WDCs have gone to Privateers.

  15. I agree with Whitmarsh, and believe funding needs to be reduced so less competitive teams can race for podiums. I started watching F1 about 5 years ago, and honestly have been a bit bored watching 2 drivers (sometimes from the same team) race for the WDC. In fact, only 1 driver was in the mix this year, and he lapped the field, boring. If you like watching the battle for 2nd place in the championship, then you must be thrilled with this year’s racing, I’m not. I liked Kubica being a threat for the podium. F1 has the ability to create some thrilling races, but the gap between teams is too great. In fact, if Mercedes with their $ and talent can’t sniff the podium regularly, something needs to change. Wouldn’t it be awesome to watch Alonso duke it out with Rosberg for a win, or Shumi against Weber, or Vettel and Kimi in a Williams? Let that sink in for a minute. Bernie needs to scale it back, take a page from NASCAR. Granted, they have more cars on the track, but your guess is as good as mine on who will win any given weekend. Bernie, you have lightning in a bottle, use it. Go watch the movie Cutters, and then give me your opinion.

    • Sorry, the movie is Breaking Away.

    • David-A (@david-a) said on 10th November 2011, 3:30

      F1 has the ability to create some thrilling races, but the gap between teams is too great.

      I agree, we don’t get the ups and downs in performance we did in 2008 and 2009 anymore. It would be nice to see the Mercs and Lotus-Renaults challenge for wins, the Force Indias and Williamses challenge for occasional podiums and the new teams get points, but none of it seems to be happening.

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