Customer cars could jeopardise midfield teams – Whitmarsh

2012 F1 season

Paul di Resta, Force India, Barcelona, 2012

Force India use McLaren technology but build their own cars

McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh has warned that re-introducing customer cars into Formula 1 could undermine the viability of midfield teams who build their own cars.

Bernie Ecclestone said last week that new teams to run customer cars when they enter the sport.

Speaking in a Vodafone McLaren Mercedes Phone-in, Whitmarsh said: “Philosophically, we’re not sure that customer cars are the right thing for the sport.

“One characteristic of Formula 1, one of the features that differentiates it from other branches of motor sport is having teams that are constructors that are responsible for building their vehicles, and having the variety that flows from that. So, philosophically, I don’t think it’s the right thing.”

However Whitmarsh conceded that “if the regulations allowed it we’d obviously have to look at it.”

He added: “It might one day become necessary, to either allow some of the small teams to survive, to allow new entrants, for there to be some form of interim customer car allowed.

“But at the moment I think to do it would be a threat to the middle-order teams.”

Whitmarsh explained: “Forgetting whether we’re philosophically for against, forgetting whether we’re willing to do it or not, I think we’ve just got to be careful here that some teams might find it attractive but for the middle-order teams – the Williams and the Lotuses and Force Indias and the like – maybe it’s a threat to their structure if there was an arrangement whereby customer teams were able, without the capital investment, without the long-term investment, to compete with them.”

He admitted that customer cars may be needed in order to keep the number of entrants at a reasonable level: “We need twenty-ish cars, we’d like them all to be relatively competitive to put a show on in Formula 1. And we may have to resort to a variety of tactics to do that.”

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33 comments on Customer cars could jeopardise midfield teams – Whitmarsh

  1. Dragonfly said on 12th March 2012, 18:14

    I mean why allow the entry of teams who cannot even manufacture their own cars to F1 ? Look at HRT ? 2 years up and they are still struggling to build their own car . . . and have to agree with “Rhys Coles”, if customer cars are indeed allowed then all the efforts put in my the midfield teams will be of no good.

  2. F1Yankee (@f1yankee) said on 12th March 2012, 18:27

    i think it would be mclaren’s position that would be undermined by customer cars, not williams.

  3. AndrewTanner (@andrewtanner) said on 12th March 2012, 18:52

    Customer teams could work but only for a couple of seasons. I don’t think the established midfield teams would be too threatened, there’s more to a successful team than having the right base for a car. Having a decent chassis is only 50% of the challenge, developing it to be constantly competitive, extracting the most from your strategy and utilising your drivers strengths makes up the balance.

    I can’t see how anyone could come in with a top flight chassis and be instantly and consistently competitive. Look at Mercedes.

  4. Dizzy said on 12th March 2012, 21:28

    Customer cars worked brilliantly in the past so why woudn’t it work now?

    Look at the 70s where there were a couple teams running customer McLaren’s & such, Frank Williams ran customer cars for a couple years before building his own car & several other teams got started the same way.

  5. Mark in Florida said on 12th March 2012, 23:02

    Customer cars could work only if the basic chassis was allowed.Basically the crash structure and pickup points for the suspension.All the external aero would have to be made by the customers.The backmarkers have a hard time just passing the FIA crash test’s .A solid tub would put the lesser teams on a better footing it would free up money for other things.If anyone thinks that if Mclaren made a tub for HRT that they would be world beaters is laughable.The cream will always rise to the top in any sport, F1 is no different.

  6. Denis 68 said on 13th March 2012, 0:32

    Just read an article from Luca Di Montezemolo, the greatest advocate for customer cars and third cars (remember they are two separate things).

    I found his article hilarious as he said that if allowed Ferrari would supply last years car to a minor team and force them to run a young Italian driver and hence this would solve the issue of no Italian driver in F1.

    Err Luca you (Ferrari) supply customer engines and drive trains to a couple of teams already and have done so for numerous years so why don’t you force them to run a young Italian driver?. If you were really serious about helping young Italian drivers instead of pushing you own(Ferrari’s) agenda you could still easily do it with the need of customer or third cars.

  7. The Limit said on 13th March 2012, 14:52

    If anything Martin Whitmarsh would be one of the people ‘you would think’ that would want customer cars in F1, as McLaren would be one of the teams that would supply year old race cars to the smaller teams. However, Whitmarsh is smart to realise the potential backlash F1 and the teams could recieve from the fans by going down that road.
    However, I suppose Ecclestone wanting to do this should not be a surprise. Afterall, there has been a freeze on engine development for years now and that is always the first step you take if you want a spec series which F1 is becoming. From Bernie’s point of view, which is always painted green, spec series can be profitable. NASCAR for instance is a spec series, as is the IRL in the USA and both are popular series and the main reason they did it was to keep costs down.
    Its worth remembering that F1 teams spend millions developing F1 cars, the top teams’ costs are no doubt in the hundreds of millions and have been for years. Customer cars would bring those costs down dramatically, but at the cost of upsetting the puritans who since 1950 have become used to seeing teams each build their own cars.
    The reality is we may see a year old Ferrari one day painted in Williams colours or a McLaren, something that for a guy like me who remembers to days of Mansell mania in the 1980’s would be unthinkable. If the small teams did this they would need front wings, rear wings, the whole nine yards from their supplier who may not be so forthcoming if their supposed old car is as quick or quicker than their new one.
    To an extent we have seen that already with Super Aguri back in 2007 and the likes of Sauber and Toro Rosso are nothing more than satellite teams for Ferrari and Red Bull. This would only make the situation worse, but my fear is that this is exactly what will happen.
    Ecclestone will convince the teams in that his idea will save them money and they will swallow it whole in the end. Whether its in the best interest of the sport is the real question here?

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