Three-car teams preferred to customer cars

2013 Brazilian Grand Prix

Modern F1 Ferraris at the Finali MondialiFormula One teams could run three cars each instead of two, but only to shore up numbers in the event of some squads leaving the sport, say team principals.

F1 grid sizes fell to 22 cars this year following the departure of HRT and there are concerns it could fall again as a difficult economy and steeply rising costs in 2014 put smaller teams under pressure.

Introducing customer cars – allowing front-running teams to sell old chassis – has been raised as a potential solution but faces opposition from some teams. However some of them are willing to consider three-car teams as an alternative to increase grid sizes.

“We?re not a supporter of customer cars,” said Mercedes team principal Ross Brawn. “We think the identity of the teams is important, the fact that the teams design and build their own cars is important but however if Formula One faced a situation where we didn?t have sufficient cars on the grid, then of course a three car team is a possibility, but only in those circumstances.”

Lotus team principal Eric Boullier agreed: “I think if F1 needs to go one path, it is to guarantee a number of cars on the grid and obviously a number of teams running three cars would be, for me, a better solution.”

The principal of F1’s smallest team Marussia, John Booth, said: “I think I?m correct in saying that under current regulations if the numbers of cars on the grid falls below a certain number then certain teams are required to run three cars but as far as I know there?s been no discussion about three car teams in the near future.”

“Certainly I?ve not been part of the discussions and I assume it would need a big change in regulations to achieve that.”

As for whether his team could easily add a third entry he added: “We?re finding two cars tough enough without running three.”

Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo has repeatedly urged F1 to allow teams to run three cars. Team principal Stefano Domenicali added it was a possibility that could be explored if car numbered fell.

“We are in a situation where for sure we are different in philosophies with the teams that are in the championship, there are different situations,” said Domenicali, “so I think that solution, that situation can be driven really if some teams will not be there in the future.”

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59 comments on Three-car teams preferred to customer cars

  1. Swindle94 (@swindle94) said on 23rd November 2013, 1:19

    Maybe I’m missing something, but wouldn’t running 3 cars cost teams considerably more money? Sure the big teams could afford it, but Lotus can’t even pay the drivers it currently has. However, I feel like competition would be closer than ever with 3 cars at a team, and that is a good thing.

  2. HoHum (@hohum) said on 23rd November 2013, 1:37

    McLaren, Ferarri, Red Bull, Mercedes and maybe Toro Rosso are the only teams with enough money to run 3 car teams, so what happens to teams like Williams that can still afford to race 2 cars but not 3, even less chance of a points finish sounds like the obvious answer. I see a crisis looming in F1, Enstone for example are a great team but lack of funds is losing them talent, lack of talent will lose them even more funds and so it goes on, you can only float around the perimiter of a whirlpool for so long, eventually you get sucked into the vortex, the majority of teams currently in F1 are on the edge.

    • bull mello (@bullmello) said on 23rd November 2013, 2:15

      @hohum – Good points. If only the profits from F1 were distributed more fairly to the teams, there would be little need for talk of three car teams or of so many teams on the brink.

      • Kingshark (@kingshark) said on 23rd November 2013, 2:24

        @hohum

        McLaren, Ferarri, Red Bull, Mercedes and maybe Toro Rosso are the only teams with enough money to run 3 car teams.

        I would probably add Force India onto that list, given that they have Mallya’s backing. I don’t really remember FI hiring pay drivers either.

        • HoHum (@hohum) said on 23rd November 2013, 2:39

          @kingshark, Mallya’s wealth has many question marks hanging over it, perhaps our Indian fans can comment.

          • Anirudh S (@anirudh1992) said on 23rd November 2013, 4:07

            Vijay Mallya’s airline is in shambles. But his mainstay Liquor is doing very well. I heard speculations that Tata-Singapore Airlines or the Tata-Air Asia groups may take over kingfisher. Plus,there are other sponsors like Reliance which is owned by Ambani, the richest indian

        • BasCB (@bascb) said on 24th November 2013, 11:38

          I think Mallya could afford it probably @hohum, and likely Fernandes, Sauber and even MArussia too. But they would end up having more guys like Gonzales, Chilton or a tad better VdGarde, Pic, Maldonado, Perez in those seats – guys who pay for themselves, and then a bit towards the team budgets.

          So in a way this might help them make end meets for the short term. But apart from that, I am not convinced it would work as a positive for the sport at all

    • zimkazimka (@zimkazimka) said on 23rd November 2013, 3:09

      Running three cars actually solves the “Hulkenberg” dilemma. You can get two pay drivers to support the entire team, plus a good lead. This could work.

    • I don’t want that to happen.
      3 RB’s will fill up the podium. Yes, we could the see Vettel not win every race but it would make it too much.
      Drivers like Hulkenberg, Maldonado, Perez etc would get seats in the big 5 so it might be a good chance for drivers to prove their worth.

      Lets just bring back the cigarette money and equalise the Prize money distribution.
      F1 won’t be ‘green’ but it’ll atleast be f1.

      I remember reading about someone saying that for the cost Renault/Merc are selling 5 engines for 2014, he could see 100 V6’s. Maybe we need 10-12 engines for next year so that pressure is taken off the suppliers to make the engines better. from there, FIA can reduce the engine numbers to say 10 in 2015 and 8 in 2016 giving the suppliers enough time to make sure next year isn;t a fuel-saving year or Engine blowout year.

      • I believe that the person you are referring to is Mario Illien, one of the co-founders of Ilmor (the division manufacturing engines for F1 was subsequently bought out by Mercedes to form Mercedes HPE).

        What Illien is supposed to have said is that the current amount of money spent on engines today would, were he given that sort of spending power before the engine use restrictions kicked in, have enabled him to produce around 100 of the V10 engines that were in use in that era.
        However, it should be borne in mind that, at the same time, there are some flaws with his comments – asides from the difference in spending power between now and 15 years ago due to inflation, it is worth noting that they had to produce that many engines a season because the teams were using so many engines from race to race.

        When the idea of restricting the number of engines used in a season was first proposed in 1993, it was proposed that teams would be limited to “just” 65 engines a season. The cost for an individual engine might have been cheaper, but with teams using around 15 times the number of engines in a season than they would under the upcoming regulations, there wouldn’t actually be the cost saving that some seem to think there would be if we went back to the situation Illien talked about.

        After all, Renault Sport have indicated that the bulk of the spending is not on manufacturing but on research and development costs, which still need to be recovered in one way or another. With Renault, Mercedes and Ferrari all looking to recover those costs, you can spread the costs out over 5, 10 or 20 engines – they still have to be paid, it’d just be in smaller increments per engine.

  3. Elreno (@elreno) said on 23rd November 2013, 1:38

    With the world economy the way it is and the way Formula One costs are it’s not surprising there’s chat about potentially losing teams to the sport. My preferred option is to have 12 or 13 teams two car teams but failing that I don’t think the third car option should be dismissed. An idea I sent to FOCA a while ago goes like this.
    – Keeping costs in mind lets say in a 20 race calender that 11 or 12 races (based on number of teams) are designated for a “third car option” events, but only for one team per race.
    – The allocation of which team can run a third car at which event can be determined by negotiation and/or ballot. I’m thinking Ferrari would want Monza, Mercedes Nurburgring etc.
    – The right to run a third car could be considered an option which can be sold off. So say a small time can’t quite afford to run a third car they could sell the option for a given event to another team. But any team is limited to buy say only two options a year – to prevent any one team dominating the scheme.
    – The third car is not eligible for constructors points and keeping in mind super-licence requirements a whole range of interesting drivers could be utilised. I have in mind nationalistic considerations like say a Brit in a third McLaren at Silverstone.
    This scheme means that for a good chunk of the events there’s at least one extra car but considering budgets the scheme has a defined limit of events. But in fact third car drivers could bring sponsorship and smaller teams could make a least a few extra dollars by the selling of their option.
    Probably needs some fine tuning but keen to see what F1 Fanatics think.

    • HoHum (@hohum) said on 23rd November 2013, 2:13

      1st. thing I see is a car and driver used only once a year and not even getting points then, all cost no income.

      • that is wrong: without in season testing, that third driver would give more milage to their cars, so more data to analize!!!

        • BasCB (@bascb) said on 24th November 2013, 11:42

          That is only usefull for a team that would be able to pay for the testing anyway though. Building an extra chassis just to have it ran once a year would be a big burden to the smaller teams.

    • BJ (@beejis60) said on 23rd November 2013, 3:01

      I like the recommendations but again, I don’t think there should ever be three cars per team, even if there is an option to sell it. Lets say it is allowed though, then only the top two of the three should be allowed to score points and the third car, if in the points, is relegated and the place behind that car inherits the points in the place above and so on…
      Or, for example, you pick the two drivers/cars that are performing best before qualy then you allow the third car just to drive around and be a billboard, provided that billboard does not pull a move where they crash out the leader or leading points challenger, like that one team did in ALMS either this year or last year.

      But in the end, I still think the third car option is a bad idea, regardless of how many cars are on the grid.

      • Tomsk (@tomsk) said on 23rd November 2013, 10:30

        I’d give points to all the drivers, but constructors’ points to only the first two to finish in a team. So if Magnussen, Vandoorne and Button finish 4-5-6 for McLaren, the 7th guys gets the constructors’ points for 6th. The two championships wouldn’t add up, but who cares about the constructors’ outside the teams anyway?

        Overall I don’t like it, I think it’ll hurt the racing with too much team orders, and drivers who are in a decent F1 car not because they’re the best, but because their rival teams all have 3 cars, so they must have one too… I hope the third car doesn’t have to be for the full season.

        I’ll keep an eye on Indycar to see how four-car teams work out for the big guys next year. And whether the little guys still get a chance. Obviously they’re not constructors like F1 – but with different colour schemes and levels of performance it’s easy to forget that, say, Charlie Kimball is a team-mate of Scott Dixon.

        • BJ (@beejis60) said on 23rd November 2013, 15:05

          Ya, that’s what I meant about restricting points to just two drivers was for the constructors championship…. Ya, that wouldn’t be fair to not award drivers the points, and it would be massively confusing for some people when, for example, a third driver may score a third place in a 1-2-3 for the constructor but the guy in fourth place gets a fourth place points haul for himself but a third place points haul for the WCC.

  4. johnny stick said on 23rd November 2013, 1:59

    I think what would be better is to spread the wealth to the smaller teams so everyone shares more equally in the commercial profits. Sorry red bull.

  5. Kingshark (@kingshark) said on 23rd November 2013, 2:23

    By 2016 I predict that there will be seven teams left in Formula 1: Red Bull, Ferrari, McLaren, Mercedes, Force India, Toro Rosso, and a new team from a big manufacturer. Each with 3 cars, and a total of 21 seats in F1.

    Just my two cents, based on how things are currently going.

    • uh, no. Williams will b e there along with either Sauber or Lotus or Caterham ATLEAST.
      Teams need money from China, India, Russia and N. America which they are not yet getting.

      • MaroonJack (@maroonjack) said on 23rd November 2013, 10:34

        They are on the edge even today and to be honest, Force India isn’t much more financially stable. Some of them might still be here in 2016, but I doubt it’ll be more than two. Though I’m pretty sure we will still have some incarnation of the Enstone team.

  6. Mike (@mike) said on 23rd November 2013, 3:01

    That’s really dreadful. Some of the best moments in F1 steam from the smaller teams. Honestly, with 3 cars. That actually might be enough for me to stop watching.

  7. DavidS (@davids) said on 23rd November 2013, 3:55

    No surprise that the big teams want more cars in their team, rather than midfield and backmarker teams being given equipment that might make them competitive.

    I would only support this if the third car had to be a separate team.
    Their points would not count to the main team’s constructor standings.
    The main team provides a full service package of car/crew/logistics
    In exchange, they are paid a fee by either the team management (some businessman wanting to run an F1 team) or directly by a sponsor.

    I can imagine there might be many large companies out there that would want a title sponsorship of a car (Team Santander for example) without the huge cost of putting together a two car team and the huge costs associated.

    To get the desired numbers, only 8 two car teams are needed (16 works cars + 8 sponsor cars = 24 total)

    • man, I love your idea!!! that would be an interesting way to go!

    • Diego (@ironcito) said on 23rd November 2013, 8:14

      I would only support this if the third car had to be a separate team.

      Then it would be a customer car, which is precisely what they don’t want. They’re saying that the car is the identity of the team. Same car = same team.

      • DavidS (@davids) said on 23rd November 2013, 9:15

        Except the main team would be entirely responsible for the running of the car, rather than just supplying a car, and letting the customer team figure everything out.

        Depending on the deal between the works team and the customer team, there will be varying levels of control that the customer has over decisions.

        Top teams may be able to negotiate more control (picking the drivers etc) than lower level teams. In effect, the big teams may be able to run the sponsor team effectively as a third car, while lower end teams will benefit financially from having part of their budget subsidised.

        Just remember, the reason the big teams favour three car teams is that they know that presently, they would be the only ones to afford it. Having three cars scoring points benefits them in the championship. Everything they are saying is clearly self-interested, so take it with a grain of salt.

        • Diego (@ironcito) said on 23rd November 2013, 15:25

          You’re trying to find middle ground between being the same team and being a different team. I don’t know how plausible that is, or if it is desirable.
          Personally, I’d prefer things to be clear: same team = same car = same livery.

          The issue of constructor championship points would need to be addressed somehow, regardless. Maybe the team with the best points/car average would win, or something like that.

  8. FLIG (@flig) said on 23rd November 2013, 4:27

    As I said before, F1 is clearly reflecting the current way the world works. This polarization of resources first creates a rift between the participants (that’s when you get the poor, the rich and the middle-class). Then the poorest participants start to struggle and become ‘bad for the show’, so the best they can do is live off of the crumbs of the rich guys (customer cars – old junk being sold to them). But that does not appeal to the big guys, who say “Well, who cares about those little fellas anyway? We’ll just put another car in the field so it looks like we’re still a lot of people having fun here”. What they don’t realize is that this polarization process will continue, and eventually only two or three teams will be interested in being part of this.

    Both these options are ridiculous as they are desperate. And neither will work. I’m more and more ready to say goodbye to this sport, which was actually the only one I followed steadily since my childhood. What a shame.

  9. Lucas Wilson (@full-throttle-f1) said on 23rd November 2013, 7:41

    No thanks, this is the worst idea I have ever heard and would actually lose more teams.

    Why don’t they think of a solution to the financial problem (we all know its possible) to help the teams instead of deciding what to do when they are gone.

    People are worried that because HRT left, that’s bad, not really, 1. they were rubbish 2. 2010-12 was actually an anomaly for team numbers, the average number of teams since 1996 has been eleven.

  10. chompiras said on 23rd November 2013, 7:59

    I think is better to let the small teams to run a team with only one car, and open the possiblity to new teams to came to F1 and run small budget and focus on develop a competitive car, i belive teams like Caterham will be able to make cars competitive enough to run on the middle field,and teams like Sauber and Force India dont be overwhelmed by increasing money spend of the sport
    That;s only an idea i have

  11. Aussie Rod (@aussierod) said on 23rd November 2013, 8:32

    I love the idea of 3 car teams (have done for a while) and think this would be a real shot in the arm for F1.

    Firstly, 3 car teams would guarantee a full 26 car grid, something which F1 should have been providing for years. This would ensure a larger spectacle for viewers, particularly those trackside, and would also mean more seats are available for the ever-growing talent pool of drivers trying to break into, or stay in, F1.

    Secondly it would mean more competitive seats are available. F1 Caterham and Marussia have simply not performed well enough to justify their spots on the grid. If they dropped out of the field the other teams could all (bar one) run 3 cars each. This would make for a super-competitive grid. Q1 in qualifying would take on an entirely new dimension.

    Thirdly, it would add a new dimension to intra-team competition. Three drivers in a team would provide an entirely new benchmark to assess drivers performances which I think would be fascinating.

    Finally, it would spice up the championship battle as you would have +50% more drivers in championship winning machinery. If one team designs a rocket-ship, then you have three drivers fighting for the title rather than just two. In any other scenario, such as 2010 when Red Bull, McLaren and Ferrari were all fairly even, you could have up to 9 drivers in championship contending machinery. A mouth watering prospect in my view.

    Three car teams is far from being un-precedented in the history of F1 and in my view should be embraced.

    • FLIG (@flig) said on 23rd November 2013, 9:01

      I think it is very naive to think any team will hire 3 top drivers. And even if they do, it is naive to think they’d let them fight for the championship. They already don’t let that happen with 2 guys, why would that change with 3? The third car would only be there to fill up the grid, so people don’t miss the small teams, and to provide extra data for teams, and perhaps some strategical/team work/team orders advantage to the ‘rooster’.

  12. MazdaChris (@mazdachris) said on 23rd November 2013, 9:29

    It’s another example of F1 treating the symptoms rather than the illness. There is more than enough money in F1 to have 11 (or more) totally solvent teams, yet last year around £550,000,000 was taken out of the sport by the CRH in pure profit. This ‘solution’ allows for a full grid of cars while the CRH can take an even bigger percentage of the abundant money on F1, while the teams fight over the scraps. It’s marginally better than the customer car concept, which would have seen one team shut down entirely and five small teams reduced to nothing more than maintenance shops for their customer cars, at the expense of hundreds of jobs and the loss of a massive amount of engineering expertise. While creating a two tier system whereby there is absolutely no possibility of a smaller team being able to elevate itself among the top teams. It makes me furious to think that the FIA and the teams are so willing to capitulate with these kind of sweeping changes when it is absolutely clear that the teams are the ones who will ultimately suffer, all for the sake of making other people rich.

    • This. Ecclestone divides and rules them – and the other major players feel it is best to have a larger percentage of a smaller pie, than a smaller percentage of a larger pie. Ferrari get an extra 2.5% (5% under the next Concorde Agreement?) of prize money, basically guaranteeing them to always be the biggest team. And hence FOTA can’t negotiate for a better amount. The teams should probably have bought out F1, paid the loan back before new rule changes came in, gotten themselves more money and then appointed someone to run the sport. Or even the FIA. I calculated 1000-2000 more people could be employed if the teams owned and ran the sport!

  13. Sharon H (@sharoncom) said on 23rd November 2013, 10:02

    That will make team orders very complicated.

  14. Tomsk (@tomsk) said on 23rd November 2013, 10:59

    Ferrari have three number 1s in that photo! That’s very fair, and a complete change from Alonso and Massa.

  15. Dan_the_McLaren_fan (@dan_the_mclaren_fan) said on 23rd November 2013, 11:21

    I was against the idea before, but now I think it could be intersting. We have a limit of 26 cars in the field, and as the FIA isn’t intersted to allow new team in the sport, three cars per team could be an interesting solution.
    I say solution beacuase it could resolve a couple of small problems. Like the lack of mileage for third drivers, the lack of driver seats for talented (but poor) drivers like Robin Frijns or Stoffel Vandoorne, or the lack of testing. A thrid car could give talented rookies a chance to learn and to prove themselves. It could help Pirelli developp their tyres, and could help some teams to developp their parts.
    Of course, there should be limits to that idea. We don’t want a situation where Ferrari has a permanent third car in races which can score points in the constructors championship, and prevent other cars to score points and catch Ferrari.
    Some ideas of how it could work : the third car cannot score points in the constructors championship, one team cannot use it’s third car at all races, there could a system of rotation where each team has a possibility to have a third car, the limit of 26 cars should be respected, only rookies or unexperienced drivers could drive the third car, only the highest placed car of team score in the constructors championship (like in MotoGP)…

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