OPINION: Forget three-car teams, it’s the Formula One customer that should come first
- Credit: PA
With the current financial crisis making its way through Formula One, the debate of three-car teams increases.
Valentino Rossi testing a Ferrari in 2007 started the rumours of Ferrari asking permission from the FIA for a third car – and at that time I thought it was a great idea. McLaren and Ferrari were the dominant teams and the prospect of six drivers competing for the drivers' championship could only be good for Formula One.
After the introduction of the new teams in 2010, the talk of three car teams disappeared until recently – and it has made me analyse the impact three-car teams would have.
There is a very good chance Mercedes will again be the dominant force in 2015 and possibly for the foreseeable future. Therefore the title will be between Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg.
But imagine if Mercedes liked the idea of Fernando Alonso joining the silver arrows – before he had signed for McLaren. Three of the best drivers on the grid competing against each other in the same machinery – plus the possibility of all three team-mates falling out with each other – would be great entertainment for the F1 audience.
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The way F1 is currently going, the middle teams are looking at the dollar signs before talent in recruiting their drivers. If the 'big' teams could run a third car, there is a good chance they could give a young, deserving driver the opportunity.
If Jolyon Palmer does not get a seat it will be the third year in a row the GP2 champion does not get a drive in Formula One – and this can't be good for the future of the support series.
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As a short term fix, three-car teams may be the solution and may also be entertaining – but the long-term future for Formula One may not be so bright.
The current chat coming out of the paddock is that Ferrari and Red Bull could be the only teams to run the extra car. So the questions from this are: How would the constructors' championship work? Would the third car run the same livery? Would the extra car be run out of the same garage and therefore would they use the same pit stop box as the two other cars? A few questions to be answered.
If Red Bull could run a third car, would Dietrich Mateschitz see the money that he pumps into Toro Rosso as a waste, as he then has the option to promote the next Red Bull junior driver to the full Red Bull Racing team as the third driver? He may then pull the plug on Toro Rosso – and then we lose another team.
We again might have the scenario of the middle teams who are struggling to cover their costs at the moment, having a tough year and left at the back of the grid. Sponsors would drop off, investors might become bored and before we know it a couple more teams might withdraw – and then we will be in a mess.
Something needs to change in F1 but I don't think three-car teams is the way forward.
Obviously money needs to be split more evenly between the teams and costs need to be reduced in the future.
A way forward for me is for manufactures to have the option to provide customer cars. Toro Rosso were pretty much a customer car when Red Bull purchased the Minardi team, and I can't remember too many complaints at that time.
So if Mercedes, Ferrari and McLaren have their own Toro Rosso team, this can be good for the future health of Formula One.