Customer Cars Back On The Agenda

It’s a subject which some believe does not belong in the sport. The customer car, a car which is made by one team and sold to another, has had it’s main advocate in Ferrari come out in its aid again recently.

While last November, president Luca Di Montezemolo’s reasoning was that it would benefit the sport, the Italian man has come out on Monday saying that it would of great help to Italian racers – of whom there are none on the F1 grid following the departure of veteran Jarno Trulli from Caterham.

“The real problem is that there’s no opportunity for young drivers. Let’s say I come up with three super strong Italians coming from minor formulas. What is next? I can’t have them testing with the F1 car because testing is banned. Make them race with the 458 GT is a different job. I have an idea: giving a minor team a Ferrari from the previous year and forcing them to field a young Italian. That would be fantastic…”

Bernie thinks it has its positives

Bernie Ecclestone, owner of the sport’s financial and commercial rights, agrees with Di Montezemolo’s musings, saying that it would be advantageous for the lower-grid teams to run a car supplied by a front-running constructor for a few years before going their own way:

“What I’ve been proposing is, perhaps, some of the teams at the bottom end of the grid should be able to run last year’s constructor’s car,” he suggested. “So one of the other teams could run last year’s McLaren, or last year’s Red Bull, for three years until they get themselves together and then they have to go back to be a constructor.”

Such things have happened before. The Super Aguri team, which existed from 2006 to 2008, ran each year using the previous season’s Honda team’s car. Scuderia Toro Rosso raced with the main Red Bull team’s car for the first few years of their tenure in the sport before rules demanded they build their own.

Whitmarsh says his McLaren team are against the idea

Not everyone is happy with the thought of a possible return. McLaren head Martin Whitmarsh is of the opinion that it does not belong in F1:

“I think McLaren, philosophically, are not sure that customer cars are the right thing for the sport,” he told a McLaren media phone-in, “It is a characteristic of F1, one of the features that differentiates it from other motorsport, to have teams as constructors, responsible for building and developing their own vehicles, and having the variety that comes from that.”

In 2008, McLaren themselves were believed to be on the verge of supplying the new Prodrive team with cars, but the team never came to fruition.

It is a discussion topic which we have not seen the last of. There are good and bad points for customer cars but whether new teams would be allowed to enter on such a basis given that the ruling was closed three years ago, remains to be proven.

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