F1 cautious over three-car teams
Bernie Ecclestone and several prominent team principals have played down the chances of three-car teams lining up on the Formula One grid any time soon.
Last week Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo launched a new bid to allow the top teams to race a third car - possibly run by a privateer - arguing that "the interest of the fans, media and sponsors could increase if there is a bigger number of competitive cars on track." However, the general feeling in the paddock in Abu Dhabi was that third cars would make life harder for the midfield teams and therefore was not under serious consideration.
"If by chance we lost a couple of teams then I think it will probably be good," Ecclestone told Autosport. "But the other teams don't like it. You can imagine if we have got three Ferraris, three Red Bulls, and three McLarens, it is not so good for other people."
Mercedes team principal Ross Brawn expanded on the plight of the smaller teams, arguing that it is important F1 maintains a wide variety of teams on the grid.
"I don't think third cars are out of the question," he said, "but I think what we mustn't do is create a situation that harms the financial and sporting environment for the smaller constructors because if we do something that makes their situation far more difficult, then what have we achieved? We have achieved a smaller group of manufacturers and I don't think that's good. It can be a solution if we are getting short of cars, but I would far rather see a healthy group of constructors and as many as we can, that's my personal view."
McLaren boss Martin Whitmarsh said he was tempted by the idea, but said it would not be in the best interests of the sport.
"I think there are some interesting ideas about a third car," he added. "We would all be excited to have [Valentino] Rossi or Sebastien Loeb or someone in a Formula One car. It would be great but, as Ross said, I think we have got to act responsibly. I think the DNA, the structure of Formula One, requires the variety of teams and we have got some new teams and we have got some smaller teams and we recognise that it is very, very challenging to get the budget to compete in Formula One. If, today, Ferrari, Red Bull, McLaren, Mercedes all fielded third cars then I think, in my view, it would be damaging for the sport. There are pros and cons and I think it is right to have the debate and people have different views but at the moment I think what we should be concentrating on is ensuring that we have got a viable and sustainable model for all of the teams in Formula One."
Sir Frank Williams, whose team would be one of those negatively affected by a switch to three-car teams, said outfits like Williams are the lifeblood of the sport and could end up outlasting the manufacturers in the long-term.
"Well today we see a number of very fine car manufacturers in Formula One, but the men who run them run them for a profit and if sales are down costs are slashed," he said. "All I can say is that as long as we have money in the bank Williams will always be racing in F1. I hope for many, many years to come. I am not so certain than some of my brethren here can control their own destinies as much as they would like. There may be someone above them who has less of an emotion regarding Formula One as some people here."
Virgin's John Booth added: "I think first of all we have a very healthy grid of cars at the moment. I don't really see any need to change the formula. From our point of view it is important that every entrant is a constructor."