The issue of Formula 1 customer cars arises just about every year, this time around it was raised during the Monaco Grand Prix weekend and it transpires that both Red Bull team boss Christian Horner and newly instated Ferrari Team Principal Marco Mattiacci support the concept, with Mercedes’ Toto Wolff not against the idea.
Ferrari have always lobbied for the return of customer cars, and Mattiacci is clearly a supporter, “We strongly believe in customer cars. I think that if there is a way to guarantee an entry level that is less expensive than probably a top team budget it is a customer car, to give more support, probably, that’s another way to go, to go different supporting integration with customer cars but we believe in it.”
Customer cars were for many years the backbone of Formula 1 fields with the likes of Ferrari, Lotus, McLaren, Brabham, March, Williams and Tyrrell at some point in their history servicing customer teams, through into the late seventies.
Mattiacci believes that customer cars would provide new teams with “the possibility to have two, three years’ experience and to gain the knowledge and then to become competitive. So, this is a practical way, realpolitik, to move ahead.”
Horner agreed, “To encourage new teams to come into Formula 1 then a year-old car would surely be the most cheapest, more cost-effective way of introducing a team into Formula 1 that hasn’t got to have the investment in a design and R&D department, manufacturing, go through all the crash-test process, [they] can just be focused on being a race team while they build their infrastructure up.”
“One would think that might be a logical way to help the small team and perhaps a new team coming into Formula 1,” added Horner.
Mercedes Executive Director Toto Wolff agrees with the customer or three cars per team scenario only “to guarantee a competitive field with enough cars.”
“If we really run into a situation where the number of cars on the grid drops to a critical level – whatever that critical level is, 20 or 18 cars – I think then measures need to be taken, whether it is a third car, whether it is a customer car,” said Wolff.
It is an open secret that Team Haas, who have a place on the F1 grid for 2105, are in talks with Ferrari about potentially supplying customer cars for them to get on the grid from next season.
Without that option it is unlikely that the team, led by NASCAR team owner Gene Haas, will be on the grid next year but instead will have to delay their debut until 2016. (GP247)