Customer Cars or Engine Freeze ?

From time to time FIA comes with some super smart cost saving idea. One that they planned to sneak into the new Concorde Agreement were the customer cars. FIA sold this idea as a sure thing. It attracted 11 new Formula 1 wannabies. FIA selected Prodrive as the 12th Formula 1 team to join the current 11 from 2008 season. Here is a brief summary of what followed:

It looked like for the first time since the days of Prost and Arrows we may have full grid. Super Aguri and Toro Rosso seem to have also counted on the customer car era and did nothing to develop their own cars. Super Aguri team was not allowed to enter the F1 with an Honda clone in 2006, so they opted temporarily for the most modern eligible chassis available – four years old 2002 Arrows. In 2007 however they simply painted 2006 Honda car in Super Aguri colors and immediatelly jumped from the back of the grid to midfield.


Toro Rosso’s were also not allowed to race same cars as Red Bull last season. But, they did find a loophole in the rules, and used 2005 Red Bull car as it was developed not by Red Bull, but by a third party (long story made short – Jaguar + Ford + Red Bull = easy to make up third party). In 2007 it was all different story – Toro Rosso was all RB03 chassis fitted with different engine with different livery (even DC confirmed that). The old Minardi team were no longer the perenial backmarkers. That honour went to Spyker (aka Midland aka Jordan now Force India), a team that kept developing their own chassis and even hired Mike Gascoyne. All of a sudden the former Jordan found themselves way behind former Minardi and a team that no one even thought of until Suzuka 2005. And as if this was not enough, were about to see 2 more McLarens badged as Prodrive on the grid …

Well I am glad this will not happen. F1 is F1, in F1 teams build their own cars. If you can’t do that go and check out GP2… I am glad Frank Williams is standing firm on this one. There probably needs to be some sort of compromise worked out with Super Aguri and Toro Rosso, unless F1 is ready for 18 cars grid, but these 2 should also be made to build their own cars in a year or 2. There are some options – give them grace period and let them race what they raced last year till then. Or revert them to their last legal chassis and let them race and develop those till they come up with their own car. But stop this customer car nonsense in F1.

The other area where FIA decided to save money for the teams were the engines. It started with an engine a weekend rule, than an engine for 2 weekends. Last year we had the engines frozen as they were in Suzuka, with few areas left open for improvements. Then few weeks back FIA dropped a bombshell – no engine development allowed at all and engines are frozen for 10 years. That means the cars will race in 2017 with same engines they have now. Wow … Tony Purnell says that the 10 year freeze is good for F1. It will save the millions that teams spent on improving bits and pieces in the engine and cut their budgets to half. But at the same time he speaks about pretty much free hand in development of Kinetic Energy Recovery Systems (KERS). Yes, these might be relevant to road cars, but then why is he kidding about reducing the cost ? F1 teams will never save cost because of development freezes. They will not cut their budgets to half unless they are forced to with a well policed spending cap. Ban them from developing engines, even if they do not have work on KERS, they will spend the money on aero… I admit I do not like this engine freeze idea. I somehow can’t imagine there will be no development of the F1 powerplants for 10 years. I can’t see this freeze will last that long (as the 1 tyre rule did not). But if I were to choose between customer cars and engine freeze, I would prefer the engine freeze, the lesser evil in my opinion …

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2014 Teams and Drivers

Red Bull
Sebastian VETTEL
Daniel RICCIARDO
Ferrari
Fernando ALONSO
Kimi RAIKKONEN
McLaren
Jenson BUTTON
Kevin MAGNUSSEN
Lotus
Romain GROSJEAN
Pastor MALDONADO
Mercedes
Nico ROSBERG
Lewis HAMILTON
Sauber
Adrian SUTIL
Esteban GUTIEREZ
Force India
Nico HULKENBERG
Sergio PEREZ
Williams
Felipe MASSA
Valtteri BOTTAS
Toro Rosso
Daniil KVYAT
Jean Eric VERGNE
Caterham
Marcus ERICSSON
Kamui KOBAYASHI
Marussia
Jules BIANCHI
Max CHILTON

2014 F1 Calendar

14-16 March - Australia
28-30 March - Malaysia
4-6 April - Bahrain
18-20 April - China
9-11 May - Spain
22-25 May - Monaco
6-8 June - Canada
20-22 June - Austria
4-6 July - Great Britain
18-20 July - Germany
25-27 July - Hungary
22-24 August - Belgium
5-7 September - Italy
19-21 September - Singapore
3-5 October - Japan
10-12 October - Russia
31 October-2 November - USA
7-9 November - Brazil
21-23 November - Abu Dhabi

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