These words from Luca de Montezemolo earlier this week stirred up quite some debate:
“We’re continuing to fight until every team has the right to start with three cars in the next season (and one I’d have handed over to Michael with pleasure). I prefer three McLaren and three Renault to three “whatevers”. With BMW gone, there’s not much to say but lots to do.”
What has been overlooked is the fact that this is not something that Ferrari came up with after Schumacher called off his planned comeback. This is an idea that FOTA has been floating for quite a while. The last occassion was when FOTA reacted to BMW’s withdrawal from the sport (July 29):
“FOTA Teams have immediately consulted each other and are ready to assure all the necessary support to the Swiss-based team, whose membership in the association is confirmed, to continue its involvement in the F1 sport.
In addition to this, the association also included a recent suggestion from a number of initiatives within the group which would target a bolstering in numbers on the grid. Among those initiatives, one that could be interesting is the introduction of a third car on the grid. FOTA will seek the opinions of all the most relevant stakeholders in order to exchange ideas and define proposals for the future of Formula One.
FOTA Teams now wish to have the necessary certainty and stability within Formula One in order to focus on those fundamental priorities for the future.”
That time the third car idea got somehow lost. The topics of those days were the BMW withdrawal and Schumacher’s come back. Now, when Luca de Montezemolo mentioned the third car again, the debate is on.
So, what is it all about ?
There are 13 teams expected to enter the championship next year. If all the teams get the opportunity to field 3 cars per race the number of participants would be double of what we have been seeing for better part of the last decade. It is quite hard to imagine F1 tracks and organizers to be suddenly able to cope with 39 cars on a race day. I somehow suspect that the idea is not having 39 cars on the grid … Someone from the fans friendly FOTA could come out and explain to us fans, what are they after.
With potentially 39 cars on the grid the pre-qualifying would again become a necessity. But if teams like Ferrari, McLaren, Renault or Red Bull for example field 3 cars then teams like Campos, Manor, Force India, Toro Rosso, USF1 may not even bother travelling to races.
If some teams race with three cars and some with only two, how would that affect the championship ? Would all three cars be eligible to score points in both championships ? Wouldn’t a driver racing for 3 cars team have un anfair advantage (or disadvantage ?) against a title rival racing for a 2 cars team ?
Yes, there would be positives as well. One of them is of course more seats in top teams for the top drivers. But the third car idea may turn against the very same teams that are promoting it. Are they prepared to handle three big egos when they often have difficulties to handle two ? Even with 2 drivers from the same team fighting for the title the talk about when is the right time to throw all the support behind one them begins almost the moment one of the drivers wins a race. Now imagine there are three drivers stealing points from each other …
If there is the danger of the grid shrinking to 8 or 9 teams (like it was in 2004/2005 following Ford’s withdrawal or 2008/2009 following the same stunt from Honda) then of course having some or all the teams running 3 cars would be very much a necessity. But why FOTA decided to raise this issue now ? Does it have anything to do with the fact that from next season the manufacturer backed teams will be the minority on the grid (4 out of 12/13 as opposed to 6 out of 10 this time last year) ?