F1 chiefs to debate customer car rules

F1 Fanatic round-up

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In today’s round-up: the future of technical co-operation deals between teams is on the agenda for Thursday’s Formula One Commission in Geneva.


Top F1 links from the past 24 hours:

Formula 1 set for new customer car debate (Autosport)

??Formula 1 chiefs are to discuss the future of technical co-operation deals between teams later this week, in a move that could open the way for full-blown customer car deals.??

Felipe Massa not planning truce with Lewis Hamilton (BBC F1)

??Felipe Massa says he is not going to do any more to heal his rift with Lewis Hamilton after their latest clash at the Indian Grand Prix. McLaren’s Hamilton, already punished for two previous incidents between them, collided with Massa’s Ferrari but it was the Brazilian who was penalised.

??When asked what he could do to end the feud, Massa said: ‘Nothing from me.’ Hamilton added: ‘He hasn’t spoken to me in a long, long time. I made an effort and said good luck for the race.’??

Q & A: Felipe Massa on Lewis Hamilton clash in Indian Grand Prix (Autosport)

??Q. He said he tried to bring an end to hostilities after the minute’s silence?
FM: No, he didn’t try. He didn’t try to do anything. When I tried to speak to him he passed through. He did not look to my face, so no. Not here. Here after the one minute silence he was at my side and then he just said, ‘have a good race’. So this is trying to what? Have a good race? Is that not part of talking, or whatever???

Martin Brundle (Sunday Times – subscription required)

??As recently as two weeks ago, Bernie Ecclestone was convinced the Buddh International Circuit, near Delhi, wasn’t going to be ready in time, but somehow here we are, ready to race. The place is dusty and it has certainly been hurried in places.??

Jenson Button leads praise of Indian Grand Prix (BBC F1)

??The Buddh International Circuit welcomed a crowd of 95,000 on race day while drivers were united in praise for the track layout and facilities. Button said: ‘It’s one of the circuits which definitely gets a big tick. I’m looking forward to coming back.’??

Lewis Hamilton says mortal danger a fair price to pay for doing what he loves (The Telegraph)

??Everyone will have (their deaths) in their minds. But you have got to do what you do because you love it. It is a sacrifice and a risk that we all take. No one wants to be in those situations but, for me, if I was to pass away, I cannot imagine a better way, personally.??

Bernie Ecclestone admits ‘worst mistake’ (The Telegraph)

??The transfer put in motion a series of events which has also led to Mr Ecclestone being called to testify next month in Germany’s biggest post-war corruption trial. It began last Monday and concerns a $44m payment from Mr Ecclestone and the trust to a German banker, Gerhard Gribkowsky. Mr Ecclestone says it was paid after Mr Gribkowsky threatened that he would make unfounded allegations to the UK tax authorities that the F1 boss controlled the trust.??

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Comment of the day

The incident between Massa and Hamilton has brought lots of great comments. bosyber said:

I think that in Monaco, the earlier collision with Massa influenced the decision with Maldonado, and maybe that’s the way it should be: being in a collision is often both drivers fault to some extent, if you do it twice, maybe you should be more careful on track.

That’s the way it seems to have worked out for HAM during the rest of this season certainly in the view of most stewards, I think.

And maybe here it also caught up with Massa, even if he didn’t carry much blame for most of those earlier collisions. I think there is something in that too.

From the forum

What do you think are the biggest disappointments of the 2011 season?

Happy birthday!

Happy birthday to GQsm, Jon Finn and Pejte!

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On this day in F1

McLaren started the 2009 season well off the pace but by the end of the year the MP4-24 was a front runner.

Lewis Hamilton took pole position for the last race of the season by over half a second.

This was the last occurrence of ‘race fuel qualifying’ in F1, and Hamilton’s margin over the Red Bulls was flattered slightly by his lower fuel load. Nonetheless, it showed how far the team had come in a season where they had failed to progress from Q1 early in the year.

54 comments on “F1 chiefs to debate customer car rules”

  1. it’s been around 18 hours since the incident, and I think I’ve seen 10 different websites featuring the “I won’t talk to him, you talk to him”, “No, I won’t do it…” thing between FM and LH.

    Get together, have a pint, and solve it. You don’t need to be friends, but if you two keep crashing against one another, none will go far.

    1. bit like Days of Thunder, really!

    2. To be fair, it would probably help if one was much further down the road than the other. :D

      Would be interesting to see what reaction the two of them get in Brazil.

      1. I think the reaction that they’ll get in Brazil is a given: fanatical support for Massa and boo-ing for Hamilton. It’s nothing personal with the Brazillian crowd though, they just love their drivers!

        1. Well, except that time someone in the crowd threw a bottle at Hamilton

          1. @George When was that?

          2. Seems I was wrong about the bottle, memory playing tricks on me. Just been doing some digging, this is the only mention I can find: http://www.pistonheads.com/gassing/topic.asp?f=18&t=761665 there’s a video on youtube too but it’s dubbed over with terrible ‘music’ which makes it somewhat pointless.

    3. I don’t know if anyone has already linked this, but Martin Whitmarsh and Stefano Domenicali definitely sound like they are even more bored of it than everyone else: http://www.guardian.co.uk/sport/2011/oct/30/mclaren-lewis-hamilton-felipe-massa

      I especially like Stefano’s response to being asked if the two were magnetic; “Who is the plus and who is the minus?”

  2. Thanks Keith! :)

    Hope you will get the time to answer my mail regarding that competition prize :)

    1. Happy birthday @pejte!

      And a happy birthday to GQsm and Jon Finn as well.

    2. @pejte Happy birthday, enjoy!

  3. As patterns go, Mclaren aren’t due another season where they have to polish a turd till 2013! Even this years car started off a bit rubbish.

    1. well, just once (in 2008) in the last 10 years, Mclaren started with the upper hand in a season… hope they do it again next year though.

  4. When will they hurry up and appoint some permanent stewards. It’s surely going to happen eventually, and it’ll be widely welcomed.

    In the same way Charlie Whiting is widely known and quietly respected they could add something to the sport and make the decision making process more transparent.

    Shame about the Grand Prix not living up to the buzzing atmosphere. Maybe next year.

    1. They used to have a permanent steward, @iamdanthomas – I think it was Alan Donnelly, and he was Max Mosley’s right-hand man at the races. A lot of the teams disliked his presence because they felt he was trying to influence things and issue penalties based on the FIA’s desire rather than on the actual incidents on-track. That’s why we’ve got rotating stewards and a driver’s representative in the first place.

    2. The permanent steward Mosley appointed did more to harm stewarding than a lot of things before it.

      It brought desicions that were very much unconsitent, and often questionable, as well as possibly influenced by sports politics more than what happened on the track.

      To me the real thing that is missing is clearer rules/guidlines on what is allowed on track as well as publishing full stewards findings, with their reasoning and evidence its based on to make those rules consistent and understandable.

      The real horror of it is, that guys like Massa now, and others before were not at all clear of why they got a penalty.

      1. Well said, I really don’t understand why it is so hard to publish the deliberations – or at least share them with the driver/team involved.

        1. I agree, but if Massa can’t understand why he got a penalty after watching it back then he’s probably being a bit of an idiot.

    3. The way I see it there should be a permanent steward with driving experience.

      When a steward investigation is complete, a thorough and detailed analysis should be publish stating:

      • What was investigated
      • What was found as a result of the investigation: including supplying videos and trace data etc.
      • What penalty was awarded/Why no action was taken.

      If they did this and actually had a list of penalties for each offence, the whole system would be clearer. If a new type of incident hasn’t happened before they should decide an approriate penalty for it and this should set a precedent moving forwards.

      If they stuck to these basic rules, the whole thing would be more transparent and believable and fans wouldn’t believe their drivers had been unfairly punished because the evidence would be there to support the outcome.

      They could just release these reports through the fia website and us avid fans would be able to go look at them!

      1. @djdaveyp85 Agree, at Canada they released a detailed description how they came to there conclusions. Don’t know why they don’t do that all the time as it would help greatly.

  5. Don’t see why customer cars were banned, at the end of the day in F1 we want to see as many competitive car as possible, and surely customer cars would allow that. Teams like Prodrive / Super Aguri depended on customer cars and SA found some succes from it. Looking at the current grid at least HRT and maybe Virgin could be helped out by the rule.

    However DTM and Toro Rosso should be examples of not having customer cars. No body wants to see for example 10 Ferraris vs. 10 McLarens. And Toro Rosso now fending for themselves are showing great progress as a legit team.

    Customer cars can be a good idea and help out smaller teams, but it must be regulated.

    1. Personally, I prefer those associations the teams are starting to make, like Virgin teaming up with Mclaren and so on, rather than a team buying a chassis and a engine from someone else and racing it.

      1. Indeed. If Virgin are to claw their way up the grid, I want to see them do it on their own, not because they bought a McLaren chassis.

        1. Exactly that. FI is showing how to do it with support from a team like McLaren, Virgin can do so as well.

          I do think its important they define the scope of what is fine and where is the limit, as there have been rumours that its just about McLaren having a bigger pool of people at the races while still meeting RRA guidelines. Same can be said about the very big team of people “taking care of classic cars” for Ferrari.

          I think this whole issue (and the fact Bernie is stated to be on one side of the argument supports that), is about the defining of the RRA, but more importantly, if FOTA can stay together and force Bernie into a more favourable Concorde Agreement for the teams.

      2. Well said @fer-n65, @prisoner-monkeys and @bascb, those technology sharing agreements are a good way to help starting teams not have to start entirely from scratch.

        If they get a fully finished car, they end up having to reverse engineer it to gain understanding of how it works and to ever be able to progress to building their own car, even if they get all the data.

        It also makes the development of components a bit less of a one-off effort, so that’s a more effective use of money into F1 too.

        But it is almost always good to clear up what is allowed, and how such things are to be structured, if only to stop teams complaining now that FI is starting to make inroads.

    2. Don’t see why customer cars were banned, at the end of the day in F1 we want to see as many competitive car as possible, and surely customer cars would allow that.

      Because established teams didn’t like the idea that newcomers could arrive on-scene with a few hundred million to spend, buy a competitive chassis, and then sell the team off once they had taken their cut of the FOM television rights pay-out. They were also afraid that teams that sold their chassis to multiple teams would start to amass too much power, and try to influence the regulations in their favour in the future.

      1. Custom cars would be terrible for independent teams like williams, force india & renault etc. we can argue that they can take chassis from top teams & race.. then i think it stifles innovation a lot if everyone starts depending upon top teams. Moreover we may always see same ferrari, McLaren etc at top.

        1. I expect that there would be rules governing when and how customer chassis could be bought. I seriously doubt that a team could but a current-model Red Bull or Ferrari design – they’d have to buy an older model. Like, for example, running a 2011 McLaren in 2013.

          And there could also be the provision that a team can only purchase a certain amount of the car, and develop their own aerodynamic parts for it, not unlike the Indycar ICONIC project. For example, I could buy the Red Bull RB7 to use, but that is all that I could buy from them – I wouldn’t get any upgrades that the team developed; I’d have to develop the base model myself.

          Naturally, there would have to be limits on how many teams a constructor could supply. This was a big concern pre-2010 (when the three new teams were introduced), when several manufacturers had a lot of control over the sport because they supplied other teams with engines, and then used that relationship to influence regulation changes. It stopped being a problem in 2010, because Virgin, Hispania and Fernandes thinned out the political alleigances since they had no ties to any manufacturer.

          There’s also the problem of the price. It has to be affordable for the new teams, but at the same time, if the price if low, independent teams like Force India and Williams could buy a customer chassis simply to prevent other teams like Fernandes and Hispania from getting their hands on those cars. Especially if the number of teams a constructor can supply is capped; a team could buy a chassis and never actually race it in order to prevent another team from buying it, racing it and beating them.

          1. You manage to outline most of the issues with customer cars well @prisoner-monkeys . But in addition to what you say, I do worry also that getting a customer car might turn out to be an initial gain for a new team, but then turn into a barrier to progressing to be able to build a competitive car of their own.

            For example, STR took quite a bit of time to get developers and knowledge to progress from their 2008 success, and also in 2009 often ended up waiting months to get updates from Red Bull.

      2. Then why not only let constructors compete in the constructors championship and they share the TV money. Teams using customer cars get a small fixed sum every year from FOM and whatever they make in sponsorship.

        1. Because then they wouldn’t be able to afford to compete, making the legalisation of customer chassis pointless.

  6. “Formula 1 chiefs are to discuss the future of technical co-operation deals between teams later this week, in a move that could open the way for full-blown customer car deals.”

    And they’re also going to discuss the definition of what makes a constructor a constructor, and hopefully approve the Renault and Ferandnes name changes, thus ending the Lotus-Lotus dispute.

    1. I remember that if a team changes the constructor name then they can’t get the money prize from the previous season – something which I’m sure Lotus isn’t happy about.

      1. @Fixy Yeah, that’s why Sauber still had BMW in their name last year.

  7. If having full-blown customer cars available became legal, and meant that tiny teams with limited resources and restricted funds could enter F1, ink a deal with a constructor and have a more-or-less competitive car ready, happy days.

    The way F1 works at the moment is awful for new teams. Virgin came in with a clear task of trying to be quick and competitive on a tight budget. It simply isn’t possible to enter F1, on the cheap (relatively speaking) and be fast. You have to struggle at the back, look silly and be lapped about 50 times across a season.

    Its not as if customer cars will mean a field of equal cars. It won’t, it’ll be the established teams who know and understand their cars and how to develop them vs the teams with identical cars who have to figure out how to develop it and set it all up.

    It would close the field up quite some bit and mean better racing, in my opinion.

    I say go for it.

    1. I see it as the opposite. I acknowledge that it is very difficult for a new team to enter F1 but the technical aspect of F1 and the different approaches teams take is a huge part of what I love about our sport.
      I fear if we allow customer cars, we will see a similar situation to what we have in MotoGP, just a couple of constructors that are competitive and all the customer teams afterwards having no real chance to show their prowess.
      Technical partnerships between teams is the limit, It helps smaller teams acquire proven technology while remaining independent and developing their own solutions.
      I know I have really enjoyed watching Force India make their way up the grid on their own back and look forward in seeing if they can get any further.

      1. I was about to say the same about Force India. They went from backmackers to midfielders in 2 years, with a reasonably tight budget compared to other teams, on their own. Came very close to winning too.

        And also the same goes with your first bit of your argument. In MotoGP, there’s little room for the privateers to show their speed. Simoncelli was the one among the top, but he had full backing from Honda, so he had an official bike with different sponsors.

      2. I think you are right about the customer car being bad for startup teams.

        Just look at where STR were when they had the Red Bull car available in 2008 and how far they fell because they had to build up a team of people to be able to do their own car. Took them 3 years, but I would say it makes the team far stronger for it, as before that team was worth nothing but the licence to be in F1.

        1. Perhaps instead of selling a chassis, teams could sell the technical data from their cars – the stuff McLaren was caught with in 2007.

    2. If having full-blown customer cars available became legal, and meant that tiny teams with limited resources and restricted funds could enter F1, ink a deal with a constructor and have a more-or-less competitive car ready, happy days.

      And therein lies the problem. If F1 allows unfettered use of customer cars then Red Bull, Ferrari and McLaren will probably remain the teams to beat but the low-budget Red Bull, Ferrari and McLaren customers would be in with a reasonable chance of competing for best of the rest. At that point, teams like Mercedes, Renault, Force India, STR and Williams are all faced with the choice of run customer cars or exit F1. The sport then becomes like the DTM – 2-3 manufacturers supplying the whole field. If one of those manufacturers pulls out it puts more pressure on the others and risks the end of F1 as we know it. Granted, the DTM currently looks to be in rude health with the entry of BMW for 2012. But, say, four years ago, had Mercedes or Audi decided to stop racing the series would have been practically dead in the water overnight.

      There may be a place for teams using customer cars to either get started in F1, or to be able to be part of the sport for low costs and make up the grid. That suggests restrictions on the number of seasons a team can use customer chassis or restrictions on competitiveness. Force India’s collaboration with McLaren (allowing smaller teams to buy existing technology and expertise to integrate and develop their own designs) may be a better model than pure customer cars – giving smaller teams a better chance while allowing bigger teams to spread their costs.

      It would close the field up quite some bit and mean better racing, in my opinion.

      The field is currently about as close as it has ever been. At Suzuka a few weeks ago, the top six drivers in Q3 (were covered by just 0.690 seconds. At the same track 20 years ago the top six were covered by 2.440 seconds, with the seventh placed driver a further second behind. The relative technical stability of recent years has closed the field up hugely.

      1. Costumer cars didn’t destroy F1 in the 60’s and it probably wouldn’t destroy it now either.

        They just have to come up with the rules that would limit the use of costumer chassis, like for example teams that use costumer chassis cannot compete in the constructors championship, and with that they’d lose the chance to get prize money from FOM. So there’ll probably be room for both, costumer cars and the actual constructors – that brings up a whole new set of problems and possible limitations, but that’s completely different issue.

        And comparison with series like DTM, MOTOGP, WRC and similar ones where there are only 3 or 4 constructors make no sense since currently in F1 there are 12 constructors.

        1. Customer engines nearly destroyed F1 in 2004, and customer teams could easily do the same. Remember F1’s already having to fight hard against a sportscar resurgence in terms of sponsor/team/manufacturer interest.

    3. I think all the teams should be as independent as possible. It should be hard for HRT and Virgin to move up the grid – that’s just good competition.

      A good example is Torro Rosso. They were effectively Red Bull Team B, which was of course recently outlawed and rightly so. It’s a bit like having ‘Liverpool B’ in the premier league. There’s a conflict of interest so it doesn’t feel like a proper competition.

      I’m all in favour of teams helping others if they so wish (Brawn being assisted springs to mind) and perhaps the meeting will flesh out the sharing of more parts which may be ok to some degree, but full blown customer cars are a step too far IMO.

  8. Lets leave Massa & Hamilton to themselves.

  9. Ah, my once beloved sport is lying there… bleeding! Mercy killing?

    Seriously, they’ve bastardized the rules so many times in the last decade, you start to wonder whether they’ve still got a grip on the sport. We’re suckers who are addicted to speed and are hanging on. However, truth be told, the sport i once came to know as a teenager is not the same anymore, and not for better.

    Customer cars are an interesting concept. However in practice i could several headaches already. You could not have old cars, as the rules are always changing on a yearly basis, and it may not be possible to run last years car because of some specification not being met etc. Also, if you sold your current chassis, owing to some momentary lapse of reason, what you’ll have is similar cars doing rounds.

    What drew me to F1 was the technical impossibilities which the teams had to work with and overcome in order to succeed. Success was a byproduct of their effort. Nowadays teams could just get rules changed in order to scupper chances of a leading team. Remember early 2000’s, when everyone argued for rules to be changed to slow Ferrari? I wonder how long they get tired of this younger German, before they get rules changed again to specifically hinder one team?

    Bah… they should just go back to simple (lol, understatement of a century) racing!

  10. It was made clear that amid pressure from different camps to clarify the situation – with bigger teams wanting to supply customer cars and smaller outfits wanting more help – it was felt important that the matter be discussed at length in the F1 Commission.

    i called it.

    my next predictions:
    complete aero freedom on very small wings
    always-on hybrid power and active aero

  11. Good job on the COTD @bosyber!

    I agree with you, that the way these guys have been hitting each other all year might have been taken in account by the stewards.
    And I really hope Hamilton continues to get over it and Massa looks himself in the mirror, admits its not just big bad Hamilton ruining his races and gets back to racing at his best as well.

    1. Thanks, and a nice addition to what I said :)

  12. This issue of customer cars is the Pandora’s box of F1. If it is done right and highly limited, it could be a nice way to close up the field. If manipulated and under scrutineer-ed, it will be an unmitigated disaster.

  13. Customer cars again, oh no!
    It’s probably Ferrari or RedBull who like this idea, but I don’t want F1 to become something like DTM. For me those deals which are now in place make sense and they’re just good: not complete cars, but parts – even complete rear ends, but it ensures we have real constructors.

  14. Happy birthday @GQsm, @jon-finn and @pejte!

  15. Not sure about the proposed customer car idea.

    I’m sure the vast majority of us take pleasure in knowing that a team has had to start from the ground-up at some point in their history and has got to where they are as a result of talent, not only money.

    Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate pretty much anyone can walk into an F1 team, buy them out, stick their logo on the car and reap the rewards but the team they’re buying still has history and much of the personnel remains the same.

    Having a carbon-copy of an RB7 for arguments sake doesn’t sit well with me. It dilutes the competitiveness of the constructors and undermines the privateers.

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