McLaren may support struggling teams to avoid having to run a third car

2015 F1 season

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McLaren CEO Ron Dennis says he intends to help support F1’s struggling teams in order to prevent it becoming necessary for him to run a third car in the future.

During a media event at the McLaren Technology Centre to announce his team’s drivers for the 2015 season, Dennis said the possibility that McLaren might have to enter a third car next year had been a factor in his decision.

The matter was discussed at a Formula One Commission meeting in Abu Dhabi on the Tuesday after the last race of the season. “On the agenda was two or three things that I think had very significant relevance to the decision-making process,” Dennis explained.

“One was whether we would or would not have to run three cars. And the other was relevant to the economic stability of some of the teams.

“As is widely known now there are certain teams, one of which is McLaren, there are three teams who have a contractual obligation to run three cars in the event the grid world championship entry falls under 16, or 16 or less.”

Although the teams have not been asked to enter third cars, Dennis remains concerned over the health of the F1 grid.

“I still feel two teams have great challenges left to get to next year’s grid,” he said.”It is actually my intention to try and assist them to that position because I think third cars are not good for Formula One. ”

Although Dennis stated he would run a third car if required to by his contract with FOM, he does not believe it would be positive for F1.

“I actually absolutely believe that the fastest way to eliminate the back of the grid would be to run three cars,” he said.

“You can’t possibly have three McLarens, three Ferrari, three Red Bulls, or maybe three Mercedes – the contract being with, by the way, between Ferrari, McLaren and Red Bull, we have obligations – queueing nine cars up and then the next car being whatever it was. It clearly doesn’t allow that team to say ‘I’m in Formula One’ if it’s not fighting on a level playing field.

“And if you run three cars you will absolutely try to optimise the experience. The third car would have a lot more function to it than just fulfilling the contract. You’ve then got to try and use it as a development tool, et cetera et cetera, so you’d only get stronger from the process in all areas except one – which is it would cost us money. No question.

“So as it’s going to cost us money there’s a high incentive to avoid that cost by trying to help the other teams successfully survive.”

He also disagrees with having richer teams run smaller ‘B-teams’, such as Red Bull do with Toro Rosso. “If a third car is a 50% wrong then two cars would be 100% wrong,” he said. “You do not want to run a B-team, it’s not what Formula One is about, it’s certainly now what we are about.”

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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38 comments on “McLaren may support struggling teams to avoid having to run a third car”

  1. petebaldwin (@)
    11th December 2014, 16:48

    I agree with all of that. Three car teams would allow for huge amounts of extra data to be collected and would only serve to push the teams running 3 cars futher ahead of the rest. This would make their survival even more difficult and would eventually result in the whole grid being made up of 3 or 4 teams.

    1. Yes. Would love to see Caterham Honda…

      1. Super Aguri lives!

  2. So he’s going to supply Marussia or Caterham last years McLaren? They’d be better off taking their own cars.

    1. No that wouldn’t be permissable under the sporting regs. Every team must design and build their own car, and can’t buy one from another team.

      1. I think it was intended as a joke.

        1. Only partly. The sporting regs can change.

        2. it wouldn’t surprise me if it wasn’t. so many f1 fan oppions…

      2. Every team must design and build their own car, and can’t buy one from another team.

        The latter part of this sentence is correct, but the former part isn’t. Teams can outsource designs of any and all parts to third parties as well. HRT let Dallara design their first car.

        The restrictions are that the third party may not be another competitor (so McLaren can’t give an older/other design to Caterham or Marussia) and the third party can only make the design for one competitor (which rules out the construction STR and RBR had set up to jointly develop their cars).

        1. Although the Marussia design would be available to buy and race if indeed they are out with the roundup of the company, as they won’t then be a competitor anymore (as in theory would designs by Toyota or other teams that quit F1, provided they are updated to fit current rules)

  3. Sounds like Dennis is pretending to be the good Samaritan by getting a B team with Honda engines to help them further develop that engine.

    Although I agree with everything he says and a cooperation like they had with Force India was is hardly on the same level as what Red Bull does with Torro Rosso.

  4. I’ll believe there’s a real will to support the smaller teams when the money gets divided up much more fairly

  5. This might actually be the most important story of the day.

    I hope it’s not too late for Marussia / Manor – they are real racers

    1. The mclarens, ferraris and williams are the real racers. Marussia and caterham were just rich men’s expensive toys. Good riddance hopeless backmarkers.

      1. Pawel Jackowski
        12th December 2014, 3:32

        All of the teams you mentioned started out as “a rich man’s expensive toy”. Bruce McLaren started his team because he didn’t like the car he was driving, Enzo Ferrari was fired from Alfa Romeo and to show them up he made a faster better car, and Williams is Sir France Williams “toy” project. How can you say that new teams are not good for the sport and that only established teams are worth supporting. Each and every one of the teams racing today started out with passionate “wealthy” individuals trying to do something challenging and exciting.

      2. @socksolid When you compare Caterham with Marussia, Marussia are real racers. That goes back to 90s when they were Manor Motorsport and competing in Formula Renaut and Formula Three Euroseries. Stripped of the naming disguise, they were essentially a racing team, which showed in the way the worked and performed in their stint in Formula One.

        mclarens, ferraris and williams are the real racers

        You must be kidding. The Mclarens, Ferraris and Williams have a lot bigger budget than what Marussia were running on. Ferrari and Mclaren have their history but haven’t been able to turn up at the front and beat their rivals consistently while the Marussia/Manor team has, even if at the back, been beating the other backmarker Caterham for the last two years and even Sauber this year thanks to Bianchi’s drive in Monaco GP. I’d rate Marussia higher than Mclaren, Ferrari and even Williams for their intent and passion to race.

        1. +1, a real tragic end to the season in more ways than one. Very heartbreaking to see Jules probably meet his end and then the team fold as well. You gotta love their heart, despite being at the back. Viva Underdogs!

      3. No. Apart from the now obsolete “Marussia” owner, the team itself called Manor was a REAL REAL racer!

  6. I’m not sure how he can help them unless they take Honda engines, like the partnership they had before with Force India. Perhaps in the short term just helping to find a suitable buyer?

    1. @george maybe he’s refering to standard parts… same technologies used in more cars bringing down costs?

      I think this shows that McLaren no longer sits in the same place as Ferrari and Red Bull in terms of budget and capacity available for F1. Ron surely can race a 3rd car but it’s not viable for them at all. Ferrari (because it’s their major thing) and Red Bull (who already runs 4 cars) can afford it and see it as a good step in terms of promotion.

  7. Am I the only one who thinks having more of the stronger cars, giving more drivers opportunities to fight for the top positions wouldn’t be a so awful. I feel for the smaller teams trying to make a place for themselves, but in this era of F1 its almost impossible for them to have a fighting chance. Having more places at the top teams would open up chances for the young guys to show their stuff in equal cars against the big names, instead of getting labelled as a midfield driver because they’ve been stuck in a car that was hiding they’re talent. Take Ricciardo for instance, everyone thought they were bringing him up because they were obligated to choose from their driver development program instead paying the money to get the “stronger” option of Raikkonen. Now many on this site are ranking him as their top driver of 2014. I realize we would lose some of the diversity on the grid and I have great respect for the small teams like Marussia, but they’re playing a fixed game and have no real chance of fighting for wins.

    1. You make a great point about Ricciardo that I hadn’t considered! I wish there were more seats for good drivers and I’m honestly surprised that Dennis is opposed to B-teams. Something that’s not quite a B-Team, maybe a grey area in between Toro Rosso and the former McLaren-Force India semi-partnership would benefit both McLaren and Honda, and maybe get drivers in more seats.

      Third cars doesn’t seem like it would work. Mercedes would pull out of the sport if they were finishing 10, 11, 12 every race. Red Bull would pull out if they were finishing 10, 11, 12 every race. Ferrari would literally tear the sport apart if they were finishing 10, 11, 12 every race (and this is the most likely scenario). It would also be rough for Force India and Williams to survive finishing outside of the top 10 every race, let alone Lotus and Sauber. (I know that Williams did amazing this year but I’m cynical and believe the status quo will return once the dust settles).

    2. @stabel91

      Take Ricciardo for instance, everyone thought they were bringing him up because they were obligated to choose from their driver development program instead paying the money to get the “stronger” option of Raikkonen.

      I’m pretty sure everyone and his dog (including Red Bull) knew that DR was the only sensible option. To replace Webber with someone outside the companies driver program would make the entire thing redundant – why would anyone willingly give up their career if they could be rejected regardless of talent, given its already log jammed as it is!

    3. I think 3 car teams are a bad idea for F1 for a few reasons.

      * If you have a season like this with a dominant car we could see 1 team lock out the podium & the constructors championship be locked up earlier (Would Ricciardo have been able to win those 3 races this year if there were 3 Mercedes?).
      * It pushes the mid-field teams further back, Reduces the chance of them scoring points & puts them in further financial difficulties.
      * You will have the 3rd cars used for strategic reasons to block rival teams (Especially if you say the 3rd car can’t score).
      * If you say the 3rd car doesn’t score, Then whats the 3rd driver racing/risking his life for?
      * Could also cause problems in the pits as 3 cars for 1 pit box is going to be a real traffic jam during safety car periods where everyone pits.
      * It puts a bigger financial strain on the teams as they would need to bring more equipment to races, More staff, buy/use more components/tyres through a season & remember that its not just the bottom 3-4 teams who are marginal on finances as it is.
      * It also puts off new teams joining, We have Haas F1 coming for 2016. With 3 car teams where would they fit in?

      The problem with B-teams, Is that if a team decides to pull out your then potentially losing 4 cars rather than 2.

      Additionally you risk excluding the young drivers not part of a teams young driver program.
      McLaren, Ferrari & Red Bull all have there own young driver programs & if they all had B-teams in F1 then as we see with STR they will likely only ever be used for drivers from there respective development programs.
      There are some exceptionally good drivers in the junior categories currently not part of any F1 teams junior driver program, If F1 teams have B-teams & are putting there own drivers into those B-teams your potentially excluding some exceptional talent from an F1 opportunity.

      1. @stefmeister

        1 team lock out the podium…


        constructors championship be locked up earlier

        Nobody watches F1 for the constructors.

        It pushes the mid-field teams further back

        It gives them more opportunities to develop their car and score points. Is the glass half empty or full?

        You will have the 3rd cars used for strategic reasons to block rival teams

        This would be great to watch!

        If you say the 3rd car doesn’t score, Then whats the 3rd driver racing/risking his life for?

        The 3rd finishing car in a team would score no constructor points. They will still be fighting for their own championship.

        Could also cause problems in the pits

        Great to watch

        It puts a bigger financial strain on the teams

        This is the pinnacle of motorsport, the engines are road relevant, it provides way more advertising return than any other. Money wont be a problem.

        It also puts off new teams joining,

        Not if your name is VW or HONDA or HASS.

        I guess I just disagree

  8. Didn’t Ron charge back into the fray stating that McLaren was planning to get back to the front by any means and they wouldn’t be a benevolent friendly team ‘helping’ others anymore?

    1. As someone suggested above, it could be a move to get the new Honda engine tested more which helps increase the speed of development of the powerplant…

    2. They just can’t be as big of a$sh0les as Ferrari and Red Bull are. Is really difficult to reach their levels.

  9. The best thing to do would be for Honda to provide engines to one of the smaller teams. One team does not give Honda enough data to keep up with Mercedes in developing the engine. If the manage to help Caterham or Marussia to the grid, they could have Magnussen and Vandoorne in the cars in return.

    1. Nice avatar, but a pure fantasy given the historical results…

  10. Mclaren Back end on a Marussia with a Honda engine. Given to them at 50% cost.

  11. I don’t like this idea.

  12. Really happy that McLaren went to right direction, if they make great chassis and no more blunders I will cheering again for McLaren

  13. I agree with Ron (just an exception).

    But I think the solution would be some kind of FOM sponsorship program for those small teams. Every team (and CVC also), will put some part of the money they are taking to ensure a grid with the minimum number of cars.

    On the other hand, those small teams, should have to use young drivers program as many of the teams are currently running. Will be quite useful to ensure any driver who wants to compete in F1, have a previous, at least one year, of training in one of this small team program. On the other hand, this way would create some interesting competition between these teams, competing with the “immediate future” of F1 drivers.

    Toro Rosso is more less some kind of this class of team and will be interesting to have other 3 using Ferrari, Mercedes and Honda engines, all of them with controlled (and equal) budget. Like a second class (as today) but with some incentives (as we perceive Toro Rosso has) as “Drivers Academy” for future F1 Talents for Red Bull.

  14. Well, with 3 car teams then I would expect the Contructors Championship to change from a total amount of points collected to average points per car collected, so that two car teams can be more evenly compared to three car teams.

  15. I’d rather have three car teams than poorly funded and even worse managed teams.

    I know it may sound contrarian, but I don’t think teams like Marussia or Catherham had anything to do in modern F1.

    1. Given the bonus Ferrari money and they will be well funded. Is easy to play the well funded guy when you get gifted money.

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