Toto Wolff, Mercedes, Mer, Albert Park, 2018

Wolff doubts plan for three-car F1 teams will win support

2018 F1 season

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Formula 1 is set to discuss the possibility of allowing three-car teams but Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff is pessimistic his idea will gain support as he’s “not the flavour of the month at the moment”.

Mercedes is seeking drives for its junior team members Esteban Ocon and George Russell for the 2019 F1 season. The team has also recently ended its relationship with another F1 junior, Pascal Wehrlein.

Wolff has pushed for teams to be allowed to run extra cars specifically to give junior drivers like these an opportunity to race in F1.

“I like the idea because I felt the more cars we had in the field, the more opportunity we give to young, exciting drivers to fight in a competitive car against experienced drivers, it would create great stories,” he said. “Maybe be an easier access for talent.”

F1 technical director Pat Symonds also suggested allowing three-car teams earlier this year. But Wolff admitted there is opposition to the idea within F1.

“[Some] teams [are] saying that would mean three Mercedes and three Ferraris and three Red Bulls and I respect that if I was involved in a smaller team, that would be an argument.

“And then the costs need to be looked at, whether it is commercially viable to run a third car and have young drivers in there.

“But for me personally, I would really enjoying having a third Mercedes and put Pascal in there, or George or Esteban, and see what they would be able to do.”

Third cars would not necessarily run to the same rules as teams’ other two entries, Wolff added.

“We’ve looked at various scenarios. You could even let them participate in the sessions in qualifying and then let them do their own race.

“If teams feel that meddling in the championship is not right, you [could] just make them not score constructors points, just driver points. So there are many fantastic and exciting ways to integrate them on the grid, but you have to respect that if some teams are not up for it then it’s difficult to implement it.”

However Wolff suspects the idea will not be judged on its merits. “I’m not the flavour of the month in Formula One at the moment,” he said. “The ideas I bring up somehow end up in the bin, so maybe it’s better not saying anything and then someone else brings it up as the next great idea.”

Will Wood contributed to this article.

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Dieter Rencken
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  • 40 comments on “Wolff doubts plan for three-car F1 teams will win support”

    1. Oh Toto…your comments always have flavour.

      The way this could work and make Liberty happy is to just run two races every weekend. F1A & F1B.

      The three F1A teams would run 4 cars. 12 car field feature race. F1B would have the remaining Tier 2 teams. 14 car sub-feature race field. Two championships. Two champions!

      Or…. Mercedes could buy a 2nd team…like say Williams…or Stroll Ra$ing.

      1. Yeah.. tastes like feeeeet!(cit.) @jimmi-cynic

      2. georgeboole (@)
        18th September 2018, 9:47

        Is that you Fernando F1B champion?

      3. Or just call it F1 and F2. Hey why not have an F3 as well?

        1. Or why not just try what Toto is suggesting – seems harmless to me, and could do some good.
          Why do people prefer to be so negative…?

      4. If Williams becomes a B-Team they might as well leave the sport

        1. @johnmilk Why?

          (That is a serious question. I’m interested in why it’s all or nothing?)

          1. @shimks Williams as a B team is the same as Mercedes, Ferrari or McLaren being a B team, it is below what we expect from them, hence in my opinion they are in it to win or they shouldn’t be in it at all, even if their next victory comes 20 years from now. The image of Williams just as a pawn is something that I cannot compute

            Is it a romantic view? Maybe, but them seem to feel the same way. There is greatness beyond the results, I hope they never lose it.

            1. Yes, I agree with you, @johnmilk. But if it is a question of survival then any option is probably worth considering. Thanks for answering!

    2. Yep, I reckon they should do it. The only good argument I’ve heard against it over the years really has been that you’ll get 1 team podiums, and eh, so be it if it happens. The teams should make a gentleman’s agreement to also spice up the cars. Do like other series and put different liveries on different cars within the same team. Make it clear that each driver has their own team of engineers and support staff, which they do anyway. It’s an easy fix to a number of issues.

      F1 has always been a sport of getting yourself in the right place at the right time. And if 3 (or more) drivers are in that right place instead of just 2 that can only make for more exciting racing.

      At least until we lose these second or more gaps between the unwritten F1 categories.

      1. 3 car teams work in other series because they are spec series. F1 is not. Toto is only thinking of more points, more prize money and more exposure for the brand Mercedes, that’s his job. Teams are struggling as is to compete with the manufacturers, why make it even less competitive?

    3. How about a radically different idea, Toto? Why not bring detailed regulations to bring down overall costs of competing in F1, along with an overhaul of prize money distribution structure among the teams…

      That might allow teams like Sauber, Force India or Williams to actually hire talented drivers in future. Who knows, we may even find new teams on the grid!

      1. Comment of the day, buddy.

    4. It’s not because you’re not the flavour of the month, Toto, but because if it happens, other (not top 3) teams have even less chance of getting point finishes.

      1. But of course, that’ll be fine when they decide to award points down to 20th place!

        (I hope neither happen!)

      2. But Toto has said that the third cars need not qualify for Constructors’ points, so the other teams will not be affected.

        1. Which makes the idea even more bizarre. No points, but more exposure of Mercedes brand on the TV.

          1. There’s just no pleasing some people – so much negativity in some of the comments here…

    5. Imagine Hamilton with two rear gunners.

      He’ll be unstoppable!

    6. Means and end are switched here by Toto. The real solution is to let your development drivers go if you are not offering them a seat. Stop wasting everybodies time Toto.

      1. Go where…?
        Are you being unnecessarily negative, or are you just anti-Toto/Merc.

        1. Go to other series like every other talented youngster has to go to. Or even to other F1 teams. Ocon has been rejected by several teams because he is practically owned by Mercedes, and because of that he might not be in f1 ever again.

        2. e.g. release Ocon of his Mercedes contract.
          Other teams would take him if he were e ‘free agent’.

    7. Surely it’s better to treat the root cause and not the symptom and make F1 attractive and profitable enough for 2-3 new teams to enter, that way 2-3 seats would be available for young drivers.

    8. Under the assumption the third car wouldn’t score Constructors’ Points, the only aspect that I can think of that torpedoes the idea of 3 car teams is that if only some of the teams (We know which ones definitely would) run the third car then it becomes another car on track, another car to pass and probably most significantly, another car to hold another up the team that doesn’t have a third car. A championship leader (Hamilton) could have 2 stooges (Bottas) to shield them to wins.

      Apart from that I welcome the idea, providing it can be managed by the teams with a tighter budget and the entire grids runs a third car. A full grid will undeniably bring more overtaking and action on track.

    9. At last… positive comment… ;)

    10. The only way I could see third cars work is if it was something along the lines of guest drivers.
      Have Mercedes, Ferrari, Red Bull provide and run a third car, with a max of 2 out of the three running at any one event.
      The FIA and Liberty come up with a short list of drivers (intetested drivers can approach them too), all must have relevant / bare minimum experience and will be given a day testing in an old car (ideally the actual car irrespective of test bans). Must not have been in F1 for at least three years.
      Then people vote on the F1 website.
      A guest having a one off experience would not want to waste the opportunity backing up the field for a team mate.

      1. Good idea for the fans, but bad for toto/Mercedes agenda

    11. Can’t help but think that this recent focus from Toto on a third car is a desperate attempt to somehow cover the poor management of their young drivers program.

      Time would be better spent trying to put Ocon and Russel in a Williams. Or you should have done what Ferrari did with Sauber a few years ago with Manor

    12. Terrine idea. Good for brand Mercedes if they have 3 cars up front, bad for so many other drivers in f1 fighting in the midfield, and midfield teams, they will be pushed even further back and less chance of points. If they did 3 cars, then surely they would have to make it a real 2 tier sport.

    13. Good. Just how it should be.

    14. “If teams feel that meddling in the championship is not right, you [could] just make them not score constructors points, just driver points.

      That would be meddling with the championship just as much as them scoring constructors points would as its another car to use tactically not just to help the other 2 cars build gaps or whatever in races but also as a way to take points off title rivals from other teams.

      With 3 cars one is going to fall out the title fight sooner if there even allowed to be in the title fight at all so that just increases the possibility of teams using team orders/tactics & while I have personally never been against team orders or tactics I don’t think increasing the possibility of seeing them would necisarily be a positive.

      Then there’s the more obvious issue of the mid-field teams been pushed further back, Not only reducing there possibilities of scoring points but also reducing there overall exposure because the cars towards the back of the field don’t get the same level of media focus & therefore struggle to attract sponsors which all hits them financially.

    15. It’s a horrible idea, and the kind of thing only a top team would suggest. Adding a Merc to the grid would add a Merc to the points scorers. Simple as that, and that’s not fair. The last time we had a 3 car team on the grid (1985) was an era when a team could come along and make some waves. Be competitive straight away. Granted, it was also a time when only 5 or 6 cars scored points, but still, the point stands. We’re in different times now. If you allow a 3 car team then you’ll potentially have Ferrari, Red Bull & Merc in the top 9.

      Wolff’s actual problem is the way Merc are stock-piling young drivers. They’re becoming the Chelsea of Formula One. Suck it up. Either do a Red Bull and fund a 2nd development team, or live with it. Let the likes of Ocon and/or Russell go elsewhere, or do you let Bottas go and risk bringing one of those in to partner Lewis straight away? Either way, it’s a nice problem for Merc to have, but it’s not great if you’re one of their young guns.

    16. @bealzbob

      The last time we had a 3 car team on the grid (1985)

      And the reason it was done was so that they could test the newly developed Thomson onboard camera in a race without potentially disrupting one of Renault’s primary 2 race cars.

      Brabham had run it on Nelson Piquet’s car during practice at Monza & Brands Hatch in late 1984 but it wasn’t suitable to run in a race at that point due to Size/Weight of the box transmitting the signal to the helecopter.

      Renault had been working with Denis Johnson, FOCA & Thomson to develop the system throughout 1985 & they got to a point where they wanted to run it during a race by the middle of the year but didn’t want it on one of there primary race cars so entered a third purely for the purpose of testing the camera equipment. When it worked without a hitch & didn’t prove an issue for the car over a race distance they felt comfortable fitting it to there primary cars & Patrick Tambay ran it over the final 2-3 races of the season.

      1. @gt-racer Thanks for the info.

    17. Although F1 is based on the idea of car constructors, I think a better proposal would be single car privateers.
      Established teams would offer customer chassis, body and power units.
      Even companies today outside F1 could find a way to contribute.
      I think this way Alonso, for instance, would have more options, without the ties to a given engine for multiple years.
      Plus it would give a better entry point to new drivers. I think nobody would care about “paying drivers” if there were not taking a seat on proper teams, but show their abilities (or the lack of it) in a slngle car.

    18. The only way I can see of doing this would be to allow single car entries from an independent team who are able to buy a complete package from any team outside of say the top 3 teams in the previous years championship. Or stop changing the technical regulations every year and allow them to buy the previous years car.

    19. Difficult to believe this idea has enough support to warrant a serious discussion by F1 at all. No harm in discussing I suppose. Just a waste of time for an impractical, complete makeover of what Formula 1 has been traditionally for quite some time.

      Especially when there already exists a way to get your junior drivers into seats in F1. Ask Red Bull how to accomplish this, for example. But, it requires the effort of the team wishing to do this to invest in this effort to achieve it. Isn’t that better than requiring all the other teams to totally change what it means to be an F1 team? Not to mention all the money required to do so. And, particularly for the teams already struggling financially that do not have the luxury of backing from one of the world’s largest, most successful car manufacturers to foot the bill.

    20. I want to say it’ll never happen, but this is F1…

      It’s all well and good Toto saying the 3rd car can just drive around in it’s own non-points scoring race, but it doesn’t stop those big teams getting all the other advantages of having a 3rd car on the grid every weekend – More developement data, a guinnea pig for tyre strategy during a race, an extra car between your championship contender and his nearest rival (even if he does get blue flagged out the way, eventually). Toto must be losing it as badly as Whiting if he genuienly thinks this would be “good for the sport” as a whole.

      As others have said, if Mercedes really, REALLY wanted one or two developement drivers on the grid, they had the chance to do exactly what RBR and Ferrari are already doing when Manor went up for sale. But no, if they can’t slap a three pointed star on it and boost their road car imagae, they aren’t as interested.

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