Three into two does go

WE know that Williams will have Damon Hill and Jacques Villeneuve next year; we know that Jean Alesi and Gerhard Berger will be at Benetton; that Mika Hakkinen will be at McLaren and Michael Schumacher at Ferrari. What we do not know is whether the top F1 teams have finished their 1996 driver recruiting - because there are moves afoot to allow the big teams to run three cars...

The move has been suggested to help boost the grids and please the sponsors without increasing budgets enormously. All the top teams take three sets of mechanics to each race: one for each car and a third crew for the spare, which is seldom used. Allowing three cars - and perhaps banning spares - would make better use of the personnel and equipment at each race.

Such a decision would be another nail in the coffin of F1's smaller teams as the grids would not increase in size and the slower cars would be bumped out of the races. This would not come as a surprise as it seems there is a concerted effort at the moment to reduce the number of F1 teams to around nine teams. No-one seems to know why there should be such a policy but we have heard suggestions that having nine solid well-funded teams would be better than having 16 teams trying to divide up the available sponsorship between them. It would also fit in with the theory that the governing body wants to rid F1 of customer engines and have only manufacturer-backed teams.

F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone has confirmed that a regulation change is being considered and reckons it is "a good idea." He added that if there were third cars run they would not score points in the Constructors' Championship although the drivers would be eligible for points.

The matter will be discussed at Monza this weekend by the FIA Formula 1 Commission. If an agreement can be reached a proposal for change could be put forward to the FIA World Council which is scheduled to meet in Paris, France, on October╩19, and could come into effect next season.

The F1 Commission is made up of 13 members comprising the presidents of the FIA and FOCA (Max Mosley and Bernie╩Ecclestone), two representatives of the FOCA teams (Frank Williams and Ron Dennis), two representatives of the non-FOCA teams (Giancarlo Minardi and Benetton's Flavio Briatore), a Ferrari representative (Jean Todt), four F1 promoters: Tamas Rohonyi (Brazil), Mal Hemmerling (Australia), Federico Bendinelli (Imola) and Rene Isoart (Monaco) and two representatives of the F1 sponsors (John Hogan of Marlboro and Armando Bianchi of Agip).

The World Council, incidentally, has the right to accept or reject proposals from the F1 Commission but cannot alter them.

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