OCTOBER 3, 2003
The danger of third cars
One of the subjects that the Formula 1 team bosses have been discussing in recent days is how to organize the sport if the bigger teams are forced to run third cars. The Concorde Agreement dictates that there should be two cars per team but there is a vaguely-worded clause which calls for third cars if the numbers fall too low. The third cars would cost as much as $8m a year to run but would not score points in the World Championship although it is not clear how the distribution of points would be handled because one cannot simply ignore a car because of the tactical implications involved to deprive other teams of points. If there are third cars it will mean that the smaller teams left will be put under increasing pressure because with (in effect) three big teams with three cars there will no room for the smaller teams to score points and so they are going to be less able to attract sponsorship.
Many of the team bosses argue that it is wiser and less expensive to have a fund to keep the smaller teams going.
Underlying all of this is, of course, the need for a commercial settlement between the teams and the banks which own SLEC, the commercial rights holder in F1. If this can be finalized the smaller teams will automatically be given extra money from the TV fund (the boost being in the region of $10m a year) while it will also allow the smaller teams access to cheaper engines as Cosworth has agreed to supply cheap engines for all customer teams if the bigger operations agree to subsidize the engine supply.
The other thing that could improve the situation is to alter the rules so allow new teams to enter the sport. It is no great secret that some of the Formula 3000 operations, notably Arden International have F1 ambitions but cannot see how to raise the funding necessary to compete. Subsidized engines and secondhand chassis would obviously help matters although F1 team owners would prefer to keep numbers down to maintain the value of their own operations and force newcomers to buy.
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