OCTOBER 10, 2008
The word on the street in Fuji suggests that there might be a change of engine supplier next year for the Force India team. Vijay Mallya's operation has been using Ferrari engines for the last two seasons, but the team has never been competitive. Given the costs involved in buying Ferrari equipment Mallya believes that there may be better value for money from a different supplier and there are whispers that he has been talking to Mercedes about a possible drivetrain deal for the future. Some stories even suggest that he would like to revive the idea of a full customer car deal.
McLaren looked closely at getting involved with a second team in the era when Prodrive was wanting a deal, but that initiative was stopped by opposition from some of the smaller teams, which argued that the idea of customer cars was against the terms of the Concorde Agreement. Force India even went to arbitration with Red Bull, but that case was never heard as the team took a settlement rather than going the whole way with the arguments. Since that settlement there has been more talk of customer cars being allowed again in 2010, despite the current agreement which allows Toro Rosso and (at the time) Super Aguri F1 to use customer machinery on the understanding that they would become constructors. There are no signs that Scuderia Toro Rosso is investing in infrastructure for 2010 and the fact there are rumours of a Force India deal suggest that another attempt is being made to allow customer machinery. The problem with this theory is that if one big team does it, the others will have to follow because there will be a performance gain from four cars being allowed to test. This will mean that very quickly the big teams will swallow up the smaller operations and thus the manufacturing base of F1 will be reduced as the big teams move to four cars each. Economies of scale will make this logical for the manufacturer operations, even if overall budgets have to come down because of the difficult economic climate. This process is currently causing mayhem in the NASCAR world where teams are being forced to merge or face going out of business in order to compete.
The rumours of an engine deal with Force India mention the name of Paul di Resta as a possible driver. The 22-year-old Mercedes protege is due to test for McLaren at Silverstone next week.
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