With Formula 1’s smaller teams struggling to make ends meet, let alone pushing for podiums and victories, is it time that the sport reassessed its stance on customer cars to improve the spectacle and safeguard the brand’s long term success?
Fighting fit, financially feasible
The concept isn’t so far-fetched. Williams, one of F1’s most successful teams, started its life with a customer March for the 1977 season, providing a firm footing for a squad that to date has won 24% of the Constructors’ Championships that it has entered.
Customer cars offer the opportunity for provide better chassis foundations for F1’s smaller teams, enabling them to compete with the more established front-running squads, which will add value to the sporting brand through an improved on-track spectacle.
Furthermore, those selling the customer cars would benefit from the additional income, while such partnerships also offer the potential for closer collaboration between larger and smaller teams, leading to opportunities for driver and team personnel development, as well as advancing new technologies.
A realistic fit?
I believe that customer cars would be beneficial to the sport and its brand identify, on the proviso that the income from television rights is split evenly amongst the teams. The current structure offers no benefit to F1, and a valid argument could be raised that this has played a major role in the financial failure of several teams in recent years.
While the customer cars will still need to be adapted to fit engines and gearboxes, and while some will argue that this will create a two tiered grid, I believe recycling cars supports F1’s new ecologically-conscious positioning as well as providing better entertainment through closer competition.
To find the best fit, I suggest the following restrictions:
- Teams can only sell previous season’s cars to one customer
- Teams to set price of customer cars, but not to exceed £20 million
- Customers to bid for cars, with recipient chosen by selling team
- Customer cars to be sold from July in previous season but not to be delivered until closed season
- Customer cars not to be compulsory in order to promote teams developing their IP
What do you think – a flawed fantasy or the foundation for a competitive and affordable F1?
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