Mercedes backs third cars in F1

Mercedes has lent its support to the introduction of third cars in F1 should the current field be diminished further.

The future of both the Red Bull and Torro Rosso teams looks increasingly uncertain as their owner Dietrich Mateschitz continues to contemplate pulling his financial support and engine deals for 2016 remain to be finalised.

Should the two energy drinks-back teams leave, the F1 field would drop to 18 – below the line at which the FIA can request that specific teams (currently Ferrari, McLaren and Red Bull) run an extra car if they are given at least 60 days’ notice.

Of course, such an action would have a two-fold impact on teams. While the additional car would allow teams to secure additional sponsorship and gather more data, it would also increase running costs.

Toto Wolff, Mercedes F1 team boss, spoke with Autosport about his support for the concept in the right circumstances:

“If a team would leave, and we’ve had the discussion about Lotus a while ago, then third cars are the solution to fill up the grid. For me personally it is a pretty exciting idea.”

“I’d rather have Red Bull in the sport and third cars and a grid of 27-28 cars, and some exciting young drivers in those third cars. But this is definitely one of the fall-back solutions. Priority number one is to keep them in the sport.”

“You can’t close your eyes to the fact that this is a platform, and it needs players and it needs a competitive environment. It needs competitive teams, and that was part of our consideration.”

“Red Bull is a hip brand and it is good for Formula 1. But then it is also an environment when you need to look at yourself and the team’s performance with a priority. So when it comes to the decision you can go with the platform of a good sport, or from your team’s perspective. From our point of view it is clear you need to prioritise your own competitiveness.”

The impact of three car teams

While the spectacle created by three cars teams would certainly provide an interesting aspect to races, the principle is questionable at a time when cost-cutting is high on the agenda and several teams are believed to be fighting financial issues. In fact, just last week it was announced that Mercedes made a loss of £76.9 million during its 2014 title fight.

Furthermore, it remains to be seen how an imbalanced field where some teams are running three cars while others run two would affect the points and prize money awarded at each race, as this could further increase the gulf between the sport’s leaders and the midfield runners.

Such an approach would surely lend increasing weight to the European Commission review into the fairness of the competitive structure of F1, following Force India and Sauber’s official complaint over an apparent bias within the sport.

Yet again, greater transparency is needed to help fans, sports and the media understand the potential implications should three car teams be introduced. A simple website guide or press release would answer a lot of questions and avoid inaccurate speculation.

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