'Ferrari & Red Bull to run three cars in 2015'
But Marussia insist they could return to the grid in Abu Dhabi
By Pete Gill and James Galloway
Last Updated: 10/11/14 8:21am
F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone has denied that a request has been made to Red Bull and Ferrari to field third cars next season, but reiterated that such a provision does exist in the regulations.
According to reports, F1 superpowers Red Bull and Ferrari have indicated that, if asked, they will run three cars next season.
The Times newspaper claims that both teams will field an additional car in 2015 if, as expected, neither Marussia nor Caterham return to the sport.
“If the numbers drop below a certain number - which I think is 16 - we are obliged to run a third car, that is in our contract. But that is not the case and we haven’t been requested to,” Red Bull boss Christian Horner told Sky F1.
“We hope all the teams will be there and support a full grid of two-car teams. We want a healthy grid, healthy racing and competitive racing.”
Although Marussia chief Graeme Lowdon has insisted that the team may be revived, administrators for the beleaguered Leafield-based outfit have announced the cash-strapped team will fold, while Caterham have launched a crowdfunding scheme in a desperate bid to return to the grid for the season finale in Abu Dhabi.
“I don’t feel like there’s no way back," Lowdon told Sky Sports F1. "At the moment there’s still very much a chance that we can compete in 2015 and beyond and indeed in Abu Dhabi."
Rumours that the sport was considering becoming a three-car series resurfaced with a vengeance in Austin last week and, coupled with the demise of Caterham and Marussia, prompted Lotus, Force India and Sauber to threaten to boycott the race.
Privately, the backmarker outfits suspect they are being forced out of the sport in favour of F1 becoming a five-team series. Those suspicions were reinforced at Interlagos when soothing suggestions that the grid's cash-strapped 'have-nots' would be handed a £100m lifeline were ruthlessly quashed.
“They get too much now. They shouldn’t spend so much," Bernie Ecclestone told Sky Sports F1. The sport's supremo also said no requests had been made to run third cars. “We’ve not agreed anything," he told Martin Brundle on the grid at Interlagos. "We’ve had four or five meetings, but we haven’t even agreed the next meeting date.”
On a weekend of high drama - and even higher politicking - in the paddock, a meeting between the teams and Ecclestone about the division of prize money within the sport ended without resolution after two-and-a-half hours of fruitless discussion.
"He just said ‘I’ll talk to (CVC Capital Partners co-chairman) Donald (Mackenzie) next week and get back to you’. That’s it," Force India Team Principal Vijay Mallya told Reuters.
"He recognises that the three smallest teams require to get more money in one form or another. We presented our case, he said he’d talk to Donald and get back to us. And I’ve heard this before. So the option is to just wait and watch."
The game-changing prospect of three-car teams in F1 has already proved a hot a topic of debate in the paddock, not least because it remains unclear whether the third car would be eligible to score points and whether or not a young driver would be behind the wheel.
“Third cars are a short-term solution, but in the long-term it is very, very negative for Formula 1. I believe somewhere between customer cars, cost-caps and commonality of parts to squeeze the overall costs of F1 down,” opined Brundle. “Cost caps for teams that are not manufacturers because you will never police manufacturers as to what they spend so don’t even try. But make sure there are enough other teams to fill our grid that have a survivable, credible package so we get credible investors into the sport.”
It’s understood that, if third cars are permitted, Red Bull, McLaren and Ferrari will be the first of the F1 teams to be invited to field an extra car, before a second tier of teams, including Mercedes, are invited to follow suit.
“My concern is, and I am sure Mercedes’ is as well, is that if there are three Red Bulls out there that can score points and three Ferraris out there that can score points, where does it leave them? I am sure only two will count towards the Constructors’ Championship,” added Brundle.
“I do believe there are three teams that have first right of call to run a third car and they are Ferrari, Red Bull and McLaren. I think next up are Mercedes. So as ever there are a lot of smoke and mirrors and confusion about how it will all work.”