Force India's Bob Fernley says F1 customer car threat has receded
Team boss reckons situation "not as critical as perhaps it was this time last year"
By Mike Wise
Last Updated: 09/09/15 1:18pm
Force India's Bob Fernley reckons the threat of customer cars has receded for now, but still thinks a reappraisal of F1's finances is needed to prevent their introduction in the long term.
Fernley has been outspoken in his criticism of the plans, put forward by the sport's biggest teams earlier this year, as a way of maintaining a full grid should smaller teams go out of business.
Speaking more recently, however, Force India's deputy team principal said: "I think the customer car initiative has, for the moment, moved away. So that's probably why we're a little bit quiet.
"If it comes back, then we'll be equally vocal."
The issue blew up late last year when both Caterham and Marussia went into administration. Although the latter outfit was subsequently rescued, Caterham has since been wound up.
Teams like Ferrari and Red Bull are already obliged to provide third cars should the grid drop below a certain size, believed to be 16 cars. Instead, though, they've suggested that they should sell their cars to customer, or 'franchise', teams.
Meanwhile, smaller outfits like Force India think that the share of F1's income given to teams should be distributed more equally.
Speaking at the Canadian GP in June, Fernley re-iterated his belief that the bigger teams were deliberately trying to drive smaller ones out of business.
But he's since toned down the rhetoric. "The customer cars were a way to overcome the issues of teams that were struggling and falling out of Formula 1," Fernley said.
"At the moment, we've got a reasonably stable situation. But we've still got to address the finances of Formula 1 and get them better, so we keep away from anything like customer cars. But we've still got a long way to go on that yet.
"I don't think there's any plans for customer cars and I still think it would be a disaster for Formula 1 if we went down that route."
Even so, Lotus's financial problems are still apparent. Bailiffs seized their cars after the Belgian GP, in which Romain Grosjean finished third for the Enstone team, who appear set to be bought back by Renault.
The French manufacturer was also believed to have held preliminary talks with Force India about a possible buy-in.
"When I say stable, it's on the edge," Fernley clarified. "But it's not as critical as perhaps it was this time last year when we were heading into Austin with Marussia and Caterham going."