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Fernley warns of customer car 'Trojan horse'.

NEWS STORY
07/06/2015

Force India deputy team principal Bob Fernley claims calls for customer cars mask a hidden agenda.

With the loss of Caterham and the financial issues affecting several of the remaining teams, there are fears, even though Gene Haas enters the sport in 2016, that we might soon witness the prospect of depleted grids.

As a result, the recent meeting of the controversial Strategy Group once again brought up the contentious subject of customers cars, or 'franchise cars' as Toto Wolff has dubbed them.

It is a subject that has long polarised the sport and its fans, for while customer teams formed the backbone of the sport in previous eras it is felt that a return to the practice is not only intended as a 'band aid' for the sport's problems but that there is a hidden agenda.

Bernie Ecclestone, long a champion of customer cars, argues that such a move would benefit the sport and even the smaller existing teams, essentially suggesting that the likes of Force India and Sauber could buy 'off the shelf' packages from rivals and thereby save the costs of designing, building and developing their own cars.

Force India deputy team principal Bob Fernley is seriously concerned at the proposal, which, it is understood was discussed once again in Montreal this weekend at a meeting attended by Mercedes, McLaren, Red Bull and Ferrari.

"I'd put it under the banner of 'Beware of Greeks bearing gifts,'" he told Reuters, a reference to the mythological wooden horse the Greeks gave to the city of Troy after a fruitless 10-year siege. Of course, unbeknown to the people of Troy, the wooden horse contained Greek soldiers who, under cover of darkness, were able to climb out and open the city gates to their fellow warriors.

"I think it's the final play of the manufacturing teams trying to take control of Formula One," said Fernley, "both from a point of view of a power base and a financial base. To drive the independent teams out and replace them with customer cars so that they are in total control."

The suggestion was refuted by Mercedes Niki Lauda. "I honestly believe that this is the best idea which ever happened because it gives everybody the opportunity to participate in Formula One with a lower cost base," he told Reuters. "It is only triggered when there are eighteen cars on the grid so therefore it's not an urgent thing but we need to talk about it.

"There will be constructors and non-constructors," he added. "And all of the constructors if they want to should make more cars. And then it depends on how many people want to use the cars.

"We are just thinking along what is the best solution," he insisted. "To wait for a trigger of eighteen cars is a reaction. I think you should be proactive. Why do we need to wait for a trigger? I think we should think of a new concept that is feasible and introduce it as quick as you can. I would trigger this earlier. Why wait for the disaster?"

This, of course, comes just weeks after Red Bull, one of the prospective customer car manufacturers, threatened to walk away from the sport following a 'difficult' start to the season.

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READERS COMMENTS

 

1. Posted by wilbur, 08/06/2015 11:35

"Beats me why Lotus or Force India would want to buy a Red Bull or a McLaren....."

Rating: Positive (3)     Rate comment: Positive | NegativeReport this comment

2. Posted by Paul C, 08/06/2015 5:50

"Remember March!"

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3. Posted by copy_dude, 07/06/2015 17:02

"It's very hard to discover any firm details about this proposal. Which makes it difficult to debate.

I still don't know if non-constructors are going to get 'constructor' points, for example.

How much will it cost? A couple of weeks ago, Bernie said: 'We will charge 15m for a car, FOM will pay'. But we don't know whether that was for just a tub or what. 'Then we will do a deal with an engine manufacturer' he added. Now we learn it will be more like 50 - 60m plus engine. Maybe.

It seems Bernie was talking about a third-party supplier to supply the car. Now I read that a team will be allowed one customer each. But who would want a Renault or Honda customer car at this time? What to make of all this?

Oh, and yesterday on BBC, I learned that the new term is 'franchise cars', not 'customer cars', apparently coined by Toto.

I can see the politics of course. Interesting that Williams was not invited to the post-strategy group discussion.

But I really don't think anyone has thought this through. It still seems no more than an expensive hobby leading to backmarker bankruptcy.

Any insight from 'Pitpass' would be appreciated."

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4. Posted by VC10-1103, 07/06/2015 16:11 (moderated by an Adminstrator, 07/06/2015 16:13)

"This comment was removed by an administrator as it was judged to have broken the site's posting rules and etiquette."

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5. Posted by Joop deBruin, 07/06/2015 15:56

"With the Hobbit still around, I'd always keep my back to the wall."

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