Abiteboul clarifies Force India stance


While Mercedes enjoys a close relationship with Force India and, to an extent, Williams, it is the relationship between Ferrari and its customer teams that is causing concern in the F1 paddock at present.

Even Mercedes is clearly riled that at a time it is under increasing threat from Ferrari, since the introduction of its latest engine upgrade customer teams Haas and Sauber have moved up the field, with the American outfit now regularly claiming best of the rest position in practice and qualifying, even if it tends to undo all the work on Sunday afternoon.

Renault boss Cyril Abiteboul admits that as his team seeks to re-establish itself and take on Mercedes and Ferrari, the rise of the B-team is not only a threat to its position but that of the likes of Williams and McLaren.

Already struggling, should Force India effectively become Mercedes B-team, Renault, McLaren and Williams are concerned that in time the Silverstone-based outfit would, along with Haas and Sauber, force them further down the order.

"That's not the type of F1 we like," Abiteboul tells BBC Sports. "We are a little bit afraid that such a construction would make it impossible for anyone who is not enjoying the benefit of a master team or slave team to be competitive at their own level.

"We start to see some glimpses of that today in certain aspects of the grid or the development of the chassis or engine," he adds. "We need to make sure it does not become a necessity, otherwise our model does not work and our involvement can't be sustainable."

Abiteboul insists that his concern over the Force India scenario is one that the sport's owners must address.

"We will make sure that no job is under any threat," he says of the deal, "that is very certain. But we just want to understand the vision of the commercial rights holder in that respect.

"The only thing where we want to have a little bit of clarity is we understand that there are right now a number of incentives for large and smaller teams to get together and take advantage either of the current regulations or future regulations."

Asked if Renault would block a Force India deal, Abiteboul replies: "The answer is no, because we want to save the jobs. But we want to have the reassurance required before we have to vote that this will not be the case."

However, Toto Wolff denies Mercedes is involved in buying Force India and insists that he is against the very concept of B-teams.

"We don't like the concept of B-teams in Formula 1," he tells the BBC Sports. "We'd rather not have this structure because it provides advantages to both teams, and competitive advantages, you could argue. We are not buying Force India and we would rather not have the concept of a B-team.

"I understand there are questions from Cyril and others over what is the future of F1 if big teams buy smaller teams, which I completely respect," he adds. "I completely share those thoughts and I don't think it is the right way forward.

"I hope we can find a discussion so the scope of co-operation is narrowed down between teams. There are commercial arrangements that make sense, but there are downsides to it. And that is the competitive order can change.

"So we need to find a solution to how the small teams can benefit from shared infrastructure but at the same time not gain an advantage that is currently possible.

"We have held discussions with every potential buyer to my knowledge," he adds, "and the most important thing is someone with the right funds buys the team. But we are not orchestrating it. It is in the hands of the administrator.

"It needs to be the best outcome for the creditors of the team and that is to sell for the best financial outcome."

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Published: 31/07/2018
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