Aside from all the other controversies of the 2007 season, one other debate is yet to be finalised, even though it was initiated long before the Australian Grand Prix last March. The matter concerns the use of customer chassis by teams, and centres around Scuderia Toro Rosso, who are essentially using Red Bull’s car, Super Aguri, who are essentially using the 2006 Honda currently, and Prodrive who intend to use McLaren chassis next year when they join Formula One. The FIA are going to be holding a meeting later this month to decide how to proceed.
While a lot has been discussed regarding STR and Super Aguri, little has been mentioned so far about Prodrive’s legality. It was thought by many (myself included) that the rules relating to customer chassis would be cleared up for 2008, thus allowing Prodrive to enter Formula One and keep FIA president Max Mosley happy by reducing costs. Since Prodrive were awarded the twelfth slot and announced their intended relationship with a current team (McLaren), some others feel that this goes against what the sport is about.
Williams are the primary squad opposed to the idea of Prodrive using another chassis and competing in the constructors title, and they have written to the FIA who have decided to listen and possible take action to clarify further their stance. This possible action will take place after they have met on October 24th and 25th in London. One suggestion has been for the purchasing team to not score constructors points, but many feel that this means Prodrive’s entry is worthless.
Further to the receipt of a letter from the Williams F1 team regarding the legality of the entry of Prodrive F1 in the 2008 FIA Formula One World Championship, the President of the FIA has made a referral to the FIA’s International Court of Appeal (ICA) under Article 1 of the ICA Rules of Procedure. FIA Statement.
It comes as no surprise that Williams oppose the idea, particularly in the current climate of F1 and their position within the sport. Williams have a relatively long history and have enjoyed a lot of success designing, engineering and racing their own cars. Team owners Frank Williams and Patrick Head are among some of Formula One’s most respected operators, and the traditions they hold are true and commendable. However, the team have also come under fire for not necessarily moving forwards with the sport, some say to their disadvantage. Williams last won the drivers championship in 1997 – Jacques Villeneuve being the victor – some ten years ago. Since then the team has struggled at times to gain an engine partner, attract key staff and although they have won races in the last decade, they haven’t looked like the all-conquering Williams of the late-eighties and early-nineties.
Of course, Williams aren’t the only team complaining about the new rules for next year, and I imagine the primary reason is one of trying to keep the championship fair. Formula One teams spend vast amounts of money each year designing and building their own cars, whereas Prodrive would simply turn up at McLaren’s Woking factory with a big van, load up some cars and hand over a wad of cash. If I were Frank Williams and I were being beaten by Prodrive in the constructors, I’d be mad.
But then Formula One does need to control its spending in order to preserve its future. Costs have apparently been spiraling upwards, and while the manufacturer-based teams are able to accommodate these expenditures, the void between these and the smaller, poorer teams only widens. This could easily lead to poorer racing, fewer entrants and a resulting decline in worldwide audiences.
What is your take on the situation? Would you like to see each team design and build their own car, or are you happy for teams to buy chassis off the shelf and compete in the constructors championship? Is the Williams idea of customer cars not scoring constructor points an acceptable solution?