Formula 1

F1 bosses 'ignoring the fans' as small teams warn of an agenda

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Formula 1 bosses are ignoring the fans in their quest to introduce customer cars, that is the claim of Force India and Sauber as the debate over the future of the sport continues.

In the latest twist some reports claim Ferrari and Red Bull will operate a third car in 2015 to make up the numbers before to introduction of customer cars a year later.

Indeed while Caterham turn to crowd-funding in a bid to participate in the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on November 23rd and Marussia officially folded last week team bosses for two of the sport's smaller teams warned of an 'agenda' to force them out of the sport.

Only in it for the money

Last week it was reported each of those teams struggling to make ends meet would receive 100 million pounds in order to combat the ever rising costs in F1.

But following a meeting between teams and CEO Bernie Ecclestone in Brazil, Force India's deputy team principal Bob Fernley claimed: “We were given a clear direction there is no money on the table," he told Sky Sports.

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"The goal is to move to customer-car teams and the three cars will be the interim." - Bob Fernley

"There is a very clear programme coming in. The goal is to move to customer-car teams and the three cars will be the interim. That would allow them to keep the numbers while the customer cars are brought in.”

Fernley continued telling the Guardian that the sport's owners CVC and Ecclestone were simply out to make as much money as possible for themselves and their shareholders adding: “Sell it off and the consequences they don’t care about. They walk away from it, they’ve got the money in. It’s someone else’s problem. And the fans? Irrelevant.”

The end of F1?

Indeed he wasn't the only figure claiming the fans views were simply being ignored as Sauber team boss Monisha Kaltenborn claimed: “Basically it is the end of the fascination of F1.

“They are totally disregarding what the fans want. You are just destroying the whole series. It’s short-sighted business thinking.”

“They are totally disregarding what the fans want." - Monisha Kaltenborn

Lotus owner Gerard Lopez, who has often financed the indebted team out of his own pocket, admitted he couldn't believe a sport that generates the income Formula 1 does couldn't help those in need.

“Gordon Gekko said ‘greed is good’ and look what happened to him," he said "He ended up in jail.

"I’ve never threatened any kind of protest but this is a £1.6bn business and teams are going to the wall for the sake of a couple of tens of millions.

“Three-car teams will be the death of the championship. People just don’t seem to care enough about the sport to do something.”

No three-car plan...yet

In response Red Bull chief Christian Horner told Sky's Martin Brundle that there is currently no plan to run a third car next year and that he was not in favour of the concept.

“Certainly Red Bull’s position is that we want to see a full grid of two-car teams," he said. "We have an obligation, as do a couple of other teams, that if the numbers drop below a certain number then we will be required by the promoter to field a third car.

“The numbers haven’t dropped significantly low enough, and we haven’t been requested by the promoter to run a third car.

“Personally, I’m not a big fan of three-car teams. It’s moving away from what Formula 1 should be." - Christian Horner

“It’s not something we’re planning; it’s not something that we’re pushing for. If we’re requested to do it then obviously we’ll have to look at it at that point.”

“Personally, I’m not a big fan of three-car teams. It’s moving away from what Formula 1 should be.

“But if there’s no option, no alternative, then Red Bull have a commitment then, yes, we would have to field a third car.”

Solving the core issues

As a long-time fan and someone who pays close attention to the sport I can't help but feel this is a critical time for the future of F1.

Certainly there should be a solution that should allow for a healthy grid of 20-26 cars on the grid and that the 10-13 teams can operate within limits and not force each other potentially out of business.

The problem is the current issues are not something that have happened suddenly they have been coming on for years and to solve them all the parties will have to be willing to compromise and tackle them from the core rather than just cosmetically.

Then there is the intentions of those who really can make the necessary changes, if three-car teams or customer cars is what Bernie Ecclestone and big teams want they'll strive to get it, and even if they don't such is the balance of power right now those at the top will be unwilling to lose out on what they have created for themselves, particularly if it is to the benefit of those behind them on the track.

Fans must embrace change

While I don't agree with customer cars I'm more open to three-car teams particularly in a time when talented drivers are missing out on F1 seats to those who bring millions in sponsorship.

Providing it is regulated properly, why not have a mix of two and three-car teams after all it is something F1 has had before and could provide a great balance of competitive cars fighting for wins and the love affair some have with cheering on the underdogs.

I often feel there is a certain fanbase that is unwilling to embrace change, like the fuss over the V6 power units or the debate over double points.

But while something maybe good, you can always improve it and by making changes you never know what might happen, so while F1 needs to ensure it can work for teams big and small there's also nothing wrong in imagining what three Red Bull's and three Ferrari's barrelling through to the streets of Monte Carlo could do for the sport too.

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