Customer cars row set for Oz showdown
|By Jonathan Noble||Wednesday, January 24th 2007, 10:11 GMT|
Formula One's customer car row looks increasingly likely to be heading for a showdown at the Australia Grand Prix after the continued failure of the teams involved to find a solution, autosport.com has learned.
Tensions between Super Aguri and Scuderia Toro Rosso and some of their rival teams have been simmering for several weeks after it was revealed that both outfits want to run customer cars this season.
There had been hopes of a compromise deal being found to resolve the situation, but sources have revealed that friction is growing between the two teams and some of their rivals to such an extent that an official protest or even legal action is now looking increasingly certain.
Although Spyker have so far been the only team to go public in stating their unhappiness at the situation, it is understood that team boss Frank Williams has now warned Super Aguri and Toro Rosso that he will go to arbitration if they press ahead with their plans.
That threat was made in last week's team principals' meeting, where it became clear that finding a compromise solution is not going to be easy.
Both Super Aguri and Toro Rosso insist that they are doing nothing wrong in their plans for this year. Super Aguri plan to run a development version of Honda Racing's RA106, while Toro Rosso will run a similar version to the RB3.
Although customer cars are outlawed, both teams believe they are within the rules with their plans because their chassis are being designed and manufactured by independent companies, and not rival teams.
Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone has tried to offer several solutions to appease the unhappy teams, but none have been accepted so far.
It was suggested that neither Super Aguri nor Toro Rosso be allowed to score points or earn television rights money if they press ahead with their plans, but the two teams involved rejected that.
Other possibilities that have been discussed include sharing F1's television rights money between all 11 teams, rather than the top ten under the current format, or Williams, Spyker, Toro Rosso and Super Aguri pooling their earnings and splitting it.
If a compromise solution is not found then it is likely the matter will reach a head at the season opening Australian Grand Prix, when it is possible that Williams or Spyker could try and challenge the legality of the Super Aguri and Toro Rosso cars.
They can protest to the FIA and, if they feel strongly about it, even go to the courts. The two teams are free to run whatever car they want in pre-season testing and the governing body will only rule on the legitimacy of the cars when they are presented for scrutineering in Melbourne.