Formula 1 Strategy Group opens door to customer cars

Formula 1 appears to have opened the door to the introduction of customer cars with plans for cost saving seemingly abandoned following Thursday's Strategy Group meeting, AUTOSPORT understands

Formula 1 Strategy Group opens door to customer cars

Initially, a number of cost-cutting ideas were on the agenda, such as a ban on windtunnels and switching to CFD, saving $15-20million per annum.

Hopes had also been raised of talks over a revised payment structure between the engine manufacturers and its customers, with the latter looking for savings.

There was also the possibility of revisiting discussions of a more equitable share of the sport's revenues, particularly with the latest payments to teams coming to light.

However, following the crucial meeting of the Strategy Group at Biggin Hill, the suggestion is those ideas were pushed aside, and instead the prospect of customer cars was again raised.

Present at the meeting was the sport's commercial head Bernie Ecclestone, FIA president Jean Todt, and team principals from Ferrari, Mercedes, McLaren, Red Bull, Williams and Force India.

The understanding is the matter, for now, is to be reviewed by the four CCB (Constructors' Championship Bonus) teams - Ferrari, Mercedes, Red Bull and McLaren, to assess costs and feasibility.

Such a discussion will drive at the heart of the independence of a number of teams on the grid, and is likely to be fiercely debated in the coming weeks and months.

FIFTH ENGINE REJECTED

The Strategy Group, meanwhile, is believed to have rejected a proposal to allow teams to use five engines for this season, as revealed by AUTOSPORT last week.

As per the current regulations, the engine allocation is to remain at four.

Teams were allowed to use five last season following the introduction of the 1.6-litre V6 turbo-charged power unit, and given the rules, knew they had only four for this campaign onwards.

However, a return to five had been on the agenda for some time, with a preliminary agreement put in place in Malaysia at the end of March, but it now appears four will remain the maximum allowed.

The decision will hurt a team like Red Bull as it has already used six engines this season - with drivers Daniel Ricciardo and Daniil Kvyat both now on their fourth apiece - given the problems incurred with current supplier Renault.

It means the drivers are to be hit with grid penalties sooner rather than later once either uses a fifth engine.

Team principal Christian Horner stated to AUTOSPORT last week an additional engine would not have too much of an impact in the long run.

"Whether it's five or eight engines, it doesn't make a difference to us," Horner said at the time.

"It's inevitable we are going to have to take eight, up to nine engines this season."

The FIA is expected to reveal more details from the Strategy Group meeting in a statement on Friday.

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Author Ian Parkes
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