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Onus on big Formula 1 teams to make customer car case - Force India

Formula 1's manufacturer teams have to make a compelling case for independents to believe in their customer car vision, says Force India's Bob Fernley

Following a Strategy Group meeting earlier this month, a customer or franchise car programme is currently being evaluated by the four main teams in Ferrari, Mercedes, McLaren and Red Bull.

Once finalised, it will then be presented to independent teams for assessment, and then on to the World Motor Sport Council, ahead of a planned introduction from 2017.

Fernley said Force India Vijay Mallya would not automatically disregard the suggestion, but thinks it will be a tall order to convince Force India.

"It's very important we give everybody the opportunity to present their case," Fernley told AUTOSPORT.

"Vijay is very clear he has come into Formula 1 as a constructor, to compete in Formula 1, not to participate.

"It is up to the manufacturer teams to convince him there is a viable alternative, which is their job, which is why they need to go away, to look at it and do it.

"All I'm saying, in stepping back from it and without my Force India hat on, is that objectively look at the consequences because my worry is the prospect of the very fabric of Formula 1 being destroyed forever and a day.

"But the decision Vijay makes is a totally separate one."

Sauber and Lotus have already categorically ruled out becoming a customer car team, while Fernley fears for the future of the sport as a whole should it opt for such a path.

"The DNA and the strength of Formula 1 is about the independent teams. They are the backbone of Formula 1," said Fernley.

"If you look over the last decade and you will see that four manufacturers have pulled out of Formula 1.

"When Honda pulled out it was Brawn, as an independent, that came in and saved the day, stepping in and winning the championship.

"When BMW pulled out, Peter Sauber, at huge cost to himself, stepped in and saved them to again run it as an independent team.

"When Renault pulled out, Gerard Lopez stepped in as an independent and saved the day for that team.

"When Toyota pulled out everything was lost.

"That is the risk you take with losing independent teams because they are purely there to go motor racing.

"The consequences of putting everything into four manufacturer teams is very worrying because if one of them fails, or at the whim of a board decides to pull out, you wouldn't lose two cars, you would lose four or maybe more.

"Worse still, there would be no ability to replace them because you would have got rid of the infrastructure that was previously there.

"Also, once you become a customer team you do what your master tells you, and that will always be the case.

"And let's not forget, customer cars would result in hundreds and hundreds of jobs being lost in Formula 1."

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