Small F1 teams accuse manufacturers of customer car power grab

Formula 1's independent teams are preparing for a new power battle with the manufacturer outfits they believe are trying to take control via customer car rules

Small F1 teams accuse manufacturers of customer car power grab

Ferrari, Mercedes, McLaren and Red Bull have been unwilling to make concessions to assist the small teams, and are strongly applying weight to the introduction of the customer or franchise car concept, potentially from as early as 2017.

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The independents fear the 'gang of four' intend to drive them out and have customer squads wholly reliant on their works partners - and whose revenues from championship positions could go straight into the coffers of the parent team, further strengthening their financial hand.

Force India's deputy team principal Bob Fernley told AUTOSPORT: "I believe the independent teams have put a very good case together for the last 18 months to try to get some changes in Formula 1 to make it sustainable for all parties to be involved, and stay reasonably competitive.

"The fact there has been absolutely no movement whatsoever from the four manufacturers to support any form of cost control, the fact they have rejected outright some form of redistribution of income, and they're not even interested in reducing powertrain costs, is telling you they've another agenda.

"That agenda, I believe, is about getting total control from a power and financial point of view.

"The customer car element is the final piece of the jigsaw to achieve that.

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"I said last year in Austin there was an agenda from the big teams to push out the independent teams, and there has been nothing that has changed my opinion on that.

"There has been no action from those teams.

"I do believe it is a clear power move from those teams."

The four works teams conducted a meeting in the Montreal paddock ahead of the Canadian Grand Prix.

Present were McLaren Group CEO Ron Dennis, his team's racing director Eric Boullier, Mercedes motorsport boss Toto Wolff and non-executive chairman Niki Lauda, along with Ferrari and Red Bull team principals Maurizio Arrivabene and Christian Horner.

With FIA race director Charlie Whiting also attending for a portion of the meeting, top of the agenda was a clarification of the customer car system to be presented to the smaller teams at a later date.

Significant was the fact Williams and Force India, independent teams yet part of the Strategy Group, were not present.

Sauber team principal Monisha Kaltenborn also voiced her concerns over the likely power games being played.

"With this system of customer cars, or franchise cars, where is this system going to? What is it all about?" said Kaltenborn, speaking to AUTOSPORT.

"It's basically a way, with the commercial interests behind it, for the teams that want to do it, to tap into more income which they otherwise couldn't have.

"That is not what the other participants are in here for, not what the people want to see out there."

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