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GP Week : Issue 222
OPINION mat cOcH Editor Watch for the second gunman on the grassy knoll. Aliens landed in the New Mexico desert in the late 1940s. the big four teams are trying to push everyone else out of Formula One. Everybody loves a conspiracy theory. The problem is they're often pulled from so far out of left field that rather than being conspiracy theories they're crackpot theories. A mate of mine is famous for them. They might be based in fact, they might be pure fabrication, but his sheer dedication to their ridiculousness account for some of the most bizarre conversations I've ever had. One of his best was that Bernie Ecclestone had sold the rights of the sport to Red Bull and would walk away from the sport the following week. That was two years ago. Still, simply because it hasn't happened doesn't mean it isn't true, my mate argues. By that rationale Bob Fernley's statements likening the introduction of customer cars to be a trojan horse are therefore perfectly reasonable. Bob is a smart guy, he's been around a long time and is the head of a team that has a track record of punching above its weight. He knowns his stuff. But this talk of trojan horses and conspiracy theories trying to push the smaller teams out of the sport is utter nonsense. I say that because there is no evidence to back up what Bob is banging on about. He has claimed the Strategy Group is not fit for purpose, and I won't disagree with him there, but that's hardly a smoking gun. The group has proved so incompetent and unable to agree on anything that it is of no use whatsoever. And that's just where the idea of franchise cars (customer cars with a more PR friendly name) has come from. I'm going to go on record and say I whole-heartedly support customer cars. In fact, I think we should go further and make every car on the grid available for $20million to any other team to do with what they wish. For the leading teams that's likely a good source of income while for those at the back they get more competitive equipment for pennies. It also forces teams to be a little smarter with how it develops things since your chief rival could come along and buy a car and learn all of your secrets. For mine, that drives the whole sport on. We all know there is corporate espionage going on up and down the pit lane, so why not make a buck out of it? Why not turn the sport's seedy underbelly into a positive, one that could drive the whole sport forward? It's a hair-brain scheme I know but I just can't see the downsides to it. Back in reality though customer cars, and I'm going to insist on calling them that regardless, are a good thing for the sport. Force India is only concerned because it might get beaten by a Manor running a Ferrari chassis. But if we look back at history that has always nudged the sport along. Ken Tyrrell bought a March chassis when Matra went all nationalistic after Jackie Stewart won the 1969 championship and that kick started the company that gave Adrian Newey his break into Formula One. And really, isn't arguing against customer cars arguing against competition? What that really tells me is not that these guys are in Formula One for the competition or the sport, but for fame and fortune. And that annoys me because while they're claiming customer cars will dilute the competition they're in reality diluting the competition by trying to maintain the status quo. But if you stop and think about it, what does running a customer car ultimately achieve? It might bring the back of the grid closer to the front but does it actually solve the financial problems that plague the sport? The simple response is no, not by a long shot. Perhaps then Fernley has a point. Not in that the leading four teams are trying to force everyone else out but that we are looking at the wrong solution. Budget caps are the simple solution, but implementing them is difficult. If the answer is 'the FIA should do it' we've probably asked the wrong question because its proved as incapable at giving the sport any form of leadership as the Strategy Group (paging MrTodt...?). 18 GPWEEK.com // 18 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: OPINION conspiracy theories drive F1 Forward