The F1 teams give a mixed signal on the topic of collaborative work between two outfits going forward after Haas-Ferrari and Racing Point-Mercedes stories.
With F1’s long-standing era of independents effectively drawing to a close with the sale of Williams in August, a new chapter has appeared to rise to prominence of late, with many smaller teams forming alliances with larger organizations.
A practice seen often in American racing, the philosophy was adopted by Haas, and though not formally, also by Racing Point. The former team are set for an establishment of a Maranello base within Ferrari’s facilities recently, and the latter team were accused of acquiring and employing information from Mercedes outside the bounds of the regulations, but found guilty of this only in relation to their brake ducts.
With AlphaTauri having long been part of the Red Bull program under a similar structure, there have been suggestions that such systems could be applied to various teams, but McLaren boss Zak Brown denies his team will pursue such an option.
“There’s obviously seen a lot on this topic this year,” said Brown. “I think we’ve seen, at the extreme, what it’s capable of producing. I think we feel strongly that it’s a Constructors’ Championship: you need to design, build, manufacture your own race car. That’s what all the men and women at McLaren do.
“I think McLaren continues to monitor the situation and we need to kind of rely on them to define what those boundaries are. It’s clearly a competitive advantage for the F1 teams that are passing along that information or those parts, both financially, sporting and politically, and at the same time the teams that are on the receiving end are able to short-cut and inherit the work of others.
“As you say, there’s many f1 teams doing it now. We’ll just have to monitor the situation. I think the FIA has stated that their intent is everyone should be their own independent entity. So that’s how McLaren wants to go racing, will continue to go racing. But hey, this is Formula 1. It’s tough and so you’ve got to beat everyone within what the rules are.”
Renault boss Cyril Abiteboul did not clearly express disapproval of the approach, only saying that it must be ensured that there is no exploitation of the option. “I guess that what is interesting is that you had three teams fighting for third position to a lesser or better degree, but we all have our own models: from Renault being a complete manufacturer building every single thing from the engine to the chassis, every nut and bolt has been designed, manufactured and built by our team, so we are a true constructor.
“Then you have the other extreme that we have seen this year. It is not a controversy but it is clearly no secret that Racing Point have the model of buying as much as they can from Mercedes. And you have McLaren sitting in the middle and doing a great job at what it is responsible for, which is chassis design. And frankly, to a certain degree, that’s fine, that’s good, that shows we have an interesting battle that’s possible with very different models but we should not lose sight of the fact that we are all still one second or more from the team that is leading the F1 championship.
“I’m really concerned that we are still no doing enough to bring the sport to a level playing field. There is a lot of progress that has been made with the budget cap but also with clarification to the regulations, but all of that will be as good as the monitoring and enforceability of the system and frankly for that it is only time that will tell us if what we have done is good enough and we also need to be careful in particular with all the movement of personnel between some F1 teams that will have to downsize.
“Some teams that are going to increase their operation, and that’s the sort of thing where we need to stick to the regulations for these. We just need to make sure they are enforced properly,” Abiteboul argued. The F1 team in the center of the controversy, Racing Point, did not wish to go into the opinion side but focused on the topic of hiring.
“I think we’ve taking a step forward this year in defining the rules,” said Otmar Szafnauer. “They’re much more clear. We continue to hire people, expand our manufacturing capability, expand our design and development capability. We started at a smaller base than some of the others but with Aston Martin coming in, we too are growing and will right-size the business. I think we’re going to grow by another twenty-thirty per cent and we too will work hard to design, develop and construct our own car to do the best we can.”
Williams’ Simon Roberts clarified that his team have no intent of becoming a “B team” operation, as has been stated by the outfit repeatedly. Roberts does, however, admit that further collaboration with another team could be possible. “We can see advantages but we don’t want to become a B-team, so we want to retain our independence but we want to be more competitive so for us, looking forward, we’re open to extending a relationship but the specification of that would depend on what we think we’re strong at, internally, and where we think we need help and support,” he said.
“In simple terms, if we’re good at something and we can do it – quicker to the market, quicker to the track – should focus on that. If there’s something we can’t do very well, then we should be prepared to buy that from whoever’s got it available and under the cost-cap, you can’t afford to be inefficient and that’s what we’re focusing on. We need to make sure that if we’re making chassis, we’re really good at making our chassis and we apply that to everything in the car. But we are independent, we’re going to remain independent but there is scope for collaboration,” Roberts said.
Alfa Romeo Racing, in many regards a junior team to Ferrari, is currently headed by Frederic Vasseur, who asserts that the Italian F1 team plan to remain independent. “The projects are different from teams to teams and I think one of the big assets of the Sauber company is the wind tunnel and we want to continue to invest in this and now, for sure, the plan is to stay independent with the system, with the budget cap and it makes also sense to develop more technology in house and to continue in this direction.
“But now I don’t want to make any comment on the project of the others. I think that the philosophy of F1 is like this, the rule is on the paper now and we can have different approaches but I think that from our perspective, we have to continue to stay independent and even more independence in the future, even if the collaboration with Ferrari is good and we want to develop this kind of collaboration. But it’s our project.”
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