Ferrari has split from the pack and declared its support for three-car teams in formula one.
Amid rumours up to three or four teams are in financial peril, Bernie Ecclestone said in Singapore that the sport would fill the grid gaps by requiring top teams to move from two to three-car operations as soon as 2015.
“We’ll know after the next two or three races, but it (the three car plan) is being looked at,” said the F1 supremo.
It is feared two-decade-old Sauber and backmarker Caterham are the most at risk of collapsing, but Marussia is also in obvious strife and reports of unpaid bills regularly emerge about the Lotus team.
Force India co-owners Vijay Mallya and the jailed Subrata Roy, meanwhile, are also having high-profile financial problems.
“I have asked them (title sponsor Sahara) if they would like to change the situation and they said no, they want to stay in,” Mallya said in Singapore.
“I’ve always run and managed the team which is doing better than it ever has in its history and we’re going forward from here,” he insisted.
Also defiant in the face of the rumours is Sauber chief Monisha Kaltenborn, despite admitting Hinwil is grappling with its worst ever season in F1.
“We do get that question often and every time we say ‘We’ll be around’. I’m going to answer the same way — we’ll be around next year as well,” she said.
New Caterham chief Manfredi Ravetto also batted off the rumours, even though he said it is already a struggle “Just trying to keep it (the team) alive” in the wake of Tony Fernandes’ mid-season exit.
“Of course we want to be on the grid in Melbourne next year — that is definitely our goal,” he said.
If some teams do ultimately collapse, however, it is possible that three-car teams will be the solution to dwindling grid numbers.
Most team bosses are not keen.
“I hope it never comes to that,” said Mallya.
It is expected that if the three-car solution is triggered by the grid dropping below 20 cars, it is the top teams like Mercedes, Red Bull, Ferrari and McLaren that are most likely to add a third runner to their respective garages.
Dominant giant Mercedes, however, is not keen.
“For us, the cost would amount to around 32 million euros to have a third car,” Toto Wolff is quoted by Speed Week.
His counterpart Eric Boullier, however, said McLaren would “maybe” run a third car “to keep the grid at a decent number”.
But Ferrari has made clear it is more than happy with the idea of three cars bearing the fabled Prancing Horse logo running around the calendar next year.
“It’s not about the survival of F1,” a team spokesman told the Spanish sports daily AS, “but for the show.
“With all due respect, people would prefer to see three more Red Bulls, Ferraris and Mercedes than the other cars,” he reportedly added. (GMM)