In 2007 there was a bit of a row in Formula 1 over the concept of customer cars. Prodrive’s David Richards was set to be the 12th team on the 2008 F1 grid and he was going to achieve that through the purchase of a chassis and go racing.
One of the strongest voices of opposition to this idea was Sir Frank Williams who had threatened legal action should Super Aguri use a similar tactic and purchase a Honda car or Toro Rosso in a Red Bull chassis. The allegation was that these teams were blurring the lines of actually being a constructor in F1.
Dave Richards was convinced the regulations allowed for customer cars but in the end, it was not allowed and in it’s place a simple list of parts that a team must produce itself in order to be called a constructor.
The list has become smaller and smaller over the years and this was the very thing that Guenther Steiner and Gene Haas used to create their new team. They may be, once again, blurring the lines of what is a constructor and what is a customer car but unlike Dave Richards and his failed attempt to join the grid, this time Haas has the FIA’s own regulations working on his side.
Once again, Williams F1 isn’t too keen as their technical director, Pat Symonds, told AUTOSPORT:
“The status of being a constructor has been gradually eroded,” said Symonds.
“Some would like it completely eroded.
“What Haas has done is good for him, but I don’t know if that is really the way F1 should be going.
“It’s absolutely legal but is it really what F1 wants? I’m not sure.
“When we had the original listed parts, the long list, it was quite pragmatic I thought.
“It allowed you to sell a few sensible things like transmissions which are high value, low performance impact.
“But it got whittled away. Some want it whittled even further.
“I would prefer F1 to have more of an emphasis on constructors.”
Had Haas F1 made their first showing in Autralia and finished last or near last, it may not have been the talking point for Symonds but as it is, they finished 6th in that race and some feel they are destined for a great year. I choose to be prudent in my expectations and as a biased American, I would like for them to do well but F1 is a tough old sport and different tracks breed different performances. Symonds agrees:
“With the pace in the race, we need to be careful how you judge it right the way through the field,” he said.
“I take nothing away from Haas, it’s a fantastic result.
“But on another circuit, would the Force India [of Nico Hulkenberg] have been behind for that long? I’m not sure.”
The issue really may be blurring the lines of customer cars but if the FIA don’t want this, then they will have to change the list of must-make parts that teams should produce themselves. Symonds may feel that Haas skirted the spirit of the law, it’s the letter of the law that is important here and Haas F1 comply.
Hat Tip: AUTOSPORT