Red Bull and it’s junior team have both parted ways with Renault as the French manufacturer has not been able to provide an engine that is competitive enough. Red Bull, who have been denied a Mercedes engine want the same engine that Ferrari would supply to its works team or nothing. Given that we have 4 cars that could possibly leave the grid over this issue, the grid will be down to 16. Although it will go up by 2, as Haas F1 is scheduled to join the sport from 2016, having already signed Romain Grosjean.
With the sport in agreement that there would be 3 cars per team if needed to ensure at least 20 cars line the grid, can the teams really afford this?
On the assumption that both Red Bull and it’s junior team leave, there will be a need for only 2 teams to run a 3rd car. Realistically, only 3 teams are capable of running a 3rd car: Ferrari, Mercedes and McLaren (even though they are set to get a low pay out from their constructors positioning at the end of 2015). It might be possible for Williams to fund a 3rd car if they keep up their good performances. The rest of the teams would not be able to have a 3rd car with their financial health.
Should the sport really allow these teams to have a third car? Or temporarily be under the 20 car limit till a new team or two can be accepted into the grid?
Now what are the costs?
Even if we assume there won’t be any additional testing, a formula one car is by no ways cheap and the cars used by Ferrari and Mercedes are well over 15 million quid easily. A 3rd car means additional engineers and mechanics and not to mention a 3rd driver (although, they might use their reserve driver). Logistical costs would also rise, along with fuel costs and the bills for the tyres that all teams have to pay to the manufacturer before each grandprix, getting 14 sets of tyres per car.
However, what happens with a 3rd car is these teams gain a massive, massive advantage in the constructor’s championship. Given the name of the teams that can afford, a 3rd Mercedes or Ferrari car could see a podium of all drivers of the same team. That’s a whopping 58 points per race! The constructor’s race would just be favouring these teams. Nor can you even decide to award only points to the best two finishing drivers (only for the constructors standing) as one retirement means, there are still 2 cars running. Another advantage is the increased amount of data collection to use in the off-season car and engine development, as in-season testing is going to be banned for 2016.
So given the pros and cons of the big teams fielding a 3rd car “should” Red Bull and Torro Rosso leave Formula One, the sport would be better off not asking them to field a 3rd car, as it would be prove detrimental in the interests of the other smaller and mid-level teams. It would be a matter of 3-4 years before a new applicant to the sport will be accepted and ready to join the sport, as maybe other companies would either look to start a works team or new manufacturers get in collaboration with enthusiasts to enter the sport.
However, since Ferrari and Red Bull have not confirmed or called off a deal for a parity 2016 Engine, there is the chance instead of 18 cars in 2016 we might have 22 on the grid for what is set to be the longest race calendar.