Race director, Charlie Whiting, has admitted that the FIA will pay close attention to the relationships between teams like Ferrari and Haas/Sauber and Mercedes and Force India/Williams.
“This is something we need to worry about and we will discuss it. The relationship between Haas and Ferrari started the movement and we knew this was possible,” Whiting told France’s Auto Hebdo.
“This grey area has since been cleared up for new entrants and won’t happen again. But we hear that there are alliances between the teams and I think we need to look into it closely.”
The trend started with the relationship between Haas and Ferrari, as mentioned by Whiting, when the American team entered the sport in 2016. They have a partnership with Ferrari wherein they borrow parts upto the allotted limit set by the FIA.
More recently, even Sauber entered into a similar partnership with Ferrari and the result of that was the introduction of their junior driver, Charles Leclerc, into the Sauber set-up this year. Ferrari announced earlier today of a swap deal for Raikkonen and Leclerc for next year.
Though the arrangements are within the rules of the sport, it is seen as the smaller teams doing a favour to the bigger ones during races. Whenever one of the Ferrari or Mercedes comes up to lap any of their ‘B’ teams, they are not hindered and are accused of letting them by too easily.
It happened at the Monaco Grand Prix this year when Force India’s Ocon was accused of letting by Lewis Hamilton too easily, though the claims were later refuted by both teams. However, not everything is hunky dory after reports emerged of Williams going the Sauber way with Mercedes.
The partnerships are essential for the smaller teams who operate on a shoe-string budget. They get access to top-notch engines which allows them to compete and not just burn money on running cars which end up with no reward or points.
So, most of these teams see it as an acceptable compromise if they have to allow a particular driver from their parent team’s academy occupy one of the seats at their team. If the FIA does decide to ban such partnerships, it’ll be interesting to know what solution they have in mind for smaller teams.