Pit Stop

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 04 July, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 04 July, 2007, 12:00am

In comparison with the past few years, the politics of F1 has been pretty quiet. You could almost say peace has broken out. However, there is one issue this year that has created a lot of heat between teams - 'chassis shopping'.

As you might expect from a sport that has a constructors' championship, each team must build their own car. The chassis has to be unique, not a carbon copy of another team's that has been brought in. This rule has been maintained in F1 for decades and makes it the pinnacle of motorsport.

This season accusations have been flying that the rule has been broken. The main suspects are Scuderia Torro Rosso and Super Aguri. STR are flying closest to the wind. For many it's no more than a B team for Red Bull, and it would appear the chassis is virtually the same to the RB3. Only the fact it has a Ferrari engine in it and not a Renault one distinguishes it - and the slightly different paint job.

This year's Super Aguri is essentially last year's Honda RA106. Both are powered by Honda, and the top brass in Japan must be more than a little embarrassed to see Super Aguri ahead of their big brothers in the constructors' championship.

Frank Williams, for one, doesn't like it one bit.

'I am adamantly opposed to chassis sharing and we at Williams do not believe it is legal under current rules,' he fumed at the start of the season. The FIA believe it's OK for a third party to build chassis for more than one team, and Red Bull has created a separate company, Red Bull Technologies, to provide the goods to both them and STR.

BMW's Mario Theissen is also against the trend, claiming: 'With the sale of each chassis, I think we will very soon have 6+6 teams, or six teams with four cars each. Having just four or five big players controlling the grid in our view would not be F1 anymore'.

New boys on the block Spyker might be expected to back a move that would cut their costs, but their chief technical officer, Mike Gascoyne, is having none of it. He told F1 Racing Magazine recently that 'for me the one thing that has been at the heart of F1 is that every team is a constructor, we should all make our own cars. I can see why people want to use customer cars because it's cheaper, but F1 has to be careful, it is the pinnacle of world motorsport and it got there by being different. One of the things that made it different is that every team is a constructor'.

In GP2 all the cars have a common Dallara chassis. It certainly can make the racing closer (along with the same Renault engine), and no doubt there are dollars to be saved. It's an excellent series, but all the drivers are aiming to get to F1 and part of the reason is the constructor element.

The arguments may be short-lived because next year the rules are likely to change, allowing chassis shopping. That's music to the ears of David Richards, the former BAR boss whose Prodrive outfit will be lining up as new boys on the grid. His car may look a little familiar though, bought off the peg from another team, with the hot money on it being McLaren.

He's unrepentant, claiming 'building their own cars hasn't been very good for the sport over the last decade. It certainly hasn't produced any change at the top of the field and it has rarely encouraged new talent into the sport. It created an huge disparity of performance from the front of the grid to the back'.

He wants to see all 24 cars with a closer balance of performance, where the back markers are actually competitive. Of course as a likely back marker he would say that.

There has to be a way to reduce costs to enable smaller teams to compete, but this isn't the way. It would dilute the nature of F1, and strip it of what makes it special.