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Customer Car Parts

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I support this, especially if it means some one loans Caterham a flexi-curve and a compass...

Caterham team principal Cyril Abiteboul has called for a change to the rules that outline what a constructor is.

At present Formula One does not allow customer cars, meaning there are certain aspects to each car that each individual team have to create themselves.

Those range from the monocoque to the front and rear suspension to the floor and fuel cell.

Abiteboul, though, reckons the rules should be softened to make it easier for small teams on tighter budgets.

"We need to have a fresh look at that and see whether these parts contribute to the show or if it makes a fundamental contribution to the performance," Abiteboul told Autosport.

"If the answer is no, or not really, then we should be open to more exchanges between the teams.

"Obviously, you need to look at the details in F1 because you always try to find ways to go around what is written in black-and-white and there is no spirit of the regulations.

"We have to make sure that it is extremely clear for everyone."

He added: "There is a discussion in Concorde about what exactly is a constructor.

"Personally, I do believe that it is offering a nice avenue without going into the extreme of complete customer cars.

"Even if the pure definition of competition is that you should not be collaborating, there is still some stuff [we can do].

"We are in a tough economic climate and a good way to mitigate everyone's exposure and cost is to ease the things that are not altering the fundamental principle of the show."

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I've never been against full customer cars, so I'm also not against customer parts. Anything you can do to help the big teams offset the high costs and help the small teams avoid the high costs is worth considering. I don't think this goes against the spirit of F1 at all, either, and I'm a big advocate of technical freedom and innovation. I also live in reality, and while I can applaud what sports car racing does, it's important to remember that 1) they don't have to design a new car for every season there and 2) customer cars far outnumber factory ones there and almost always have. So, in an F1 context, if given the choice between having a six-car grid of super-innovative and unique cars, or having a full grid where some cars run certain parts that I probably don't even notice (or know what they do) that are identical to some other cars, I take the latter every time.

Hell, a constructor need not build its own engine, and I feel like that's a pretty big component of a racing car. So, when you consider customer engines do exist and will continue to exist, a few customer parts here and there isn't a big shake-up.

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In the long term, this would be a bad idea. The teams I see likely to take advantage of this (if it ever comes to pass) would be Caterham, Marussia, Force India and Toro Rosso. This would in effect make them permanent 2nd tier teams. Once these teams go down the path of hand-me-downs, future major regulation changes will render these teams unable to compete, because they have changed their roles from being a constructor-race team, to just a race team. And getting back up to speed with a new team is another task that will take time.

Part of the costs that they are decrying now is for a full fledged R&D team, aerodynamicists and facilities to be a true constructor. If the regulation for constructors were changed, those roles would be filled with the barest minimum of staff/investment.

Smaller teams that are going about it in the "right" way are Williams, Sauber and Lotus. They continue to produce innovation, even on a shoestring. I would contend, that if the role of constructor were to be redefined, we would lose quite a bit of diversity, creativity and ingenuity in the paddock.

Sure, the costs are high today, but that would be the responsibility of the governing body & commercial rights holder to find a regulatory path to lower the costs. For example, since the teams are mandated to use a McLaren ECU, why not mandate something else, or freeze designs of the floor (like they did for the engine).

Part of the reasons why there are so many pay drivers is to act as a solution to their cost issues. Another thing to consider is why are these teams so poor at attracting sponsors? Despite dropping TV figures, F1 still has a pretty high visibility. Especially toward the more affluent demographic. I don't get why HRTs, FIndias, Caterhams and Marussias run around like blank billboards. Surely some advertising income is better than none, even if it was for half the asking rate.

There are better solutions out there than turning a constructor sport into a facsimile of its former self. Sometimes its just better to pack your things and go home with dignity rather than drawing out your eventual demise.

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