Three car teams — how to break news gently, Ferrari style

Last week a lot was made of Luca di Montezemolo’s comments saying that they would push to be allowed to run a third car with Michael Schumacher driving it. I think the idea was taken more seriously than it perhaps should have been.

In my view the whole thing was a bluff, intended to soften the blow of Schumacher’s withdrawal following all the hype. By immediately positing the idea of running Schumacher in a third car in the future, they kept the prospects of a Schumacher return alive in the minds of Schumacher fans and the excitable media, while firmly bolting the door shut in reality.

After all, if Ferrari think Schumacher is good enough to race full time again, they already have two cars they can put him in if they want to. But they think that they can find two better drivers anyway — otherwise why ask for a third car?

Normally, the prospect of three car teams is brought up only as a way of keeping the size of the grid high even when there are fewer teams. Presumably this is the plan B in case the grid ever reaches below that magic number, whether it is 16, 18, 20 or whatever.

But supposedly the prospective 2010 field is larger than the field has been for over a decade. 24 cars are currently entered, with two slots ready to be filled (BMW Sauber’s old slots). And there is supposed to be a “reserve list” of teams ready to take up any vacant spaces that emerge. If ever there was a time when third cars are not required, it’s now.

Moreover, three car teams are best avoided for a host of reasons, as outlined by Keith. Imagine, for instance, if Ferrari had three cars in the early part of this decade. The scope for clunky team orders and foul play would have been huge. I am picturing a three car “manufactured dead heat” right now. Shudder.

But that’s okay because I don’t think Ferrari were being very serious when they brought up the idea. The alternative is that Ferrari suspect that the three or four new teams (and, who knows, maybe a couple of others?) will not be able to turn up for the first round of the next season. That doesn’t say much for the FIA’s 2010 entry process, but I guess you can expect Ferrari to be sceptical of it!

But in the case where there are too few teams, people would be talking about three car teams anyway, because it is the obvious plan B. While a plan B isn’t required, though, I wouldn’t be surprise if the prospect of three car teams is not brought up by Ferrari again. The idea can fade away into the background, people will slowly forget about it, and everyone who got worked up about the Schumacher comeback will have been let down slightly more gently than they might otherwise have been.


  1. Hi Duncan

    I posted this article at Keith´s blog but none seems to pay attention. The article said that Heikki Kulta, a Finnish insider who is very influent in paddock, seems to know something about the Concord Agreement and the clause about the third car is in place:

    — At least 20 cars in grid guaranteed

    — If needed, a 3rd car without points for drivers and constructors

    — If a 3rd car finishes in top 8, it takes points away from the cars behind it

    — Teams using 3rd car are drawn. They get 20% bigger budget for that race

    — Cheaper superlicenses: 1609 € + 440 €/point

    — No alternative series until end of 2012

    —Less power for FIA president: all regulations through FOTA technical workgroup and F1 commission.

    — Simple majority between teams will change rules

    — Only Ferrari will have a veto (They will keep this nonsense??)


    If it would be right, at least they will regulate the third car, something that wasn’t very clear in the former Agreement. The points about the power of the FIA´s President is interesting too…

  2. Hi Becken, thanks very much for the comment. It’s very interesting, especially since the contents of the Concorde Agreement are normally a closely-guarded secret.

    The bit that seems strange to me is where it says that teams running third cars will be allowed a 20% larger budget for that race. Does this mean that a budget cap of some sort will be in place?

  3. Legardisms in Quali!

    Here’s an index of some of the Legard voodoo from Valencia quali. Not the kind where he spits out a driver’s name like a rape accusation, and not the kind where he brings inappropriate weight to his announcing. This is just a list of the times that he says “This… That… The other.” You know what I mean. Number at left is time of the offense on the quali telecast. I may or may not bother to do this on Sunday for the race… Enjoy!

    48— Had the momentum, had the force….

    50— The whole tone, the whole atmosphere, the whole purpose…

    55— The two tires the two compounds…

    56— A good sighter, a good benchmark…

    57— The more grip, the more pace, the more performance…

    1:02— No time to waste, no margin for error…

    1:05— Anything more to the party, anything more to Renault…

    1:19— The handling of the car, the performance of the car…

    1:40— We saw the beauty, the benefit, the power…

    1:48— Helping the tires, helping the performance…

  4. Legardisms: Race Day, European GP 2009

    *- Denotes “Twofer”!

    **- Denotes psychographically fascinating “mirrored” Legardism, new for Valencia!

    :59 Not as beneficial, not as helpful

    1:17* Lewis Hamilton, who had previously had danced his way through the rain merrily, wonderful, thrillingly, 12 months ago, toiling, battling with Alonso…

    1:28 How much time can he make up how much can he pull out of Hekki Kovalienen

    1:40 Dug himself out, got himself going, cheered himself…

    1:51 Really crank it up now, really take the fight to Lewis….

    1:51 What he wants really to be in the thick of the action, in the mix

    1:57** Keep this pace up, keep this pace up.

    2:17 Needs to up his game, up the performance

    2:19* Not a coast to the line at all, not a cruise for Rubens Barricello… it’s hot, its demanding and it is relentless

    2:24 Ahead of what could be a troubled or difficult, trying weekend, shall we say.

    2:28 It’s been hot, it’s been tiring….

    2:29 Talked about how confident he was, how happy he was, how reassured he was…

    2:31 Could he still hack it, could he still do it?

  5. Hi Cridland,

    Interesting list, though I don’t really mind that sort of thing. It’s part of his style and not necessarily anything wrong.

    Certainly, if you don’t like that then you probably wouldn’t like David Croft much better. He has a tendency to try a “veni, vidi, vici” thing where he groups phrases in three — but doesn’t actually have three things to say. “Jenson Button wins for Britain, Jenson Button wins for Brawn, but most importantly… Jenson Button wins.” Eh?

    I love Crofty, but his commentary has similar “failings” to Legard.

  6. (Someday I *will* stop quibbling with you about this.)

    > I love Crofty, but his commentary has
    > similar ‘failings’ to Legard.

    I love his work too, and even if he has similar problems, he conveys a lot of warmth anyway. Over the weekend there was a moment when he interrupted Ant during some point, and was comfortably put in his place by the driver, at absolutely zero cost to the mood of the telecast. “Well, hold on now Crofty, I was getting to that…” You really had the sense that the guys have met for enough practice-day breakfasts to enjoy each other as human beings… Exactly the warmth that we’re missing from Legard.