Ferrari team principal Stefano Domenicali says in today’s Times that the team would like to run a third car next season for seven times world champion Michael Schumacher, provided he is able to fully recover from his neck injury.
“Going back to Michael, it is correct to say that, if everything is fine, why not see him in one of our cars?” said Domenicali. “It is true that we are pushing [for three cars]. We feel that it is for the benefit of Formula One and it is better to make sure that the biggest teams have three cars because that’s what people want. With all respect to the smaller teams, the value of Formula One is to have good drivers, great personalities in good cars and with a great brand.”
Schumacher is still training hard and is said to be very keen to race again, especially when he registered just how disappointed he was that he couldn’t come back this season to fill in for Felipe Massa.
The idea of third cars is not new, it has long been a backup plan in the Concorde Agreement if the number of cars goes below a certain level (I believe it’s 18).
On the face of it F1 doesn’t need third cars – it is going to have 13 teams next year, if all three of the new teams make it and all the existing ones stay.
There does seem to be some doubt about that, however. Toyota has yet to agree a budget for 2010 and that has got everyone there feeling edgy, while there are constant rumours about the financial strength of the three new teams.
Although some countries appear to be coming out of recession the car industry is still really struggling and many of the cars being sold are those with low profit margins, like Toyota Yaris, rather than the Lexus of this world.
The third car suggestion seems to be gaining ground within FOTA and a meeting of FOTA principals is due to take place at Monza specifically to discuss the third car option.
The feeling within FOTA is that it would greatly strengthen the show if there were three Ferraris, three McLarens and so on. Especially if the third driver was someone of Schumacher’s calibre. From Ferrari’s point of view they have three drivers for two seats next year anyway; Raikkonen, Massa and Alonso.
The tricky bit is how the third car fits into the results and points. It would make it virtually impossible for Force India or Toro Rosso ever to score a point, so the third car would have to be non-points scoring. But if that is the case, then the third driver has nothing to lose in a racing situation; what happens is the third car collides with a championship contender from another team?
These are the details which need to be discussed in Monza.