It’s hard to believe, but there was a time when Indycar/Champcar or whatever they were called that week once had more engine manufacturers than F1 is heading for right now.
On paper F1 has four of course, but we still don’t know if Renault stays. If not all but two cars would be powered by either Mercedes or a Ferrari, and the use of the term ‘power unit’ in connection with that Dyson in the back of the McLarens is a really generous appellation.
It’s really a sorry state of affairs if F1 can’t afford to bring in more than two manufacturers with a proper customer program.
Honda stubbornly insists on its exclusive supply of McLaren, but then no team in their right mind would take those things without getting money on top of it right now. Renault has also decided to stop supplying any customers, even if the buy the charred ruins of what was once Benetton. Not that they had much choice. Their last two customers just filed for a rather public and not really PR friendly divorce.
So for all intents and purposes, it will be a two-horse race next year. Neither Mercedes nor Ferrari are going to let any customers come near them, although the Gestione Sportiva has some modest experience getting whooped by customers and if the RB12 is half as good as the RB11, now that they have sorted the stubborn chassis, is a serious contender even with a Ferrari engine that’s an evo-step behind.
In the long term that development is not sustainable. With Ferrari and Merc supplying nearly the entire field, just one of the withdrawing could make F1 implode in an instant.
We just need to look at Champcar’s history. In their PPG days in the early 90s they had more F1 world champions on the grid than F1 itself (Champcar 3, F1 2), but then came Tony George, driven by greed and Champcars declined, because engine manufacturers jumped ship to the rival Indy Racing League.
F1’s IRL is WEC. Volkswagen Group, the car manufacturer with the biggest research budget world wide, rather runs two brands against each other at Le Mans than bringing one of them to F1. How much more of a warning sign is necessary to see that things are going terribly wrong for the ‘pinnacle of motorsport’?
For 2018 at the latest FIA and FOM need to get their act together, or WEC will have syphoned more resources and there’s the new threat of Formula E as well. Time is running out or we’ll end up with a spec series, or no season at all.