Two teams were excluded from a key meeting in Montreal, it has emerged. Last Friday, photographers in the paddock spotted Maurizio Arrivabene (Ferrari), Ron Dennis and Eric Boullier (McLaren), Toto Wolff (Mercedes) and Christian Horner (Red Bull) meeting at McLaren-Honda for “several hours”. It emerged that the topic of conversation was customer cars – or, now, ‘franchise teams’, where smaller outfits buy complete cars from the big teams for EUR 50 million per season.
Mercedes’ Toto Wolff said: “On behalf of and in the framework of the Strategy Group, we discussed issues related to the chassis rules for 2017. We must have a plan in the event that one or more teams leave the championship. We need to understand exactly what would happen in that case.”
However, two teams were not represented at the meeting: permanent strategy group member Williams, and Force India. Red Bull’s Christian Horner said: “The strategy group gave us a mandate to discuss some issues, and it was good to see that this time the teams were able to reach a consensus.”
He said he supports the notion of customer cars. “It will be an alternative if any of the teams get into trouble,” said Horner, “which is a healthy solution not only for existing teams but also those who want to come into the championship.”
Wolff continued: “We hope that everything stays as it is and all of the teams are able to survive, but sometimes you have to ask the question ‘What if?’ In this case, what will the rules be? Who will pay for it? Who will deliver the car? Will it be an external supplier? There were a lot of different ideas and opinions but on the majority of them, we were able to agree”.