F1 Faces Competitive Disparity Over Proposed Ban On Customer Parts

Formula 1 might face a decrease in grid competitiveness if it decides to end customer team partnerships, RB believes.

Lee Parker

By Lee Parker
Published on February 28, 2024

RB F1 Team Testing

With the approach of a new regulatory era in 2026, some teams are advocating for stricter controls on partnerships similar to those between Red Bull/RB and Ferrari/Haas.

McLaren CEO Zak Brown has been particularly outspoken, arguing that F1’s current regulations do not adequately address the issue of teams collaborating, especially when there is shared ownership.

Formula One History Recommends

The definition of what constitutes a constructor is under review for the 2026 rule changes, and RB’s leadership has highlighted potential risks associated with these changes.

They argue that despite the implementation of a cost cap, a significant performance gap remains between the leading teams and those lower in the rankings. This gap could widen if teams were required to independently design and manufacture all their car components.

RB CEO Peter Bayer points out the critical role their partnership with Red Bull plays in allowing them to be competitive in the midfield battles.

“There is certainly an advantage, which we believe is very important,” he said. “If you’re looking at the grid today, in last year’s world championship ranking, you add the points of the bottom four, they have less points than P6. If you add P6, less points altogether than P5.

“So I think Formula 1 as a sport needs to really consider what it wants. I think the fans and we all want to have close racing between 10 teams, not only two or three teams.

“To achieve that, I think you have to respect the financial reality, which today is still a fact that none of the teams are making money. And the further down the pecking order, the less money you make.”

“Why do we have these rules about part sharing? Two reasons. First, close grid. Peter’s example is quite striking,” he explained.

“Do we feel the grid is too close already? We don’t feel it. We feel the bottom four are quite a long way at the back and you will have only benefits to have them a bit closer.

“So, if anything, you would like to go in the other direction. But if we don’t want to do that in this sport, no problem. Certainly nothing indicates there that you should go for a more spread field for the benefit of the sport, certainly not.

“The second aspect is sustainability, and business model. Again, everybody’s putting money in the business and we are in a fantastic moment for Formula 1: fans at the top, audience at the top, everything, and it’s still an exercise that is difficult to make money with.

“So do you want change now on that very nice moment, disregarding what will happen in the next four, six years? That’s how we feel about it.”

He added: “We need to be careful not to misinterpret team-specific, short-term concerns into long-term, crucial objectives for the sport.”

RB team principal Laurent Mekies supported Bayer’s stance, indicating that altering the regulations on customer parts in F1 could result in smaller teams facing decreased competitiveness.

Mekies also refuted claims that RB was securing an unfair edge by employing former Red Bull staff without enforcing a gardening leave period.

“It is incorrect to say that no gardening leave was applied to any personnel movement,” he said.

“The rules are clear: you cannot use personnel movement to get around the listed parts/IP [regulations]. How do you do that practically? We don’t decide ourselves [on the gardening leave]. We go to the FIA, cards on the table, and say we are going to hire that guy.

“The beauty of it is that I don’t need to go to the FIA if I hire a guy from Mercedes or Ferrari, but I have to do it when they come from Red Bull!

“So we agree [with the FIA] on what is a reasonable gardening leave for that guy, and that’s what we do. We self-impose, in agreement with the FIA and ourselves, between three and six months.

“The irony of it is that, as I said, we can get a guy from another team, if we agree with that team, in one day.

“And actually, the guys that are criticising us…sometimes it happens there, including a team principal, that they change from one day to another.

“But ironically we do not allow ourselves to do it with Red Bull. And we have the cards on the table with the FIA, so all of that [criticism] is plain incorrect.”

Seen in:

About The Author

Senior Editor

Lee Parker
Lee Parker

Lee is our staff writer specialising in anything technical within Formula 1 from aerodynamics to engines. Lee writes most of our F1 guides for beginners and experienced fans having followed the sports since 1991, researching and understanding how teams build the ultimate machines. Like everyone else on the team he listens to podcasts about F1 and enjoys reading biographies of former drivers.

Latest Reads